Ride Report, Our Favorite Kids ride, 2/20/11
by Guy Neenan
This was a special Favorite Kids ride on the Sunday after the 2011 Black & Blue Ball. Twenty-one of us gathered in Hollister to do a counterclockwise Cienega Road loop with an out & back climb over to remote Santa Anita Valley. Our host, Jerome designed a simple 55-mile route with two 1000-ft. hills and an option to add an out/back trip to the nether end of Qien Sabe Road. Special guests are Terry, from Sacramento, and Christine, a new member.
Some of the special was the bright sun, crisp air, view to snowcrest on ridges of the San Benito Mountain Range, and the buzz about the events of last night’s Ball. No one realized how much shock, awe, and shaking this extraspecial adventure would bring.
The entire week has been drenched and dreary. Now the sun breaks-out like a thermonuclear flash in the sky. Carbo-loaded major muscle groups are fresh and bloated with pent-up glycogen that’s ready to burn. In the hills of Cienega, leaders begin to break-off in twos and threes. We regroup at Thousand Trails as usual. We glide into the Harlan valley. Riders cluster. There’s Jon, Joan, Donny, Stuart, Angel, Bryan, Ken and a new rider, Christie.
As we begin north on Airline Highway toward Paicines junction, a discernable NW headwind begins to build. Dutifully, I take my turn at the front of 9 riders. We’re disciplined here because of the headwind, steady grade, lack of shoulder, and straight white line on the edge of the road. It’s only about a mile to Paicines and I feel good enough to keep pulling the group, head down.
Eventually, Christie filters to the front. “Want a break?” My perception is imperfect. Wind’s in my ear. Excess T is in my veins. I conceive that she’s said, “Want to race?”
“No, lady. I’m not gonna race with you, here and now. I only race if there’s a tailwind or a downhill.”
“No, mister, I’m not challenging you to race. I just offered to take a pull. Wouldn’t you like to take a break?” Of course it’s so. The wind’s a bore and so I’m.
We water-up from the hose bib in front of the Paicines roadhouse. Stuart and I ask if others will join us for the extra Quien Sabe hill. We leave the group here to get a headstart. Possibly we can do the extra 8 miles and catch the group as we return to Hollister. “We’ll see you on Santa Anita Road.”
At the Paicines Road junction we see five local riders regrouping. They’ve come from the East on Paicines Road. Stuart and I ride over to them. “Hey, are you guys going North?” “Yes, we’re returning to Hollister.” “We’re going that way too. We wonder if you guys could pull us 4.9 miles to Quien Sabe junction.” “OK”. “Alright, we’ll lead-off here if it’s OK. Now are you all ready?” “Yeah. Let’s go.”
Stuart leads-off. I get behind him, but I’m in monster gear. I stand on the cranks and start a slow but showy chase after him. Soon I’m able to sit and our new friends line-up behind us. After a quarter mile, Stuart peels-off and I take a turn. I peel-off and the blue demon takes over. This guy is like a bull. He pulls us for about 10 minutes, 3 miles. None of his buddies interrupts him.
The San Benito hills are smooth and tree-free. They’re soft and soggy with rain. Grass sprouts yellowgreen over a vast expanse. The rounded hills appear like the sculpted flesh of mother nature. We tred like tiny bugs across her magnificent verdant body.
Past Bolado Park is a half-mile grade. The demon fades and I lead again. Eventually, the steeple of the Tres Pinos church begins to sprout from a low ridge. Inspired, my left arm gestures to the steeple. “It’s Sunday. I have to go there”, I utter for some prophetic reason. The others respond as if they’re late for church. Two guys burst forth, charging up the grade. This is their turf. They’re going for the Tres Pinos town limit sign, just across the road from the church. Elev. 367 ft., Pop. 453. These guys are fresh, having had a free ride for the last 5 miles. Stuart, the demon, and I are toast. You see it in the Tour de France. The sprinters never waste their energy by getting in front until the last meter of the race.
We laugh & waive-off our Hollister hosts and start up the Quien Sabe escarpment. Onto the road to remote Santa Anita Valley we enjoy the easy grades and intimacy of this sculpted narrow road. There are only a couple of ranches along 7.5 miles of this deadend. The surface of the road is like other remote roads in San Benito County. It’s worn pebbly asphalt, unimproved for 4 or 5 decades. A rumbling boneshaker.
Returning, we encounter Joan and Donny. Joan has a distressed expression. We stop to see if she’s OK. “No, I feel nauseated. We just saw a parasailer fall from the sky. It was horrible. As we were starting up Quien Sabe we saw several parasailers jump out of a plane. One of the jumpers got fouled in the sail and just fell right to the ground. The chute was pinwheeling down. There was nothing anyone could do. After a few minutes we heard an ambulance siren. But I’m sure there was nothing they could do.” There’s nothing for us to do, either. We can’t console Joan. There are sports more risky than cycling.
Stuart and I continue over to the Quien Sabe Valley. Our lives and lust will roam a few more miles, a few more goats. It’s more scenic that ever. The road ends in a soggy valley under Cibo Peak, a striking promontory of the San Benito Mountains. A series of 50 meter pillars form like giant gills on the side of the mountain. They’re composed of rugged burnt brown rhyolite. They face West Southwest where they gather broadside sun this time of year. It’s the perfect habitat for a crust of golden yellow lichen. If the photo were a postcard or a poster, you’d say, “Oh, this is a gory fake. This image has been touched-up by an illuminator.”
Descending Qien Sabe is a total body shock. Earwax liquefies and drools onto the shoulders. The buzz has got to be good for the glands.
We meet Joan and Donny loading their bikes in Hollister. Now Joan seems relaxed and cheerful. “Good news. We returned to the landing zone and saw several rescuers parked along the road. They told us that the chutist had cut-off the fouled sail and used a rescue parachute to survive.”
We’re looking forward to the next opportunity to swirl around Cienega hills, get a strong pull from Christie and the blue demons, see that steeple rise-up, win that sprint to TP, gaze at those soaring, plunging divers, and glide home with tweaked glands. We wonder if our next adventure will have scenes, times, excitement, and friends like this.