Windy Mauler, 12/30/14
This is a ride report for the Melcalf Mauler ride of December 30, 2014. It was so windy that day that the ride leaders who met us at Metcalf Park, Joan Freed, Art Cruz, and Donny Axtell decided not to ride. Don asked Lisa Curran to be the leader, but after starting-up Metcalf Road, Lisa also gave-it-up. I became the default leader and created this report as an email message to the riders.
Thanks for co-leading the afternoon Mauler again today, Donny. It’s probably a good thing that Joan & you didn’t try to ride today. The windstorm was too much for everyone. Minh and Paul did the backside but didn’t do Hassler. I’m the only one who did the whole thing, including Hassler. But it was a struggle.
I ask you and I ask Lisa, “Should we cancel this ride?” No one says, “No.”
Art joins us on the bikepath and we start chugging to the 101 overpass. We could feel that it was a whippersnappin northeasterly. As we approach the viaduct, Lisa decides to scratch. She turns-around right there. A good idea. It’s galeforce sidewind on the viaduct. Minh & Paul are “Woeing” on the tandem. Jimbo Williams slices-across there. He’s shaped like a bladed spoke from the side.
Art has had enough at the trail to Basking Ridge. “I’m not going up there”, he shouts to me. So it’s just Jim, the tandem & Muy. I thought that the hill would provide a windbreak but ‘tisn’t so. Wind is pouring right-down the ramps, steady 20 mph, gusting to 35. It’s almost as tough as a Summer Mauler when it’s 90+ degrees. I hang-back with Minh & Paul to see if they’ll bail. Minh stands-up to stoke. “Man you crank this thing really hard and nothing happens. It just won’t go like my single bike. So you’re here to coach us, Guy?” “No, Minh, I’m not trying to push you guys. I just want you to know that it’s OK to cancel this ride at any moment.” “How long does it take you to do this climb?” asks Minh. “Twenty minutes.” “No, Guy. What is a REASONABLE time?”, asks Paul. “You guys should be able to do it in 24 minutes on a normal day.” Minh comments, “I’ve got to ride home after this ride. I didn’t bring lights. So we may just turn-around at the summit.”
We drift apart. Jim continues to the summit, turns-around and passes me as he returns to Morgan Hill.
I’m at the summit by 3:10 PM. That’s 30 minutes for my Mauler time today. Twenty minutes of hill and ten minutes of wind.
I realize that no one’s going to continue this ride unless I do so. I recall a conversation I had with Alison Chaiken yesterday. We were doing Jerome’s east hills goatgetter ride. Alison did San Felipe and Metcalf. She’s been living/travelling in Germany and Holland for most of the year. She’s rented/ridden bikes across a lot of country. She’s been blogging her adventuresome & scenic rides. “It’s wonderful to return to this area and do these hills. It’s just so beautiful right here. Just going out on the Metcalf loop brings you to some of the prettiest places on the Planet. I’m happy to be back and am looking forward to showing-up on Club rides. It’s a joy to ride around right here.”
OK, here’s Muy,feeling the joy right here, ready to plunge down the backside of Metcalf. This ride is not completely canceled. There are small tree branches slithering in the road. Watch for trees down. Two PG&E trucks are flashing along a curve of the road past the rocket factory. The trucks have a stake-out near a blue oak tree that’s leaning toward the power lines. Branches of laurel trees are bobbing, swaying, and switching with the wicked gusts. The bay leaves switch-about in unison, like a swarm of minnows, all turning at once. There is some shelter from the wind as you go up to the eucalyptus grove at the summit of San Felipe.
The scene at the grove is frightening. The branches of the giant eucalyptus trees are waving like pom-poms and making the sound of crashing waves. No large limbs are down but the road is littered with small branches, eucalyptus corns and scrolls of bark. “It could be worse”, Muy tells himself. He was caught in a hailstorm at this spot once. It was a Tierra Bella Workers’ ride several years ago. Supercooled hailstones stuck to his long-sleeve black jersey. Muy was pokadotted with white pea-sized stones. No windbreaker, no gloves. He had to race down the arroyo to minimize the exposure to lightening and freezing rain.
Chuting the arroyo is a challenge. You have to slalom around the small branches and litter. Sure enough, a small branch whaps into the front crown of the helmet and a twig scratches the chin. Dropping-down this canyon is scary-enough without having the feeling that there’s a crazy third hand on the handlebars, trying to hornswoggle the bike. Good thing this ride is cancelled.
I’m able to continue on the regular route through the hills and up Hassler hill. As you near the summit of Hassler you get a magical feeling of ease. You’re enjoying the force of the surging easterly tailwind. Maybe you could coast-up this hill. Major forces whip the bike as it careens down Hassler toward highway 101. Hassler turns and rolls-out onto a section where you are fairly close to the highway. The sun’s so low on December 30 that you ride into the shadows of semi trucks headed North on 101. More rage and wonder.
Returning on Hellyer Ave. is very wind-aided. Thanks to your careful planning, Donny, we don’t have to go north, into this wind. If we did, I would have dropped-out of this ride too. Home by 4:30. I won’t have to dust-off the bike for a while. See you on the Hicks ride on New Years’ Day.