The best days lately for me have been those in which I spend a good deal of my time on a bike. They involve friends, scenery, Honey Stinger supplements, and sure, a little bit of pain. Even if you never met the people with whom you start the ride, guaranteed you’ll be friends with them by the end.
My string of good riding fortune started about three weeks ago when I was invited by my friend Sumi to join her and some friends on her birthday riding adventure. This involved an epic day of climbing nearly ever hill north and east of where I live – Sleeping Indian, West Lilac, Couser Canyon, back side of Circle R, Champagne and then… yeah, sure, we took the easy way around Twin Oaks. Approaching 70 miles and 5000 feet, wouldn’t you do the same?
This was no doubt a butt-buster, but it was a fantastic day. It brought to mind one of my first “birthday celebration” rides – in Idaho, David rode me to the Blue Heron Inn, an approximately 30-35 mile ride northeast of our home. I was only once viciously chased by a mongrel snapping its jowls at me like a wild beast, and then, on the ride home, we faced a brow-beating 20+mph southwest wind. It sure is hard to beat riding in Southern California.
Sumi, your birthday ride is up near the very top of the list right now – and it will be hard to beat.
Next up was a return to the very same neck of the woods we rode for Sumi’s birthday, for the ride Heather Krauss likes to call the “Twin Oaks without the Whine” … and yet, we sure do seem to consistently do a good deal of whining on this ride. Whine or no whine, I love it out there. North Twin Oaks, West Lilac (again) … passing by the citrus trees in bloom (and maybe taking one, you know, off the ground) and soaking up the sunshine … (if I have any readers from outside of Southern California, right now they would like to strangle me)
And last, but certainly not least, was our adventure with Michell to (duh duh duh – take on deep announcer void) … Starvation Mountain.
This little gem of a hill one can find off Highland Valley Road heading toward Ramona. One time David and I were returning (by car) from a winery in Ramona, and I joked, look at that road – ha! It’s called “Starvation Mountain”. I bet it’s a killer!
Well, it certainly is. At just shy of one mile and averaging 15% (which I think is a lie, frankly), with several pitches higher than 20%, this hill makes for an epic daily ride in and of itself. You turn switchback after switchback only to be faced by yet another slope that seems impossible to climb. Then Michell softens you up a bit with some chatting and resting at what you think is the top, until she has you hike up an even steeper pitch across some dirt, then hop on and ascend a couple more short pitches even steeper than the rest. One should seriously question her choices before deciding to climb a mountain named “Starvation Mountain”! I mean, really, we had it coming.
We finished that day with some “easy” climbing up the remainder of Highland Valley road, and then just a few more pitches that caused me to question my sanity on the way back to our starting point.
Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. – James E. Starrs
(Video courtesy of Michell)