The Redwood Gulch Death March


This ride report is more than two weeks late.  That should show you how much fun we had.

The ride began with a route I was pretty familiar with.  Head out from downtown Mountain View to Foothill Expressway, and stay on that until it turns into Stevens Canyon.  But instead of going up Mt. Eden road we stayed on Stevens Canyon until it hits Redwood Gulch.  Now keep in mind that this is already a fairly gradual climb - about 500 feet over 10 miles or so.  Nothing major but you feel it a little.

I did have an ace in the pocket.  While Tom was not officially a SAG driver for the day he was out there for me.  I had told him to make sure I made it to the top of Redwood Gulch and then he could go on about his day.  Having him on the road with me is such a huge piece of mental insurance.  I know I can go all out and just not have to worry because if I need to I can just throw the bike in the truck and go home.  His willingness to be there has been greatly appreciated.  

I knew Redwood Gulch was gonna be crazy.  It's often 18% in places.  It's THE CLIMB by which many local climbs are judged.  However, I was not interested in hurting myself, so I ended up walking most of it.  This frustrated me because it made me feel weak.  And even with my cleat covers on I ended up being very uncomfortable walking that far in bike shoes.  Maybe in a couple of years, when I've lost another 40 pounds and have become a cycling god, I'll try that again.

After climbing to the top of the hill we were promised a glorious descent.  But we were also told to keep within the speed limit because the cops would ticket cyclists.  One of my concerns on the downhill became managing my brakes because getting over 35 mph was trivial.  I'm sure 45+ would have been easy.  Also there is no bike lane on Highway 9, and since I was going the speed limit (and thus impeding no one) I was entitled to "take the lane" as they say.  However the motorists (who are usually quick to decry cyclists as scofflaws who run red lights) were for the most part greatly exceeding the speed limit and seemed to resent my staying to it.  They would express their resentment by attempting to run me off the road.  So nice.  But I did make it to the first rest stop without being killed.

The next stretch wasn't too bad.  Down into Saratoga and such.  We had nice tailwinds to the pretty reservoir.  It turns out there was a gradual climb there which I didn't really notice.  That made the descent on Bailey even more awesome because it felt like a freebie.  Who doesn't love a free descent?  The only trick was that those tailwinds then became crosswinds, and from the side I am not very aerodynamic.

We then proceeded onto Santa Theresa Blvd., or as I heard it called the "Santa Theresa slog".  The tailwinds became headwinds and they were strong.  After a couple of miles we made it to the lunch stop and I was so ready for it.  (Yay Togo's.  Much nicer than Subway.)  The winds were still there after lunch, and I think it was only about 12 miles from lunch to the last rest stop but it was a sucky 12 miles.  My speed was only around 10mph for that stretch.  

Finally we made it back to Mountain View.  I finally understood why the ride needed a 12mph minimum - the sun was clearly going down when we checked in.  (I only ended up with a 11.8mph average).  The daylight was clearly against us.  I was starting to worry about making it home before dark (I live about 2 miles from where the rides start and end) but Tom was there to meet me with my truck so I threw the bike on the back.  After a day like that I didn't feel I needed any more miles.