Devil Mountain Sacrifice

We decided to go for a bike ride in the morning and afternoon today, before taking Ruth trick-or-treating in the evening. We decided to do a loop around Mount Diablo. We’ve done this a couple of times, both with and without the trailer. Anne picked out a route with a few new segments, but mostly familiar roads.

As usual, the ride went much later than we planned, even after the blood sacrifice we gave the Devil Mountain.

The first 15 miles or so wind through Danville and Walnut Creek, with a combination of streets and multi-use trails. This section is okay, but doesn’t really do much for me. We stopped for lunch at Newhall Community Park in Walnut Creek, which had a nice playground for the kids to run around in.

After lunch we cut over to Marsh Creek, where it gets a bit more rural, although with a golf course and country club. Ruth had me stop. She told me that her sunglasses had been by her feet, and then disappeared. She was unable to tell me how her sunglasses got by her feet, or give an idea as to how long they had been missing. I had Anne stay with the kids while I walked back along the road, looking for sunglasses. Just as I was about to give up, I saw them sitting in the shoulder. Daddy saves the day.

We also saw three recently dead deer in the shoulder within a mile. Ruth was very interested, especially the last one, where “I can see the bones poking out!”. After, she told me to be on the lookout for both alive and dead animals.

Finally, we turned on Morgan Territory and things started to really get interesting. There’s a nine mile climb (with a few short descents to keep things lively) to the summit, where there’s a parking lot with bathrooms, water, and some trailheads. Most of the road is a single lane for both directions, although traffic is pretty light. The climb varies from moderate to challenging, with some pretty steep switchbacks.

I just swapped my cassette from 11-34T to 11-36T, and I was eager to try my new lower gear. It turned out to be pretty difficult to use, even before I got to the lowest gear. I had a hard time keeping the front wheel from lifting off on the steepest sections. That made it even harder to navigate the switchbacks. When we tour, I expect to have front bags, which should help. I’ll just need to avoid the lowest gears when my front wheel is naked.

We were climbing up the last few dozen feet of the hill, Anne pulling Max, with me and Ruth a few feet behind her. Suddenly, I hear Anne curse, veer sharply to the right, then fall over perpendicular to the road. My way was completely blocked, so I also turned sharply right to avoid hitting her, while braking. I burned off what little speed I had to begin with, but couldn’t get my foot down and keep my balance, so I fell over too. I grabbed my bike to keep the trailer from pulling it down the hill, and saw that Anne’s bike was staying put.

We stood ourselves up, brushed each other off, and did a quick check for major injuries. We decided to walk up the last little bit and get to the parking lot, where we could more thoroughly check for damage, either to the bikes or our bodies.

Ruth was very excited about the whole thing. She said that we need training wheels. We all acknowledged that the fall was a little scary, but that we were all okay, and that both trailers did a good job of staying flat on the ground even when the bikes fell (yay good hitches).

We got to the top, and checked everything out. Anne’s elbow had a small cut, her brake lever seems a bit wonky, her seatpost got twisted, and her bottom bottle cage was bent. My elbow was scraped up pretty good and bleeding and I bit my upper lip, but the bike seemed unscathed. We inspected both helmets for signs of impact, but it looked like they didn’t end up making contact. I suspect we’ll both have pretty nice bruises on our hips in the morning.

We cleaned the cuts and scraps, and adjusted Anne’s seat back. We used the restroom, refilled water bottles, and generally took a breather. We talked a little about our options. We decided that even though we were a little shaken, we were still in shape to complete the ride.

By the time we left the lot it was about 6. We had hoped to be home by then, and the sun was about to set. The descent down Morgan Territory was lovely, the golden hills beautifully lit from the side.

Then there was just the final 15 mile segment back to the car. The first bit was less than awesome, with a very small shoulder, quite a bit of traffic, and fading light. Even with the reflectors and lights, it can be nerve wracking. I was worried about how it would work when it got fully dark. There were a lot of deer around, including quite a few hopping across the road tempting fate.

Fortunately, by the time that happened, the road opened up and gave us a really nice, wide bike lane. It was also slightly downhill, making for a fast return to the car. Still, it was almost 8 once the car was loaded.

We decided to get dinner right away. The kids were behaving like champs, but it was way past their bedtime, so we were on borrowed time. First we tried the Black Bear Cafe across the street, but it was still being build (last time we were there it was a Denny’s). Next, we tried a Chipotle, but they had a huge line due to their Halloween promotion. We started to go to the Togo’s in the same shopping center, but they closed at 7. I knew Anne was hungry because she suggested we go to McDonald’s. It was perfect — fast and salty.

We got home at 9:15, just as trick-or-treating was dying down. Anne managed to promise Ruth some special alternative for the next day, but we gave out a little candy while unloading the car. Anne took Ruth to a few neighbors before they shutdown for the night.

Even though the day was a lot longer than we planned, and we took some battle damage, I think we all had a good day.

Niles Canyon / Calaveras Clockwise

Niles Canyon was closed to car traffic today, and had a “roll and stroll” event where only bikes and pedestrians were allowed. Naturally, we took advantage of it.

Anne suggested we do Calaveras Rd in reverse (southbound), which starts pretty much at the far end of Niles Canyon. We’ve done it northbound a couple of times, which involves a solid climb, culminating in “The Wall” — a short 10%+ section. Then once up, you roll around near the ridgeline on the hills northeast of Fremont, before a steady, fairly gentle descent into Sunol.

By doing it in reverse, we climb the steady gentle section, roll around, then go down the steep bit. Anne did it on at least one Cinderella training ride. Sounded like fun!

There was some debate over whether to drive nearer the entrace to Niles Canyon, but in the end we decided to roll out from home. We’d probably spend as much time loading/unloading the bikes as just biking to the start point.

Once we got to Niles, we saw that this would be a pretty well attended event, but still wasn’t crowded enough to really be a problem. There was no car traffic, so they set up one lane each for pedestrians and bikers, which was pretty well respected. There were some bike groups that were wider than I would have liked, which made it tricky to pass, especially with bikers coming in the other direction. With the trailers, we’re pretty long, which also made it a bit tricky. It was really nice to ride through without worrying about cars, and I think we had a bit of a tailwind to help us forget we were slowly climbing.

At the far side, in Sunol, there was a crowded bit where people hung out and had some food before turning around. There were also various displays about proposed work in the canyon, but we were on a mission. We walked the bikes through, and made the turn towards Calaveras.

The climb up was steady and gentle, as promised. Once you start to gain altitude, the view of the valley gets very pretty. There was a lot less bike traffic, although there were quite a few groups. There were some cars, but traffic was pretty light, and everybody seemed respectful of each other.

While in the rollers along the ridgeline, Ruth had a lot of fun playing “Who’s the Fastest”. This game consisted of one of us pulling ahead of the other. Then the other had to catch up. Ruth would pedal furiously when it was our turn to be faster. Eventually I’d go slowly to give Anne a chance to catch up.

We stopped for lunch at a turnout in the rollers. Max tried to run out into traffic, but we pulled him back in before he got himself into trouble.

We had been concerned about descending The Wall, especially since there’s a stop sign into a T at the bottom, without much space to bleed off speed. It ended up not being a big deal. The visibility of the upcoming road wasn’t great, but between being careful and listening to oncoming traffic, it works out.

We planned to stop for potty and snacks at Ed Levin Park, which is partway down the hill. I was ahead of Anne, and after I had parked and sent Ruth to the drinking fountain, I saw Anne barrel down the road. She missed the turn, but fortunately was able to turn around within a few hundred feet and came to join us.

After some refreshments, it was back down the rest of the hill. We saw a couple of wild turkeys crossing the road, then realized there was a deer hanging out on the other side of the road. Busy crossing!

Finally, the long slog back through the suburbs home. This was less fun, but mostly flat. We passed through a row of car dealerships, which had some very confused drivers out and about.

By the time we got home, I was happy to be done but still feeling pretty good. The kids seemed to have a good time, although we still need to work on a resting setup for Ruth in her new trailer.

We got various (positive) comments from other bikers, as usual. I think my favorite of the day was “you guys are raising an Iron Family”. Fortunately, our passengers weigh less than iron!