Alpine Rd Out and Back

Anne’s been doing training rides with the Fremont Freewheelers to prep for the Cinderella Classic, a women-only organized ride that starts in Pleasanton. This week she decided to ditch the group and instead bring the family on the scheduled ride.

We’ve done the general format of the ride. Head across the Bay and do a climb on the far side of the valley, then turn around and come home.  The specific climb, Alpine Road, was a new one for us.

As we got rolling, it was clear it was going to be a nice day, if a little on the hot and sunny side. The water on the bay was unusually still, a visual reminder of the calm winds.

After cutting behind Facebook, through Menlo Park and Palo Alto, we began gently climbing through wooded areas with some ranches mixed with fancy looking houses. We stopped for lunch at Robert’s Market, where Anne saw some of the group regrouping after the summit.

After lunch (and swapping trailers), we continued on for the steeper climb. The far part of Alpine is a three mile dead end climb. There are a few groups of residences, but the road most carried fellow bikers. The road kept getting narrower, to the point where it wasn’t wide enough for a car to pass a bike. There were occasional cutouts to make passing possible, but I really don’t know how a car in each direction would cope.

The surrounding terrain shifted, too. The road was cut into the side of a gulch, with an active river at the bottom. From time to time there were waterfalls, and plenty of fallen trees cutting across. We could see where there had been recent mudslides, although the road was well cleared. It still amazes me what’s just 20 miles away from home.

The climb shifted from the gentle 3-5% before lunch to spiking at somewhere north of 10%. That changes from slow-but-easy to make-it-stop. Anne need to walk for a bit, but I kept going. I wasn’t exactly tearing it up – a jogger passed me. I had some problems with lifting up my front wheel on the downstrokes. Sometimes climbing is easier with bags on the front.

I stopped at a flat bit and let Anne catch up. We saw a steep bit ahead with a gate at the top. We walked together to the end of the public road, and took a few minutes to eat, recharge, and enjoy the sights.

Then it was down. The slope would have made it fast, but there were far too many blind turns to let gravity take hold. We turned onto Portola for a slightly different return route taking us past Stanford’s particle accelerator. Then back through the suburbs to get to the bridge and home.

It’s crazy to think that at this time last year we were well into weekly rides, fully loaded, in prep for the West Coast trip. We certainly aren’t in as good shape. We were pretty tired at the end, and we weren’t even loaded. Still, I’m glad Anne invited us along today.