Santa Cruz Mountains

Saturday, August 21, 2010

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Today is the club’s annual ride around the Santa Cruz Mountains. Michael and I originally planned to start out with the TM group and do the M route with more climbing and miles. With Michael falling prey to a stomach virus yesterday, I opt to do the TM route instead. I feel that riding for such a distance in remote areas, it is best not to ride alone. The TM route omits the climb up Bonnie Doon, Ice Cream Grade & Empire Grade.

The starting point is from the Page Mill Park ‘n Ride lot off of 280 S. Janet and Phil arrive late for the roll out time of 7:15 AM. It’s a small group that shows up; myself, Susan Jeiven, Wallace Wong and Barb McQuinn. We exit the parking lot at 7:27 AM. Temp 58.

There isn’t much time to warm up at all, once you get on Page Mill Rd, the climbing starts. Page Mill goes on for over 8 miles. The gradient is pretty constant at 7-8% with a few sections hitting 11-14%. There is barely any traffic this early in the morning. We pass a Native Plant Nursey, the Foothills and Los Trancos Regional Open Space.

While taking pictures and checking out the surroundings, I fall behind the group. I know Phil is still behind me. I get to the top of Page Mill and cross Skyline Blvd/35 to descend Alpine Rd. There is a porta-potty at the Russian Ridge Trail staging area. I look around, the group is not there, I thought I heard something about a regroup; guess not. No cue sheet was given at the start nor was there a brief summary of the route or where the regroups were to be. Fortunately I did bring a copy of the M route with me. The fog appears to be burning off as I head down Alpine. As I near the intersection at Portola State Park Rd, the fog is very apparent. There were a few cyclists coming up from the opposite direction. I stop to put on a jacket. It’s a bone chilling 52 degrees! I remove my sunglasses to see the road ahead; it’s cold, damp, wet and misty all the way down to Pescadero Rd. I see Barb waiting at the intersection. She didn’t know which way to go.

Phil arrives and we start the climb up Pescadero. The gradient is around 7%. We ride pass the Sam McDonald County Park. Barb and I are talking about the upcoming Knoxsville Double and before you know it, we’re already at the horse camp which is at the top. I feel so much warmer after the climb. The descent down Pescadero Rd is fabulous. There was no traffic at all!

We make the turn onto Cloverdale Rd. I was going by the M route at this point. We both decide to wait for Phil to see where everyone was. We waited and waited no sign of Phil. I do want to get back before dark, so we leave to head out to Davenport. The group should make a stop there before heading to Santa Cruz. We stay on Cloverdale which is mainly flat with one very short climb to Gazo Creek Rd. It’s a little over 7 1/2 miles before we reach Hwy 1.

We get to Hwy 1 at mile 35. It’s another 14.8 miles to Davenport. I hear my phone beep and I just know it’s a message from Phil. The group stopped at Pescadero for a snack and was now on Hwy 1 via Bean Hollow. They were a few miles behind us. They will meet us in Davenport. We continue on Hwy 1. We pass Ano Nuevo State Park, Big Creek Lumber, the Swanton U-Pick Berry Farm, a pumpkin farm and a huge Cement Plant. There were also plenty of surfers out riding the waves. Along the way, we get passed by Susan and a bunch of Randonnuers on their 300k ride.

We finally reach Davenport and stop in front of the market. The restroom is located in the courtyard under the steps of the El Jarro Taqueria. There’s also a bakery, a few restaurants and a surf shop. I eat 1/4 of my PBJ and a banana. I stand behind the door of the market to block the wind and to stay warm. The rest of the group arrives. Kirk Hastings pulls in and I see more Randonnuers are riding along Hwy 1 and some of them also make the stop here. I spot Rita Garcia and holler out at her. Susan leaves and takes off on her own.

The rest of us head out together and it’s back on Hwy 1 for another 8+ miles to Santa Cruz. There is a lot of traffic heading south. There’s a nice tail wind as we pass Bonny Boon Rd and a few more farms along the way. It’s now a sunny and warm 65 degrees as we get into town.

We roll through town and stop briefly to place a phone order for our lunch at Cafe Carlos. We take King to Mission and Market Sts. Market eventually becomes Branciforte Dr. It’s nice to get out of all that traffic through the city. Phil and Janet take us on Glen Canyon which has a few ranches and vineyards. We ride pass a residential neighborhood and a industrial business park at the end of the road. The gradient on this road lingered around 4-5%.

We arrive at Scotts Valley and spot Susan at a gas station. She joins us for a bit at Cafe Carlos, our lunch stop at mile 69. She leaves once again on her own. There is ample room to roll and park our bikes inside the outdoor patio area. The lunch order we placed earlier was not prepared. There seemed to be some sort of mix up so we had to replace the order; so much for calling in ahead of time. It’s sunny and 83 now. I shared some of my chicken burrito with Barb and ate my share of salsa and chips. I stuffed the other half of the burrito into my Cbak.

It’s 2:26 PM. We’re now on our way to Glenwood Dr which will take us to Mountain Charlie Rd. Glenwood is almost 3 miles long. There is initially a gradual climb and then it’s pretty much flat until the next turn.

We reach the highlight of this ride: Mountain Charlie Rd. This climb is 4.8 miles on a narrow road with partially poor pavement. Temp 76. Most of it is under a canopy of trees and it’s absolutely gorgeous back here! The gradient starts off around 7-9 % with many other sections of the road going from 12-14% and maxing out at 17%. The road eases up a bit in between climbs, but not very much. I’m going along and see a climb ahead that looks pretty steep. About 1/4 of the way up, I get it in my head to stop and take a picture, figuring I can start back up again, WRONG! The road was way too narrow for me to try to traverse it. I had to go back down the hill and start over. Phil is heading up as I go down to turn around. Argh!! But, I did get the shot. It’s the 4th picture below. As I near the top, I spot a Christmas tree farm. There is a regroup at the intersection of Summit Rd.

Summit Rd is 2.6 miles long. There is a short climb up with a 9-10% grade then it eases down to around 4-5% for the remainder of the way to Bear Creek Rd.

We reach Skyline Blvd/35. Skyline is 16.5 miles long and it seems to go on forever! The first several miles are on a narrow one lane road. We pass yet another Christmas tree farm. Don’t be fooled, this section of road has a few steep climbs ranging from 11-13% stuck in between the downhills. The views are pretty amazing!

We’re still on Skyline Blvd/35 but now it’s a 2 lane road with very smooth pavement. The double solid yellow lines mean we’re back on a major road. The gradient remains steady around 5-6%. It’s just a long stretch of road that seems to go on and on. There is a regroup at the Fire Station. Water and a restroom are available here. It’s now 65 degrees. I put my vest and arm warmers back on for the upcoming descent. At this point, most of the climbing is pretty much over. There’s nothing but a nice downhill and a few gentle rollers in between.

It’s only 8.4 miles back to the parking lot. The descent on Page Mill is fast and fun. There are two small climbs up to the ridge and then it’s all downhill! There are a few tight hairpin turns and a uneven steel plate in the middle of the road. I stop a few times to take some pics. I roll into the parking lot at 6 PM. Phil comes
in right behind me.

Much thanks to Phil and Janet for leading today’s ride and keeping us together after leaving Davenport! Forgetting to bring the route sheets was an assurance to keep the group together or not. 🙂 It was a great day to be out riding and enjoying the quiet back roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The cloud formations in the early morning hours were spectacular!

6 people in attendance: Phil, Janet, Barb,Wallace, Susan and I

106 miles with 8792′ of elevation gain

Weather: Starting temp of 58 with overcast skies. Foggy and misty on Alpine to Pescadero. Clearing along the coast with sunny skies in Santa Cruz. A high of 83 at Scotts Valley and dropping to 65 on the return on Skyline

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>ENJOY THE RIDE!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


  1. Nancy,For future reference, about 1.3 miles below the top of Page Mill at Skyline, there is a drinking fountain. Comes in handy even if you have enough water to make it back the parking lot because you can arrive with full bottles for the drive home. Likely you won't need it going up though.


  2. Nancy,as always, thank you for your very energetic, positive and inspiring commentary and wonderful photos. makes us all want to just get out there and ride, explore new territory, embark on new challenges, and also to not take the communion and companionship and motivation that occurs with cycling in groups (small or large) for granted.Cheers,Sheriep.s. – and doesn't Barb just look snappy in her brand new GPC clothing!!


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