dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

Mt. Tamalpais, November 15, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed in the light of morning

That picture of the mountain basking in the first rays of the sun this morning now seems from another day entirely. Never mind another day; it now also seems like it’s been captured from another season entirely. Over the course of the day, clouds have thickened and winds have picked up force, bringing news of stormy weather ahead.

But this morning it was lovely, if no longer as glorious as it has been for us here for so long. I decided to seize the morning for my bike. More likely, my fever for biking is what seized me… but I digress. A few days ago it seemed to me like a good idea to take the bike, which is after all a cyclocross bike, on a ride off the well paved road, if not exactly the well traveled one.

My destination was Tennessee Valley. Part of it is nicely paved, part of it was once paved but is now giving way to dirt and ruts, and then, there is the purely dirt path to Tennessee Cove, all the way to the Pacific Ocean with spectacular views to be had. All was well and blissfully smooth, even on the dirt path, until I came to the big climb at the turn toward the beach. I had walked up that incline many times before, but pedaling up it for the first time on the bike was another story. I seemed to have forgotten how to shift. Then there was that whole new way of seeing the road before me. Instead of worrying about cars and other cyclists, there were the rocks and sudden deep ruts. I didn’t know if I should fear the loose pebbles more or the jutting chunks of rocks…

It all sounds very brave and also athletic, my climb on the trail. In reality, however, the elevation I managed to cover on the bike itself is nothing to brag about. It wasn’t long, or very far up the incline, before I was out of the saddle (and breath), on my feet, and pushing the bike. I thought, well, I’ll have fun trying the downhill part. Maybe there I’ll find my inner mountain biker and also make the little sturdy cyclocross bike happy to be going wild. Because it did seem to purr along the road, keeping a steady flow. Ha! Once I reached the top, one look from the little crest and I was (ahem) crestfallen.

Yep, you guessed it: I walked the bike down the other side of the hill. Wasn’t even going to try to get on it. Period. Walked it down almost all the way until the road flattened. Then, when I heard voices behind me and saw people appear on the crest, I hopped back on, as if I had been on it all along, and then took off toward the beach, only to find myself coming to a grinding halt in sand even before I hit the beach proper.

On the way back, I repeated my bike maneuvers in the reverse order. Nothing like hiking with cleats on your shoes and pushing a bike uphill. I was grateful there weren’t too many people on the trail, on foot or bikes.  A few people who did passed me asked if I was OK. At other times, when I spotted people on the path, I made a preemptive strike by pretending I stopped on purpose to drink and eat a bite of my protein bar.

Back on the mostly long flat part of the path I came across two guys on road bikes. They were about to turn around, realizing that their setup would not get them very far on the climb. They looked like experienced cyclists. They told me about their other bikes, the mountain bikes they should have brought on this trail. They were very nice and managed to make me feel better about being a Sherpa for my bike that should have transported me into another realm of adventure.

So now I know. I am not a mountain biker. Looks like “off road” for me is the unpaved running trail paralleling the bike path for now….