Thursday, April 23, 2009

Adventures in NorCal

I was supposed to have eye surgery today. Turns out, I'm not a good candidate for LASIK. Which is why I flew up to NorCal in the middle of the week (plus, my mom's b-day is Sat). I was a little bummed, at first, but all that disintegrated when I got a hold of my parent's friend's road bike, Al, a beautiful, blue Cannondale. Fits me perfectly. It was meant to be.

First, I squeezed in a track workout at the local high school, a half-mile from where my parents live. School is in session. The track was empty. Perfect. As I arrived, I noticed a huge banner on the school building that some kid had hung. It read, "Jessica, ?PROM? --Salazar" OMG! How cute! I'll go to prom with you, Salazar! I eked out my 3x1 mile repeats. I felt tired and sluggish but I was able to hit my target times. Actually, even better. I wanted to do ~8-8:30...something conservative. I cranked out 7:50 each time. I was kind of proud of myself, especially beause I purposely held back. On my warm-up and cool-down mile, I did some calisthenics: sideways running with legs crossing over each way, sideways skipping/hopping, high-stepping, running backwards. I ran home (up a 1/2 mile hill, btw) and finished up with weights. No wonder I'm tired!

Then, I put Al in the car and headed out to Chain Reaction Bicycles in Los Altos ( Got a cool jersey and picked up some supplies. Then, I headed out to try the infamous "Loop" ( I heard about it so much; I had to try it. When I was describing it to my mom in Whole Foods, this guy came up and started asking questions:
"Where are you riding?"
"The Loop"
"Oh, yes. Good one. Which direction?"
"Good. You'll love it."

I was salivating by the time I got on the bike. With a borrowed bike, helmet, and shoes, I headed out. I'll admit, I was a bit nervous. On some road I've never been on, atop a bike I didn't know. My worry was needless. Al took good care of me. The clouds rolled in, and a gusty wind began to blow but I didn't care. As soon as I turned onto Page Mill Road, the ride was so absolutely breathtaking, I forgot how hard I was working. A hill? Who cares! I have more time to see the horses! Wind? More time to gape at the backdrop of blue mountains, surrounded by fine mist.

I rode by a beautiful nature preserve, the Atascadero Land Preserve ( Lots of trails and gorgeous, rolling hills. I rode past a horse and rider and breathed deeply the tantalizing aroma of sweat mixed with leather. Instead of the familiar sea gulls and roadrunners I'm accustomed to, robins and quail darted about. Leafy green oaks and tall, dark redwoods lined the road, offering generous portions of shade. Every now and then, a hidden vineyard would make a guest appearance.

I passed by several horse farms in Portola Valley, some of which I had ridden at when I was a kid. Suddenly, on Sand Hill Road, the Woodside Horse Park appeared on my left. I was overcome with emotion. I had ridden there, competed there, practically lived there as a kid. In a flash, I suddenly remembered every class that I had ribboned, every fence refused, and every fall I'd taken. The sparkle in my horse's eye when he stepped off the trailer and, upon recognizing the park, puffed up in excitement and anticipation about charging over the cross country fences. Endless hours of grooming every itch on his flank, brushing him until his soft, satiny coat gleamed. I remembered everything so intensely, so vividly; I ached. Distant memories, buried and sealed just under the surface, covered by a thin scar that could easily be scratched. A few miles later, I passed the Stanford Equestrian Center, where I had purchased my 2nd horse. I stared longingly at the horses in the arena, on the trails, and leaping over fences. I kept pedaling.

I rode through campus, passing by the nuclear particle accelerator where physicists release atoms at unfathomable speeds and then crash them to break them apart and analyze what new particles might form. I passed by a beautiful preserve with endless hiking and running trails, full of happy walkers and runners. A sign read, "The Dish". Why, the Dish? I looked it up. Stanford still uses this radiotelescope for research and educational purposes. But all I saw was a beautiful, ecological reserve. So many trails to explore!

Heading out of the Stanford campus, I passed a guy on an old, beat-up mountain bike with what appeared to be a lawnmower engine hooked up to the bike. He zipped away when the light turned green, clad in wrinkled slacks and polo. Most definitely an ecentric professor. Ah, college campuses. I love it.

Tomorrow's bike ride is a crazy, hilly (6800 feet), 50-mile loop up Bear Creek, Skyline, and Big Basin. Lots of climbing, lots of windy, narrow roads, and lots of gorgeous views (ah, redwoods). Can't wait.

Scenes from today's ride:



Leah said...

Gorgeous scenery! I love your evocative descriptions of your equestrian years. Sounds like you need to get back on a horse...

Diana said...

I love a good bike ride. Nothing like being out with the surroundings. I'd love for your comments on my latest blog question if you have the time. I'm trying to make up my mind.
I love the descriptions of your rides-sounds like great country. Being out now doing running or biking or both is just the best-why it took me long to get to this who know, but the good is that I am there!

Renee said...

You need to get back to riding for sure. Luckily it is a sport for a lifetime so it will always be there waiting for you!

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

That looks like some beautiful country to ride through.

Grey Beard said...

Great post! The peninsula is always so pretty - even when Sac is all burnt grass on the hillside, it's still green & lush.

My father (RIP) grew up with draft animals on the farm. He told me how wonderful it was when they got their first tractor. They drove it in the barn, shut it off, and didn't have to do a thing to it for 5 months till spring. Animals however, required maintenance 24/7/365. I'd never thought about it that way. I'm sure you know this, but I had forgotten.

We boarded trotters when I was a small boy, and I have loved animals ever since. The farm just wasn't the same when the horses were boarded in town at a stable. I missed my "friends".

Reveling in the intensity of fond memories, the wisdom of savoring each day - of stopping to smell the roses(or sweat) - becomes so much clearer. Life forces us to choose, and history does not reveal its alternatives, so appreciating the richness of experience the choices we make provides, is always good council.

Happy B-Day to mom!