Growing up in California, I've been surrounded by some of the best cycling in the world just outside my front door. Yet I've developed the tendency to ride the same ten or so routes over and over again thanks to their joy and accessibility. It seems counter-intuitive right, to drive to a ride?
Wrong. Its worth it. I've done some of the most famous and legendary climbs in France and Italy, but never even in my own home - the bay area. My friend Drew agreed, his friend Martin came along for the ride and off we went in our cars. The destination was Mt. Diablo, 3,848 feet high in all of its monstrosity. Wonderful.
We'd been blessed the last few days with gorgeous, sunny weather after suffering two miserable storms over last weekend. A clear and warm forecast set thirsts for adventure and water high - for the first time in months I even rode with two bottles.
Our route was sublime from the start. The road out of town was lined with cherry blossoms, a farewell parade wishing us well on our quest for ascension. The good feeling continued as we turned into the countryside - last weekend's rain had dispelled the brown and yellow of California's hills for a blanket of green grass and yellow flowers, vivid as a fresh Van Gogh oil.
Ten miles in, the happy go lucky, curvy and rolling country roads turned to a heartbreaker of a climb, Morgan Territory Road. The road climbs out of the green valley on a single lane road with turns smooth as butter and kickers as steep San Francisco rent. The road was idyllic, the views breathtaking.
At the top, we cruised over the crest onto the immensely bumpy, Paris-Roubaix of downhills. Tight turns, big ditches and one narrow lane meant that there would be no enormous speeds, but cool of the creek that the road followed brought welcome relief that was even more refreshing that a zipping buzz down the hill. Plus, there would be a better downhill...
A few epic pulls by each of us brought us down the valley to the low point of the ride, anticipation as high as the mountain itself. When a part of the ride is that long, and climbs that high, it is hard to not let it consume you. Worries of saving legs, food and water for the climb grow out of proportion, but the though of elation at the top wins over all.
Ten miles, 75 degrees, and 3800 feet is a lot of numbers in one, but it was hard and beautiful, and the digging deep added as much to the beauty as the views themselves. Climbing is when the bike and I feel best together, the ability to conquer, to summit is immense.
The same dark place that gave Mt. Diablo is probably the reason why cyclists adore it so. Diablo is one of the longest and hardest climbs in the area. Cyclists flock to it to push themselves and to test themselves, but mostly because no matter how deep you go, how much hurt there is, how dark a place you must get to in order to summit, it is always worth the ecstasy and bliss at the top.
There's a sense of satisfaction and self pride that comes with overcoming big ass hills. While the intangible reward is important - there's a lot that is tangible too. Tacos, mexican cola, and on Mount Diablo one of the most awesome screaming descents in the bay area. Perfect pavement, sweeping turns and enough speed to not hear myself yodeling in delight.
New roads open up a world of possibility. New friends, new sights, new topics to discuss, new hurt to get to even higher highs. Mt. Hamilton is on the radar!