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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mountain Charlie Loop


Lea Kissner, Richard Gooch, and Eddie Kessler showed up at Lexington Dam around 9:30am, and we headed off for a ride up Old Santa Cruz Highway. It was cloudy as we left the house, but by the time the bikes were ready the sun was out. We rode a slow, steady pace up Old Santa Cruz highway and by the time we got to the intersection with summit road the fog bank was in from the coast. A quick stop at the summit store for some water, we then rode down Soquel-San Jose road, which was still as smooth and fast a descent as I remembered before turning off at Laurel Glen. Laurel Glen was a climb in the shady redwoods before descending down to Branciforte.

At the turn off from Branciforte onto Granite Creek road, Lea bunny hopped a bridge joint and ejected the water bottle from her newly purchased Aqua rack. We then rode into Scotts Valley, where soon after the climb into the city proper we spotted Eric Fetch's (AKA the bike doctor) bike repair truck parked in the driveway of his house. I suggested that Lea get her bike fixed right then but she thought it would be rude to drop in without notice, so we proceeded into Scotts Valley.

I don't usually eat lunch on this ride, but Lisa, Lea and Richard ganged up and talked me into a stop at Carlos', a mexican joint just past the Highway 17 overpass. The food was fast and plentiful, but I knew there would be hell to pay on Mt. Charlie Road after that. By the time we were done with lunch it was well past 2:00pm, so we headed on our way to Mt. Charlie Road.

The bottom of Mt. Charlie road is deceptively easy --- it's rutted and has extremely bad pavement but the grade is extremely gentle, which made me wonder if I had misgraded this climb. After the initial easy section that's lulled you into a sense of security, however, Mt. Charlie reveals its true colors in the form of several pitches of 13-18% grade, which is tough going on a tandem even without an enchilada and a taco weighing me down. The temperature which had seemed cool earlier now felt like it was really warm, because at 2mph you just aren't getting a breeze to cool you down.

Half an hour or so of grinding later, we made it to the summit and zoomed down to the stop sign a mile away, where Richard and Eddie were so tired of standing around waiting for us that they had decided to lie down for a nap. We then proceeded over Highway 17 again, descending via Mt. Charlie road and Old Santa Cruz highway back to Lexington dam for a total of 42.89 miles and 4300' of climbing, which meets the Western Wheeler standard of 100' of climb per mile of riding.
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