I did the traditional Portola Valley loop today:
On the way out on Foothill Expressway I caught up with Bruce at a traffic light and we rode up together for a while. At the next traffic light – there are a bunch here – he commented how nice the weather was. I agreed, shared that I just moved here from upstate New York where we didn’t get much of a spring. Bruce explained that here the weather had been strange as well. Five weeks ago on a ride clouds were packing, he stopped for lunch, and it rained for about 15 minutes. Crazy stuff. Today it’s around 80 degrees, he’s riding with booties and I see several other cyclists with arm warmers. He hears my accent, guesses correctly that I’m from flatland. He lived in Munich and Switzerland for a while. At the end of Foothill he turns right to go counter clockwise around Portola, I turn left to go clockwise. I like the climb up Alpine Road. It averages between 3% and 4% so you can go up quite fast.
At the end of the climb there is the junction with Portola Valley Road. This stop sign is famous in that police is often hiding around the corner ticketing cyclists who don’t make a full stop. The other side meanders down at the same average. Time for the big gear. A few miles further is the Woodside village with its grocery store. A mandatory stop for cyclists, around 20 or so mulling about inside and outside the store. Lots of gorgeous cycling gear on display. When I come out the store with the coffee and other yummy stuff I see Bruce sitting on the steps. I join him.
After the break I turn right on Whiskey Hill. On the descent a small group wearing Monta Vista Wheelers shirts pass me. I latch on on the Sand Hill climb but fall back on the downhill. At the beginning of Foothill I catch them again. Foothill is like Strong Rd. Some rollers and when you feel good you can go very fast. On one of the rollers I execute a well timed Fast Friends style attack pulling through on the other side of the roller. A mille or so further they catch back on and one of them places his attack. With Mark – we introduce ourselves at a traffic light down the road – I work together to get back on the rear wheel. The three of us tussle a little more and then a quick pace line establishes itself. At a traffic light Mark comments on my bike liking the Flandrien treatment of the Ridley. He is Belgian, born in Antwerp and went to school in Brussels. He’s been here since 1992. I arrived here in 1997. We have a somewhat traditional chat among foreigners leaving aboard (what a strange sentence, don’t foreigners always live aboard? it’s what makes them foreign? anyways, where were we?). Do you think you’ll go back? Maybe, just not yet though. Isn’t it hard to speak our native tongue? Yes. Aren’t the politics horrible in this country? Yes. Don’t our home countries feel small? Yes.
I ask if he rides for a club. Yes, the Monta Vista Wheelers, he explains, pointing at his jersey. They ride every Saturday morning from the Starbucks store in Los Altos Hills and ride in the range of 70 to 100 miles. I say I like to ride along next Saturday. He smiles and says I must! Now then, a bike club that starts and ends its rides next to a Starbucks… My gold card shivers in delight.
He turns off, he lives in Los Altos. I carry on making a little side loop back to Homestead riding partway to Stevens Creek park. This is to add a few more miles (must make miles for Tour de Cure) but also for nostalgic reasons. This brings me along Blaney Avenue in Cupertino allowing me to wave at the apartment where my American adventure started. After 47 miles I turn back into the parking lot of my apartment complex. I carry the bike up the stairs and put it on the balcony. There is a storage locker on the balcony where the bike rests at night. Then I pour a large glass of water, sit down in the rocking chair on the balcony. A moment later TickTock jumps on my lap. Together we watch the ducks and geese in the waterworks behind my apartment and the squirrels squirreling about.
Life is good.