happy birthday to me.
April 30, 2001
So, like I mentioned last time, I skipped work on Friday and went for a long ride in the twisties. I slept in a little bit, put on my favorite "biker babe" tank top (yes, it really says that), and got ready for some fun and adventure...and then the maintenance guy showed up to work on my screen door. So I was trapped inside my apartment until 12:30. But then I had some fun and adventure. I put together three different maps of my route, not because it was really all that fascinating, but hopefully it'll give you non-northern-California types a better idea where I'm talking about already. Naturally, I forgot to reset the trip odometer when I started off, but I'm figuring that it was about a 70-mile trip.
going to alice's.
Once I was on Highway 9, I took that all the way up to Four Corners, where it intersects with Highway 35. The ride up 9 was pretty uneventful; it was a weekday, so there weren't any kamakaze crazies this time. There was very little traffic at all, in fact, which was reallly nice. At one point about 3/4 of the way up, I pulled over to let a car and a motorcyclist pass me, and I took a picture of the bike while I was stopped, but other than that, it was a smooth ride up. Just as easy as it had been last time; I'm really happy with how smooth my turns are getting. When I got up to Four Corners, I pulled into the parking lot to have some water and just walk around. I did a U-turn at the far end of the lot, and had already turned the bike off and was de-gearing when I though, "holy shit! I just did a low speed U-turn without even thinking about it!" This was very exciting. Yay!
I hung out in the Four Corners parking lot for a little while, just chilling out and reading maps and tossing ideas around in my head of where to go next. While I was sitting there, a guy pulled up on a Champion Edition R6, and I wandered over to say hello. His name was Senen, and he was stopping for a moment on his way up Highway 35. We chatted about our respective bikes for a few minutes, and he asked if I'd been north on 35 up towards Alice's restaurant. I hadn't on my bike, and said so, and so he invited me to ride up with him and grab some lunch. I hadn't thought of any other route I'd rather take, and I'd always wanted to go to Alice's, so I said OK. We geared back up, and took off north on Highway 35. I wasn't sure exactly where it was, so Senen took the lead, with a warning from me that I wasn't going to be going at breakneck speeds. We only got separated once, when I took some hairpin turns a bit slower, but he was nice and pulled over and waited until he saw me again to continue on. I can say definitively that the LED taillights on the Champion Edition R6 are, in fact, pretty damn cool. I'm just sayin'.
This is a no-brainer for those that live in the Bay Area, but I just have to say that, god damn, Highway 35 (also known as Skyline Blvd) is freaking amazing. It traverses the summit of the foothills, so there aren't a lot of twisty windy turns like 9 has; instead, it's gentle curves and lots of up-and-down motion through some of the most gorgeous scenery around. On the west side of the road, there's nothing but bright green vineyards and rolling hills as far as the eye can see; on the east side, the hill cuts away and falls down into Silicon Valley and the Bay. A couple of times on our way to Alice's, my jaw literally dropped at the scenery, and I had to force my attention back onto the road in front of me. I couldn't pull over to take pictures, since I was following Senen, but I made a mental note of some of the more scenic spots to stop at on the way back.
I sound like I'm old when I talk like that, don't I? Damn.
Another thing that I noticed that was really cool was that every single woman I saw at Alice's was there on her own bike. When we got there, two women were getting ready to leave together; one was on a white VFR, and the other had a sparkly black Magna. A couple of other women came and went while we were there; I noticed in particular one riding a tall obviously-used-for-its-intended-purpose enduro dual-sport. Towards the end of our lunch, a man and woman pulled up together; beats me what he was riding, but she was absolutely beautiful and had an equally attractive Yamaha FZ1. Yum.
After we ate, we hung out by the bikes for a little while longer, chatting with another guy who'd pulled up on a R6. They compared their various mods for a little while, Senen let me pose on his bike for some pictures, and then I headed off back the way I came (so I could get some pictures), and Senen went towards Highway 84 to go home.
highway 35, revisited.
The other side of highway 35, the west side, is all rolling hills and vineyards. I noticed a couple of signs for wine tasting, vineyard tours, and nurseries tucked in among the trees; that'd be pretty neat to spend an afternoon riding up there and hopping from place to place. Not necessarily wine tasting at every vineyard, obviously, if I'm on the bike, but just seeing the places, and just looking around. There's a lot of cool stuff like that around the bay area; it's not all pavement and yuppies and SUVs, but it takes a little bit of work to find. I'm trying to spend more effort finding little pleasures like that.
I noticed around 3 miles north of Four Corners that there were these weird slippery black sections of the road; Senen said they were tar, but it didn't seem sticky at all. It'd be like you were just riding along la la la, and suddenly it felt like the bike was just sliding sideways. It wasn't a lack of traction, really, like a fishtail or anything, it was like the entire bike would start moving to the side all at once. Really weird. It was very disconcerting. I slowed way down until I passed the sections (luckily it was pretty obvious on the road where they were). I came across another such section of road about a mile later, but once I got back to Four Corners, it was fine and clear again. Who knows.
When I got to Four Corners, I headed south on Highway 9, towards the rest area that I'd stopped at with the group last time. It was further down than I'd remembered it, probably about a quarter mile. Anyway, I parked there again, drank some water, and sat down on one of the concrete picnic tables for a while. I took off my jacket and used it as a pillow, and just rested and laid out in the sun for a few minutes. It felt really good. :) It was a really nice feeling, to just be out by myself, in the sunshine, with some gorgeous hills in front of me, and nothing to really do for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I had to cut the ride short pretty soon, since it was getting to be close to 3pm, and traffic everywhere starts to suck around 4pm on Friday afternoons. So after I'd rested and hydrated and looked at maps for the fun of it, I hopped back on the bike and headed back north on 9 towards Saratoga.
I figured out why descending on 9 is always a problem for me -- the road freaking sucks. The entire right-hand half of the descending lane is torn up and uneven from some half-assed attempt at resurfacing. It's a real pain, because it means that you're going to cross uneven pavement, guaranteed, while rounding a turn. Feh. I messed up one 180-degree hairpin and had to use my brakes, but other than that, I did pretty well on the way down. I was nervous, though. I guess that'll just be an excuse to take an alternate route home next time and explore a little bit. ;)
Anyway, the rest of the ride was totally uneventful; 9 turns back into Saratoga Avenue, and I hopped on Hwy 85 north from there and took it home. Yay!