20 September 2008

2008-09-20 Sycamore Canyon Group Ride

I know Ron. I know that Ron is always late. I'm usually late because I know Ron will be late. But for this ride, I got to Ron's house at 7:15 even though I told him I'd pick him up at 7:30, because it wasn't just the two of us who were involved in this ride. Bill R, Jake and Chris were also going to show up to ride, and a last minute addition, which I didn't know about until we got to Santee, was Gardner.

With a fire under Ron's cute little ass, I drank a nice cup of coffee and waited for him to finish all the stuff he needed to accomplish before we could leave. When all was finished, we were only 10 minutes late leaving his house. We jumped on the freeway and I did my usual of staying in the right hand lane and setting the cruise control at 90 km/h, and we chitted and chatted all the way to Santee.

When we arrived at 8:15, Jake and Gardner were already there, and comments were made about posts I had made about getting there at 8:00 sharp so we could be on the trail by 8:30. Yeah, yeah, at least we weren't getting there at 8:45...

We quickly went about getting bikes put back together and I changed my clothes and we were actually ready to go at 8:30. But Chris still hadn't arrived. Apparently he had called Jake when he woke up at 8, but was on his way.

When Chris arrived, he was quick to get moving since everything on his bike was ready to go after getting fixed up and tuned up over the past week. Well, everything except for the cleats on his shoes hadn't been swapped out after getting the new pedals. So, with a little bit of help, he was expeditiously clipping in to his new pedals and we were on our way.

Since I seem to often ride by myself, or ride with one other person, I'm not used to all the conversation that takes place on the trail. With six people, all at different skill, speed, fitness, endourance, and awakeness levels, there is a lot more time spent waiting at turns and at tops of hills to regroup (and to allow the tail of the group to recover) than I'm used to. It's not bad to socialize, but it does eat up a lot more time. But, since Ron's husband had been told he'd be back by noon and he carpooled with me, there was a certain level of unease on my part of knowing he'd be very late but not wanting to make it any later than necessary. After listening to all of my married riding partners 'complain' about how they can't just go off riding whenever and wherever they want to, or for as long as they want to, I'm starting to feel a lot better about being single.

This area is Gardner's back yard, so it was good to have someone to ask when I zigged us instead of zagging us. We quickly (although at the expense of energy reserves) returned to the correct trail and proceeded onward. After the power lines and the creekbed, we made the correct left turn and found ourselves climbing on the switchbacks up to the top of the ridge.

At the top of our first climb, I waited by myself for only a short time before 28 year old Jake summited. It's good that he showed up second, being the baby in this group of 40-50-somethings. I watched as the rest of the guys made their way up the switchbacks.

As soon as everyone had made it to the top of the climb, it became obvious to me that we were not going to do the ride in the 2 hour range that I'm used to doing it. But the conversation was pleasant, so I was enjoying myself with this very nice and growing group of guys. I must say, it's also nice to ride with a group of gay men because there isn't the expectation that I either "leave my sexuality at the trailhead and just ride" or that I make the guys feel uncomfortable by making statements about some cute guy.

Gardner, being the only straight guy in the group, may have felt out of place, but he certainly didn't show it and it felt very comfortable. On the other hand, he has a very fun-loving personality, so I hope he enjoyed himself as much as I was enjoying myself.

After continuing along the ridge road, we hit the singletrack that jogs around the side of the hill rather than requiring what looks like a less than exciting rocky climb up the fire road. From there, zipping around the hill we finally came to the singletrack that goes back down into the canyon via a large number of switchbacks. It was a lot of fun, and given that I'm now much more familiar with the trail, I'm able to do it a bit faster than the first couple of times.

At the bottom of the hill, I had the opportunity to look up and see the herd of riders slashing back and forth along the side of the hill. As the last riders in our group were approaching the bottom I spotted a rider at the top who was descending very quickly. He made it down the entire hill in the time that it took some of our riders to do two or three switchbacks. As he zoomed past our chit-chatty clan, I noticed it was Claus. He was engrossed in his music and almost didn't notice me. But, when he picked me out of the croud, he came to a screeching stop, pulled an earbud from his head and we talked briefly. Then, like a married man who needed to be home in a very short time, he zoomed off.

We took off, following Claus, but he was gone before we all got around the first turn. We stayed on singletrack until we got to the gate that marks the entry into Sycamore Canyon Preserve. At that spot we met up with three guys who knew Gardner from SDMBA, and also ended up losing Chris and Bill R. Bill had to get to the lumber store (we all know what kind of wood he was looking for) and Chris was complaining about having arrived on a plane at 1am (instead of 10:30pm). So, now our little group of seven took off past the old ranch and ranger station until we got to the road we'd take up to the east ridge of the park.

When we got there, Gardner was nowhere to be found, but someone had heard he was stopping over at the ranger station. I wasn't sure if that meant he'd be coming soon or if it was a cue to leave him behind, but I assumed the former, so we waited. Just as we were getting impatient, he ambled up and we continued on our way up "cardiac" hill.

Ron was the speed demon on the hill, followed by Doug, one of the guys we picked up at the gate. I came in third, and the rest followed at various speeds. When we were all finally at the top of the hill, we took off northward down the big dirt road. I zoomed ahead until I tried to change gears and something wasn't working right. I looked down and it was immediately obvious that my P-Spring tension had been lost.

Jake stayed there with me while the rest of the guys raced ahead. I have one of those SRAM chains with the nifty quick link, but to be completely honest, I've never been able to get them to come undone. Putting the link on is easy, but the other way around just doesn't seem to work. If there's a trick, I don't know it. So after fussing for a while, I got out the chain tool, broke the chain and fixed the P-Spring tension.

I put everything back together (fortunately, the right way the first time out!) just as Gardner and Ron came flying down the hill towards us. I packed the tools away and we all started the climb back to the trail that leads us to Martha's Grove.

The descent to Martha's Grove is always a fast, fun flying experience with a few ruts and sand traps added in to keep a rider's focus. Doug, Jack and their friend apparently had gotten lost and found us just as we were coming into the parking lot at the north end of the park.

We continued on from there, with me in the lead again, doing the fun that is Martha's Grove.

At one point I looked back and didn't see anyone behind me, so I pulled out the camera and waited until riders started to come around the corner. I snapped several pictures until I found myself near the end of the group. I then jumped on my bike. I saw Jake at the top of the left-hand branch of the trail--the one that goes to the ridable but eminently scary rock drop off. I called out to say I was coming through as it is definately not a place you want to stop and look. So I vaulted down the rock face, giving Jake an idea of how to handle this particular messy spot. Seeing me do it made him realize it could be done, and as he told it, he backed up quite a ways and took a run at it, but didn't stay far enough to the left of the face and had to jump off the bike. The only casualty on Martha's downhill was Gardner who had a nice looking scrape on his knee.

We jetted out of Martha's and made our way back to the gate that lets us out of the preserve and back onto the Marine Corps land. At the gate we encountered the park ranger and trail maintenance worker. I introduced myself and explained the patrol to them. They were both very enthusiastic about the idea which was nice. It was also rather nice that this really cute guy with blond hair spiking through his helmet came along giving us all a nice trailside fantasy for the way back.

Gardner bid us farewell at that point, leaving just Ron, Jake and myself to pedal back to the cars. Ron was worried that Oscar wouldn't talk to him for a week as a result of him not being on time, so we had to bypass the switchback climb and descent, instead rushing back by the easier route. Just about the time we got onto the fire road, past the jumps, my chain broke. But rather than deal with fixing it on the spot, I just ran and coasted until we got back to Mast Blvd. at which point I told ron to come along side of me, and I grabbed ahold of his seat and he pulled me down the road.

We loaded up, and drove back to Cardiff, Jake following in his Jeep. I dropped Ron off and Jake and I headed to Mozy's for lunch. The conversation was fun and the food hit the spot. We then went back to my place to chat, drink some ale, pray to the virgin Mary and just relax. I had so much fun that I can't wait to do it all over again.