I have not been on the bike a lot this year, and it shows. I'm heavier and slower. Mostly, I feel "c'est la vie." I was in great shape by the end of last summer and able to ride about as long as I wanted and as hard as I wanted. Or so it seems from nine months' distance.
But still. I went out for a ride today with one of my local riding friends. The "classic" start to a ride from my house involves going up into the hills and a street called Grizzly Peak Boulevard; riding that way involves a long, sharp hairpin if you took a look at a map. About a mile north, up the side of the north-south ridge that rises east of Berkeley and then at the top you double back close to but not quite at the top of the ridge. After another couple miles you hit the city limit and cross, oddly, into a piece of Oakland that lies just above the upper hillside reaches of the University of California campus. It's all open land up there: eucalyptus groves and grass and brush. The road winds up the upper slopes of what on the local U.S. Geological Survey maps is labeled Frowning Ridge. The view down across Berkeley to the bay, San Francisco and the Golden Gate beyond, is still transfixing a good 30 years after I first saw it. The road tops out at about 1,700 feet above sea level -- nearly 1,600 feet above my house, and about six and a half miles above sea level. It's an amazing climb to have right out my front door--long and never really steep, with one of the best vistas in the state.
After you hit the top, the road immediately starts down. You're headed south, so the logical destination, if you're going anywhere, is the network of roads that leads into the Oakland Hills; then maybe further south and east through more hills and open country. Today, we rode down to an over-stripmalled suburb called Castro Valley, got a cup of coffee and a scone, then got on our bikes and rode back to Berkeley. Great day out, though unseasonable, if we really do have any seasons around here. We were in the mid-90s the week before last, and that's sort of freakishly hot around here. Today, at midmorning, it was 48 up in the hills, and it stayed in the low 50s virtually the entire time we were on the bikes.