Sometimes just thinking about cycling can get to be too frustrating. Thoughts like "I'm not riding enough", "I can't find the time", "Damn, I'm out of shape", "I'm not fast enough", "I'm sick of all my routes", and "I think I'll just give up", can be almost paralyzing, and the more you think about how little you're riding, the more you're inclined not to ride. At least, that's how it is with me, and often, with all the thinking and analyzing, I forget why I even got into cycling in the first place: adventure, spending time in nature, that indescribable sense of freedom that comes with knowing that when all is said and done, you can go just about ANYWHERE on a bike (under your own power)!!!
So it was on Saturday morning when I woke to clear skies and promises of warm weather. I was LOOKING for a chance NOT to ride. The cat's been sick, the rear hub on my road bike is broken, the saddle for my cross bike is on my road bike, etc. etc. etc.
Finally, I decided that maybe I'd do something different. Forget the road bike, forget the 'cross bike, forget the clip ins, the cycling gear, the wrap around euro shades, the whole damn attitude that inspires the aforementioned thoughts. I was going Klunking.
For those who aren't familiar, "Klunking" is what they called mountain biking in the early days, when Joe Breeze, Gary Fischer, Tom Ritchey, Otis Guy, Steve Potts, et al. were modifying old beach cruisers and tearing up the trails on Mount Tam (there's a great documentary about it called "Klunkerz", check it out). Now, it's 2012, and I don't have a cobbled together beach cruiser, but I do have a cobbled together, fully rigid, platform pedaled, mullet-braked, internally geared, 90's Gary Fischer townie conversion, which would do nicely. Ultimately, I don't think it really matters if your bike counts as a "Klunker" or not, so long as your head's in the right place.
I put on my most appropriate klunking attire, which actually could also be described as "my street clothes": Levis cut offs, tennis shoes (workboots would have been more appropriate, but hey, you work with what you got), and a plaid shirt (to be opened in front on long ascents, of course), and a helmet (which isn't necessarily in-line with the klunker esthetic, but I'm not stupid), and hit the trails.
My original plan was to do a short, but fun ride in the hills that climbs up tunnel road and follows as much dirt as possible down through Sibley and Tilden Parks, ending at the Little Farm, say what's up to the goats, and head home.
Now, climbing Tunnel road on a 30+ pound flat-pedaled townie, is a lot different than on a 20- pound road bike, but something about it put a smile on my face. I was lagging, bigtime, and getting passed by cyclist after cyclist, but I was getting one hell of a workout, and I was having FUN! By the time I hit the dirt in Sibley park, I couldn't wipe the stupid grin off my face. By the time I reached the steep ascent of Fish Ranch Road (plaid shirt open all the way, of course) I'd changed my plans completely.
A few years back, my wife-to-be was attending a Waldorf Teacher Training out in El Sobrante. While dropping her off one evening, I noticed a trail head right next to the school and wondered if it connected all the way through to Tilden park and beyond. Eventually, my wife-to-be quit the program, I stopped dropping her off at school and quickly forgot about the existence of that trail. Until yesterday.
Climbing Fish Ranch road, having a blast in the heat, I decided I would FIND THAT TRAIL! and if I didn't, hell, I'd find some other trail, and ride that. Above all, I'd break out of my routine, ride some new terrain, and maybe even find a hidden gem or two to add to my repertoire.
I continued up Fish Ranch Road to Grizzly Peak Boulevard, past the Tilden Steam Train, up the hill and along Seaview Trail. When I reached Wildcat Canyon Road, I diverted from my usual route, and instead of following Meadows Canyon Trail to the Little Farm, I turned towards Inspiration Point and the trail head for Nimitz Way. Nimitz way is a paved trail that follows the rolling, grassy ridge line above Wildcat Canyon. It wasn't the dirt that I was hoping for, but it was new terrain to me, and it felt good to be out in the sun on the exposed ridge. I was hoping that Nimitz would stay paved all the way to it's terminus, wherever that might be, as it would make a killer addition to many East Bay road rides. Eventually, however, the pavement stops and Nimitz way splits three ways. I chose to follow Nimitz trail, since it seemed the most logical extension of Nimitz Way (not knowing that there was also "Old Nimitz Road", the signage out there was minimal). Nimitz Trail turned into Mezue trail, and quickly became a decent into Wildcat Canyon. I knew by this point that I'd gone the wrong way, and that I wouldn't be making the connection to El Sobrante.
I didn't achieve my "goal", but who cares? What's a goal once achieved? What's a trail once ridden? I wouldn't find my trail head, at least not today, but I couldn't think about that with my brain rattling around in my skull as it was, for the decent into Wildcat was steep, rutty-as-all-hell, fast, and fun!
And isn't that the point?