Sunday, March 23, 2008

Californication, part I

I got a chance to head out to a conference in San Francisco, and decided to go up early to visit my brother in Redding. For those of you not in the know, Redding is a smallish town on the far northern end of California's central valley, surrounded by mountains, most of which are volcanic. (Random fact of the day: Lassen was the most recent volcano to erupt in the US before Mount St. Helens in 1980.)

My brother works for a local land trust, and has thus gotten the chance to really get to know the area since he moved there in the fall. My parents were up visiting as well, and little bro' gave us a pretty extensive driving tour, complete with a few short day hikes. For the sake of brevity, I'll include just a few of the pics that I got a chance to snap.

The roads out there were spectacular, each one seeming to offer a better climb than the last, and the trails seemed challenging and varied. All of which made me wish that I had a bike with me, better lungs, and about a month to ride.

I got one of the three. My brother hooked me up with his friend "Double D" who works at the local newspaper and he set me up with an old Trek 850 in great condition. It was about a dozen years old, with the old made-in-the-USA chromoly frame, cantilever brakes, and 7-speed rapid-fire shifting, all in great condition. I few adjustments, a stop by the local bike shop for some air, and I headed up the mountain for a quick ride.

D had the Trek pimped out in full commuter mode, with slicks and a rear rack, so I didn't think I could do much in terms of trail riding. Still, I headed out of Redding in a light rain and up toward a small local park. After a few twists and turns, I found Mary Lake and the trails around it. They weren't bad, though they kinda reminded me of California's version of Lake Crabtree: relatively close to town, well-ridden, but not particularly scenic when compared with other local options. Granted, the fog was thick enough when I was there that I couldn't really see much, but the brush was pretty dense.

There was climbing, though: according to Google Earth there are only about 400 ft of elevation gain between the ridge and the hills to their west, but that was plenty for me. The bike went up well, and I was only held back by the slicks on the rear. There were a few jumps and freeride-like stunts, but on a loaner bike I decided to skip them. Oh, and I remembered that I'm scared. On the trail:

A view from the top:

At the risk of sounding like a technophobe, the Trek totally rocked. Sure it was rigid, but the steel gave a smooth ride and shifts were strong and crisp. Even the cantilevers -- something that I never remember being strong -- offered sufficient stopping power. Maybe I didn't feel like going big on the ride, but I'm not sure that was the ride.

What I could have used were some clipless pedals. I've got to agree with Chris in his post to a recent thread on TMTB: clipless pedals really do offer better control and power than the plastic flats and the running shoes that I was sporting.

After a number of twists and turns, and more than a few backtracks, I wandered back down to Redding and rode their River Trail, which is everything that a greenway should be: fast, flowy, no-tech, but with just enough curves and rises to keep things interesting, and scenery that wouldn't quit. I've got no idea how many miles I got in, but I was out for a total of three hours on a day and a trip when I didn't think that I'd get anything, which was pretty amazing.

Props to my brother for finding the bike for me and double D for the loan. I was sore for a couple of days, a testament to both the quality of the ride and my lack of fitness.

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