(Here is the set of pictures on flickr for the whole trip. But I will break the write-up into parts)
We stayed around for the holiday season, and looked for a short trip locally where we can ride our bikes and relax some. Originally we were planning on going to Mendocino, but the threat of rain (which didn't materialize) and the lack of affordable accommodation steered us to look for an alternative location. In February we took the train and rode to Santa Cruz for an overnight trip, and had lots of fun. So we decided to see if we can stay do it again. In February, we rode to Santa Cruz from the San Jose Amtrak station, hung out, and then took the HWY 17 Express Bus back to San Jose. This time, we planned on riding over and back (on a different way) to San Jose.
Christmas morning was very cold. According to the weather report when we left our house at approximately 6:30AM it was 30 degrees F. I took my Kogswell and pack all my stuff and some of M's stuff in the Ruth Works porteur bag that I got from Ely several months ago. The 15x12x12" bag can fit a lot of stuff, and on this occasion it contained my change of clothing, 8 seaweed rolls (made with brown rice, braised tofu, carrot and mushroom), a meal worth of soba noodles and a canister of home-made spicy sesame sauce, some energy bars, my camera, cellphone, iPod Touch, and wallet, a touring map, lock (both U and cable), and warm clothes (a wool sweater for me and a fleece for M). M is using her Trek 720 (650b conversion) for touring purpose for the first time. She carried a Sakaroo (made by Arkel) pannier with her change of clothing, a pair of street shoes (since she was wearing SPD shoes on this occasion), locks, a book, and our toiletry. Between the two of us we also carried 3 bottles of water in 3 Klean Kanteen bottles.
The Amtrak train came online at 7:12AM, and we were fortunate to get floor racks for bikes. It was very quiet, as most people were probably still sleeping, and probably already at their destination for the holidays. San Jose was a little warmer, but the street was just as quiet. We rolled quickly through the first handful of miles until we got on to the Los Gatos Creek Trail, which is nearly 10 miles long and would take us to Lexington Reservoir. In February, even though we were riding at around the same time of the day, but tons of people were already out. This morning we hardly saw anyone besides flocks of ducks and geese. We traded pulls and move swiftly on this extremely pleasant trail. Both of us were wearing heart-rate monitors as we are training for some big rides this year and want to begin to build some base. We were doing 16-18 MPH and the heart rate stayed pretty low.
The later stretches of the trail has hard-packed dirt as the surface, followed by a very short stretch of uphill and flat gravel roads. The last stretch is a path along the wall of the dam going up to the reservoir. We took off some layers as some climbing miles awaited. To get to Old Santa Cruz Highway, which is the road that will take us a long way toward Santa Cruz, we rode on a dirt path right next to the automobile-only Highway 17. The half a mile or so of dirt path, after a dry stretch in the weather was no trouble for our 650b tires. M commented on how she felt more assured riding her 650b'ed Trek 720 than she did in February when she was riding her 700c Trek 620.
Old Santa Cruz Highway is a shaded, well-paved and winding road that has a gentle upward gradient from north to south. It was beautiful in the morning, and we saw one other cyclist on the road, and maybe a handful of cars. Sun is more prominent now, but under the tall trees we didn't feel any heat. We remarked how it must be nice to ride through this stretch in the summer. Another gem around this area is Ogallala Warpath Road, which is a smaller side road that runs parallel to Old Santa Cruz Highway for a short while. The road is even quieter, and takes us through a dreamy neighborhood among tall trees and lined with pine needles. After exiting the Warpath, we climbed a little further until we reached Summit Road.
Now we are on the ridge. We went southeast for a mile or so, heading toward Soquel-San Jose Road, which is what eventually would take us into Santa Cruz. However, we took Morrell Cutoff Road a mile or 2 prior to the intersection with Soquel-San Jose. Morrell Cutoff is a wooded back road with less than perfect pavement and some winding descents. On this trip it fits the motif perfectly. We saw lots of birds and people's backyards. Soon we came upon Soquel-San Jose. The road is a long and gentle descent down to the town of Soquel. We stopped at the Casalegno's Store as we did in February. We didn't expect it to be open, but we knew the store has benches outside for us to take a break and eat some food.
It wasn't long after we began to roll again we entered the town of Soquel. It was noon at this point, and though more folks were out by now, it was still relatively quiet. We looked for the place we are staying for two nights--a room in a house I found on airbnb.com--and we were glad to find that the house was a block from the beach. Since it wasn't check-in time yet. We found a shady spot and watched the surfers tackled the waves for a while. It was gorgeous. After getting into our room and cleaned up a bit, we took a long walk along the water and stayed until past sunset. Given that it's Christmas night and most places were probably closed. We cooked the soba noodles we brought and made sesame noodles. It was a good day of riding and relaxing on the beach.