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The Ring of Fire

2003-08-12 4 min read Cycling General marco

If you go to Palo Alto Cycle’s web site, you’ll find a list of rides in the area. The first one (at this press time) was called the “Ring of Fire”. Sounded interesting, and it was about around the area that I peruse anyway.

I left home and rode peacefully on Foothill to El Monte. A sharp left turn there and I was on my way up Moody Road. Ah! Moody! A virtually flat ride all the way, I had thought of it as a short cut while trying to conquer Page Mill Road (another Ring of Fire thing). I knew it by heart by now, and I surely was glad that’s where I would start the Ring.

Going up Moody for the first time is tricky, because the inclination rises sharply towards the end. You can’t see it coming, and you can’t see the end. I gave up three times on the way, the first time, thinking that (a) no human being could make it, and (b) that it must be over just around the corner (which it never was).

The second time around things were easier. I knew I had to slow down at the beginning, and I knew how high it would go up. No problem getting to the top (problems later on trying to get to the top of Page Mill). Once on Page Mill, it’s all downhill from there, and I stayed in well-traveled territory. Left on Arastradero gets you to the short Arastradero ascent, that I once thought was the most a human being could endure. Now I cruise it up all the way at 14 mph, proving Lance (or whoever actually said it) wrong: it does get easier, it’s not only you getting faster.

After reaching Alpine Road, things got dicey. It said to take Golden Oak Road, starting right there. I thought it couldn’t be that bad, until I hit this nasty ascent, like a giant slide. It’s just 400 ft, but you have them all in front of you, and they are (so I am told) over 17%. I made it up, rode all the way to the top and then zipped down again. Not too bad, I thought, although that kind of grade is not good for your brakes, for sure.

Next comes the worst of the bad. Los Trancos Road to Vista Verde. I turned left from Alpine, followed the creek for a few miles, a road with potholes and in general bad pavement. Then, all of a sudden, this huge ramp leads into a suburban area in the clouds. I slowly crawl up, wondering how high this could possibly be, and it just won’t stop.

I get to a high point, there is a left turn on Ramona that seems to be leading downhill. I wonder whether that’s gonna stay that way for long, and indeed it is not, the next sharp, endless ascent hits me. Ramona is like the worst of San Francisco, twice as bad. Of course it ends at a stop sign, an intersection with a steep grade. I wonder for a second whether to turn left and uphill or right and downhill (can’t be higher than this, right?).

I stick to the old adage: “Follow the pain!” Turning left, it is another ascent on Vista Verda. But this one is fairly short, and I soon see the top, ride over the top, hit the downhill slope and then find myself back on Alpine again.

From there a short ride to Portola Valley Road, where the police frequently sit and stop bikers for passing the stop sign without stopping. I wonder where those courageus servicewomen and servicemen are when the cell-phoning, coffee-drinking SUV drivers squeeze into me at intersections – sounds more dangerous to me than turning right on a perfectly calm intersection.

Rants asider, after a short ride on Portola Valley, I get to Westridge. Seemed impossible riding down, but up this way is not bad. I soon get to the top, my legs aching after all the steepness, and I get downhill to Alpine, with a real ‘okole squeezer of a descent at the end.

Back to Foothill, back on Foothill, back home.

It was worth it. I didn’t touch my bike for a week after this one. You MUST do it!