home counties and otherworlds

This summer and fall I managed to spend nearly sixteen consecutive weekends out of town. This was glorious and as close to living as I think you can get with a desk job, but there were some pretty predictable effects on my bank balance—not to mention the people in my life whose idea of a good time is anything other than driving all night in order to sleep on the ground.

Point being, it probably would have been about time to stay local even if it hadn’t finally started raining. So I’m grateful, as always, that home’s so often as beautiful as away.

Russian Ridge
Russian Ridge, 11/28

On the peninsula for Thanksgiving I took the Montanan through my stations of the cross: Page Mill, Montebello, Russian Ridge, Rosotti’s. That his bike was broken and mine wasn’t probably contributed to a slight enthusiasm differential (“Do you see it? That’s the ocean! You’re not even looking! Are you sure? Isn’t it great?”)—but it probably made a nice change from the usual iteration of that problem.

Alhambra Valley Road, 12/6

This is one of my favorite little stretches of East Bay backroad (a relationship I’ve apparently been rather less shy about in the past). Winter being Bay Area spring, it’s currently a cow nursery.

Sunol Regional Wilderness
Sunol Regional Wilderness, 12/14

Finally made it out here to investigate “Little Yosemite,” a tumbledown portion of Calaveras Creek. On my insistence we half-waded, half-scrambled up the slick serpentine until it started to get sketchy as the full-sized version. (For me, at least. Kwang I hear is pretty good at bouldering.)

Out of the gorge and in place of the glowing, morning mist the hills blazed with fantasy-world brightness. I looked down on the valley floor—the carved-out banks and presiding oaks—and realized why: it’s been years since I’ve seen water flowing anywhere but the mountains. The way it looks here, the diamond glint of the stream in the green of new grass, belongs to a landscape so much more often remembered than seen that it has taken on the color of a story.

Muir Beach
Muir Beach, 12/20

After miles of fractious traffic on either end of the bridge, Jacob and I rode into a grand surprise: Highway 1 closed to cars above Stinson Beach, for a slide or rockfall or something—who cares! It meant a two-lane descent in near-unbroken speed and silence. Only the roar of the waves somewhere below the guardrails, just the hiss of wet pavement and the wind in my ears.