I drove over the mountain pass, via #154, hung a left on Foothills Road, found the Botanical Gardens parking lot, jumped on the bike and within 3 miles, arrived at Mountain Street. In California, streets that are named "Mountain" are the real deal. This signals the start of what many refer to as, "The Classic American Climb" and I can't disagree. Sure, there are longer climbs, there are steeper climbs but there is no climb that has the package of length, elevation and freakin incredible views. Dozens of switchbacks provide views up and down the coast except, that weather system that moved in yesterday lingered and rather than brilliant sunshine, the skies were partly cloudy to start.
Climbing up Mountain, in a few minutes there is a fork in the road and if you take the middle fork, that is Gibraltar. First I scouted to this point because last year, upon arriving at the fork, I took the left turn and made a needless detour. This created some confusion with timing the climb, which I treat as a very slow personal time trial. Last year, I rationalized the detour and upon arriving at the top. calculated I had done the climb in 59:99. I was determined to make a legit sub one hour climb. Sitting at this point were two cyclists who were waiting on a 3rd. They invited me to join in but I needed to climb at my pace, not concerned about staying ahead of someone or catching someone. I coasted back down to the Mountain Street sign, adjusted the clothing, hit the start button and began the grind up.
As I climbed, more clouds rolled in and became thicker and thicker. I began overtaking the 3 cyclists but they stopped where the road dips into a small community about 3/4 of the way up. So far, the climb had been a mix of modest rises with a few steeper slopes mixed in but after the brief dip, the road never drops below 9-10%. Eventually, the road leaves the coast, cutting back into the mountain and one is greeted with a turn followed by a straightish stretch, followed by a turn and on and on and on. At each turn, I would think that would be the last and I would reach the top but no, more evil 10-15% ramps and glancing frequently at the Garmin,I despaired I would break the hour mark. Then, rounding a corner, my legs screaming, I saw the summit, marked by an intersection leading elsewhere, crossed the intersection, hit the Garmin and HOW ABOUT THAT! 59:52 and later discovered my previous times had started at the Gibraltar Road sign rather than the Mountain Street sign, so I had actually started further down the mountain and still broken the one hour time. I was a happy camper but gosh, it had gotten very dark.
I began coasting back down and stopped at this point where I found this old, burned plant to be an interesting color companion to the surrounding greyness. It began to rain lightly or maybe that is just moisture that is carried aloft by the clouds.
Lower still, the sun began to break, barely, through the clouds but still, I was robbed of the usual fantastic views.
This is how it usually appears, switchback after switchback and quite a nice distraction from the pain of climbing. Oh well.
The skies never did clear and the mountains were shrouded by heavy clouds. I had intended to climb Old San Marcos Road, cross the 154 and then hit the wickedly steep Painted Cave climb up to Camino Cielo Road but the thought of riding back into those clouds swiped the motivation and I returned to the Botanical Gardens parking lot, packed up and headed back to Santa Ynez Valley. The Gibraltar climb from Mountain Street was 6.77 miles and 2761' of climbing. The total for the day was 18 measly miles and 3500' of climbing. On to Arizona for hiking, the Shootout ride and probably an assualt on Mount Lemmon.
Mark is a long-time cyclist who enjoys poking fun at himself but most especially at his friends. No nicknames or comments are intended to offend, accept them in the humor they are intended.