Life as seen through my lens…
On the trail of the iron horse…
July 13, 2008Posted by on
With my wife and youngest daughter away at girl scout camp, and my elder daughter almost comatose(!) in bed after a night out with friends, and having done the laundry and dishes, the more adventurous part of my mind took over yesterday…
I enjoy cycling, and near where we live is the southern end of the Iron Horse Regional Trail. It’s a stretch of paved trail that follows the path of Southern Pacific railroad between Dublin and Concord. We’ve previously cycled part of the trail, venturing out as far as San Ramon before turning around and coming back… that’s the thing with this trail – it’s a single path that goes from A to B – no loop, so always in the back of your mind is the fact that however far you cycle out, you’ve got the same distance to cycle back…
Anyway – so with some free time on my hands, and with the weather nice and sunny, with a slight breeze and not too hot, the more adventurous (or you might argue more stupid) part of my mind said "..so why don’t you hop out on the bike and see how far down the trail you can get?"
Right there was the problem – a challenge. It wasn’t "see if you can make 30 or 40 miles", but "see how far"… So I loaded up with drinks and a couple of Cliff Bars, and after getting an acknowledgement from my daughter to the fact that I would be out for a while, I started off on the ride to the ride (we live around 3 miles from the trail’s southern end).
It started out easy enough – for the past couple of months (since I got a new bike) I’d been out most evenings doing about 10 miles a time (including some hillier rides), so getting out to San Ramon seemed like a breeze. I carried on through Danville, resisting the urge to stop and grab something to eat and check out an exhibition at the Danville Station Museum. Riding through Alamo, nature got the better of me and I had a brief 2 minute stop to use a restroom at a local gas station just off the trail.
Having lightened my load a little (!) I carried on up into Walnut Creek. At this stage, a little short of 20 miles in, I ran out of drink, so I stopped off at a little strip-mall off the trail and replenished my supplies. I was starting to flag a bit, but I knew that the end of the trail was only 6 or 7 miles. I’d already done 20, so another few wouldn’t hurt that much… surely?
Re-energised after a drink, I set back off, and rode the rest of the trail through Walnut Creek to Concord. I must say that the north end of the trail was very much a non-event. Just a walk-through gate between the trail and the road (it stops/starts on Marsh Drive in Concord – just off of Highway 4). No park, no benches, no rest area, no big map – nothing. Well – almost nothing. There was a small box attached to the fence where you should be able to pick up a small map leaflet of the trail, but this looked like it had been empty for some time.
From home to here was 27.69 miles, so I had the same to ride back. I took a couple of minutes break, had some drink and ate my cliff bars. Refuelled a little I set back off on the ride home. I took it a little slower and steadier this time. I knew what I was in for, and not having done this length of ride since I was a teenager (and based on how I was feeling after riding all the way out) I knew there was no way I’d get back if I cycled back at the same pace.
As I cycled steadily back, I kept an eye on the distance travelled, and as I hit 50 miles let out a bit of a celebratory shout. A 50 mile ride is no small achievement in itself (especially at my age and state of fitness)… but I still wasn’t home, so on with the ride.
As I hit the end of the trail, I had two choices for how to get home… either go the way I came (which involved a number of busy road crossings), or take another route that ends up skirting the side of the big sports park in Pleasanton as it nears home. I chose the latter – much more pleasant, and there is a good amount of shade from all the trees in the park.
So… a little short of 5 hours and 56.52 miles after heading off, I climbed off my bike and proceeded to collapse into the nice soft couch in our family room – exhausted, but feeling very pleased with myself for having managed to ride the whole length of the trail, twice! (the trail itself is measured at 24.47 miles end to end). Needless to say, this morning I awoke to all sorts of aches, but it was worth it! Something tells me I might spend a bit of time in the hot tub today!
I took a few pics with my cell phone on the way back (mainly to prove I did it!) – see here.