Riding the Coyote, Awooo-Awooooo!

Hungry like a wolf, I decided to take my next stroll along the Coyote Creek Trail.

Another solo overnighter, this excursion put me about 50 miles south at Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park in Gilroy, CA.

Bitchslapped with knowledge from my last trek, I was raring to apply my newfound wisdom to get a fully completed tour under my belt.

Trip Report: Overnight Tour to Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park Campground


Difficulty Level: Moderate

Time on Bike: 6 Hours South, 8 Hours North

I was far better prepared for this journey.

I was mentally ready to face the next challenge. The prior tour equipped me with a new schema to conceptualize and operationalize this whole bike touring mode. It also bolstered confidence in my ability to push beyond my comfort zone and physical limits.

Physically, I was feeling stronger and better prepared for the demands that lie ahead. The last adventure helped build a baseline of conditioning. I enhanced my fitness over the subsequent weeks. I increased my mileage by taking a longer (and safer alternative route home from my daily commute). My ongoing physical therapy treatment for mending an old hamstring injury also helped provide me with greater strengthening. Lastly, I did some longer rides on the weekend to get me more used to sitting on the saddle for long periods.

Gearwise, I remediated my ghetto-fab bungee and bag situation. I created some DIY panniers out of Tidy Cats kitty litter buckets (more to come on that on a later post). I was purring to try those kitties out (pun intended)! Tidy Cats, Tidy Cats; I love you!

Planning the Route

I picked up this trip idea from a biker I met on my last tour near Mt. Hamilton. As we lamented the excruciating climbs, he suggested that Coyote Lake would be far gentler for a quick weekend getaway.

True to form, I busted out trusty Google Maps, and devoured the route plan. It seemed pretty straightforward with a mostly a downhill grade Southbound, and a moderate climb of a few hundred vertical feet to get into the park.

Planning for Camp

The park’s website has an online booking tool, which proved quite handy to reserve my spot in advance. A great thing about this park is that it is open year round, unlike most other California campgrounds that close down in the winter. Either a perk or a smirk, depending on your camp style, the park has amenities that include running water and toilets. Not quite my style, but I won’t complain due to its proximity and hours.

Putting My Kit Together

My new Tidy Cats panniers made a world of difference for storage and stability, and brought me incredible joy.

Outfitted with my new panniers, I was able to pack all my standard gear with ease. I felt much more stable in this set up as my rig trucked down the highways and byways. It was a constant source of personal amusement as passersby often shot me quizzical glares as they tried to figure out what the hell I was hauling. One gentleman at a rest area genuinely asked me if I was actually packing kitty litter!

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My Trek 7100 Hybrid fully loaded with my new Tidy Cats, DIY panniers.

Tour Day

Yet another late start. Luckily, this tour kicked off uneventfully. My Sweetie 3.1415926 (Amanda) made me a yummy breakfast. A double chocolate oatmeal with fruit and an Americano–mmmmmmm.

The first 14 miles or so took me along the pleasant and relatively flat Guadalupe River Trail. My mind drifted as I admired the crisp Fall colors that adorned the tree tops and the earth along the river bank. It was a beautiful sunny morning, yet I felt torn between the joy of settling into my new adventure and missing my Boo-Boo.

I suffered misadventure when I lost my way in Downtown San Jose among the labyrinth of twists and turns as Google navigated me. I ended up in some rough neighborhoods south of the metro area. A deep pit consumed my stomach when I saw a woman shouting obscenities in Spanish at police officers as they attempted to restrain her.

It looked like a scene out of a movie. She was done up in a revealing and carefully orchestrated outfit. Lifted by tall heels, her well manicured dark hair and curvy body pumped up and down–taunts that accentuated her pointed curses to the officers. With a grimacing countenance, she continued to protest her impending incarceration as I rolled on at a quickening pace with wide eyes fixed straight ahead.

A great comically tragic juxtaposition emerged as the terrified white guy gallivanted onwards on his white-male-privileged journey while local onlookers casually glanced unconcernedly every now and then as they went about their daily business.

Warning! Soap Box Alert: This vignette highlights the importance of seeking diverse human experiences, ones that push oneself outside of the trend of seeking isolation in insularly homogenized socio-economically gentrified communities. I’ve been so wrapped up in the corporate scene of Silicon Valley for the past year, that this experience reminded me that there is a whole range of human experiences beyond my limited line of sight. Without this greater connection to the broader world around me, I feel like it became easy to “otherize” people and form unfair biases. In the recent past, I caught myself judging a homeless person who was loud, smelly, and downright rude. In revisiting that experience, all it takes is for me to consider their background and see them as a human being. This can go a long way in reconnecting myself with humanity. With this reality check in place, I feel better calibrated, emphatically speaking, with my fellow man. Soap Box End.

For the next few miles, I pedaled along briskly to try and quickly get out of the buzz of traffic on the open road. Struggling with false route orders from Google Nav, I kept missing the correct turns to get me on the trail. A bit rattled by the last few miles and wild traffic, I was comforted to join the Coyote Creek Trail in South San Jose.

The first half of the trail included a number of lovely rest stops along the way, equipped with running water and picnic areas. I frequently stopped to refuel and enjoy the wooded scenery and wildlife.

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Some new friends I made along the way. Coyote Creek Trail, near Gilroy, CA. 

The next dozen or so miles were fairly uneventful and idyllic. With the wind pushing me along, I briskly crossed though populated stretches of trail, to remote open fields. 28 miles or so in, I came across a neat find, the Santa Clara County Model Plane Park in Morgan Hill. The skies were abuzz with model aircraft shooting across the sky while enthusiasts enjoyed the perfect 80 degree weather.

Beyond the park, I exited the Coyote Creek Trail and entered the town of Morgan Hill onto surface streets that dominated the remainder of the journey. Morgan Hill and Gilroy proved to be a goat lover’s paradise. Nearly every home I passed by had a goat or two peacefully munching away in the rural yards.

Two goats particularly caught my eye. Standing on their hind legs and front legs vertically straddling a chain link fence, they faced a car pulling out of the driveway. As these goats cried out to their people in sadness at the sight of their depature, my heart tore within my chest as I contemplated the universality of love among all sentient beings.

After course correcting five miles, I made my way from the wrong entrance to the park, and still had 5+ miles to go. I was losing sunlight, and growing weary. I found my way to the base of the canyon, and stopped to double check my map and hydrate.

A man emerged from his home across the street. As he took out trash to the dumpster on the road, he shot me a warm smile. Separated by an empty road, we evaluated one another with eyes locked. In his mid 50’s, a peace loving, hippy-like vibe emanated from him. This impression was further accentuated by a soothing demeanor that radiated from him like a a warm Spring day. We  struck up a conversation about the beautiful weather. He was thrilled that I was taking advantage of the nearby park for a nice little jaunt on my bike. Re-energized by his exuberance and mindfulness, I was surprised to have connected with a complete stranger in such a pleasant way. We bade farewell, and I continued on my journey.

Ascent bound, strong headwinds thwarted forward momentum. My legs felt like blocks, and I didn’t even bother to try and pedal the first big hill. Instead, I pushed my bike up the hill for the next mile.

Another mile after, I hit the wall and fell apart. Intense self doubt consumed me. I began to second guess this trip. Crawling at a snail’s pace and night drawing near, I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t think I had it in me. But I set incremental milestones, going just one step at a time…

To that next sign post 100 feet away, to that rock 120 feet away, to that mailbox 80 feet away…

Looking at the map one last time, I felt demoralized. I still had a few miles to go. I resolved to get over the next hill. If it continued in this fashion, I would give Amanda a call to come bail me out.

In my heart, I had given up on the tour. I was resolved to call it quits. As I pedaled along the last intended stretch, I wondered what Amanda was doing, and how soon she could retrieve her silly, broken, and over-ambitious husband. I worried this would ruin her evening. Yet, I pushed that inconsiderate thought out of my mind and replaced it with a fantasy of consuming her yummy meals and soothing iced beverages. But alas, this tour had other plans for me!

I reached a plateau and began a steep descent. “Shit!”, I thought. “Now that I’m descending, there’s no way I have it in me to turn around and reclaim this hill tonight. I am committed.” This I lamented as I refocused on the task at hand.

15 minutes later, I traversed the dark of night and found a toll station with an inscription that welcomed me to Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park! I felt elated. I checked with the toll both attendant, and I practically jumped in joy when I learned that I could buy firewood! I strapped the wood onto my rack and triumphantly rode into camp.

At Camp

I was greeted by a warm and kind couple from Morgan Hill who frequent that park in their RV. Named Chris and James, they kindly invited me over to enjoy a beverage at their adjacent camp. I accepted their gracious offer.

I set up camp, enjoyed a well deserved dinner, and made my way to visit with Chris and James. A gregarious and bubbly newly wed couple from Mountain View also joined us, named Jessica and Roy. We hung around for the next two hours and had a really great time swapping stories of adventure around the campfire.

Back at camp, I snuggled up in my warm quilt to Blue Highways: A Journey Into America by William Least Heat-Moon. I surprisingly had cell phone reception. Missing my Boo-Boo, I gave her a call, and we chatted for a few minutes. We swapped highlights of our day as I nodded off into a blissful nothingness.

The Return Journey

I awoke at dawn and soaked in a magnificent view.

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Coyote Lake viewed from my camp.

I enjoyed a caffeine rich breakfast while studying a pack of wild boar. I experimented with my coffee and oatmeal. Rather than cooking both separately, I combined them. I had to fork down this hairbrained concoction. Perhaps it would have worked had I added only one shot of espresso. With brown gold coursing through my veins, I quickly packed up kit with Superman speed and hit the road with ferocity.

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Pack of wild boar spotted from my camp.

On a near caffeine overdose, I powered up the hills, crawling out of my skin. I made my way down the canyon, jumped off my bike, and dove into my first in a series of endless mechanical calibrations I had to perform to fix my brakes from locking up. Every few miles, I painstakingly stopped and recalibrated.

Battling some intense headwinds, my tired legs pushed on through in granny gear. The going was slow and painful between what felt like endless uphills, headwinds, fatigued legs, mechanical recalibrations, chaffing, and oppressive weights imposed by my cargo.

Hours passed and I trudged along. I stopped for a lunch break at a park crowded with shopping carts that contained the entirety of people’s life possessions. One suspect character came towards me in a threatening manner. I held my ground with a stone face, and he sharply turned away. Too tired to go elsewhere, I munched on my Buffalo Chickpeas and chatted with my Boo Boo on the phone.

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The obligatory and narcissistic selfie. 

I found a bike shop along the way and tried to fix the issue with my brakes. Without luck, I continued on. I found the correct route through downtown San Jose.

The concrete jungle of myriad under and over passes gave the impression of a post-apocalytic wasteland. Various tent cities punctuated the multi-level concrete platforms along the way. So incredibly spent, I did not feel that I had the strength to perform evasive actions in the event of an emergency. This self awareness put me on heightened alert. At one point, I missed an exit in this labyrinth, and reached a dead end which housed a tent city. Trying to maintain my composure, I hightailed out of there watching over my shoulder in paranoia.

I hit the wall. My temptation to call Amanda was great. Despite the fierce headwinds the miserable state of my legs, my chaffed monkey butt, and incredible hanger, summit fever propelled me forward–ever so slowly. Four miles from home, I stopped and sent Amanda some whiney texts. She later recounted that she was surprised that I didn’t request a pick up 🙂

In the homestretch, I popped on headphones and jammed out to the ass kicking Indigo Meadows album from the Black Angels. Renewed by the sight of Levi’s Stadium in the distance, I gave a strong final push and rolled on home with an enormous smile beaming across my face.

Riding in the elevator to my apartment, I clocked in a well earned 8 hours from my departure that morning.

Walking in the door looking utterly wasted, I was welcome by a bewildered wife. I raised my arms above my head and shouted out, “A hundred miles biked!”

My first full tour was successfully completed!

 

 

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