Last week we had our annual New Year's Day Hangover ride. Actually, the name of the ride should probably change to reflect our aging group. We no longer party all night then spend the first portion of this ride hating ourselves for our actions....instead, most of us are happy to be able to stay awake until Midnight on New Year's eve. (rumor has it that there were even some in our group that watched the east coast celebration so they could go to bed earlier)
Every year for this ride we try to pick someplace we either haven't ridden at all or haven't ridden in a long time. This year, it's someplace that most of the group has never ridden before. Almaden Quicksilver Park in San Jose. I had ridden this park once before with my buddy Chris and had done it on my SS. To be completely honest, I didn't remember it being very hard so I posted it to the group with above mentioned title. Turns out I may have undersold this ride just a bit.
Quicksilver park is the site of an old mercury mine and sits adjacent to the old mining town of New Almaden. The loop wasn't technical as it's all fire roads, but there was some decent climbing and some very cool historic sites and some amazing views of Silicon Valley and surrounding areas.
The group that we had assembled for this ride was pretty diverse. We had friends from our road riding group that had never been mountain biking, friends from our Thursday night mountain bike group, friends from church, children of friends and friends of friends.....19 in total with varying levels of fitness and skill. This was sure to be an interesting day.
The entrance that we had met at and would later be bbq-ing at offered a brutal climb at the beginning so we opted to start the ride at another entrance further down the road. This provided us with a nice mile or so section that gave us time to get our legs and lungs to warmed up without pushing everyone into the red zone right off the bat. (Turns out this was also helpful in that Nick, one of our riders was MIA and found us as we pedaled down the road)
The sights on the way though were pretty cool. The park sits at the south end of Silicon Valley above Almaden, probably one of the higher income areas in San Jose, and next to several other open space areas. This provides a view that leads you to believe you're nowhere near anything at all.
As we continued to climb, we rode past an old mine building of some sort and further up the road came to what used to be an actual mine. It's closed off now, but you can go in about 30 ft and take pictures down into the gaping hole that people used to descend into daily for work. It was interesting that as you went further in, the temperatures went up pretty significantly. The outside temp was probably in the low 60's and I bet it was mid-70's inside.
After ooh'ing and ahh'ing and taking the obligatory group photo, we continued our climb. At this point there were a couple of our riders that were beginning to wonder if they probably should have either 1) ridden more last year or 2) ignored the email that promised a nice easy 11 mile loop to start the new year....oh well, too late now....you're in up to your eyeballs at this point.
The remainder of the ride pretty much followed the contour of the hills but in a slightly uphill direction. This isn't usually a problem and is actually a decent way to end a ride. Unless of course the first half has already drained your tank and you just want the ride to be over.
There were now a couple of our riders that were not enjoying themselves and one who was stopping at every climb due to leg cramps. We had broken into two groups with the faster/stronger guys up front and the slower group bringing up the rear. As ride hosts, Chris and I had stayed back to make sure everyone made it home. Of course, by this point, I'm pretty sure the lead group had gotten back and were beginning the bbq, I was just hoping there would be a beer or two left for the rest of us.
As we rounded the last corner, I actually heard one of our riders swear out loud....there in front of us was a short, pretty steep climb.....this after I had been telling him we were done with the climbing for the last half hour. It's only a tenth of a mile, but according to my garmin there were parts of it over 14%.
When you've been cramping up for the last hour, have no gas left in the tank and just want to be done, any climb sucks, even a short one. But a short one that looks like it's straight up is evidently enough to get a grown man to swear out loud and not care who is around to hear it.
With someone else pushing his bike up the hill, he eventually made it up and around the corner where we were greeted with cheers by the rest of the group who were already beginning to eat and had thankfully saved us some beer
Yep, definitely undersold this one....