Sunday 27th August – Santa Cruz Ride Fest

Everyone was up pretty early but I snoozed bit before I joined everyone at the breakfast table. We had a mission this morning, it was to get all of us and our bikes down to Santa Cruz to see Jayne and her brother’s family. Jayne, a friend of mine from Brisbane and a friend of D&K’s from Melbourne, had flown in last night and we were all keen to see her. We all rolled out the door around 9am after packing the three adult’s bikes into my newly stripped and very clean van. This was an important day, it would be the first time Astro would be meeting her new owner – Jayne.

In a happy arrangement that came about due to good timing, Jayne took up my offer of “looking after the Astro” during her travels, then selling it for me when she was done. She initially told me she was looking for something more reliable (pfft!) but after I told her all about it, she was convinced it would suit her well enough for the 10 weeks she planned to paraglide, ride and climb around Canada and the States.

With upwards of $10,000 worth of bikes in the van that only cost me $2,000, we drove the narrow highway through the mountains to the coast. I soon lost sight of D&K in their Chrysler, but we ended up arriving in Paradise Park around the same time. Jayne’s brother lives in a housing community that is nestled amongst tall redwoods and as I drove through, I got the feeling of being in a campground. I later found out that’s exactly what it used to be but tents turned into cabins, cabins turned into houses and front yards were formed. It was a cool community and I could imagine a sweet place to have kids and let them roam free.

After weaving our way though the narrow 15 mph streets, we parked up and met with our friends. Jayne was looking fresh despite her recent plane travels and ready to ride. Her brother Ross said hi and his 5 year old son Jonah gave us an enthusiastic hello though he was a bit shy. Inside the house, I met Jen, the mother of the family and we all got straight into catching up. I hadn’t seen Jayne since leaving Australia and D&K hadn’t seen the Ross family for almost a year. Jayne had plenty of gear to show off to me and I was immediately envious but settled myself knowing that I didn’t need more stuff at this point in my life.

After catching up on everyone’s goings on, Derek suggested it was time to get our wheels rolling and so we kitted up and did some bike shuffling. Kylie, Jen and the young kids stayed behind to go and find a playground and Jonah led the way out of the complex and straight onto the trails. Jonah was a good leader until we hit the hills where Ross told us we should probably go ahead. He only had very small wheels to get him to the top whereas we (especially me) had really big ones. I got competitive with Derek on the climb, determined to stay on his wheel which I did for most of the way. At the top, we waited for Jayne, Ross and Jonah to join us. Jonah was in front again navigating us and we came out to a set of railroad tracks in amongst the forest. This was a gorgeous place and right in their backyard too!

After crossing the road, we were now in UCSC (University of Santa Cruz), a stomping ground I used to visit pretty regularly when I lived in the Bay. At the trailhead, Ross told us the plan to go all the way downhill where at the end of the trail we’d meet up with the other family halves for lunch. When Derek asked if that meant flat out all the way down, we were off. I only stayed on his tail for a few hundred meters before he was out of sight. I didn’t have the balance on my bike yet and I wasn’t about to take the bait and chase him too hard. I enjoyed the roll down and paid attention to the way the bike felt through the berms, trying to find the best body position, enjoying the learning experience.

By the time everyone was at the bottom, we had some time to kill before the girls met us so Ross led us over to the pump track. It was busy with serious riders getting plenty of air and kids too. We watched Jonah go round, picking any which route he fancied, then we all had a go. Done with out laps, we stood atop a berm and watched some more riders before heading off to find Chipotle. We were a bunch of bandits riding the streets with our fancy bikes and at the Mexican fast food place, we stacked our expensive toys up against a wall and commandeered some tables to put together.

The girls showed up and we all happily ate a huge Mexican lunch. Jayne and I shared a burrito on my suggestion which was a winning one considering their colossal size. We picked up where we left off talking about everything we had in common. An hour later, we all felt heavy with food and not really prepared to ride anywhere, but that was part of the plan! We had a bit of a planning session which involved some bike shuttling and we were off again. Jonah wasn’t riding this stint with us since we were going to be climbing up a bunch of trails, but he and the girls planned to meet us at the top where he could do the downhill with us.

Derek and I set the pace going back up the way we came, then carrying on further up the mountain on the Emma Macquarie trail then on to Yukon. There was plenty of traffic coming down the mountain but we avoided all mishaps. At the top of each climb, Derek and I reminisced about the times we’d ridden here over the last couple of years, me enjoying all the familiar trails and forks that I always got lost at. We were all pretty slow thanks to our burrito bellies, but eventually we came out into the dry meadow out of the forest. This was where the families were supposed to meet us but we’d beaten them so we rode down the highway for a bit to find some shade and a place for them to park. We debated which plants surrounding us were poison ivy as we waited for our crew to arrive.

Ten minutes later, we were all together again. Jonah got kitted up for another ride while Jayne became familiar with Oliver so that Kylie could get ready to get on her bike. After Derek and Kylie had swapped places, we rode off down the hill. I was surprised how late it was already and because I had to be back in the Bay by 5pm (or at least try to be), we took the quick route down, following the trails we’d climbed up.

None of us were super enthusiastic to set a fastest time so Jonah kindly led the way down the trails. He is one ballsy five year old. Riding behind him and Ross, it was a beautiful thing to see father pushing son up the short uphill bouts that Jonah couldn’t handle. It was obviously well practiced that it was always a seamless transition. He didn’t stop for a single thing, rolling over roots and rocks like he was riding on the footpath, what a legend.

We took a different way down so that we ended up on highway 9, essentially the road back to Ross and Jen’s house. Jen was waiting for us at the trailhead to pick up Jonah because the road was a little too dangerous and narrow for him to ride along. Finally, after a whole day of riding, meeting up, bike shuffling, riding and meeting up again, we were back at base. It had been a super fun adventure with some great people and enthusiastic kids!

I realised just how late it was when we got back to the house so I didn’t hang around much longer. We made quick plans to meet up again later in the week and Jen, after finding out my car didn’t have airconditioning, sent me on my way with a cup of watermelon sorbet. I was out of phone range so I couldn’t get in touch with my friends in San Leandro until I got onto the main highway when I apologised that I would be so late. I endured the Sunday afternoon traffic patiently, knowing I could do nothing to speed up my journey.

At D&Ks house, I got the bikes out and put them back in the garage then ran inside for a quick shower before I was back out the door five minutes later. I kept driving north towards San Leandro. When I was nearly there, forty minutes away from D&Ks, I realised I’d forgotten to shut the garage door when I left. Absolutely horrified, I took the next exit to start my turnaround procedure, kicking myself that I could have been in so much of a rush to forget it. I tried calling Derek and Kylie but they didn’t answer. I sent them a message and still nothing. Thankfully Derek answered the second time and I told him what happened. They were only twenty minutes from home so I carried on my way, hoping against all hope that nothing would have been taken, logically aware that the risk was probably low, but still!

After stopping for some beer, I made it to Mike & Keet’s house. It was new since I’d been here last and I was keen to see their new digs. My first impression was good and after greeting Mike out in the driveway, the good impression continued into the house. Gu and his girlfriend were already there and I gave Keet a big hug. I’d last seen this “F1 Crew” in the Turn 4 grandstand at the Austin Grand Prix last year where we’d had a ball of a time. I was happy to hear that M&K were expecting their first baby girl in March so the mood was high. Mike gave me and Gu the grand tour and I was in love with the place. They’d done everything up so well, you could tell it was their home and they loved it. Kai Lo, their furry and friendly dog, had the run of the place and followed us around. They had a huge backyard but best of all was the view they had into the valley of the Bay that included a silhouette of the city and Golden Gate.

M&K had cooked up a storm and I was thankful they’d all eaten without me instead of waiting. That meant I got myself a plate and a steady table on the couch as Mike got the race going. F1 was back from its summer break and it was time for one of the favourite events of the year: Spa. We did some civilised yelling at the TV as the cars pulled away from the line, each of us rooting for our number one man.

It was a good race, but I was disappointed to find that the American pay TV coverage came with ads. We talked over the commentary, catching up on the past year and watching the sun go down over the city in the distance. The last few laps of the race were enticing, and I was bouncing up and down on the couch when Ricciardo made a stellar move on Bottas to get into third position and stay there until the chequered flag. Gu and his girlfriend said goodnight before the champagne had been sprayed but I stuck around a while longer getting all the details on Keet’s pregnancy and their new life in San Leandro.

It had been a short night, but I really enjoyed seeing these two. They are among the happiest people I know and they are so much fun to talk to. I said goodbye to Keet then Mike walked me out. In the driveway, we talked Tesla for a good while since Mike is still working at the factory. After a good bout of that, we said goodnight and I drove on home back to D&Ks place. They’d messaged me five minutes after I arrived at M&Ks and told me the garage door had been shut. Obviously I have way too much on my mind.

I snuck into the house without waking anyone and managed to climb over the fence of my pen without incident.

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