The fisherman and the skeleton guard

There's more to the hills than Skyline and 84
Published March 14, 2009

The past week’s weather has been just shy of flawless, the only absent trait being some semblance of summer warmth. Last Sunday, I took advantage of the clear skies and celebrated the shifting of the clocks an hour forward–the day that DST sets in is among my favorite of the year–with a quick ride to Alice’s and Skywood Trading Post. Also delighting in the dwindling days of winter were countless other bikers swarming the Santa Cruz Mountains with me.

I optimistically planned an immediate sequel, another trip to Alice’s though via new roads for the added thrill of discovery. The weather, sadly, proved less welcoming today, dipping to temperatures that I–a verifiable BCB*–deemed freezing. But despite chilled-stiff hands and even a few unimpressive drops from the sky, the trip into the mountains scratched my itch.

Having just run The Loop, I wanted to try something new and decided on testing Pescadero Creek Road, which branches off my favorite Highway 84 and would leave me to endure the torturous Stage Road to get back home.

Before I’d hit Pescadero, I wasted a good hour walking between the parking lots of Alice’s and STP. Though today’s bike turnout paled in comparison to last week’s shining display, the lots weren’t without some oddities. Notably, I saw a Bee Emm with a mountain bike strapped to the back, a Harley with a Budweiser tap for an oil drain, and once again spotted what I’ve dubbed the Death Rod, a matte black rat rod with an exposed engine, open headers, certainly-sub-legal light fixtures and a set of jaws on the front. If the thing looks scary in a parking lot, it’s downright frightening as it barks down the wooded halls branching off the gravitational intersection of Highways 35 and 84.

Leaving the breathing bike show behind, I made for Pescadero Creek Road, which breaks southwest past La Honda. I didn’t know what to expect of the road, and it delivered a bit of everything. At the start, it’s a bit of 84 with less perfect pavement. But Pescadero soon turns narrower, turning tighter with more elevation change, and I instantly recalled the Panoramic Highway. Bits of Pescadero are very similar, with handsome views from mountaintops overlooking landscapes below, but the road quality’s superior. And it doesn’t last as long.

Curiously, Pescadero toggles between a few different ride styles, and the variety is welcome, though an abrupt road bump interrupted one of the faster sections and caught me off guard. The jump in the handlebars caused me to slightly torque the throttle, giving me a surprise jolt and a nice reminder that it’s wise to ride with increased caution on unfamiliar paths.

And then Stage. I’ve only ridden it once before, but it left an impression. I love that road. My bike’s not the best suited to the intensely textured surface, but the curves, the solitude and the scenery make it feel like home. I want to be there always. But until I can afford a dream home, photos will have to do.

* BCB = Big Cry Baby