Just a day after it officially reopened Different Spokes finally did its traditional autumn ride over Morgan Territory Road. Although road cyclists have surreptitiously been poaching the road since its closure last winter, this was the first legal opportunity to ride it. Last winter’s rains saw the road collapse and one hillside to flow over the pavement cutting off the residents from Marsh Creek Road. The county couldn’t initiate a repair until the hillside stopped moving, which took months. The closure was long but once work began it moved steadily along just in time to open for…more winter rains. Nonetheless the reinforced section of road looks quite burly and able to withstand whatever Mother Nature will dish out this year (especially since it’s probably going to be dry-ish).
Stephanie and David Gaus managed to persuade five of us to tag along—me, Jan, Roger Sayre, Gordon, and David Sexton. It was more or less the traditional route from Walnut Creek BART—out Ygnacio Valley Road, which has scary fast car traffic but a wide shoulder—with a pit stop in Clayton before hightailing out Marsh Creek. Marsh Creek is another one of my favs for scary passes; the SUVs out there just love to whip past you no matter what the sight line is like. At least it is an incentive to redline your heart rate in order to get onto Morgan Territory as fast as possible. Things were much more tranquil there! In fact there seemed to be virtually no one trying out the reopened road, cars or bikes. We had the road pretty much to ourselves. We did a stop at the new retaining wall to check out the reinforced road and then continued on with everyone going their own pace up the ascent. Despite the road repair on the lower section the rest of Morgan Territory seems to be left to degrade at a slow pace— like wrinkles on your face every year more cracks and bumps appear. Perhaps it won’t ever arrive at the level of decay of Planet of the Apes but it has a nice start.
Morgan Territory Preserve had noticeably few visitors that day—was there a football game going on, had people already fled town for Thanksgiving, or was it simply the lack of awareness that Morgan Territory was now open? We saw just three other cyclists the entire way.
After a long snack break filled with more idle and pointless chattering we launched down the gnarly descent. Roger Sayre led the way with Stephanie right on his tail. The descent down the south side of Morgan Territory to Highland is steep, curvy, and full of blind spots. To make it even more challenging the road is narrower than standard width so there occasionally is no center line. To go down quickly you need nerve, good bike handling, and a bit of luck. One mistake and you’re colliding with a car or launching yourself off the steep hillside. Risk taking has to be second nature to you. But the rest of us seemed not to be thrill seekers so we took it easy. Back on the flat Roger proceeded to show us what training with a powermeter can do: to add to his courageous descending, not only can he now climb like a maniac but he’s a beast on the flats too. Fortunately I was tucked in behind him the whole way.
We stopped at Hi Tech Burrito in Danville. The lunch was, uh, unmemorable but at least the rice and beans were good fuel. Roger missed the lunch stop and we had no idea where he had vanished to. After lunch with the sun lying low on the horizon the rest of us returned to Walnut Creek BART at a leisurely pace.