Ten of us clambered to the top of Mt. Diablo the day after Earth Day. David had opined to me that he wanted to go up Diablo, something he hadn’t done in several years because he had been dealing with an unremitting injury affecting his riding and which took forever to get an accurate diagnosis of and then recover from. And the Pandemic hit and he like many of us hid out and dedicated himself to allaying Covid anxiety by refining his kitchen skills and then consuming the savory delights thereof. Happy to be back on the bike pain-free he has been steadily increasing his mileage and aspirations. With the SLO Wildflower just around the corner he wanted to cap his recovery by going to the top. “So, do you want to co-lead?” “Um, okay,” I unenthusiastically replied.
I’d like to say I was dealing with an injury or some other malady but I wasn’t: I just wasn’t feeling it. But maybe having to do it would shake me from the spring doldrums or from dark thoughts about dealing with the indignities of becoming old like the hills.
We got lucky: the unseasonablly wet weather relented and we had a clear, sunny day with little wind and a mild 58 degree forecast to go up the mount. Everybody made the start on time except for Will, who missed the BART train by one minute. He texted David he’d go to Dublin BART on the next train instead and climb up South Gate to meet us at the junction. I asked Scott when was the last time he had gone up Diablo. He said it had been at least five years. I mentioned the last hundred yards is the worst part since it’s a narrow ramp with about a 13% grade. Don’t stop in the middle or you’ll have a hell of time restarting.
I led the group through my preferred route via the backwoods of suburban Walnut Creek to North Gate Road. Usually Different Spokes rides just go on Walnut, a dreary arterial, before starting the climb. But my route avoids most of the cars and plus we go through a hidden Eichler gem of a neighborhood to ooo-and-aah over midcentury architecture.
At North Gate everybody headed up at their own pace. Eric and Darryl took off and the rest of us slogged. Despite the beautiful conditions I still wasn’t feeling it and was instead thinking of how nice it would have been to stay home and work in the garden. Some days you have it and some you don’t. There weren’t many cyclists or cars heading up. But there were a few cyclists heading down, suggesting that the early birds had gotten the worm and were done for the day. At the junction Maurizio was looking forward to making himself familiar with the rangers. I had told him that the ranger station there is almost always empty because the rangers are out, um, ranging. When we got there we were promptly greeted by three different rangers. Alas, Maurizio was not impressed. Not butch enough? Maybe today will be the last time he goes up Diablo.
Apparently Eric didn’t stop at the junction and kept heading up. Darryl decided to continue since he was getting cold. To our surprise Will showed up! Spokers came in one after the other and atypically did not leave together but took off as if in a hurry. Was it their resolute nature? I waited for the last to leave as I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. Will, Roger S, and I chatted on the way up. We saw Eric and Darryl heading down. Will was uncharacteristically having a difficult day and only later did I find out that he had a knee injury that was making climbing challenging.
We got to the ramp just before the summit. I saw Scott midway up weaving in the road. No cars or other cyclists above me, I had a clear shot so I went for it. I saw Scott put his foot down: game over. Scott walked up the rest of the way. Having taken it easy all the way up I had plenty of oomph left. The key to getting up the ramp is to stay on the gas all the way, and I made it up smoothly (but not easily) not even using my lowest gear. For the record I used the 21-tooth cog. Yes bitches, a 21!
Hey, the summit was actually great—little wind, still sunny, and a 360 degree view of the Bay Area. We could even see the snow-capped Sierras! For extra entertainment a parasailor was circling around the summit catching updraft after updraft as we watched in awe. After more schmoozing cum commiseration we headed back down. I don’t know who was “killing” it on the downhill since I decided to leave last, being such a chickenshit on descents these days. And I still wasn’t feeling it.
We ended up at the latest Spoker lunch spot in Danville, Sultan’s Kebab. Eric and Darryl were more than midway through their lunch plates while the rest of us piled in hungry. We lucked out again: no crowd despite being a Saturday and we took over the outdoor tables. I’m a sucker for their falafel plate while my husband got the lamb shawarma wrap. Their wraps are all huge like the gut bombs they are. Roger couldn’t finish it so I polished it off after sucking up my falafels.
With bellies full and appetites temporarily sated, it was just a stroll back to BART on Danville Blvd. Do I hear Umhunum calling?