Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ojai, Pronounced Oh-high

Yesterday we rode into un-charted territory. Peter had rode the trails of Ojai before so he sent us in the right direction, but for Matt P (and of course, me) we were going mostly by sight and Garmin. From where we parked the car, it was clear that the day was going to feature climbing. I had no idea what I was in for.

The sun and the amazing scenery were the spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down (or up, rather?). Past the lemon orchards, and the beaufiful homes up the streets of Ojai until we arrived at the trail head. Saw some deer making their way through one of the gated estates. Then it was singletrack time. Up and up and up and up. Three hours of up. 1,379m of up. Matt P had to dangle the In N Out burger just to get me up the final reaches.

And then Down!!! The open roads at the top of the exposed, wind-swept peak got us started. Literally the first time we'd coasted in hours. It felt awesome. I almost wept with relief. I was holding on over the loose gravel, waiting for my legs to get the shakes out when my right hand was unexpectedly flush with my grip, brake lever completely unresponsive. Wow, 1300 metres up ... the highest we could be ... and this is when my rear brake fails. Just in time for the longest descent of my life.

I tried not to panic and I gingerly made my way down to where Matt was waiting using just the front brake. "so you'll never guess what ..." I said. I didn't know what was wrong with it, let alone how to begin to fix it. I was starting to envision a loooong walk down. But Matt saved the day! the pivot on the lever had become loose and the part was STILL ON THE BIKE. A miracle. So we put it back together and thanked our lucky stars.

I was extra thankful once we found the singletrack we planned to descend on. It was not a trail you could do with one brake. It was terrifying with two. It was narrow. Off-camber. Rough and loose. And the sides gave way to 1000 ft+ sheer drops. I felt like a REAL mountain biker. My inner-voice saying "don't look down, don't look down, don't look down" on repeat.

Matt and I stopped periodically to rest our hands and arms and the brake pads. Also to "regroup" as Matt said. He meant literally, make sure we were still together. But I began taking "regroup" as regaining my wits so we could continue to the next dizzying switch back. It seemed to take forever to lose the elevation we'd gained, but finally, the trail began to widen, and the edges filled in with trees, and bushes. And we could finally let go of the brakes.

We coasted back into Ojai past some of the most beautiful homes I've ever seen. Even more beautiful because of what we'd just experienced in their back yards. A pair of riders on horseback completed the picture.

We parked at the "Park and Ride" which I think is actually meant for transit but suited us fine. There was a skate park there as well and it was suiting them fine as well. I saw kids there who looked like they'd just learned to walk, skating the quarter pipe. It was amazing. Ah, California.

We packed up and it was off to In N Out. I thought In N Out was just another burger place, but I was actually pretty impressed to find out that their fries are all hand cut and fried in the store. And they're gluten free. The buns are made to their order and they're preservative free. And the beef is never frozen. The menu is super simple: burger and fries. And they even had Dr. Pepper on tap. Anyone who's done a long ride will tell you, it doesn't matter what you put in your mouth at the end, it's going to be awesome. But I think In N Out stands alone. I hope we go back.

And so ended another amazing day in California. I'm not much fun in the evenings, so we sat around, ate and ate and ate, chatted, did some reading in the New Yorker before I was down for the count at 9pm.

Today ... The wind is howling, so I'm a little nervous about the ride. I think we're planning to head out to Santa Barbara.