Did I tell you about the Santa Ana River Trail website? It shows you, step by step, how to make your way all the way up the river trail. When I first saw this, I thought, “What a swell idea! I should try this!” And immediately, I started riding my way east.
This week, I did a twenty mile ride up to La Palma. Then, I did a thirty mile ride up to Coal Canyon. Then, I was ready to make it to Corona, just like the website showed, and here’s how that went.
You should know that the river trail heads east from Featherly Park beneath branches heavy with shade. There’s a water fountain. It’s deceptively serene – because it gets fuck-all tough shortly after. Okay! Point of fact! It gets fuck-all tough FOR ME. I rode out of there in the lovely shade up and down little hills and only my previous experience kept me from thinking it was going to be easy. I knew that shortly before Coal Canyon there’s this hill… it’s not really steep or scary… but it keeps going up… and up… the fucker doesn’t stop… it says “if you were in shape, you’d be able to do this”… and you pant and wheeze… or, at least, I do… and then I got to Coal Canyon feeling like I was going to die but knowing that the hurting was far from over.
The trail drops sharply downhill and the riding is fairly easy again until the trail dumps me out at Green River. This is as far as I’d gone before but I could see the ugly hill the road leading up and steel my nerve and my legs for the climb. Up and up and up I ride until I pass the cars parked on the north side of the 91 freeway. When I reach the summit, it is with stomach-dropping exasperation that I watch the road descend. Downhill is bad because I know it means uphill again and, sure enough, I can see the road ascend once again at the bottom of this hill. It goes up and up and up and appears to level off but that’s a trick. It doesn’t level off. It just turns. And I ride up and up and up and I ride into the turn that goes around and around and around. It looks like it’s never going to stop and, with disgust and dying legs, I dismount and begin to walk my bike. There’s no disgrace in walking, just in quitting.
I walk my bike up and up, around and around, and finally see the hill rise over the 91 freeway. Ain’t that a bucket full of suck. It takes a while but I walk my bike to the top of the overpass and climb back on again for the downhill ride. I should mention that I’m riding my old Mt. Shasta mountain bike/road hybrid. With its Kevlar tires, it’s not getting any flats or any votes for world’s lightest bike. The thing is a tank. I ride it because I think it’ll help condition me. Sure, condition me for walking!
Down the overpass I ride. My legs are rubber. The hills have taken everything out of me. Finally, I reach the Welcome to Corona sign and I’m more disgusted than relieved as I snap a picture for Vicky to let her know I made it and to tell her I’d never make that mistake again… I hope…
Returning now, I can’t even make it up the overpass. My legs have given up the ghost, destroyed by the hills. I’m in such rotten shape! But at the top, I ride again and make it back through the hills without dismounting. I’m thinking I should stop, though, and refuel with one of my Kashi Rolls – but there’s a cyclist coming towards me. Vicky and I make the distinction about cyclists being the hardcore – so this guy really isn’t a cyclist. (For the record, neither am I. I’m just saying…) He’s just a rider out for a ride. He’s cycling on the wrong side of the road. No helmet. No clue. He’s not getting out of my way, even as I flag him down. He’s a moron, so I give him a wide berth lest I catch what he’s got. Back on the trail now, I’m thinking about how tired I am and how much I need to eat. I figure I’ll eat at Coal Canyon but what I forget is that the downhill slope that made the trail such a relief in the other direction is going to make it hell this way… damn!
Up and up I go, seriously questioning my activity of choice at this point – but I make it to the top and ride wearily to the “rest stop”. I lean in the shade and pull out my snack and realize that I’m almost out of water. What to do? Well, I know Featherly has a water fountain and – fuck it – I’m thirsty AND I’m going to be eating Kashi, which requires generous lubrication! So, I much and gulp my water and think, “Shit, I’m tired. I’m taking tomorrow off.” And that’s good because it’s 1am and I can’t sleep so it’s not like I’d have the energy for cycling anyway.
It’s going to take someone in better shape than me to make that ride again… I hope I get to be that person. We’ll see…