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Ft. Ord - April 5, 2009

Distance: 11.6 miles Ascent: 2217 ft. Moving time: 1:32 hours

Don and Anna will be racing at the Sea Otter Classic this year, so we went to ride the course. I downloaded the course from the SOC website and installed it on my Edge 305 GPS unit. This was very handy since we did not need to refer to a printed map (though we had them) during the ride.

It was a beautiful spring day at Ft. Ord. The hills were a soft rolling green dotted with wildflowers. We were also treated to stock cars, "mini Formula 1" racers and classic American muscle cars warming up on the track while we prepped for the ride. The start of the SOC course is on the actual race track, so we weren't able to ride this part of the course, but we did a close approximation.

The first part of the course is along Lookout Ridge, a fireroad that crosses the hills. There was nothing technical about it, but it offered very pretty views to the north across the velvety hills. We then took Trail 50, a singletrack that goes down the hillside through a light oak forest. This is a great trail to ride as it is fast and swooping, but it also extremely pretty with a wide variety of trees, multiple colors of wildflowers, plenty of green grass and some hanging moss. Ken also discovered a reddish green plant with shiny leaves (poison oak) hanging over the trail. We saw plenty of PO along all of the trails today. At the bottom of the descent, Trail 50 crosses Crescent Bluff Road and then climbs up the hill to Sandstone Bluff Road. A right turn takes you down "The Beach" (Trail 60) a descent with sand that is several inches deep. The trick here is to stay on your bike and keep enough speed to keep moving forward. It is very easy to plow into the sand and do an OTB here. At the bottom of this, we crossed Crescent Bluff again and then headed up Trail 82. This was the toughest climb of the day and it seemed to get steeper the farther we went. It was a good climb, but I felt better this time than in the past.

After a short downhill road ride on Eucalyptus Road, we turned on Pilarcitos Canyon. We notice lots of parked cars and then saw a bunch of popup canopy covers in the distance. It turns out that there was a Northern California high school mountain bike competition today. We stopped and watched a bit and thought we shouldn't ride on their course and screw up their race. We checked with some course marshals and the info desk, but no one had a map. We finally found one in the Los Gatos High School team area. We marked out their route and ours and determined that their course not only covered several of the trails on the SOC course, but that it also occupied all of the crossovers to the extended trail section. This meant that we would not be able to ride the full SOC course today. After a bit of grumbling, we returned to Pilarcitos Canyon and rode up the length of it back to the race track. We connected Guidotti to Skyline to Trail 47 to get back to the starting point.

Although our ride was abbreviated and we were not able to ride the whole course, we still had a good time. The spring scenery was worth the trip and it was fun to see the high school bike race (much faster than us) and the race cars. Ken also discovered that the water tube on a Camelbak has an inner liner that can separate from the outer blue tube and block the water flow if you keep removing the mouthpiece. Live and learn!

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