Everyday adventure

How does your everyday adventure look?

This is me on a fixed gear bike, 1850 feet above sea level and about 10 miles from home on a fixed gear bicycle. And this is the story of how I got there.

Regular readers know I regularly take the Highway 17 bus “over the hill” to San Jose most mornings. Thursday morning, I had to turn right around and go straight home for personal reasons. As the bus engine strained against the last uphill climb just short of Summit Road on Highway 17, it coughed a sudden metallic *Ka-PING!*, sputtered and died as the bus operator muttered an oath and pulled to the side of the road.

We’re broken down 15 miles away from the Santa Cruz Metro bus barn, so a rescue bus is at least 30 minutes away. I’m only 10 miles from home, though, and it’s mostly downhill. It’s a good thing I have my bicycle with me!

Everyday Adventure: Mountain Charlie

After assuring the bus driver that I won’t get killed by Highway 17 traffic and that I know the back roads to my home, she discretely opens the door so I can abandon ship. I walk up the Summit Road exit and then begin down on Mountain Charlie Road.

Mountain Charlie Road is five miles of potholed, single lane poorly maintained remnant of a wagon trail that was hacked through the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1858. The road bends haphazardly across switchbacks and alongside cliff faces through mixed evergreens, oaks and towering redwood trees. Rivulets from the recent rains channel down and across pitted pavement. This wet and gravely road surface is far from ideal for a twitchy and stiff street bike like the Kona Bandwagon I’m riding.

Fixed gear cycling on a steep, sketchy downhill grade ranging from 5% to 17% is tough, and I don’t have a 15mm wrench on me to flip the wheel around to its freewheel side. Sightlines for hazards are in the tens of feet, so I rode the brakes most of the way down.

Everyday Adventure: Mountain Charlie Road

Still, all of this is a bit like taking a rocketship to the moon and complaining about the bad food. I’m on the moon! A bad road on a bike is far better than sitting cooped up inside of a non-functional bus. The stunning scenery through the Santa Cruz Mountains still takes my breath away. There’s almost no other traffic on Mountain Charlie Road. The sun shines, birds sing, squirrels play, and for a little while I can pretend all is right with the world.

What’s your everyday adventure like on a bike?


  1. Just looked at the map for Mountain Charlie Rd and it's looks pretty crazy. Good crazy though. Maybe you should get one of those little fixie tire-lever/wrench tools to carry in your bag!

    Unfortunately my everyday adventure is not everyday and it involves lots of traffic and not much scenery. luckily the company's moving in a month and it'll be a much nicer ride!


  2. Much better than sitting on the bus. I have two questions
    How did you take those pictures and what would you have done if you flatted?

  3. Q1: Self timer on the camera!

    Q2: I would have walked! 🙂 No, seriously, I would've patched the tube. No tire removal necessary for that.

  4. …your “adventure ride” on mountain charlie road was pretty darn cool but i'll bet you were the envy of every passenger on that bus when you rode away…

    …hope the “home – personal” thingy was a-okay…

  5. I posted on a similar sort of thing a little while ago (“A Contented Becoming”)…and very similar sentiment…that's what really get's me about going for a ride in that sort of environment, and when everyone else gets it,well it'll be a bit more crowded out there,but “all will be right with the world” for more of the time.

  6. Great story and great pics! How did you get the self-pics? I am always looking for new ways to document my commute and I really like your pictures.

    My adventure starts everyday at 6am when I leave my house in Felton and enjoy Hwy 9 to downtown, then cross town to 38th where I ride along the ocean and end up at work in Capitola. Hwy 9 is an adventure for sure. It takes a lot of paying attention, but I've never had any problems.

    I've got some pics and stories on my blog: http://www.commuteForACause.com.

  7. hard to pass up a lift to the top of mt charlie! That was my favorite part of biking to Scotts Valley.

  8. Biking over the Dumbarton bridge used to be a regular thing of mine. Need to get back into that this summer. It's not even that challenging–just a great view.

  9. Yeah, great views on the DB Bridge.

    I only just discovered those slough trails that north north on the east side of the Bay into Alameda County open space — I'd like to explore through there a bit more when I have some time.

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