A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt

Earl has saved my hiney in the past, so that makes me a fan of his rides. Especially when they take me on roads I have wanted to try but have not gotten around to. Most of our rides are on pavement, wandering among the vineyards of north San Luis Obispo county, but Earl put together a special edition today that included a fair amount of dirt. With that in mind I brought my Voodoo mountain bike to the start at the Trader Joe’s employee parking lot in Templeton.

A little clarification is in order regarding Earl saving my hiney. Back in mid-2013, before I relocated to wine country, I was coming here periodically to take care of my house, as in cutting the grass, dusting the window blinds, etc. I’d bring along a bike because, well, that was a significant part of the reason for moving here – the great cycling.

One Saturday morning I drove from Templeton to Atascadero for a ride from the K-Man shop, where I met Earl for the first time. As it turns out, that particular day was not a good day for me on the bike, and it was not a good day for it to not be a good day. These guys were fast and were going 100K over rolling hills through the east side vineyards. I was hurting mid-way through the ride and then I was bonking on the section from San Miguel up the Salinas River valley back to Atascadero. All the other riders motored away, but Earl kindly escorted me back all the way.

In contrast, today was a great day for me on the bike. Not only because I felt good, but the scenery, the weather and the company all were fabulous. We headed through the viney hills west of Templeton and Paso Robles on pavement and reached the first stretch of dirt at the corner of Klau Mine Road and Cypress Mountain Road.

Cypress Mountain Road goes up and over the ridge, coming down into the watershed that drains to the small town of Cambria on the Pacific Ocean. It’s dirt and gravel all the way from Klau Mine Road to the intersection with Santa Rosa Creek Road on the other side. There was a lot of steep up and down, and at one point we had to pass a full-size road grader doing maintenance on the narrow lane.

The view at the top was spectacular, and we met some bovine friends on the descent.

Santa Rosa Creek Road was paved decently, so there was a bit of traffic on it, people enjoying the lovely scenery just like us. At one point we stopped for a break at a driveway that goes up a slope to a hidden estate, and a furry pup came running down to greet us. Seems like this dog knew the drill pretty well since it would pay attention to whomever was digging in a pocket for something, hopefully a treat to share. Earl has met this dog before and today shared a chunk of Clif bar with it.

We crossed state highway 46 onto Old Creek Road and made a rapid descent to the avocado orchards lower down the valley, to where Santa Rita Road meets it. Up we went on Santa Rita for a mile of pavement, then more dirt and gravel. There is an extended and relentless climb here up to the ridge and I was trying to stay with Krissy all the way, but about a kilometer below the ridge I had to back off or crack, so she rode away.

We regrouped at the top, then descended the inland side that drains to the Salinas River. I was the only one with front suspension, so I headed down first and got a gap. But when it flattened out a bit to a gradual downhill, Earl was right there behind me on his semi-cross bike. We stopped to regroup when the pavement resumed, and only 30 seconds later Krissy pulled up. I was quite surprised since she was riding a road bike with only slightly fat tires, so that was impressive downhill handling. Ed and Janet showed up not much later,
also having executed some fancy downhilling on the dirt with their road bikes.

Thanks Earl for putting this together, great fun! The mapping service says it was 48 miles with over 4600′ feet of gain. Click here for the route.

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