When you’re driving through the heart of I-5 on your way up to the Bay Area, the meat of it is through some pretty stark landscape.
You split a lot of farmland and continually follow these gentle hills to your left, but see few places where you think you’d like to ride.
Del Puerto Road sits right off the Sperry Avenue/Diablo Grande Parkway exit.
I’ve been through a lot of the roads in these hills and generally they’ve been straight and featureless other than grass, but right from the start I could tell that this would be different.
The road gently wrapped its way along the hillside as if someone laid out a ribbon on the landscape.
A sign warned of some rough road conditions and there were a couple of pockets of gravel early on, but very easy to ride through.
Longest stretch of gravel. Not bad…
The stranger obstacle came at mile two as there was a warning of roaming cattle on the road.
It’s nice to have an opportunity to be one with nature, but not to run into it!
The long and winding road.
As the road winded its way into the canyon, the features of rocks and foliage slowly revealed themselves as to make turn more picturesque than the last.
I knew I fell across something special.
There was little R & D on Strava about this route.
My parameters were starting at an hour when the temperatures would start to cool, but not be too deep into the Bay Area to get caught in rush hour traffic.
The best fit was Del Puerto Canyon just off of Patterson and its Amazon Fulfillment Center.
All I knew about this route it was 21.4 miles to what I assumed was a peak with about two thousand feet of climbing.
I had no idea about the profile, where the ride was taking me or how steep things would get.
After about mile 4, my Garmin told me I was climbing at a steady 1% – 2%.
I felt like I was keeping a good pace, but I wondered how artificial the numbers were.
For this trip, I brought my steel bike that weighs well over 30 pounds when you factor in all the racks attached to it.
I was also riding 28s for the first time which also seemed like a hinderance next to my road bike.
Rocks altered your path the deeper you rode.
Maybe the numbers on Strava was wrong or I would be facing a serious headwind on the way back.
I was getting nervous about the decision on when I should turn back.
Countering that was the gain in scenery as I continued on.
There actually was a few homes in the area as I rode through, but only a handful of cars ever passed me.
At around the halfway point, there was this strange rock formation that sat like a wedge in the landscape.
Even stranger, at it’s base was an embedded doorway that led to… I have no idea. What was it doing out here?
Another mystery was a few more miles up as this park had this newly built, elaborate playground, but there was no signs of there being any usage.
There were also signs posted that the water was undrinkable, so I kept that in the memory bank if I ever came back.
I was really enjoying this ride, but I still had an ounce of concern.
Things were going well. A little too well.
As I neared the 19 mile mark, I kept second guessing the numbers on my Strava.
The ride had been generally uphill, I had gained about a thousand feet of elevation and I was keeping an 18 mph pace.
I thought maybe Strava was wrong. There couldn’t be another thousand feet of climbing just in the last 2.5 miles?
Of course I was wrong.
I was conflicted on doing the climb because I was already at the hour mark and thought I would be cutting it close if I did the climb.
Still, when would I ever be out here again for such a magical ride?
Adventure won out.
Things started pitching up, but it was the last mile and a half that was the most regrettable averaging a mean 10%.
This isn’t a “gentle” 10% you’re looking at.
I realized that I was overconfident in thinking my heavy bike could handle this as I struggled with the climb.
There was no clear view for where the peak was leaving me continually contemplating a return back.
Right when I hit the point where I considering turning around, the road started to ease up and I was at the top.
Finally. Turn around.
This point signified the transition from Stanislaus County to Santa Clara.
The view didn’t give you a proper orientation where you were in the Bay Area as all you could see was even a larger collection of rolling hills.
It looked like an exciting place to explore more, but I had to go back to pick my wife up from the airport.
As I started my return back, I could see the setting sun leaving a different shade on the hills.
The rocks had a more beautiful hue of red and the contrast from the lighting gave the canyon a different depth.
The sun giving back a different glare.
I knew the first couple miles back would be fast, but I was super concerned about making good time.
Even as the road flattened out, I was able to keep a much faster pace than the ride up as I was finding the numbers on Strava accurate and the wind not a factor.
I was able to spin at a tempo where I was moving at 20 mph+ without redlining.
There was just this amazing sense of gaining this freedom from my own stresses moving like I was part of the wind itself.
Riding a bike is cathartic, an outlet that helps us move past the weight from our everyday problems.
Perhaps this ride could have taken place anywhere, but the scenery and flow enhanced this feeling of release.
If you ever have the chance to make this sojourn on the way to the Bay Area, this is a great way to spend a couple of hours.