"You can do it, put your back into it." Heard that song on the radio about once a day as we rip around on the PCH between trailheads down here. How fitting then that our last day of riding featured the famous Backbone Trail. Put your back into it, indeed.
Judging by the trail sign, the Backbone Trail is like the Californian version of the Bruce Trail. It connects all kinds of camp grounds, hiking trails and trail suitable for riding horses and bikes. And it's mad awesome singletrack.
After the serious business of pre-ride fueling (like, serious. I thought I ate a lot until I shared a table with Peter Glassford ...) we all drove south towards Thousand Oaks. PG had to get the car to the garage for its oil change so he dropped Matt P and me off at the Backbone Trailhead at the top of Decker Road. The drive up was insane. Crazy tight corners, steep incline and a little motion sickness for good measure. And guess what! Later, we'd get to ride DOWN it.
The coolest thing about California is that every day has been my new favourite day. Today was no exception. At times it felt like we were ripping back through Albion. And then the next corner would include a view of green fields, ranches, and the ocean below and you'd know you weren't in Kansas, Toto.
We followed the Backbone until we made a wrong turn and ended up at the top of a long fire-road climb -- Zuma Ridge Trail. Matt P did a great job of not worrying me that we were a little off course, and we picked out a climb across the valley that we figured would take us where we needed to go. So down we went. The terrain was loose and the corners tight so after a couple tips from Matt, I got some quality time practising transfering my braking and weighting the bike properly into and out of the corners. At the bottom of all that, we crossed a creek precariously balancing on cleats and rocks while shouldering bikes and that meant the ride had just become "epic", at least by my standards.
And then the climb. The climb made the ride epic by anyone's standards.
It was so long, and steep and exposed. My backbone was complaining like the dickens, but I made it, and I did it smiling. A couple more wrong turns and we made it back on track.
We rode out and back on a couple Malibu sections of the Backbone before looping back to the section that brought us back to the car. The only bummer was the horse. Of course, we could hear it clip clopping just up the trail on some of the flowiest single track of the day. That meant there would be no ripping it up because horses and bikes and singletrack do NOT go together well. So we cautiously approached and caught up. The rider turned the horse around so it was facing Matt P and I thought it was going to paw him into the ground the way it was stomping its feet and tossing its head. It had already freaked itself out by the stream in the trail in the other direction, so by now I'm guessing it was feeling a little cornered. Don't worry, we got by. And so did the horse.
We finished the ride with the sun in our eyes, and I was so sad that there would be no more Californian singletrack for me. But wait! There was still one more death-defying descent, this time on pavement. With guardrails. Apparently Decker road is somewhat of a measuring stick for the guys down here and it didn't take long for Matt P to disappear into one of the bends. I decided that I didn't need to measure up ... I just needed to get down. Safely.
And of course, after all that we had coffee. Waiting at home for me was my coveted can't-get-it-in-Canada Cherry Coke and dinner. I am now sitting on the couch, watching Ghostbusters, digesting a big meal and thinking about heading to bed soon. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. Back to Toronto, back to the cold, back to reality, back to work.