2015 Coe Monstercross

This was one of my favorite rides last year – I know, I know, I say that about lots of rides – but really, this is totally super awesome. We were able to get in on the calendar a little earlier, which seemed like it would be good for flowers, and I was able to get some slightly more appropriate tires on my bike – some sturdy 35s with tread – which both sported potential for increasing the awesomeness quotient.

The photo tour version, although I was wearing a CamelBak, so the camera went in the top tube bag, which made it a little harder to get at so I didn’t get as many pictures as I might have otherwise. (Perhaps just as well.) As always there’s also Patrick’s version.

The day started out overcast, with an almost thinking about rain feel. There were 6 of us in for the whole dealio, 4 of us who were returnees! Yes, that awesome thing.


Roll out through the neighborhoods, heading toward Quimby. I’d looked over the route at breakfast, and a street name rings a bell. Do we turn here? The widgets are uncertain, we have a bit of a scrum – Don’t make me get out my paper route sheet – but get it sorted.

The sun is starting to peek down through the clouds from the ridge we’ll be climbing. Seems like no time we’re already to Quimby. Kevin is one of the first timers, it’s also his first time up Quimby. He hangs back and chats with me.


There’s great views as we climb, and it’s neat to look back over the layer of clouds over the valley. There’s a slight and welcome change from last year, rather than descending on pavement we cut on to dirt into Grant Ranch Park.


Then it’s back on pavement for the rest of the way up Hammy. I hang for a bit, but no point blowing myself up this early in the ride and settle in to my own climbing pace. After a while Patrick notices and drifts back. Well, looks like I’m lanterne rouge this year. Someone’s gotta bring up the rear.


We’ve climbed above the clouds. Patrick comments about how people down in the valley probably think it’s a bad morning. The views are fantastic, and the clouds actually give a layer of visual interest. It’s still green green green. WOW!

The wildflowers help pass the time as well. I’m surprised there’s still shooting stars out. At various points (not all on this climb, but I’m listing them while I’m thinking of them now) there’s also wallflower, some low growing pinky thing I don’t know what it is, paintbrush, a deep purple one – larkspur, I think, mules ears, bird’s-eye gillia, poppies, lupine, what I used to think was brodiaea but may actually be blue dicks, Chinese houses, iris, hounds tongue – although that’s a bit past, owls clover, goldfields, butter and eggs, johnny jump-ups.

It’s very pleasant at the top. We see a few other cyclists, but no adders to our group. We have snacks and water, last chance til Morgan Hill. Marco has macadamia nuts, but I’m happy with my Pop-Tart right now.




As soon as the descent really starts everyone else disappears. Doh! Shoulda rolled before them. OH! pretty colored snake in the road. I think it’s still alive, and I don’t run over it, whew. They all stop at the Isabel, maybe to remove layers, I keep rolling. They’ll catch me. No blazing stars yet. Dead bullfrog on the road. But not flat. Hmn, wonder how that happened.

It takes them longer than I think it will for them to catch up with me, but just as I’m starting to wonder *they did see me roll by, right? there they are. And here we are at The Ranch. The lake looks very full, but I can’t see if the dam is spilling from the road. Pop’s daffodils are still blooming, although a bit past prime. The depression further east has the most water in it that I’ve seen for a while.


Last bump on pavement, and approaching the segment where Kevin and Ryan (on HT MTBs) will be happy about their bike choice for the day.


Over the gate and rolling on dirt. Here’s the butter and eggs!!!! And johnny jump-ups, and goldfields. And magpies. And water!!! A fairly significant amount. That was not here last time. OK, that was later in the year. But it doesn’t seem like we’ve had much rain this year, and it’s been a while since it’s happened. Oh well. This could be interesting when we get down to the creek in Coe.

Roll, gate, etc, I forget how many. The views open up – we were over there! The white domes of the Observatory seem quite distant.


Marco gets a flat but is able to air it up and the magic goo does its magic. Everyone but me is running tubeless. One of these things is not like the others…

Sooner than I remember we’re to the Bathtub Ridge gate and talking about the Starbucks and ice cream at the top of Bear Mountain. Ugh, it’s way too early to be thinking about the stout (or root beer, I can’t make up my mind) float at El Toro.

Chug up Bear Mountain, see some oh what the heck are they … horned lizards! (looked up later) and some crazy vine that has a spiky fruit on it, and poison oak. Oooh, that (poison oak) could be an issue later.


The views from Bear Mountain are just as amazing as I remember, if not more, and the swallowtails are dancing again. Magic. It’s funny, the way we came up isn’t quite where I would have put it but then I guess we did go around to the side and then double back to get to the top.

Lunch time! I brought a wrap this year, but have been snacking along the way, so am not super hungry. It is good to have some real food though. Patrick forgot his sandwich so I share. Marco still has macadamias. May I have some of your nuts please? heh. I’ve been wanting to say that all morning.

After a nice break time to saddle up again. Getting to here seemed shorter, but now there are more rollers than I remember before the last crazy steep down to the creek. Everyone else is out ahead, I don’t want to get too far behind, but then there’s no point going too fast. I’ll get there when I get there.


Around a corner and uh that seems like an odd place to be stopping. Hopefully nothing bad. Oh crap, offering to Our Lady of Perpetual Yard Sale. No one knows quite what happened, not even Ryan. He rang his bell, and has some dents, but fortunately nothing seems to be broken. Kevin has medical training, and does an assess and clean up.

No signal to call for an extraction. After some time to collect himself, we decide to change course and head toward park HQ, hopefully getting signal at some point or may send one of the fast guys ahead to fetch help.

I think we’re all reflecting a bit on previous solo ride choices and jeez I’ve been fortunate although you can’t dwell on that sort of thing too much and yeah at the end of the day ya pays yer money and takes yer chances. But, for the future it probably wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more prepared for some of the possibilities.

A bit more overcautious now, I have my own minor tip over, just leaving a bit of skin. Coe is hungry today. OK focus. Here’s the last steepysteepysteep I’ve been telling myself I’m going to ride it this year. weightbackoffthebrakeslookwhereyouwanttogoheaduprelaxbreaththinkhappythoughtsoffthebrakesroll GAH! that Moment and I don’t commit OK fine not gonna happen today. Yeah I know it’s almost harder to walk down, but here I go.

And here we are at the creek. The first of many crossings. Yeah there’s some water. Patrick points out a structure that we were looking down at earlier. Funny, now it’s above us. Right, funny/not funny.

More creek crossings, some surprisingly deep. Patrick tips over and gets an almost full submersion in one of them. We’re one-at-a-timeing through one at an alternate line from the road so it takes a second to register – that’s pick-up! White Ranger pick-up. It powers through the creek (wish I’d gotten video!) and stops for us. It’s coming the same way we are, so I guess came down Bear Mountain too. That would have been something to see!

What are the odds? Coe is a HUGE park, and the guys who have ridden there more say it’s pretty unusual to see rangers. Yet, when we need one, here’s Ranger Jen. *We don’t like to use the word miraculous around here, but it’s almost enough to make you believe in some sort of Something.


Ranger Jen is an EMT. She pulls out her giant medical pack – she’s glad to not have to hike anywhere with it for this one – and gives Ryan another assessment. A second ranger is on the way as well. They’ll take him up to HQ, with the recommendation to get checked out. He’s not sure about getting someone to take him to the hospital so they get an ambulance on the way.

Ryan asks for his Garmin off the bike when they start to load them. OK, he can’t be doing too badly… Someone says to leave it turned on – get some KOMS!

MikeS and Kevin go with them, Patrick, Marco and I ride out. The two of them are more familiar with Coe and have some debate about “best” way to get to HQ. Jen had said we’re about 7 miles and 1400 feet of elevation from HQ. So there’s going to be some sort of climbing at some point.

We’re on the Monstercross route for a bit longer, and see a few hikers along the way, then after Los Cruzeros it turns into Take Your Bike for a Walk Day down the Narrows to China Hole. More water crossings, at one I have to laugh at Marco picking his way over on some stones. Are you trying to keep your shoes dry? Mine were already completely soaked.


Push, carry, oh dang maybe it’s time for a lighter bike. Ugh don’t fall over. OH! Newt in the pool of water. Completely underwater. Never seen that before. Oh pay attention to where you’re going. Maybe this is rideable, oh no point there’s another hikey section just ahead so not even going to get on the bike. owowOWIE banged my shin on the pedal OUCH! F*** This is the easy way?


Marco says it will be civilized from China Hole. Wherever the heck that is. Keep moving. Whoa! Cool rocks! OK, they’d be a bit cooler if I didn’t have to carry my bike over them…

Start to hear hoots and hollers. Ah China Hole is a swimming hole, and there are lots of people there. No one actually in the water, but climbing around on the rocks. Patrick is surprised no one is swimming, but maybe they weren’t as warm as we were.


One last water big water crossing and we’re at the trail out of China Hole. Singletrack, smooth but steep. Um, I thought I was told civilized! And after the first bit, it actually is – both by Coe standards and especially compared to what we just hacked through. It’s very smooth from use and gradually wends its way up the hill through a variety of vegetation zones from open oakey hillsides to magic manzanita groves to shrubby sections and one of these days we’ll get to HQ.


But first we’re dumped on to fire road, there’s a short descent and then steep climbing. It’s unavoidable in Coe. This (ending with climb if you parked there) is why I don’t start rides at HQ, Patrick says.


At HQ we find out that they actually helicoptered Ryan out. There’s a visitor center, and it sounds like they have snacks and what not there, but I’d rather keep moving. On the climb, Patrick had said something about going back down to China Hole and riding out Hunting Hollow, but it’s getting on to 5 o’clock and El Toro seems like the more sensible option.


East Dunne is a whee downhill, and there’s only a short bit of flat headwindish road to contend with to get to El Toro. It feels pretty amazing to wash my face off, and, although I hadn’t felt too hungry (and am over the float at this point), once I start eating the burger it disappears quickly and really hits the spot.


Make our way over to the bike path, where Marco does a monster pull into the headwind to get us back to the cars as the sun is setting. As we’re packing up MikeS and Kevin show up from dealing with bikes and cars, Ryan had gotten the OK and been released from the hospital.

Bit more of an adventure than any of us planned on, and not one we’ll forget any time soon. Big thanks to everyone on the ride, Ranger Jen and Ranger John in Coe, and ambulance and medical personnel who took care of Ryan.

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