It’s been a long day but I’m finally heading home. Traffic was a bit heavy as I rode up Page Mill past HP and all the other tech companies that are the heart of Silicon Valley. It clears up though as I ride past the entrance to 280. Everyone is in a hurry to get home and 280 South is where they want to be. Not me though, I’m still heading west. Into the hills and toward the ride home that is the envy of many of my motorcycling friends.
I’m stuck behind a Mini van for a little while but luckily they turn off and the road opens up in front of me. I speed up a little, nothing too insane, but to five or so above the limit. The first real fun corner is coming up, the yellow sign suggests that I go 25, but I know from long experience that there is no need to slow down. It’s a long right hand sweeper around a hill. I shift my body slightly to the right and push down on the outside peg and lean. Oh man I love this, the feeling of leaning into a corner, it feels like I’m defying physics. If I tried to lean the bike this far over standing still it would just topple over, but at speed I just am suspended, as if I’m flying, hovering over the ground. The corner is a long one, but it still ends too soon (they almost all do) and I’m shifting my weight again as I become upright and then down to the other side into the next corner. I love this road. So many corners. I’m leaning, one way, then another, and back again, swooping between corners not changing gears, barely breaking, just easy rolling on and off the throttle. The only things that make it anything less than perfect is the occasional really bad pavement and the longer straights where I have to remind myself to not speed up and rush to the next corner. Going fast in a straight line is too easy and boring, I want the curves, and that is where this ride home excels. Seven or so miles of awesome ends too soon and I’m at the top at Skyline.
Even though the best bit is done, I’m glad to have a break. Riding the last several miles of twisty roads at a good pace leaves me a bit winded, it’s not easy hustling the bike up the hill. Ever since my accident in 2010 my left leg is always shot by the time I’m finished with that stretch of road. I turn right on to skyline and open it up enjoying the acceleration up to the speed limit which is 55 on this stretch. I’ve been lucky so far today, no cars slowing me down till now. I come up on one cruising at about 5 below the limit. I slow down and wait till I get a passing zone, no reason to push past here, no good bits for a while. We cruise for a while, passing the scenic overlook and I get a glance down at the Stanford Campus. Soon after I get past the car and enjoy the ride trying to keep the speed down as I come up on the 84 junction. I cruise through the junction, staying slow until way after I’m past Alice’s. I wait till I get to the first corner before speeding up a bit making sure I’m going fast enough that I can lean into and really enjoy the corner.
I shift on the bike again weight the outside peg and lean in. I’m flying again. Swooping from one corner to the next. I love this section of road. My focus is on each corner, keeping myself light on the bike, making sure I don’t let the bumps upset my steering. The corners on this stretch are longer and not nearly as tight as the ones on Page Mill Rd, but the next mile or so is good.
Again it is too soon when the road opens up again. I remind myself to slow down, relax and enjoy the scenery. The scenery is beautiful up here. The redwoods are amazing. It’s cold, and foggy. The weather up here doesn’t care that it’s summer and in the 80’s down in the valley.
I wave at the few motorcyclists I see as the come past heading to Alice’s. I always wonder where they’re going and how they ended up here on a weekday afternoon. Are they lucky like me? Do they too get to take the long way home just in the opposite direction? This section of Skyline is relaxing and I often end up thinking about what kinda of people live up here and what they think of us motorcyclists who zip by. I know that some of us can be pretty obnoxious, so I always do my best to keep to the speed limit and just absorb the beauty that surrounds me.
There are three long passing straights before the last set of fun corners when Skyline ends at Hwy 92. These are important to me since they are my last chance to get past any cars that are ahead of me and might ruin what normally is a great end to the detour that this ride home is. As I enter the first one I see a car half way down it. Too far away to catch and pass on this one, but I should be able to gain on him enough in the corners after this straight away to pass him on the next. I do speed up a bit to make sure, the speed limit here is 50 so I keep it to no higher than 55. Sure enough I do catch him right before the next straight and I get past him with ease even though he sped up on the straight. So many cars do that, speed down the straights and drive slow in the turns, just the opposite of what I like.
The last set of corners are coming up. I downshift, shift my body and I’m leaning again, a nice left that then opens up to a corner that sometimes surprises me at how strong the wind is. Of course now I am truly riding along the skyline. This stretch of road is much nicer since sometime last year they went through and repaved the really bad sections. It’s still a bit rough, but much nicer and easier to ride now. There are still bumps though, and I need to focus on making sure I don’t weigh the handle bar, so that when I hit the bumps I don’t make a steering input. A right, then a left, then a right, and one more long left… and I’m done. The road becomes a apex less ribbon of asphalt. I cruise past the vista point and make my right on to 92 to head back to 280.
Highway 92 could be fun to ride. If it wasn’t packed with cars and trucks. I slot in behind a row of cars that goes on for as far as I can see. I relax and reflect on the ride. I feel alive, I feel refreshed. It had been a long day at work, now it has transformed, it’s now a day I got to enjoy the afternoon on my motorcycle. Which makes it a great day.