I know. You think I’m early with my holiday salutation. But, I operate on a different calendar, a personal calendar where the new year always begins with Thanksgiving. I feel this makes far more sense than starting after the hangover of the holidays.
More accurately, for me, the new year commences with the “Turkey Ride” in the hills outside our hometown. It’s an annual event that combines some of my favorite things: connectivity, community, friends, family and cycling.
I’m not certain how the ride began; we’ve been doing it for over a decade. The first year we rode, it was just a hundred or so mountain bikers connecting through word of mouth or via the Internet with the goal of enjoying a beautiful climb on Thanksgiving Day. Since then, the number of cyclists has grown, as has the spirit of the event
This morning, we started the ride at the Kennedy trailhead at 8:30am with just a few riders around us. As we slowly pedaled the steep climb, we joined more of them. One rider was dressed as a turkey; another was in a Santa costume. A young girl was clothed as Pocahontas.
Many were the equivalent of cycling Sherpa, with bikes groaning under loads of food and libations. A number of people had containers of food tied to their handlebars or on a rear rack. I saw two riders with large cooked turkeys strapped on their Camelbaks. One group of riders pulled an entire roasted pig on a trailer.
The companionship was warm and spirited. You found yourself telling a joke to a stranger, encouraging a young boy making the ride for the first time or applauding a father who was pulling his small daughter on a tandem. But for most of the ride we just enjoyed a stunning view and the morning aromatics of the toyon, oaks and bay trees.
As we neared “False Top”, the first of the two steepest final sections, riders became bunched like Everest climbers preparing to mount the Hilary Step. On the final section, they separated into those who took a look at the pitch and decided to walk and those who wanted to start the holiday season with a personal victory.
At the apex of the climb, the trail opened upon a mobile block party with more than a thousand riders enjoying a beautiful day with a seemingly limitless view of Silicon Valley. Walking through the crowd, strangers would offer brownies, pork sandwiches, ribs, pumpkin pie, coleslaw and beer…plenty of beer. A number of oenophiles even used the bumper of park ranger’s truck as an impromptu wine bar.
All in all, not a bad way to start the new year.