My introduction to Zayante Road came on a particularly frenetic ride led by Jobst Brandt back in 1900 and 80. A fit bunch of riders they were, mostly racers and at the top of their game.
We made our way from Palo Alto over the Santa Cruz Mountains, taking a dirt road (not government approved) that tested our steel and sew-ups like no other. I for one was hammered by the time we reached Santa Cruz, but there was more to come.
Jobst took us up a steep, winding, narrow road that would become one of my favorite routes in the years ahead. But this was no fun ride as attack after attack ensued on the gnarliest climbs of 14 percent. There is one particularly nasty stretch, the last of the steep stuff, topping out at 17 percent. But don’t let that dissuade you.
By the time we reached Skyline about half of us were fried and strung out to find our way home at a manageable pace. I’ll never forget Marc Brandt begging me for a Fig Newton, totally bonked. Jobst had gone on ahead, unfazed by the long ride that clicked in at around 120 miles. Those were the days.
Zayante Road is so remote it sees little traffic, and the view — inspiring as you embrace the redwoods and the deep narrow canyons with creeks below.
On this day I rode down Zayante after climbing Hwy 9, temps in the upper 30s, low 40s. Plentiful sunshine didn’t help much until the return up 9.
Zayante Road will test your riding skills on the twisty, bumpy descent. There’s only one brief gentle climb on the way into the town of Zayante, which has but one store. I stopped for a cup of coffee, a first for me, but it hit the spot and made the ride up 9 go a little faster.
On the easy climb of Quail Hollow Road I spotted a dead pine tree riddled with woodpecker holes. Acorn woodpeckers and others spend hours drilling holes and pushing acorns into dead trees, which is no doubt why this tree was cut. They’re in there tight and, yes, sometimes even woodpeckers can’t get them out.
On the ride up 9 the sun budged the thermometer to the low 50s, but nearing Skyline it dropped back to 44. Not bad for the last weekend ride in January.