Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Dear Google God… (An MTB Weekend at Skeggs and UCSC)

It was probably 10 years ago when I was still in grad school that a friend told me excitedly about this innovative search engine, Google. It proved useful back then for academic researches, and today? It has penetrated in every seam of my life. I’ve asked all kinds of questions and learned all sorts of things on Google such as “How to ride a mountain bike” and “Define gullible.” Yep, I consult with Google God just about anything. Think about it, who else can oversee everything in the universe? I mean everything.

So it only came natural I called for attention from Google God this morning again when I decided to meet a group to ride UCSC since I needed to drop my bike off at Spokesman anyway. The rendezvous place was Rincon Parking Lot, which I had never been to. Not to worry, with the hint from the group emails, I Googled for the place and found where it was, and then Google Mapped it to figure out the best way from home: Hwy 1 -> Ocean St through some residential area -> back to Hwy 9 … See, it even knew not to send me up from the bottom of Hwy 9 because it was closed there — Nothing escapes God! I should have just enough time to make it to the parking lot and get ready by 10am. Excellent!

Shortly after I got off Hwy 9 at the Ocean Street exit, I found that the main road somehow became Graham Hill Rd and I somehow missed the turn off for Ocean Street. No problem, I still had plenty of time to turn around and get back on it. It was not an obvious turn-off, and Ocean Street became a narrow windy 25-mph road through residences and redwoods. I patiently drove under the speeding limit because I was in no rush. After about 2 miles of slow driving, I was suddenly stopped cold by a fenced gate across the road with a sign “Private Property. No Trespassing.” But how could this be? I got out of the car dumbfounded.  Just then, a woman who looked just like me walked away from my body up to  the gate. She had the panicked look on her face. I walked over to the key box and stared at it for a moment before trying my birthday, my dentist’s phone number, last month’s super lotto winning number, and many other number combos I no longer remember now, but none worked. Finally, I keyed in the Da Vinci Code, but still, the gate did not budge. All the while, the other woman had grown hysterical, pressing her hands and forehead on the gate shaking it while mumbling “no, no, no, this gate is not supposed to be here. Google Maps direction goes right through. Let me through. I’m going to be late. Let me through.” I looked into the gated community with a few houses and a few vehicles in sight, but there was not a soul roaming around. I tore the woman away from the gate and we entered the car. She vanished right then, and I felt let down — Google God let me down.

Lucky for me, sometimes the meet time is like MSRP — people get away with not sticking with what’s suggested. When I pulled into the parking lot, the group were still there gearing up. When we started the ride at 10:30, there were eight of us although Andrea peeled off early on to do her own personal ride with her brand new LTc. Kevin led the way and took us through a maze of trails that criss and cross the forest this way and that way, up and down, steeply up and steeply down, sometimes up on a ridge, sometimes skirting along a hillside, or sometimes down in a drain. I had no idea where I was except that my Garmin Edge map told me that I was always here in the center of the little screen (it does not have a base map).  Kevin tried to explain to us where we were, but all those left, right, up, and down directions lost meaning to me when all I saw were just trees around me and I could not differentiate one tree from another.  I tried to insert myself in the middle of the group sometimes near the front and mostly near the back. I had the fear that if I stayed in the back, I would miss the most obvious turn and get separated from the group and then end up spending days being lost in the forest. I was thankful that Becky always kindly let me go in front of her. She had a better knowledge of the area and she could have radio communications with Dave if they decided to get on the same channel sometimes.

Talk about taking a wrong turn, it reminded me of yesterday when I rode Skeggs with Jeanne and Iztok and their friend whom we called Crazy Tim because he is crazy fast even when things get really gnarly.  Our plan was to get to South Leaf (from North Leaf). With Tim and Iztok leading in the front, Jeanne and I followed.  Right after we passed a group of riders, all standing on both sides of the trail, Jeanne asked me which way we should go since there was a split in the trail. All I could say was wherever those two guys went, and we continued our fast descent down Methuselah Trail — not South Leaf. It was not until at the bottom, the creek crossing, did we get to see Tim and Iztok again and told them that we missed South Leaf. Tim was surprised, “Oh, I missed a turn? Where did I miss it?” we told him where that group was. And Iztok said, “Oh, yeah, that group of six people. Tim was ahead me, so I followed his route and weaved through them saying excuse us and excuse us. I don’t know why, but they looked pissed.” Tim sounded even more surprised, “What? There were six people on the trail? I never saw them!” Just then we all laughed and understood very well why the group looked pissed.

The ride at UCSC was uneventful, but full of fun and excitement — there was some steep stuff that I would probably have hesitated about if I had known what was coming up and if I had not been following others. Could have there been an accident though because I almost successfully took out Brian when I was backing up my car in the parking lot after the group’s taqueria stop in Felton. Hmmm… food… I’m hungry again. I’d better Google “What to eat tonight” to get some idea for dinner. Betcha Google God can tell me.

P.S. I learned later that the bottom of Hwy 9 was closed all the way to the South end of Rincon Parking Lot, which means even if Ocean Street had not been blocked, I would not have been able to turn right on Hwy 9 to get to the parking lot anyway. Google God really goof’ed up big time!
Bad Google Directions Google Maps directions

P.P.S. When Erik read the title before getting to the post, he turned his head to me, “Dear Google God… Really???” I know, it sounds silly, but there was a time today I felt absolutely silly. So it is.