Legendary Rides: January 1, Kneeland, California
We used to do this ride every New Year’s Day. Very early in the morning. All the cyclists in the area who weren’t drinkers or hungover. This was when we lived in the way north of California, up near the Oregon border.
The ride was simple. We’d start in the tidal flats of Arcata and pedal inland. You’d begin climbing immediately. That was it. You’d go up and up for miles over the first flank of the coastal range until you reached the tiny crossroads of Kneeland.
There was no first or last place. The ride was more of a vague metaphor. Something about the virtue of getting up early on the first day of the year and performing a Herculean task. The rest of the year was supposed to be a downhill glide after that.
Except many years the descent was actually tougher than the climb. That part of California gets cold in winter, and the mountain road would acquire hoarfrost locally known as monkey snot. Falling wasn’t uncommon—and I suppose that was a metaphor also—but I never stopped to really puzzle it out. I was too cold by then, my hands numb from miles of downhill braking. All I wanted to do was go home and take a hot shower.