Anyone who rides a bike in the Santa Cruz Mountains has probably ridden up Highway 9 to get there. It’s one of the gentler climbs to Skyline Boulevard and points west. It’s also a road paved in tragedy.
We see signs of unfortunate events on Highway 9 all the time — broken car and motorcycle parts, skid marks, carcasses of road flares and those little piles of gray ash telling us something bad has happened.
Today was no different. A couple miles from the summit a car crashed during the rainstorm on Friday, probably. Someone going too fast, lost control on a corner, crashed into another car coming up. Maybe that’s it. Who knows? We have only the skid marks, and car parts on the side of the road by which to piece together life-changing events.
In all my years of riding on Highway 9 I’ve only come across one accident within seconds of happening. Fortunately it was not much more than a broken nose and some blood. But there’s another story that comes to mind as I ride by on a sweeping turn, the one without the guard rail several miles up the hill from downtown Saratoga.
The wreaths are gone. It has been several years. A former co-worker lost his daughter here, in a car crash one night. It’s a tragedy to lose a loved one in such a way. At first she was reported missing. Sheriffs and the CHP searched long and hard on Highway 9, but they couldn’t find her car.
My co-worker wouldn’t give up. He kept searching. One day he looked on that corner without the guardrail, scrambling down the steep embankment. At night in the fog driving down 9, the banked left turn might be missed. Who knows what happened? But that’s where he found her, down that steep embankment.
As I ride down 9 on that turn, banked at 30 mph, I think about it. Traveling comes with dangers, but we accept them. What would life be without the adventure?
I’ve ridden up and down Highway 9 more times than I can count, seen more car crash debris than I would ever want to see. The cyclist sees the bric-a-brac of tragedy up close and personal. We hope we can get through our ride safely and have some fun.
I had a good ride, saw some snow just past Skyline on Highway 9, in the shadows. Found some mushrooms too. And I beat the rain. Who could ask for more on a Saturday in January in the Santa Cruz Mountains?