Archive for the ‘Once Upon a Ride’ Category

Once Upon a Ride…

March 7, 2012

Jim Westby rides down Ward Road in 1989, back when it was still a road.

Jim Westby rides down Ward Road in 1989, back when it was still a road.


November 16, 1980
Riders: Jobst Brandt, Tom Ritchey, Ray Hosler, Bill Robertson, Bill Fallis, Mel?, Keith Vierra, Tim Nicholson, Matt?, Bob?
Weather: Cold and partly cloudy
Route: Up Page Mill Road, south on Skyline Boulevard to Hwy 9, Ward Road, Haul Road to Loma Mar, Stage Road to Hwy 84 and home.
Tire/Mechanical: Tom – front flat; Matt – gear slip; Jobst – chain clunk

On a cold November day, temperature hovering around 40 degrees, we set off not knowing where we were headed. Jobst led the way up Page Mill Road and then south on Skyline Boulevard. By the time we reached Skyline, several riders had peeled off.

I had been studying topographic maps of the area (no Google maps) and wanted to try out Ward Road, which looked like it would take us down to the Haul Road. Jobst wasn’t interested, but Tom was, so the two of us took a right at the Jokoji Zen Center (Ward Road).

I didn’t bring a map, so I wasn’t exactly sure how to get there as we came upon several dome homes and the Zen center. We stopped to ask directions and a Zen-looking elder showed us the way. We traded words with several “students” soaking in the filtered sun and hazy air. They looked so mellow.

We headed off, not really sure where Ward Road would take us. We came upon a patch of old pavement while continuing to descend (probably Long Ridge Road) and saw some summer cabins. At a vantage point we took in Portola State Park, Portola Road and the Pacific in the distance. This didn’t look right, so we headed back up the steep road.

After a few more wrong turns we figured we were headed the right direction. Tom and I stopped again at an overlook and peered into the heavily forested Oil Creek basin. Tom decided we needed to take the right fork (he was right), so we headed down the steep dirt road absent of houses, going through a couple of gates on the way.

At one point we came across some old, long-abandoned cabins in a level area [long since removed]. A “state park” sign told us were in the outer reaches of Portola State Park.

Finally, we arrived at Pescadero Creek and knew were headed the right direction. After a short steep climb we emerged onto the Haul Road. “Look at that,” Tom said. “Tracks.” Sure enough, Jobst and friends had taken the Haul Road from Hwy 9 at Waterman Gap.

Tom headed home on Portola Park Road, while I continued on the Haul Road, searching for Jobst. The tracks were still easy to follow. I noticed one rider took a wrong turn (it was Keith). I came across Bill Robertson at Wurr Road as I left the Haul Road.

He said Jobst and the other riders headed to Loma Mar, where I found them stopped for food. We headed back home via Stage Roads and Hwy 84.

[Ward Road offered quite a few adventure rides in the ensuing years. I’m pretty sure Tom and I were the first cyclists to take Ward Road. There was a cadre of pre-mountain-bike klunker riders in Cupertino, but I don’t expect they ventured that far out. ]

Brian Cox clears debris on Ward Road. We also removed invasive thistle.

Once Upon a Ride…

October 2, 2011

Send in the cows. We rest before the ride and walk back to Alpine Road.


July 5, 1981
Riders: Jobst Brandt, Jim Westby, Ted Mock, Ray Hosler, Parker McComas, Marc Brandt, Tom Ritchey, Gary Holmgren, Kelly, Strange John
Route: From Palo Alto, California: Up Old LaHonda Road, south on Skyline Boulevard to Page Mill Road; down Old Page Mill Road to Big Dipper Ranch; return up hill to Alpine Road; Alpine Road, Pescadero Road to Pescadero; Stage Road to San Gregorio, up Hwy 84
Weather: Humid and warm
Tire/Mechanical Failure: Ray — flat.

It isn’t often that Jobst and his merry band are turned back on their adventure ride. Jobst usually manages to talk his way past distraught land owners. This ride was the exception, in more ways than one.

It all started at Jobst’s house one sultry summer morning. He sat at his dining room table playing Space Invaders with a newly acquired Radio Shack TRS 80 computer. His son, Olaf, would master the intricacies of machine-level programming on that TRS 80.

In the next 10 minutes nine riders rolled up to Jobst’s house, including his mercurial nephew, Marc. The talented racer occasionally joined Jobst on a ride.

Having recently read Sawmills in the Redwoods by Frank Stanger, I was convinced that Page Mill Road went all the way through to Portola State Park; Tom Ritchey thought so too, so Jobst was willing to give it a try. We set off under partly cloudy skies and muggy air, remnants of Hurricane Beatriz in the Pacific.

Along the way, Jobst complained about his Fourth of July meal. He said it was slowing him down, but nobody complained about the pace. Parker and Jobst had an eating contest and Jobst won. That evening they celebrated the 4th by dropping an explosive “bigger than an M80″ down the “No Parking” pole in front of Jobst’s house.

The ride up Old LaHonda Road went peacefully enough until Marc went off the front and everyone chased, including Strange John. We screamed mockingly, “Go John!” John was strong all right, but he lacked guile, a prerequisite for bike racing.

We were dripping like leaky faucets by the time we reached the top of one-mile hill on Skyline. Jobst stopped and rummaged around in a blackberry thicket. He found a spring and took a deep drink of the delicious cold water coming from a pipe sticking out of the hill; we joined in and filled our bottles before continuing.

At the Page Mill Road junction, we headed southwest into Skyline Ranch [now a Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District ranger station]. After a half-mile on an old paved road we made a crucial turn onto a dirt road − Old Page Mill. At last we would find out where this mysterious road went, or so we thought.

Bouncing along the rough road, we descended steeply over sand, rocks, and brush. We were headed down a ridge, with Lambert Creek and gorge on the left. At one point we passed a dirt road that went up to a house. Soon we were skirting the side of a ridge, with a grand view of the redwood-covered hills to the south. A few bulls munched grass on the hillside.

After a couple miles we came to a large wood gate plastered with “No Trespassing” signs, “Violators Will Be Prosecuted,” etc. They must have known we were coming. We climbed the fence and continued, like latter-day Lewis and Clarks. Another gate and more “no trespassing” signs.

Suddenly we came upon a scene that jolted our senses − a house deep in the redwoods, but not just any house [it was the Big Dipper Ranch]. It had a swimming pool and was lavishly landscaped. We rode past the house in the distance, below us and to our left, and a chicken coop on our right. We rode through another gate − the final gate for the Jobst Riders.

Coming up the dirt road was the Big Dipper [Cummings?] himself, putt-putting along on his tractor. We pulled our bikes over to the side as though to let him pass, like we were just out for a Sunday ride minding our own business. We wondered what would happen next. A growling dog sat behind the rancher.

The rancher stopped and asked brusquely, “Where do you think you’re going?”

“We’re lost. We’re trying to get to Portola State Park,” several riders replied innocently. “Well this road doesn’t go through,” the farmer replied, his eyes bearing down on us. “You can just turn around and go back the way you came.”

The riders asked if there was a way out ahead, not wanting to back-track. “No,” he replied. “The only way out is to go back the way you came. That’s how you got here in the first place, isn’t it?”

Jobst said nothing. I think he decided it was useless.

Send in the cows!

Realizing there was no use debating, we turned around. Tom tried to find a way up the hill behind the chicken coop, but that plan laid an egg. We imagined we’d have to go all the way back to Page Mill, but Jobst and Tom had different plans.

Old Page Mill Road beind us, we walk back to Alpine Road on a steamy hot day.

After a mile or so backtracking, Tom attacked up a field, with a small pond visible below. His plan was to ride straight up the hill over to Alpine Road. We dismounted and started our hike in the heat and humidity, flies buzzing our heads. We made our way successfully by another house without being accosted and then stopped to refresh ourselves at a cattle watering hole with an old iron bath tub. Tom said that those tubs sell for hundreds of dollars. Several riders dipped their caps in the slimy trough, while Jobst drank from a nearby spring.

Passing the house, a resident came out to watch us ride by. She must have been wondering, “Where did they come from?” Back on Alpine Road we sped down the hill and took a final look at the Big Dipper Ranch far below. Tom vowed that he would return and find a new way to Portola State Park.

[There was a logging road in the late 1880s that went all the way to a sawmill in today's Portola Park. MROSD maps show a potential route into the park, but Big Dipper Ranch is still a private enclave.

MROSD bought Big Dipper Ranch in 2002, although it looks like the ranch itself is still private and the land is used for raising cattle. It's off limits.]

I had this story on my website, but that’s gone so I’m re-posting.

A Mt. Hamilton Ride of Olympic Caliber

May 10, 2010

We stopped for some food in Livermore on the Mt. Hamilton ride.

April 29, 1984

Riders: Jobst Brandt, Eric Heiden, Tom Ritchey, Steve Potts, Ted Mock
Route: Milpitas, over Mt. Hamilton to Livermore, Hwy 84, Calaveras Road.

What would have been just another Mt. Hamilton ride turned into a star-studded affair with the arrival of speedskater Eric Heiden (winner of 5 gold medals at the 1980 winter Olympics) at the summit. Eric drove up the mountain with his grandparents, who were visiting from Wisconsin. He had to attend a bike function in Santa Clara Valley and was unable to start the ride with the Jobst riders.

Tom said he was out of shape, having spent 10 days in Japan arranging for products to be made, including a mountain bike tire he designed. Steve Potts, a mountain biker and frame builder from Marin County, was visiting Tom.

Ted made a rare appearance. He just moved his photography shop across the street from Palo Alto Bicycles, having taken over another photographer’s business. Ted was going to visit friends in Danville, so he would turn off at Livermore and take Tassajara Road.

As was typical with Jobst rides, the climb had its moments when people went off the front and made others suffer trying to keep up. As always, Jobst’s eagle eyes started spotting birds, this time a Lazuli Bunting. At first, I thought it was a bluebird, but Jobst corrected me. Along the way, I looked for cracks in the road after the recent 6.2 magnitude earthquake in nearby Morgan Hill, but none were found.

At the summit (4,200 feet), Eric passed us and tooted his horn. Jobst and I raced to the top and, like a fool, I tried a 52-17 combination, but couldn’t push such a big gear. Leave the big gears to Jobst.

Eric changed into his cycling clothes as Jobst and I talked with Eric’s grandfather, who lives in Wisconsin and said he was a hockey coach at one time. They live on a lake and this past winter they had 200 inches of snow. They couldn’t get over the beauty of Santa Clara Valley and Mt. Hamilton.

Jobst went on about the problems he had with painting distance-to-go markers for the Mt. Hamilton road race. The sheriff painted over Jobst’s handiwork. This year Jobst said he would fool the sheriff and paint the markers the day of the race.

On the descent, Jobst led us down the steep side. We regrouped and rode together to San Antonio Junction store. Jobst spotted a Horned Lark, Western Kingbird, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and a Roadrunner. Wildflowers covered San Antonio Valley, but not as much as two springs ago when we had heavy rains.

We had our usual bite to eat at the store and rubbed shoulders with the motorcycle crowd.

On the first climb after leaving the store, Jobst, Ted, and Eric blasted off the front, but slowed down on the second climb –- the Double S — so I could catch up. On Mines Road we had the usual headwind.

Just before reaching Livermore, Eric had a front tubular flat [Jobst quit using sewups around 1981]. A rider caught up to us a joined our group into town.

In Livermore, we stopped at Safeway for food. We then headed west on Highway 84 [we quit taking that route around 1986]. We had a nice ride up Calaveras Road in the late afternoon, enjoying the green valleys and hills sprinkled with yellow and orange California poppies.

Back in Milpitas, we loaded our bikes into our cars and headed home, 102 miles, and 8,600 feet of climbing, behind us.


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