Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Capitola begonia festival draws Begonians from far and wide

August 31, 2014

Absent my rappelling gear, I had to be satisfied with just taking a picture.

Absent my rappelling gear, I had to be satisfied with just taking a picture.


Taking a page from past epic Jobst Rides, I headed to the coast and turned south for Santa Cruz and then even farther south to Corralitos.

I always bailed in Santa Cruz and headed up Mtn. Charlie while Jobst and friends continued south. I wanted to see if I had missed anything. On this Labor Day weekend it became clear that I had missed the annual Begonia festival in quaint Capitola by the sea.

This was one of those nice weekends where a long ride isn’t so bad when heading south on the Cabrillo Highway with a comforting 15-mph tailwind and clear skies. I missed out on the big waves earlier in the week from a distant hurricane, but there were still some decent breakers.

I marveled at the incredibly smooth pavement near Cascade Ranch. This has to be the smoothest stretch of pavement ever devised by Caltrans. Bravo.

After a stop in Davenport for an It’s It, I headed to Santa Cruz with more tailwind.

On this holiday weekend traffic backed up for miles as people jockeyed for a parking spot in Santa Cruz. Others wisely took the train from Felton. I negotiated my way along East Cliff Drive past the boardwalk and then crossed the railroad bridge over the mighty San Lorenzo River.

The river is more like a creek now, which is not a good thing because the city gets all its drinking water here. It’s no wonder they have severe water rationing.

Take my advice and stick to the narrow pedestrian path rather than taking the railroad, no matter how tempting the tracks might look when the path is jammed with walkers.

Begonia festival
As I entered Capitola I noticed a huge crowd gathered on the Soquel Creek bridge downtown. I was asked to dismount and enjoy the begonia festival. This was the first time I had seen so many Begonians in one place. They looked indistinguishable from other Capitola residents, except for their fascination with Soquel Creek, where I was hard pressed to see much of anything. However, I later learned that the Begonians were worshiping floats festooned with begonias grown locally on 43 acres of prime begonia growing land.

I have every reason to believe that Begonians and Rosicrucians have a lot in common. Instead of begonias, the Rosicrucians worship, you guessed it, roses. Their headquarters is located next to the San Jose Rose Garden.

I left the Begonians, still pouring into Capitola, behind and headed to Corralitos through two scenic agricultural valleys known for growing apples — Valencia and Day.

As I rode past apple orchards next to Valencia Road I came across a most unusual scene – an unoccupied apple stand. Bella & Sons Orchard is unique in this regard – they trust people. I know, it’s hard to believe in this day and age, but you could help yourself to a bunch of apples for $4, and the bags were provided. I picked a green Washington apple. Delicious. I stuck $1 into the iron payment post and continued on my way.

After riding up Horrible Hames Road, I coasted into Corralitos and had a bite to eat, but didn’t feel like a sausage sandwich at Corralitos store this time around.

The rest of the ride took me up Eureka Canyon Road and Highland Way where I passed the usual crowded car park of mountain bikers enjoying Demonstration Forest. If they happen to be riding Trek brand mountain bikes I hope they check their forks because there’s a massive recall on the Suntour brand. I really feel sorry for companies that build mountain bike forks. It’s a losing situation.

Finally, I blasted down Old Santa Cruz Highway and noticed paving continues, which is a good thing because the road has a lot of cracks. And so ended a truly epic-style Jobst Ride of 123 miles.

Bella's faith in people took a bite out of my cynical side.

Bella’s faith in people took a bite out of my cynical side.

We live in earthquake country

August 24, 2014

I was reminded that we live in earthquake country this morning at 3:30 a.m. when I was awakened by the Napa temblor. It was mild compared to 1989 when I rode home from Cupertino to Palo Alto through streets with no traffic signals.

Fortunately the South Bay wasn’t affected this morning. I saw nothing out of the normal on the ride to Santa Cruz.

However, I noticed that Mountain Charlie Road has a new coat of pavement lower down, seemingly unpaved since Charlie McKiernan sold his toll road to the county of Santa Cruz in 1878.

Old Santa Cruz Highway also has a new coat of pavement near Summit Road. Most of the road hasn’t been paved in 15 years and it’s starting to show, with large fissures that could catch a wheel.

Big Basin Way is a highway, but not really

August 4, 2014

hwy9 stop

One of my favorite roads is Big Basin Way in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the section connecting Hwy 9 and Big Basin State Park, but let’s not call it by its official state moniker: Highway 236.

It’s a narrow, winding road where every turn is a blind corner.

Highway 9 (big Big Basin Way) looks more like a highway, and more so all the time as the state continues its widening project. There are two signal stops now, one at the Saratoga Creek pump station entering the twisty section, and the other about a half-mile up from Redwood Gulch Road.

The twisty section is being widened considerably. Whether or not other blind corners with no shoulder will be widened is not known. There’s another section slated for widening higher up between the two current work sites.

But back to Big Basin Way, or Hwy 236. I have nothing against car rallies, but the Porsche tour de force on Sunday coming at me was a bit much as they cut corners at every bend in the road. I stopped riding. They weren’t driving crazy fast, but with so many cars it didn’t matter.

On Skyline Boulevard I developed a powerful thirst, which could mean only one thing: a visit to the coke machine at the Los Altos Rod and Gun Club. I enjoyed a club soda while lounging on a deck chair. The desultory sound of gunfire and the American flag on the tool shed reminded me that I was in Reagan country.

It brought back memories of the early ’70s when I fired an AR15, its long-hair owner (who later became a lawyer) anticipating the coming “revolution.”

Jobst used to stop here for a drink. In addition to the secret coke machine, he introduced me and others to the joys of drinking from springs and chastised those who feared giardia or other beasties. He even eschewed the bike water bottle.

Only in his later riding years did Jobst start carrying a satchel with Pepsi, which he guzzled by the quart.

Enjoying a nice day in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Enjoying a nice day in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

You can ride on a flat

July 13, 2014

Today's objective: ride to Corralitos and enjoy a Bavarian sausage. Mission accomplished.

Today’s objective: ride to Corralitos and enjoy a Bavarian sausage. Mission accomplished.


Today on Alma Bridge Road I came across a cyclist bike-walking. I figured it was a flat, and sure enough it was.

I was told it was only a mile walk back home, so it was a situation where a repair didn’t make much sense, as long as the cyclist rode home.

My suggestion was met with some skepticism. “Won’t it ruin the rim?”

I assured the rider it would not and that I had done it on numerous occasions, once about five miles with no damage to rim or tire.

However, you need to be cautious about it. The rider had a front flat, which is even better since most of the weight is over the rear wheel.

Let’s not forget that pneumatic tires were not invented until 1887. Before that bikes used solid rubber. It’s no wonder they were called “boneshakers.”

Logging on Gazos Creek Road

May 25, 2014
Logging aftermath on Gazos Creek Road.

Logging aftermath on Gazos Creek Road.

This was the first time on a ride I have seen cut redwoods lined up in such a way, this about a mile down from the Gazos Creek Road summit. I was also saddened to have to eat fried calamari at the Cliff House last night, but it sure was tasty. Call it a guilty pleasure.

Logging goes on fairly regularly in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We just never see it. Typically the loggers don’t like to leave their wood lying around like this, especially on a weekend.

I stopped to take a photo of the pavement on upper Gazos Creek Road. I wonder how that got there, especially considering this road was never paved. Maybe some huge vehicle had to haul something heavy up the road and needed a bit of extra traction. Do you think?

Pavement on upper Gazos Creek Road. Still a rough ride on a road bike.

Pavement on upper Gazos Creek Road. Still a rough ride on a road bike.

By the way, if you think logging today is a problem, the Sierra Club crowd would pass out upon seeing Gazos Creek at the turn of the century. The entire area was clear-cut. A huge dam was built on the creek for Bloom Mill, near where the road starts to climb, at what is now one of the most idyllic places on earth.

Remnant of the historic Gazos Creek dam used to pen logs at the turn of the century.

Remnant of the historic Gazos Creek dam used to pen logs at the turn of the century.

Bloom Mill about 1907. From Sawmills in the Redwoods.

Bloom Mill about 1907. From Sawmills in the Redwoods.

Alpine Road repairs

April 27, 2014

Alpine Road needs some culvert cleaning. Otherwise big washouts will continue to plague the trail.

Alpine Road needs some culvert cleaning. Otherwise big washouts will continue to plague the trail.

Saturday I headed up Alpine Road to check out some alleged grading done near the intersection with Page Mill Road.

Although we had a quarter-inch of rain, the trail stayed dry, at least until the graded section a quarter-mile from the top.

My road bike’s meager brake clearance jammed the wheels tight with mud. So much for road repairs. Had it not been graded, things would have been better.

What I find curious is that culverts are not maintained. The one shown is mostly blocked. It’s this lack of maintenance that leads to catastrophic results, as we have witnessed in years gone by.

Enjoy the road/trail while you can.

Skunk Ride

April 13, 2014

Bridge Trail goes downhill from the Haul Road to Pescadero Creek and then joins Camp Pomponio Road, formerly called Honor Camp Road.

Bridge Trail goes downhill from the Haul Road to Pescadero Creek and then joins Camp Pomponio Road, formerly called Honor Camp Road.


I don’t remember seeing a skunk in the wild, until today on the Haul Road in Pescadero Creek County Park.

It was a short distance from Camp Pomponio Road. As soon as I saw the skunk headed my way I stopped, and so did the skunk, who instantly held up its tail for a spray. We eyed each other for about five seconds before I shooed him away. He never came closer than 50 feet, which is close enough for me.

I found the paved Camp Pomponio Road infinitely more enjoyable than Portola Park Road for climbing out of the Pescadero Creek drainage.

There’s a gate about a mile and a half up, so there’s zero traffic on the narrow road that goes through a spectacular redwood grove. It was obviously logged many decades ago.

After the gate there’s about another mile of climbing, but still virtually traffic-free. The only cars using the road are going to the Tarwater Trail parking area.

You can be sure it’s steep, about 20 percent near the merge with Alpine Road, but it’s so much more beautiful and remote than Portola Park Road.

Way Back Machine and New Idria Ride

March 30, 2014
Portola Valley glamour shot of a 1987 Saso.

Portola Valley glamour shot of a 1987 Saso.

Today I rode my Way Back Machine around Portola Valley and all in all it’s not much different riding compared to my Ritchey Break Away. Both are nice.

However, I have to admit downtube shifting leaves something to be desired compared to brake-lever shifting.

While I’m on the topic of “way back,” last Thursday I rode the New Idria loop with some friends, a 115-mile adventure ride in the wilds of San Benito County.

We were the first cyclists to ride on the disputed Clear Creek Road since it was closed in 2008 by the Bureau of Land Management, which claimed we were breathing in asbestos dust on our way to the New Idria mine.

Now it has re-opened, but with a list of prohibitions a mile long that essentially bans off-road motor bike riding and just about every other recreational activity that might stir up dust.

Photos, story and a video are on my personal website.

Bridges Connect Bay Area

March 23, 2014

Interstate 280 spans Crystal Springs canyon.

Interstate 280 spans Crystal Springs canyon.

On my ride to San Francisco I stopped to admire two bridges — Eugene Moran Memorial Bridge in San Mateo County and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Eugene Moran bridge spans the canyon created by San Mateo Creek, and a big canyon it is. It’s all the more impressive because Crystal Spring Reservoir’s dam is right there. It’s still undergoing an earthquake retrofit but one of these days it will be finished and we can resume our rides on Skyline Boulevard.

That’s a good things because riding on the bike bridge over Interstate 280 at Highway 92 is a pain. How many bike bridges do you know of with an 11 percent grade? Who approved such a plan?

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a busy Sunday tested my patience. Hundreds of cyclists formed a rumba line going across the span. Pseudo racers jockeyed for position with road boulder cyclists. It was quite the scene.

Clear skies made the ride up to 820 feet and the Marin Headlands overlook worth the effort.

I finally had a chance to ride through the Fort Baker tunnel, and fortunately I took the downhill route. It’s about a half-mile and speeds of 25 mph on a bike are typical. The wet, muddy stuff in the bike lane made for some interesting riding.

The tunnel is fairly well lit. You don’t need a light. The bike lane is wide. Wait at the tunnel entrance for a green light before proceeding.

One of these day they ought to close several lanes of the Golden Gate Bridge for bikes. That will be the day.

On a side note. My novel, Skidders, a story about autonomous cars making cycling safer, is moving along. It will be posted on my website a week before Christmas. Free. I’ll also post it on Kindle.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. Nice day for riding.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. Nice day for riding.

Mt. Hamilton’s weird wacky weather

January 21, 2014

Livermore Fire Station 6 houses a century-old light bulb that still works.

Livermore Fire Station 6 houses a century-old light bulb that still works.

There’s a warm winter’s day and there’s a freakish warm winter like the one we’re having. For weeks the daily low on Mt. Hamilton summit has been in the high 50s to low 60s. What better time to do the Mt. Hamilton loop to Livermore and back?

I figured I could do the entire ride in shorts and maybe even a short-sleeve jersey. Starting Sunday at the base of Mt. Hamilton, the temperature was in the mid-40s at 7:30. Within 15 minutes I had climbed above 1,000 feet where it was already in the low 50s. By the time I reached Halls Valley (Grant Ranch Park) it was in the mid-60s and it stayed that way to the summit.

The land is parched on the backside of Mt. Hamilton. No flowers. Not a blade of grass. There’s only one pond with water near the road, where there are usually a dozen.

As I passed Arnold Ranch, the flower bed so painstakingly maintained along the road dried up. I’d be surprised if we saw a single daffodil this year.

I pulled into the Junction Store and fortunately it has re-opened, under new ownership. I jokingly told the owners I would try JotEmDown store if they were still closed. Another benefit about this day’s weather was the lack of wind. It’s usually a slog riding on Mines Road with a steady headwind. It got so warm I had to shed my long-sleeve jersey.

In Livermore I checked out the centennial incandescent light bulb inside Fire Station 6 on East Avenue that has burned for more than a century. However, as expected, the station wasn’t open. You’ll need to plan your visit on a special day to get a look.

With a nice tailwind, I took Stanley Boulevard to Pleasanton, a pleasant-on experience now that the bike lane is complete.

Riding by Calaveras Reservoir, which is receiving a stronger dam, I noted a fair amount of water.


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