Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Halloween bling better than ever

October 26, 2014
A medical student must live here.

A medical student must live here.

Spiders keep getting bigger.

Spiders keep getting bigger.


If you’ve been around for a while, you can’t help but notice that Halloween is beginning to rival Christmas for yard ornamentation.

Here are a couple I came across. Spiders and skeletons have a lock on Halloween.

Meanwhile, the new Apple campus continues to take shape, with four-story-high mountains of dirt. They literally have their own quarry operation.

How will they manage their fruit orchard? Will they plant Apple trees?

How will they manage their fruit orchard? Will they plant Apple trees?

Summit Road a ribbon of endless dirt

October 14, 2014

Mt. Madonna Road has never been paved its entire length. Check it out.

Mt. Madonna Road has never been paved its entire length. Check it out.


You can still lose yourself in dirt out in the wilds of the Santa Cruz Mountains on a road called Summit.

I’ve been riding here since the early 1980s when Jobst Brandt showed us the way from his home in Palo Alto. It’s a long ride from there, but distance never stopped Jobst from finding dirt roads.

Over the decades I’ve seen changes, the most important one being no more hassles. When the Redwood Empire logging company hired a fine East Bay attorney to plead their case back in 2000, they put to rest the notion that Summit Road was private. It’s anything but.

I prefer the northern approach, taking the paved Mt. Bache/Loma Prieta roads. Once at the top of the steep climb, Monterey Bay shines like a beacon to the west. Spread out on the flats there’s the agricultural mecca of Watsonville.

Summit rolls up, down, up, down for eight miles, staying at about 2,900 feet altitude. The climbs aren’t long or steep, just numerous.

You’ll be joined by 4-wheel-drives going by, a lot more than decades ago. People keep moving out here, living off-grid and enjoying their privacy.

How much longer this will last is anyone’s guess. However, with more people comes gentrification. One of these days Summit will be paved. You can bet on it.

One thing you’ll notice out here is the lack of dense tree growth. Blame it on frequent fires. Too many to count. The road is a vital fire break.

I headed down the paved Summit to Mt. Madonna Road, one of the nicest stretches you could ever hope to ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s worth the effort.

There’s another 1.3 miles of dirt on Mt. Madonna Road heading east. It’s darn steep and gravel. Use caution.

Heading back on Uvas Road I checked out the old road, fully exposed now that the reservoir has dried out. Let’s hope for rain.

Hwy 9 widening makes progress

October 5, 2014

The narrows, about a mile up from Saratoga on Hwy 9, has been widened. Good news for cars and bikes.

The narrows, about a mile up from Saratoga on Hwy 9, has been widened. Good news for cars and bikes.

Highway 9, Big Basin Way, has been under construction, with delays up to 10 minutes, but now both areas no longer have traffic signals. There’s still some finishing work.

I think there is more work to be done, but Hwy 9 is looking safer all the time.

Attack of the giant arachnid

October 5, 2014

While tarantulas look frightening, by all accounts they're quite docile.

While tarantulas look frightening, by all accounts they’re quite docile.

This furry eight-legged creature lives on the San Francisco water district lands off Calaveras Boulevard. Let’s hope it isn’t polluting our water.

It’s mating season so this guy is out looking for a companion. We ushered him off the road so he wouldn’t mess up someone’s car tires.

On our Mt. Hamilton ride last week (perfect weather) we also saw a giant tortoise behind The Junction store munching happily away on lettuce and carrots. At age 17 it’s just a teen-ager in tortoise years. Let’s hope its owners mention who gets it in their will. It could easily outlive all of us.

Crater Lake’s rim ride an Oregon gem

September 23, 2014

Crater Lake west shore looking toward Wizard Island.

Crater Lake west shore looking toward Wizard Island.

If you’re in the area with bike, don’t miss a ride around Crater Lake in the mountains of central Oregon for a welcome change of pace from the nearby forested roads.

It’s one of the more spectacular rides in the Western U.S., which has a lot to offer from the Sierra to the Pacific Coast and Bay Area roads.

I rode there on Sunday, Sept. 14, which turned out to be a beautiful day for a bike ride, with the exception of the morning smoke from forest fires burning to the west and north. The smoke wasn’t bad and it cleared out by mid-morning.

My ride started at Crater Lake Lodge, altitude 7,100 feet, about 9:30 a.m. The only hotel with a view of the lake, it’s pricey and reservations need to be made months in advance.

We stayed in Klamath Falls about 1:15 away and, yes, there are no falls in Klamath. It would be more aptly named Raptorville. We saw dozens of hawks looking for a morning meal, perched on irrigation wheels in meadows by the roadside.

But I digress. My ride took a clockwise route, the obvious direction as you’re closest to the lake. There’s some huffing and puffing in the early going for someone used to sea-level riding, but soon enough I adjusted and the altitude didn’t bother me.

With 3,700 feet of climbing ahead, it came as no surprise that I had a long climb early on. Grades average 4-6 percent, so it’s nothing serious.

Because it’s late in the season, traffic was almost non-existent. If you’re really intent of avoiding cars, the road is closed for bikes only later in September.

With so many great views, the temptation to stop and take pics can add minutes to the ride, so count on at least three hours for the round-trip.

In the alpine setting, memories of past Sierra Rides rattled around. It’s easy to make the comparison, although the lake reminded me that this was Oregon and I didn’t have to worry about any 16 percent grades.

It’s almost impossible to get lost on this ride. I didn’t even bring a map. Just keep right at all the junctions. Over on the east side there’s a right turn to the Cloudcap Bay overlook, which adds two miles to the ride, for a total of 35 miles.

The east side is also where you’ll find the steepest descent where speeds of 40 mph can be reached if you’re willing to put up with the rough road.

While it’s all paved, there’s constant roadwork. Don’t be surprised to see short sections of dirt and construction. I’m sure lots of cyclists visit here, but I saw only two on my ride.

After driving on some of the approach roads, I can envision some long two-rides for hard-core riders. The roads are relatively free of traffic or have good shoulders. Hwy 97 out of Klamath Falls would be the lone exception. It has a narrow stretch bordered by lake and a cliff.

There’s a lot to see and do at the lake, including a boat ride, so plan on a day-long stay at minimum.

It's a nice view from the lodge.

It’s a nice view from the lodge.

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.


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