Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Hearst Castle by Bike – Dream On

October 15, 2013

About 17 miles north of San Simeon the climb begins on Hwy 1.

About 17 miles north of San Simeon the climb begins on Hwy 1.


Unfortunately cyclists will never experience Hearst Castle by bike, and what a ride it would be. It’s five miles from park headquarters to the footsteps of La Cuesta Encantada at 490 meters (1,600 feet) overlooking the rugged Santa Lucia Range. The first mile climbs gently but after that it’s a lung-buster with sections of 15 percent or more.

Well there’s always the coast highway. Highway 1 offers some spectacular views of the rugged Pacific coast, but that would not be a 20-mile stretch heading north from Cambria. It’s mostly flat. On a gloomy cool day with the hills shrouded in fog, the ride does not inspire. You’ll have to visit Hearst Castle for that; you will not be disappointed.

Not to be missed are the elephant seals that reside on the beach five miles north of San Simeon. Nearly hunted to extinction for their oil, they’ve made a healthy comeback. Now at least 10,000 seals live in the vicinity. They don’t seem to mind humans behind fences peering down.

Elephant seals like to sleep on the beach a few miles north of San Simeon.

Elephant seals like to sleep on the beach a few miles north of San Simeon.

Mt. Hamilton never fails to impress

September 24, 2013

Arnold Ranch on Mt. Hamilton Road. The shack in the background is an old outhouse. The food stand was removed eons ago.

Arnold Ranch on Mt. Hamilton Road. The shack in the background is an old outhouse. The food stand was removed eons ago.


In my 33 years riding the Mt. Hamilton loop I have always found something to make my day, whether it be wildflowers, elk or maybe the occasional tarantula ambling across the road.

Last Sunday it was the tarantula. The hairy brown arachnid paid me no attention as I took its picture and some video footage. I’m sure he didn’t appreciate the flash as he made his way to the other side of the road looking for someone to share a web with.

And then there’s the history. One of the high points riding with Jobst Brandt was when we went past Arnold Ranch. He could let out a cry that would make a peacock blush. They usually responded with a cry of their own.

When I stopped at the Junction store I inquired about the ranch and its long-forgotten food stand, which closed in the mid to late 1970s. Jobst often mentioned it on our rides. It turns out one of rancher Tom Arnold’s granddaughters runs the Junction store. Tom, who is long since past, did indeed have a store alongside the road, along with a campground. However, he did not sell hamburgers, only chips, soda and cookies.

The previous day’s soaking cleared the air and made for yet another beautiful ride on the backside of Mt. Hamilton where you can lose yourself in open space. I took the Hwy 84 shortcut just to be sure it was a shortcut. It is, lopping about 3 miles off the usual route along Stanley Boulevard through Pleasanton. 99 miles, which is enough to call it a day.

Grape harvest underway

September 15, 2013

Grapes ready for harvest at Kirgin Cellars near Gilroy.

Grapes ready for harvest at Kirgin Cellars near Gilroy.


I’m seeing a few vineyards picked, but most still have grapes, big beautiful dark blue grapes. Yum.

I checked out Redwood Retreat Road, one of my favorites. I always take Mt. Madonna Road and climb steeply on dirt, but this time I wanted to check out the road going straight. It ends in another mile, but not really.

The road turns to dirt and, while not signed, I’m sure it’s private and bikes would not be welcome. It can take you up to Summit Road. Back in the day…

Redwood Retreat Road off Watsonville Road doesn't go anywhere, but it's a nice ride for about four miles.

Redwood Retreat Road off Watsonville Road doesn’t go anywhere, but it’s a nice ride for about four miles.

It was NOT hot today

September 7, 2013

Stevens Canyon in September on a hot day can be downright cold.

Stevens Canyon in September on a hot day can be downright cold.


OK, it depends on where you rode and time of day. In Stevens Canyon this morning it was 55 degrees. Chillin…

Empire Grade a cyclist’s Santa Cruz Misery Spot

September 1, 2013

Jamison Creek Road at Empire Grade, a great place to be if you're headed down Jamison.

Jamison Creek Road at Empire Grade, a great place to be if you’re headed down Jamison.


I found a 100-mile route to Santa Cruz and back, something I’ve been searching for quite some time. Unfortunately it involves Empire Grade.

I can’t think of a less appetizing road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It goes nowhere, it offers no sweeping vistas, it climbs relentlessly and there’s a fair amount of traffic, although nowhere near as bad as Hwy 9.

However, it stands between the coast and the bay, so there’s no way around it.

I headed up Hwy 9 on another humid morning with temps in the low 60s. Lately we’ve been seeing humid days, a reminder of how good we have it in the Bay Area with low humidity.

At Skyline I headed down 9, riding through the the occasional hot pocket of air. I hadn’t ridden between Boulder Creek and Santa Cruz on 9 in quite some time, for good reason. There’s traffic and narrow shoulders. It’s really too bad because there isn’t an alternative.

Tannery and bike saddles
I passed the Tannery Arts Center just before the 9/Hwy 1 junction, which has a little cycling history. Before becoming an arts center, this was the site of the Salz Tannery. Back in the 1980s and up until the tannery closed in 2001, Avocet — famous for its bike saddles — purchased leather saddle covers from Salz. Another claim to fame: Ansel Adams photographed the tanning process here in 1954.

Santa Cruz was world-renowed for leather tanning from the 1860s onward. It had a ready supply of tan oak, which has tannin, a vital ingredient in the tanning process.

I headed north on Hwy 1 into a gentle breeze and took note of the absence of fog, although thin clouds blocked the sun part-way on the 10-mile ride to Bonny Doon Road.

Another reason I haven’t pursued the 100-mile route is Bonny Doon. It’s a steep grind for a couple miles, although it eases up and becomes more civil at the Bonny Doon winery. You can go left, staying on Bonny Doon, but most riders continue straight on Pine Flat Road.

Correctional camp and summit
After 7.5 miles I reached Empire Grade (2,100 feet) and turned left with the Alba Road descent in mind. There’s more climbing to 2,530 feet at the Ben Lemond Conservation Camp, actually a correctional institution of sorts. Low-risk offenders are trained in fire fighting and do community service in the area, such as trail building.

I passed up Alba Road, which is one of those climbs you don’t want to miss — once. It’s unrelentingly steep from Ben Lomond to Empire Grade, about 3.5 miles. I needed more miles, so on to Jamison Creek Road.

Empire Grade dead-ends about a mile farther on, but not really. It’s the site of the Lockheed Martin Santa Cruz Facility. Back in the 1970s-80s Jobst Brandt rode through here and on down a dirt road to Swanton Road. The guards didn’t take kindly to Jobst, but he always managed to talk his way through. I’m told they no longer test rockets, but have moved on to munitions. I don’t doubt they have a few space aliens stashed away as well.

But I digress. I headed down Jamison Creek Road — another lung-buster of a climb — that takes you to Big Basin Highway where you can turn right and ride downhill to Boulder Creek in a few miles.

From there it was all uphill on Hwy 9. Fortunately our funky weather didn’t turn out to be so hot, only in the mid 70s. Mileage came to 101. That’s close enough for government work.

What, no weekly ride report?

August 4, 2013

While I’m not going to stop posting articles, you won’t be seeing a weekly ride report. I’ve already shown and written about every ride route, several times. However, I am posting panorama photos on my personal website (link found at “Blogroll” in right-side navigation of this page).

I will dedicate more time to writing about bicycling and attending events in the years ahead (not far off), so stay tuned…

Coast Ride avoids headwinds

July 28, 2013

Gary Westby rides toward the coast on Cloverdale Road.

Gary Westby rides toward the coast on Cloverdale Road.


Would we have headwinds on the Coast Ride to Santa Cruz? Lately the wind has been out of the south on the coast, which I think is a not unusual pattern in the depth of the summer.

We knew there would be the usual gloomy fog, but it keeps the temps down, so you can’t really complain.

Gary Westby met me at the base of Old LaHonda Road where, as fate would have it, along comes Ted Mock and Joe Terhar, veteran riders I’ve known forever.

We chatted about the latest events, and it was good to see that they’re still riding strong.

Gary, 39, is the champagne buyer at K&L Wine Merchants, an upscale store in Redwood City that’s known far and wide for its outstanding collection of wine, beer and spirits.

Gary often travels to France to select fine champagne, meeting vintners and trying their latest vintage. It’s a thankless job but someone has to do it.

We rode up Old LaHonda at a friendly pace and greeted the fog at Skyline. After descending Hwy 84 we hung a left on Pescadero Road and continued over to the coast via Cloverdale Road and Gazos Creek Road.

The much feared headwinds did not materialize on the coast. It was pretty much calm the whole way to Santa Cruz.

Dogged by the all too frequent leg cramps, I couldn’t make much speed, but Advil, coffee and a banana kept me in the saddle.

I showed Gary the best route out of Santa Cruz, taking El Rancho Drive parallel to the south side of Hwy 17. We took Bean Creek Road from Scotts Valley, a nice route to Glenwood Highway.

Of course, we took Mtn. Charlie Road to reach Summit Road, where Gary headed home via Skyline and I rode down Old Santa Cruz Hwy. My ride totaled 108 miles.

Sometimes summer rides down the Coast can be uncomfortable, but this one turned out to be a delight, worthy of a champagne toast. Gary…

Gary rides past the blue silo house on Mtn. Charlie Road. You've got to love the owner's creativity.

Gary rides past the blue silo house on Mtn. Charlie Road. You’ve got to love the owner’s creativity.

Skyline Boulevard gives perspective

July 21, 2013

Skyline Boulevard view overlooking Old La Honda Road west.

Skyline Boulevard view overlooking Old La Honda Road west.


After several weeks away from the bike, making it to Skyline Boulevard becomes the goal. Today’s ride up Hwy 9 reminded me why living here is the cyclist’s paradise.

As I rolled through Saratoga I saw lots of gleaming vehicles gathered for a car show, including my favorite — the Jaguar XKE.

Mild temperatures brought out the crowd as I had plenty of company on the 7-mile climb. While it felt a bit warm on 9, a cool breeze greeted me at Saratoga Gap, 2550 feet. I continued north on Skyline Boulevard, where lots of motorists enjoyed a drive on the scenic route.

Skyline views never fail to impress. Look left and there’s the fogged in Pacific. Look right and you see Silicon Valley. What a way to spend a Sunday morning.

Eucalyptus trees burn brightly

July 14, 2013

Large eucalyptus trees lined Arastradero Road until a 1985 fire.

Large eucalyptus trees lined Arastradero Road until a 1985 fire.


Thanks to the Australian gold miners in the 1850s, we have eucalyptus trees in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some residents of Los Altos Hills and Oakland may take a dim view of these highly flammable trees.

When they catch fire they act as an accelerant. In 1985 a stand of giant eucalyptus lining Arastradero Road were engulfed in flames from a grass fire. Nine homes burned on Liddicoat Lane.

After the fire, the trees were cut down. They might have recovered, but would you want eucalyptus trees in your back yard?

Over the years in Portola Valley and elsewhere large eucalyptus are gradually being removed.

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the trees back in the 80s, although there are still quite a few on Portola Road cutoff. Even these are disappearing though.

Bike art comes in many forms

June 16, 2013

I'm not sure what it all means, but I still prefer bike art over modern art.

I’m not sure what it all means, but I still prefer bike art over modern art.


On a perfect 10 weather day I rode up Hwy 9, where I met a couple of riders willing to slow down enough to hold a conversation. Eric Gray and his brother duked it out. Turns out Eric had recently ridden down Hwy 17 with Fast Freddy Markham. “We hit 58 mph at the Lexington Reservoir descent,” he said. I believe it.

According to Wikipedia, in 2006 Fred set a one-hour record distance of 85.99 km (53.43 mi) on the track at the Nissan Technical Center, near Casa Grande in Arizona. He’s a rocket on the bike.

I continued down Hwy 9 to Boulder Creek, one of those rare days when you won’t freeze while wearing a short-sleeve jersey. I continued up Bear Creek Road. Over the years I’ve grown accustomed to the climb. It’s on the verge of being annoying at 8 percent for long stretches and traffic is more like moderate than light.

At least the first four miles is mellow and the road has a wide shoulder here. There’s even some bike art at the side of the road. It’s not really clear to me what it symbolizes, but what the heck. It’s a bike.

I continued up Summit Road to Skyline and enjoyed delightfully refreshing cool air under sunny skies. We have a fair amount of weather like today’s, but when you’re only riding on weekends, you learn to appreciate them.

David Bruce knows how to make a fine wine. End of the climb on Bear Creek Road.

David Bruce knows how to make a fine wine. End of the climb on Bear Creek Road.


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