Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Hwy 84 reboot 30 years later

April 21, 2013

Plenty of water on the Mt. Hamilton ride. At the summit there's a spigot at the dining hall.

Plenty of water on the Mt. Hamilton ride. At the summit there’s a spigot at the dining hall.


Looking for some variety on the Mt. Hamilton loop, I set out this morning from home (115 miles, 8,500 feet climbing) and decided to check out Hwy 84 from Livermore heading back to Calaveras Road.

Jobst Brandt used to lead us that way until I and others decided it was a bit dicey riding up Pigeon Pass (875 feet) on a narrow two-lane road with no shoulder. Around 1983 we started taking Vineyard Avenue for a time until housing development made it less desirable. Then Jobst switched to Stanley Boulevard.

A two-mile stretch of Hwy 84, or Vallecitos Road, was widened at a cost of $32 million, completed in October 2008. This stretch of Hwy 84 was built in 1931.

On the hottest day of the year so far (90 degrees in Livermore), I started the climb at around 500 feet. I remembered it as being a grind and it still is, about 6-7 percent. It’s just long enough to be annoying.

The good news is that there’s a massive shoulder, with a rumble strip on the side, but even with that there’s plenty of room. The other good news is that the descent is wide open at 34 mph. Lots of traffic though.

There’s only one narrow section of 0.14 miles just before the 680 junction. You need to take the Sunol underpass exit to put yourself on Calaveras Road. I saw a couple on tandem heading the other way.

Even with coffee and chocolate coffee beans to stave off cramps, I started feeling twitches around 58 miles, so I downed a couple of Advil and that took care of the muscles. No doubt heat was a factor.

Mt. Hamilton overlook four miles up. Click here for full size.

Mt. Hamilton overlook four miles up. Click here for full size.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Bike Trail Closure

April 14, 2013

San Tomas Aquino Creek recreation path will be closed at the new stadium starting April 15. A detour will be in effect for a year.

San Tomas Aquino Creek recreation path will be closed at the new stadium starting April 15. A detour will be in effect for a year.


Today was the last day for a year that you could ride past the new San Francisco 49ers stadium (will it have a corporate name?) as the parking lot at Great America gets a makeover.

I rode past today for a final look at the stadium, is moving along. City of Santa Clara posted a map of the detour. It’s too complicated to explain here.

I continued north, taking the usual route around Moffett Field to reach Shoreline Park. It’s such a nice way to go, even with the wind. The blue-billed ruddy ducks bobbing in the ponds made my day.

If you’re looking for a quick way to ride through Palo Alto after taking the bike/ped bridge over 101 at Oregon Expressway, nothing beats Greer Road, Channing Avenue, Guinda.

Henry Coe Park Puts Spring in Your Ride

April 7, 2013

Jackson Ranch belongs to Santa Clara County Parks, since 2006.

Jackson Ranch belongs to Santa Clara County Parks, since 2006.


With unsettled weather in the forecast I decided to head south and hope for the best. Turns out the weather cooperated, especially the wind. There wasn’t any wind to speak of in the morning on the Coyote Creek Trail. On the return the wind came from the south a bit as a weak cold front moved through, which I counted on.

There’s nothing new to report about Coyote Creek Trail, except that the efforts to remove the homeless from along the creek seem futile. I saw plenty of encampments. It’s a difficult situation and one that will not go away anytime soon.

Early morning is the best time to ride the trail because by mid-morning you’ll see dog walkers, hikers, and all sorts of folks out for some casual exercise.

The model airplane club must get a late start. I didn’t see any planes taking off as I rode by.

The climb to Henry Coe Park begs comparison to Mt. Hamilton. They have some basic similarities. Both climb a mountain, they’re narrow, winding, and have ups and downs. E. Dunne Avenue is much steeper in places, but it only rises to about 2,800 feet. It’s not as long and it wasn’t built at a steady grade like Mt. Hamilton. Both roads aren’t what I’d call smooth. Upper E. Dunne is downright bumpy.

Henry Coe Park entrance. Click on image for full size.

Henry Coe Park entrance. Click on image for full size.

I stopped at the Jackson Ranch to snap a photo. Its 36 acres was purchased by the county for $1 million.

On the way back I took the secret dirt road off the paved trail where a bridge crosses Coyote Creek near Anderson Reservoir. This trail takes you to Burnett Avenue where you can blithely ride over Hwy 101 sans on and off ramps. It’s the only crossing of its kind for miles. I made my way back to McKean Road via Hale Avenue and home, slicing three miles off the 45-mile ride to Henry Coe.

About two miles down from Henry Coe Park.

About two miles down from Henry Coe Park.

Return to Stevens Canyon

March 29, 2013

A tree down on Canyon Trail. I forgot my saw.

A tree down on Canyon Trail. I forgot my saw.


Looking for a more mellow ride today under sunny skies and summer-like temperatures, I headed up Hwy 9 and then north on Skyline.

I checked out the trail entrance across from Horseshoe Lake (MB06), but I could tell that goes into a ravine and I was in no mood for climbing back out. It’s also closed for seasonal mud.

So I rode on Page Mill Road and decided to try the entrance across from Alpine Road (MB04). I stayed along the upper ridge, which was nice enough single-track and not steep. It took me over to the parking lot for Monte Bello and Stevens Canyon, which MROSD calls Canyon Trail.

The 0.3-mile single-track down to Stevens Canyon Road is gnarly enough for a mountain bike. I stopped to admire the sag pond, a unique geological feature of the San Andreas Fault. It’s hard to believe that one of the most dangerous fault lines resides right here.

As I made my way on the 4.3-mile road, it brought back some memories of past rides back in the day when we rode sew-ups on the rocky stuff. Despite the tires, we had few problems. I also remembered the two nasty steep climbs prior to the big descent that always take you by surprise.

Given all the bike traffic this road sees, it’s in fine shape. I enjoyed the wide, flat sections and gentle descents, of which there are quite a few. About two miles down I came across a dead oak tree on the trail. It looked like it had fallen recently. You just don’t want to be under it when it happens. That’s a more likely occurrence than meeting a mountain lion.

I did see a giant wild turkey though. It looked to be twice the size of all the wild turkeys I had ever seen.

When I got to the last single-track where the road disappears I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to ride. The single-track enters an opening where Stevens Creek runs through a flat, sandy spot. When I reached the creek I was reminded of Keith’s Folly. This time there was plenty of water flowing and I could see how it might present an obstacle on a road bike as the tires sink into the soft bottom.

It’s good to see this ride can still be done, and on a nice spring day it had just the right mellow.

Stevens Creek, the scene of Keith's Folly, with plenty of water.

Stevens Creek, the scene of Keith’s Folly, with plenty of water.

Obstacle removed on Palo Alto bike path

March 16, 2013
It's the small things in life that can make your day. Creekside Drive in Palo Alto has a path crossing Adobe Creek. It must have taken an act of God, but the extremely annoying chicane at both entrances has been removed. Now it's smooth sailing.

It’s the small things in life that can make your day. Creekside Drive in Palo Alto has a path crossing Adobe Creek. It must have taken an act of God, but the extremely annoying chicane at both entrances has been removed. Now it’s smooth sailing.

Mt. Hamilton Elk Make an Appearance

March 10, 2013
On a clear day you can see the Sierra from Mt. Hamilton summit. Click here for larger photo.

On a clear day you can see the Sierra from Mt. Hamilton summit. Click here for larger photo.

With daylight saving time in effect, I couldn’t start the 102-mile Mt. Hamilton ride until 8 a.m. under clear skies and temps in the low 40s. By the time I had climbed a mile on Mt. Hamilton after a six-mile warmup my fingers thawed out. With the coffee buzz in effect, I hammered up the road just like the days of old.

Although it had rained a fair amount a day or two ago, wildflowers were nowhere to be found except for some California poppies on the descent into Livermore. But talk about nice weather. A breeze kicked up near the summit as temps climbed into the mid 50s.

Plunging down the east side I stopped to enjoy the view of the distant Sierra, shrouded in clouds. About two miles down I saw the spring running fairly well, but not needing water, I didn’t stop.

In San Antonio Valley I had the pleasure of seeing the elk herd. They show up from time to time, at least on my annual schedule they do. This was the largest herd I had seen.

At The Junction store I noticed construction across the road. It’s a Santa Clara County maintenance depot under construction. They lost their lease on Del Puerto Canyon Road and decided to buy some land. Inside I bought another cup of coffee ($1.50). It would serve me well through the rest of the ride, including an absence of the usual leg cramps. Droves of cyclists went the other way on Mines Road as part of an organized ride.

Arroyo Mocho Creek barely had water in many sections, but where there was water the bullfrogs made their presence known. Lacking Internet access, about all they can do is croak a melodious song hoping to attract a mate. Life without Match.com: It must be tough.

I took the Arroyo Mocho Trail through Livermore, completely avoiding street traffic until Stanley Boulevard. More good news. Stanley Boulevard bike lane is 90 percent complete. I zoomed into Pleasanton with a tailwind on a spacious bike lane.

Finally, riding up Calaveras Road I found renewed strength and powered my way to the summit. Reminded me of old times.

Elk graze in San Antonio Valley. Did they miss the wildflowers?

Elk graze in San Antonio Valley. Did they miss the wildflowers?

Loma Prieta Beckons

March 3, 2013
Loma Prieta, left, looking north.

Loma Prieta looking north.

Loma Prieta mountain at one time commanded as much attention as Mt. Hamilton, until Lick Observatory and road were built. It was an object of curiosity for the first motor cars that ventured into the Santa Cruz Mountains.

My route took me up Old Santa Cruz Hwy to Summit Road and south, where I stopped for coffee at the oh-so-nice Summit Store. To fully appreciate the gentrified store you need to have been to the old one, pre-Loma Prieta Earthquake. It was, shall we say, rustic. Today you can choose from six different coffees, not to mention lattes.

According to the tradition of all Jobst Rides heading south to Loma Prieta, I should have stayed on Summit Road to Mt. Bache. However, I decided to go up Loma Prieta Road where it joins Summit Road, a short distance from Summit Store. I had ridden down it once. As it turns out, it’s a nice climb, better than Mt. Bache, in my opinion. There’s about a half-mile of dirt before joining Summit Road.

Under cloudy skies, but fairly warm temps, I continued south on Summit Road past scattered off-grid houses clinging to the ridge line that extends all the way to Mt. Madonna County Park. Four or five motorcycles passed me, as well as about a half-dozen cars. It’s a great road for testing a car’s shocks and suspension.

I stopped mid-way to look back and admire Loma Prieta, festooned with cell and other communication towers. I sped down the paved section of Summit Road to Mt. Madonna Road and turned left for more steep dirt descending. The loop was completed on the gently rolling Uvas Road and McKean Road.

Lower Loma Prieta Road is unusual among area roads in that it's mostly straight.

Lower Loma Prieta Road is unusual among area roads in that it’s mostly straight.

Bad Karma?

March 1, 2013
How would your tire handle a flat caused by a broken spoke?

How would your tire handle a flat caused by a broken spoke?

Some might say this spoke (not mine) that caused a rear flat was bad Karma. The way I see it, I made it to work in once piece and that’s the only Karma that matters.

Here’s justification for buying quality bike tires: My 700×28 Continental Gator Hardshell not only survived the spoke, I had a hard time finding the hole. This tire, handmade in Germany, has proven its worth.

Hetch Hetchy Upgrade On a Roll

February 10, 2013

Dam building continues at Calaveras Reservoir just up the road from the new Irvington Hetch Hetchy tunnel.

Dam building continues at Calaveras Reservoir.


For the past couple of years I’ve been watching progress on the Hetch Hetchy Irvington Tunnel visible from Calaveras Road. Today as I rode by I saw a huge concrete edifice up against the hill, a 17 million gallon water storage tank next to the tunnel entrance.

It’s amazing what $4.2 billion will buy you, the cost of the Hetch Hetchy upgrade. KQED posted a fascinating 11-minute video on the Irvington tunnel and the Hetch Hetchy water system.

Meanwhile, as I continued up Calaveras Road I passed by yet another public works project, the rebuilding of Calaveras Reservoir, which has been deemed unsafe in the event of a mighty temblor.

It felt like one giant public works project on this ride. Dumbarton Bridge is still undergoing earthquake retrofitting, but that work did not disrupt my ride. Construction on the Alameda Creek Trail finished a while ago, so it’s open for business. Tree roots make for a bumpy ride in many sections.

Talk about bumpy, Niles Canyon Hwy 84 now has a rumble strip down the middle its entire length. It didn’t seem to affect drivers. In narrow sections they still moved over to pass.

Finally, most of the trees have been removed alongside San Tomas Expressway as work continues on the next stretch of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail from Cabrillo to El Camino. There’s still no indication of how the San Tomas/El Camino intersection will be treated.

Super Bowl Ride Derailed

February 3, 2013
Laurel Tunnel, South Pacific Coast Railroad, is more visible after trees were cut.

Laurel Tunnel, South Pacific Coast Railroad, is more visible after trees were cut.

Today’s ride under gloomy skies and high humidity started cold and warmed up, a bit. It’s amazing how humidity contributes to feeling cold. 48 degrees isn’t usually bad, but today was an exception.

On my tour of broken roads I took Morrell short-cut between Summit Road and San Jose-Soquel Road. It has a couple of sags where the road is sliding away. The road hasn’t been paved in eons and it’s one giant pothole.

Redwood Lodge Road had a washout, which has been repaired. I recall riding down here one day and having to walk over a giant slide with Jobst Brandt and riders, not far beyond where the recent washout occurred.

Laurel train tunnel is now easily visible from Laurel Road/Schulthies Road. Someone cut down some trees blocking the view. You can imagine the train going through, whistle blowing, engine belching smoke.


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