Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

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.

Zayante Road a Hidden Gem in the Santa Cruz Mountains

January 27, 2013

Zayante store has everything a rider needs to fuel the ride home.

Zayante store has everything a rider needs to fuel the ride home.


My introduction to Zayante Road came on a particularly frenetic ride led by Jobst Brandt back in 1900 and 80. A fit bunch of riders they were, mostly racers and at the top of their game.

We made our way from Palo Alto over the Santa Cruz Mountains, taking a dirt road (not government approved) that tested our steel and sew-ups like no other. I for one was hammered by the time we reached Santa Cruz, but there was more to come.

Jobst took us up a steep, winding, narrow road that would become one of my favorite routes in the years ahead. But this was no fun ride as attack after attack ensued on the gnarliest climbs of 14 percent. There is one particularly nasty stretch, the last of the steep stuff, topping out at 17 percent. But don’t let that dissuade you.

By the time we reached Skyline about half of us were fried and strung out to find our way home at a manageable pace. I’ll never forget Marc Brandt begging me for a Fig Newton, totally bonked. Jobst had gone on ahead, unfazed by the long ride that clicked in at around 120 miles. Those were the days.

Zayante Road is so remote it sees little traffic, and the view — inspiring as you embrace the redwoods and the deep narrow canyons with creeks below.

On this day I rode down Zayante after climbing Hwy 9, temps in the upper 30s, low 40s. Plentiful sunshine didn’t help much until the return up 9.

Zayante Road will test your riding skills on the twisty, bumpy descent. There’s only one brief gentle climb on the way into the town of Zayante, which has but one store. I stopped for a cup of coffee, a first for me, but it hit the spot and made the ride up 9 go a little faster.

On the easy climb of Quail Hollow Road I spotted a dead pine tree riddled with woodpecker holes. Acorn woodpeckers and others spend hours drilling holes and pushing acorns into dead trees, which is no doubt why this tree was cut. They’re in there tight and, yes, sometimes even woodpeckers can’t get them out.

On the ride up 9 the sun budged the thermometer to the low 50s, but nearing Skyline it dropped back to 44. Not bad for the last weekend ride in January.

Woody had a field day with this tree on Quail Hollow Road.

Woody had a field day with this tree on Quail Hollow Road.

Catch of the Day

December 16, 2012

Steelhead found in San Tomas Aquino Creek. Dinner is served.

Steelhead found in San Tomas Aquino Creek. Dinner is served.


Found today in San Tomas Aquino Creek: one dead Steelhead trout, or salmon. The California gull doesn’t quite know what to do.

At least that’s what it looks like. I’m no ichthyologist. Here’s what Wikipedia said about the creek and Steelhead:

“A 1985 California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) survey of Saratoga Creek noted ‘a major steelhead and king salmon spawning area’ on San Tomas Aquino Creek located approximately 200 yards downstream of the Saratoga and San Tomas Aquino creeks confluence.” That’s exactly where I found this fish.

Just north of here there’s an artificial waterfall about three feet high. I can’t imagine this fish jumping up, but maybe it did so when we had the heavy rains.

On the way back I enjoyed Coyote Creek Trail and then took the newly paved stretch of path along the mighty Guadalupe River. Why oh why didn’t they leave the ramp from Trimble Road onto the trail? Maintenance trucks also use these ramps. There’s a driveway a short distance away but you have to ride the sidewalk.

Note that at low points under bridges there is minor path flooding in this area.

Trails Along Muddy Waters

December 4, 2012

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail after heavy rains. Local agencies do the cleanup.

San Tomas Aqunio Creek Trail after heavy rains. Local agencies do the clean-up.


My headline is not as catchy as Bridge Over Troubled Waters, but that about described the situation at San Tomas Aquino Creek trail last week when we had heavy rains.

Thanks to the city of Santa Clara and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, we have a creek-side trail that stays open year-round with the exception of the gully washers we see occasionally in the Bay Area.

If you think they’re being unreasonable closing the trail, you would be wrong. Yesterday I captured a photo of some debris jammed between guard rails and left-over mud at the low spot just north of Monroe Avenue. Had that trail been open, you would not be safe there. Even if the water had receded, the trail would be coated with a thin lay of mud slicker than snot.

Now there’s an invitation for a fall by anyone using the trail. This is not the only low spot that floods. The other location is next to a fire station at Agnew Road.

I don’t know who does the clean-up, the city of Santa Clara or Santa Clara Valley Water District, but they deserve some high praise. I use the trail on my commute and it makes my day.

That leads me to a similar situation on Coyote Creek at Highway 237. This underpass could be a through trail, but it is not and according to my reliable source, there is no plan to make it accessible by bike or on foot. I have long wondered why. The reason given is that the underpass, which is lined with concrete and passable by a vehicle, is a box culvert subject to flooding. No disagreement there.

There is a way to fix that and we see it on San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail. Gates placed at strategic locations keep people out during heavy rains. (At minimum open it during the dry season.) It’s an excellent system and one that could be applied at Coyote Creek.

Coyote Creek underpass at Hwy 237. It's a muddy mess, but with a little attention it could be usable for bikes. Homeless people use it all the time.

Coyote Creek underpass at Hwy 237. It’s a muddy mess, but with a little attention it could be usable for bikes. Homeless people use it all the time.

Local Trails Paving the Way with Good Intentions

November 20, 2012

An old Hwy 237 frontage road between Zanker and McCarthy Blvd. has been repaved. What a difference.


If you think too much of our hard-earned money goes to government waste, you’d be right, but there are some notable exceptions, such as the local Coyote Creek and Guadalupe River trails.

I meandered out that way this morning to check out the fabulous paved Guadalupe River Trail from the airport to Montague Expressway. I haven’t ridden it yet because the entryways are still being completed at Trimble Road. It looks like they’ll be done by Thanksgiving. There’s work going on beyond Montague as well, so it won’t be long before we’ll have another paved path to Alviso. Today you can take San Tomas Aquino Creek path most of the way to Alviso.

If you’re someone who wants to know just how much use San Jose trails see, there’s a 2012 trail report just for you. They’re seeing substantial growth year to year.

While it’s only about a half-mile, the gnarly stretch between Zanker Road and McCarthy Boulevard paralleling 237 on the north side is newly paved. Now if we could see the Coyote Creek path under Hwy 237 open, there would be some nice loop rides free of traffic. One of these days.

Work continues on the 49ers stadium. Seating keeps going higher.

Finally, the 49ers stadium continues to progress. They’re working on the nose-bleed section now. Fortunately the San Tomas Aquino Creek trail is being kept open during construction. They even have traffic control, and trail traffic has priority.

Mountains Behind Fort Collins Great for Cycling

September 22, 2012

Masonville artwork. “Eagle” and “bear” dominate road names in these parts.


How times have changed since the days I attended Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colorado, in terms of cycling opportunities.

In the early 1970s many roads in the nearby mountains were dirt. This was before I knew sturdy tires could handle the dirt roads, although I recall the roads had a fair amount of gravel.

Fast forward to September 2012 and a beautiful day in the Rockies. I parked at Big Thompson Elementary School at Hwy 34 (Big Thompson Canyon) and rode north on County Road 27, Buckhorn Road.

It’s a gradual climb through a peaceful valley to Masonville. On the way you can check out the Arkins Park Stone Quarry on your left, where a lot of flagstone is taken out for building projects.

Masonville is one of those outposts from the 1890s back when there was still gold fever. Nothing panned out though. There’s a general store where you can stock up on provisions. Do so now because there aren’t any stores until near Fort Collins.

Turning left, I continued on Buckhorn Road through more lush valleys where you’ll find isolated, modern faux ranch homes scattered among the surrounding hills.

As the miles tick by you’ll start a series of stair-step climbs which get steeper by the mile, probably around 8 percent at their steepest. The elevation only goes to about 7,300 feet from 5,200 feet, with many ups and downs.

Buckhorn Canyon narrows

My favorite section comes where the road narrows as it heads through a rocky outcrop and passes a grove of aspen. If you leave early on a Sunday morning, you won’t see much traffic, although it picks up later in the day as the motorcycle tourists show up to enjoy the view. You will see a fair number of competitive cyclists riding out here.

A narrow section of Buckhorn Road brings you close to the Rockies.

The road name changes to Stove Prairie a few miles before the Rist Canyon Road junction and summit.

It’s also here where you’ll notice the effects of the High Park Fire that burned 87,000 acres, destroyed 259 homes and took one life. It started on June 9 from a lightning strike and was fully contained a month later.

Fortunately the fire skipped along the high peaks and left the valleys I saw unscathed, although I avoided Rist Canyon where most of the damage occurred.

Rist Canyon popular
Rist Canyon Road climbs steadily from Fort Collins at about a 6 percent grade. Coming from Stove Prairie Road there’s a steep climb of about a mile before the descent begins. (It was dirt in the 1970s.)

Final climb on Stove Prairie Road to the summit, 7,300 feet, at the Rist Canyon Road junction.

I continued downhill on Stove Prairie Road because I wanted to check out Poudre Canyon where I spent a lot of time in my youth. Watch out for the cattle guards on the way down. The second one has a wide gap where you can ding your rim.

It’s a brisk descent on the winding road through Roosevelt National Forest. Turn right at Poudre Canyon Road and you’ll have a spectacular view of Poudre River as you head downhill on a gentle grade. If only the traffic weren’t so bad!

Even in the 1970s it wasn’t pleasant, but today Poudre Canyon is the gateway for RVs and trailers going to the high country. I didn’t see a single cyclist on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon, and I’m not surprised.

Call it Karma: As I emerged from the canyon I passed the truck hauling its oversize camper that nearly ran me off the road. Its owner was changing a flat tire as I sped by.

Poudre Canyon, great for riding, if you get there early and beat the traffic.

Ted’s Place a memory
I stopped at the historic Ted’s Place store at the Hwy 287 junction. Today the store is gone and there’s just a cookie-cutter gas station. The original building looked like a Swiss chalet and stocked just about anything a camper could need.

After hours in the saddle on a dry, warm day in the Rockies, you’ll develop a powerful thirst. Bring plenty of water on these days to avoid dehydration.

I continued south on 287 for a short distance before turning right on W. County Road 54E, then left at Rist Canyon Road, which leads to Bellvue with its old buildings surrounded by farm land. There’s a state fish hatchery nearby worth a look.

Horsetooth Reservoir climbs
In Bellvue turn right and continue south on County Road 23, which is also called Centennial Drive. Horsetooth Reservoir’s narrow lake is nestled between two ridges and goes for miles. You’ll enjoy the ups and downs along the way, with grades of about 8 percent. From up here you’ll have sweeping views of Fort Collins. Hughes Stadium is also at the base of the mountain. It’s a nice spot, but too far away from the CSU campus, in the opinion of many.

Once past the southern end of the reservoir, there’s one more long climb before the road levels and it’s mostly downhill back to Masonville on W. County Road 38E, then south to Hwy 34 for a 60-mile trip. An alternate route is to go left on County Road 25E, Glade Road and miss Masonville.

There’s plenty of nearby adventure riding in this area on dirt roads, as documented by Bicycle Quarterly.

Horsetooth Reservoir could use some water. Enjoy the ups and downs here.

Lick Skillet Road: Can You Say Steep?

September 17, 2012

Is Lick Skillet Road outside Boulder, Colorado, the steepest county road in the U.S.? Let’s just say it’s steep. This view is looking downhill.


As a veteran Jobst Rider, no ride is complete without some dirt. I had heard there was dirt aplenty in the hills overlooking Boulder, Colorado, from the always reliable Bruce Hildenbrand, so I decided to have a look.

First though I met with Ray Keener to catch up on old times, he being a veteran of Palo Alto Bicycles when I was also working there in mail order back in the mid 80s. Ray is a wheeler and dealer, so to speak. Does Facebook stop counting after 1,000 friends? Ask Ray.

Today he’s preparing for the upcoming Interbike trade show in Las Vegas where he is representing the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA), a professional advocacy organization.

Ray mapped out a route for me that called for a ride going east away from the mountains but I’m sure he realized this was just a warmup. Ray was nursing a separated shoulder from a recent bike spill, but some medication took the edge off and he could ride.

We caught up on the old days as the miles flew by. Briefly I rode his wheel and I can’t tell you what great memories that brought back. Jobst and Ray are both 6’5″ and make great drafts. I continued on while Ray returned to Boulder. Nelson Road took me back to the alluring Rockies, as I passed a large Amgen facility. This being Boulder, I saw not one but two organized bike rides.

Lefthand Canyon Drive
Lefthand Canyon Drive looked like the place to go to test my gears, as confirmed by Ray. I had ridden across Colorado in the mid 80s from Durango to Denver and the high passes failed to impress. Way too easy.

I was looking for something with a little more inclination. Lefthand Canyon climbs steadily, but once again I was not impressed. However, I was told by a rider I met on the road that the last two miles before Ward is 12-15 percent (it’s about 9%). At 9,000 feet altitude that’s up there with Sonora Pass in difficulty.

Lick Skillet Road
But I was looking for Switzerland Trail, which Bruce said is worth checking out. I found this squiggly line on the map called Lick Skillet Road that could take me there. As I turned left onto the smooth dirt with plenty of washboard I saw a sign that warned “Steep, Narrow Road.” They were wrong about the narrow part.

Now here was something I could relate to. I climbed OK for about a half mile but at 7,500 feet and having only arrived in Denver two days ago, breathing came with difficulty. I knew there was only one way up this grade that averages 14% (sadly my bike computer with inclinometer had a dead battery), so I used my legs in other ways.

At the top of the climb I discovered the site of the oldest gold mine in Colorado at the town of Gold Hill. It looks like a ghost town but it’s not. People live here, lots of people.

According to Wikipedia, Lick Skillet is the steepest county road in the U.S. I’m not so sure, but I’ll give it some well-deserved respect.

Switzerland Trail being farther up the hill and not flat, I decided to head down Gold Run Road (becomes Fourmile Canyon Drive), which I knew to be all downhill. While dirt roads in the Rockies can be a nightmare on a road bike if they have lots of gravel, Gold Run was relatively smooth and an inch of rain two days before knocked down the dust.

On my way down I saw about 10 riders heading up. It’s not as steep as Lick Skillet, but you’re looking at sections of 10 percent and maybe even steeper. With so many elite riders in Boulder, I was not surprised to see most of the riders on road bikes.

Of course, finding my way back to Ray’s place near the CU campus had me taking the steep 9th Avenue to reach Baseline Road. I have a knack for finding steep. (This ride is officially Jobst Approved.)

Gold Run Road heading to Boulder winds through a pine forest, but recent fires have devastated the area.

Highline Canal a Cyclist’s Delight in Denver

September 14, 2012

While the real riding is in the Rockies, the way there from Denver is made easier by the Highline Canal, which winds through the city for miles and miles and miles. This is the intersection with the Cherry Creek Trail, which heads downtown.

I’ve done limited riding in Denver and this was my first time riding on the Highline Canal, which did not disappoint. This ditch was dug eons ago for irrigation and fortunately it has been left intact all these years.

For anyone wanting to ride from Denver into the mountains, a good way to go is the Highline Canal, at least until Colorado Boulevard where you’ll take Dartmouth Avenue over to Bear Creek Bikeway and then into the mountains via any number of roads.

There are a few major roads that require stopping for lights, but most of the other crossings, while at grade, don’t see all that much traffic.

There’s a great bike map issued by the Denver Bicycle Touring Club that shows the many trails through Denver as well as identifying the good roads to ride. It’s sold at the better bike shops in Denver.

As with most multi-use trails, it’s best to ride here early on weekends or on a weekday. Note that the trail is lined with plenty of puncture vine. Beware.

Little Basin and Beyond

August 19, 2012

Brian Cox begins the long climb on Eagle Rock cutoff at Little Basin. It was hot and dusty, but par for the course in August. Mountain bikers occasionally frequent the road these days.


Where to ride in the dead of August in the Santa Cruz Mountains? The air is hot, the trails dusty, and those annoying gnats…

I suggested Eagle Rock and it was my good fortune to have Brian Cox along because I hadn’t been there in 25 years. My compass was broken. In addition, you won’t find this road on most maps.

After waiting 10 minutes, Brian finally showed up, slowed by a flat. We buzzed down Hwy 9 under clear skies. Quickly enough the temperature dropped from the mid 70s to the mid 60s as we entered the redwoods, a refreshing relief. We made our way up and down Hwy 236 and then took the Escape Road into Big Basin Park, which of late has seen some welcome improvements in facilities.

We downed an ice cream bar from the local store and then continued on Hwy 236 in search of Little Basin Road. Jobst Brandt and friends frequented this road and Eagle Rock for decades. It had a special meaning for Jobst because he worked for HP and enjoyed group picnics at Little Basin.

In 2011 after lengthy negotiations with Sempervirens Fund, Peninsula Open Space Trust and the state of California, HP sold the land and facilities, which in turn became the newest addition to Big Basin State Park. Cabins and other facilities in the meadow area are now operated by a non-profit in cooperation with Big Basin State Park. Anyone interested can make reservations.

But I digress. Right turn on signed Little Basin at the top of the hill. It’s a narrow, bumpy paved road. Suddenly we’re passing a dozen or more cars leaving Little Basin! That’s right, the campgrounds are alive and well.

We passed the overhead Little Basin sign that looked like it had been there 50 million years. No trespassing signs from a long-ago era remain. A short distance farther along Brian perked up when he saw the W 73 state highway sign. I’m sure it means something, but it remains a mystery. There is a route 73 but it’s in Southern California.

After about a mile and a half the road split at two gates. Right goes to the Little Basin campgrounds and left goes on a flat unsigned dirt road, our destination. After another half-mile we arrived at the dreaded yellow gate where beyond we had a long grind of 20 percent grades ahead.

When we were young and strong, some could ride non-stop, Jobst included. Today though the road was dusty, our engines aging and lacking power. Brian made a try and managed some long pulls while I walked and kept about the same speed as Brian. We carried on this way as the inclinometer ticked off 22 percent in sections. Did I mention the flies? They kept us company.

At one point in a slide area where walking is required we came across a couple hiking. We exchanged pleasantries and carried on as the grade eased to a more manageable 6-8 percent. In about two miles we arrived at another gate. Beyond the gate we took a hard right and continued another quarter mile to Empire Grade. If you go right on Empire Grade in a short distance you’ll reach the missile test sight owned by Lockheed. I don’t think they test missiles there anymore, but it’s still private.

Going left on Empire Grade, we rolled along, passing Crest Ranch’s Christmas tree farm to our left. There’s also a state correctional facility nearby on Empire Grade where inmates learn the intricacies of firefighting.

We headed left at Alba Road for one of the longest and steepest grades around. Fortunately we were descending. I’ve ridden up this road two times and I’m thinking that’s enough. After several miles we wound up on busy Hwy 9 at Ben Lomond. We tanked up on a quart of Orangina at Johnnie’s market in Boulder Creek and headed up 9 and home.

Are Your Favorite Trails Getting Rockier?

July 22, 2012

Mt. Tamalpais Railroad Grade in 2007. Erosion washes away topsoil to reveal rocks, rocks, and more rocks.


Today while on my 10-mile loop ride through Almaden Quicksilver County Park I thought about the condition of Mine Hill “Trail” and other “trails” open to bikes here. They’re really roads previously used for mining operations. Are they better or worse than when I started riding in the park 10 years ago?

And what about the rest of the trails and dirt roads I’ve been riding on the past 32 years in the Santa Cruz Mountains? Better? Worse? Same?

On the whole, they’re about the same, with some notable exceptions. Locations with heavy bike use are noticeably worse, in my opinion. I can’t pull out a ruler and measure the difference, can’t show you pictures of then and now.

As we know, erosion is a 24×7 process — rain, wind, ice, earthquakes, and other natural forces change our landscape. Humans on foot, horse, and bike erode roads and trails, but to what degree is open to interpretation. I’ve read some studies, but they leave you with this “what does it all mean?” feeling.

Bikes also erode trails to varying degrees depending on the location. I’ve noticed trails through the redwoods where there’s a lot of topsoil, leaves and branches erode the least, while trails in dry, rocky areas with lots of trail traffic are worse for wear.

My time on the bike came at a pivotal moment in cycling — the birth of the mountain bike. It was only a few years riding with Jobst Brandt and friends on trails with our racing bikes before I started seeing mountain bikers. Trails have changed since then, but I can’t tell you how much is due to mountain bikes and how much is just erosion over time and lack of road maintenance.

I don’t have a laundry list of locations where I can see the change, but here are a few:

Long Ridge Open Space Preserve
Hickory Oaks Trail and Peters Creek Trail used to be an easy ride on a racing bike. Not so anymore. They’re much more technical now with rocky sections and ruts. If you’ve always ridden a mountain bike, you won’t notice the difference. But having ridden a road bike, it’s noticeable.

Monte Bello Open Space Preserve
Canyon Trail has become much more rocky, with ruts created by runoff. Montebello Road, which used to be an easy road ride, has become more of a challenge. This is partly from rock ballast dumped on the road for maintenance. It all circles back to increased use, as when I started riding here in the late 1970s there was no traffic and no maintenance. There is a trade-off though. When it wasn’t graveled, there were more ruts.

Santa Teresa County Park
I can’t imagine anyone riding on Rocky Ridge Trail, up or down. What little soil there was is gone, exposing sharp and round rocks that make riding treacherous. It was bad enough when I rode here for my Bay Area Bike Rides book in 2007. I’m told it’s even worse today.

Aptos Creek Fire Road

The fire road beyond the green gate from the Buzzard Lagoon Road approach isn’t all that bad. However, the approach to the green gate has become a rocky moonscape. When I rode here a year ago I was on a mountain bike and had difficulty. It used to be doable on a road bike; albeit somewhat technical, it could be ridden non-stop.

Mt. Tamalpais Railroad Grade
When I last rode here about four years ago, after a long absence, I immediately noticed the road had gotten rockier. It’s still doable on a road bike, but less comfortable than 30 years ago when the road had no bike traffic to speak of.

Trails and dirt roads need maintenance or they’ll wash away. I’ve notice considerable degradation on the Toll Road and I don’t have to tell you what I think about the loss of Alpine Road at Coal Creek.

I’ve compensated by riding a mountain bike more often. That’s not such a bad thing, and what was 30 years ago is but a memory.


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