Here’s the recommended “Hedding” to cross Santa Clara Valley

June 20, 2014

Hedding Street offers the best cross-valley route through downtown San Jose.

Hedding Street offers the best cross-valley route through downtown San Jose.


If you’re crossing Santa Clara Valley, it might seem daunting. It’s about 16 miles of suburban sprawl with a stoplight every quarter-mile. Lovely.

In my years of doing the crossing, typically on rides up Mt. Hamilton, I’ve found the best route: Homestead Road, Tantau Avenue, Pruneridge Avenue, Hedding Street, Mabury Road, White Road, McKee Road.

That’s a straight shot with the least amount of traffic, avoiding freeway intersections with exit ramps. It’s the route to take if you’re heading up Mt. Hamilton or visiting Alum Rock Park.

If you read the Roadshow in the Mercury News, you know that some commuters have complained about the Hedding Street restriping in the downtown area. It went from four lanes to two, with a wider, green-stripe bike lane.

I rode there this morning about 7:30 a.m. and again at 12:15 p.m. I didn’t see any traffic. The most cars at a light was nine at First Street and they easily cleared the intersection at the light change.

Granted, I wasn’t there at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, which is probably the worst time, but I can’t imagine it’s the horror show motorists claim.

If they think traffic in San Jose is bad, they need to get out more. Try Hong Kong or Manila or even Milan at rush hour. San Jose is a ghost town by comparison.

Floor pump repairs

June 18, 2014

Topeak sells spare parts for their excellent floor pumps.

Topeak sells spare parts for their excellent floor pumps.

I’m not too particular about floor pumps, so when my Topeak Joe Blow Sport finally failed, I looked for a spare part — the head.

The pump head is usually what fails because its lever clamp gets a workout. Mine finally failed. One side screws into the head, allowing access to the interior. That part started popping off.

I glued it down but then the lever that is screwed in started pulling out. Topeak sells a replacement head and hose, complete with parts for all their pumps, for about $20 online.

It was easy to replace. All I had to do was unthread the hose at the pump base using a wrench and then rethread the new hose by hand.

The pump head lasted at least 10 years. I don’t know when I bought the pump but I paid $30 and now it goes for $50. The only other maintenance you need to do is occasionally grease the plunger. It’s easy to access. Just pull back the tabbed plastic seal at the top and twist.

Jobst Brandt invented what he believed to be the best floor pump, a double-action behemoth. It was custom-built. I tried it once and found it hard to use. That was partly because the pump was built for his 6’5″ frame, but also because it was hard to pump. He claimed he could fill a standard road tire in 10 strokes.

While other double-action pumps have been made, the reviews have not been favorable.

My all-time favorite floor pump was Silca, but it had one irritating drawback. There isn’t a clamp at the pump head. You have to rely on the rubber washer inside the head to hold the presta valve. Those washers don’t last long before they lose their grip. They’re still sold online, but at more than $6 apiece, I’ll pass.

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.

Gavia Pass memory

April 27, 2014
Jobst Brandt on Gavia Pass, in the late 1980s. A tunnel was built about 1991 and this part of the road abandoned. This perspective does not compare to the one made into a poster, but still nice.

Jobst Brandt on Gavia Pass, in the late 1980s. A tunnel was built about 1991 and this part of the road abandoned. This perspective does not compare to the one made into a poster, but still nice. Photo by whomever was with him on that ride.

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.

Cupertino Bike Shop Open on Stevens Canyon Road

April 20, 2014

Cupertino Bike Shop has moved to Stevens Canyon Road.

Cupertino Bike Shop has moved to Stevens Canyon Road.

What a day for a bike ride, if you like perfect weather. I made it up to Skyline and enjoyed nice weather.

Riding past Stevens Creek Reservoir, I saw a mud puddle. It’s 13 percent full.

Stevens Canyon Road has a new bike shop, at the intersection of McClellan Road. Cupertino Bike Shop has completed its move from its old location on De Anza Boulevard.

Lots of buildings going up. If you type “Cupertino map” in Google you’ll see the new Apple HQ artistic rendering. The old HP campus at Wolfe and Homestead is almost all rubble now.

Speaking of building. I’m about finished with my first novel, Skidders. It’s about autonomous cars, hacking and how bicycles save the day. If you want an advance copy, just send me an email and I’ll send you a PDF.

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.

San Tomas Falls shows its splendor

March 2, 2014

San Tomas Falls on the creek trail finally had more than a trickle on Feb. 28.

San Tomas Falls on the creek trail finally had more than a trickle on Feb. 28.


We finally had some rain. It was enough to put some life into San Tomas Falls on my ride home from work.

It might even turn the grass green on Mt. Hamilton. Last week’s Mt. Hamilton loop revealed one wildflower until Livermore. I’m not exaggerating.


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