Take short showers, and pray for rain

December 22, 2013

A winter's day in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The stuff of dreams.

A winter’s day in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The stuff of dreams.

Today could be described as one of those event-filled rides you dream about. Under clear skies that included, for the first weekend in a while, clean air, I headed up Hwy 9 from Saratoga.

Right off the bat I was pleased to see road crews have widened the shoulder in many locations. Or am I just imagining? They also put up the new “bikes can use full roadway” signs.

I’m so accustomed to riding here that I don’t pay much attention to the road. Anyway, they put out some straw-filled dividers and sprayed green stuff. I think it’s all about erosion control, but feel free to chime in.

Someone at Caltrans has a benevolent view of bikes on Hwy 9. Nice widening and greatly appreciated.

Someone at Caltrans has a benevolent view of bikes on Hwy 9. Nice widening and greatly appreciated.

On Skyline the wind picked up and so did the temperature (mid-50s). I met Brian and we headed off on our ride. Trail conditions couldn’t be much better, although they might benefit from a little more rain.

As part of our volunteer trail maintenance duties, we removed a downed tree. It was decidedly bigger than the photo indicates. It took us a good 20 minutes to muscle it off the trail. Brian hacked away with his portable hand saw, having forgotten once again to bring his Oregon 40V PowerNow CS250E chainsaw.

Doing our part to keep trails open and safe.

Doing our part to keep trails open and safe.


On the way home I checked out Stevens Creek Reservoir to see what happens when it doesn’t rain for two years in a row. It’s pretty much a mud puddle.

I think Jerry will be declaring a water emergency after the Chistmas holidays. I hope you don’t mind a dead lawn and 5-minute showers. Lawns should only be allowed in England.

Maybe we don't get drinking water from Stevens Creek Reservoir, but it tells the story. Mega-drought.

Maybe we don’t get drinking water from Stevens Creek Reservoir, but it tells the story. Mega-drought.


Finally, I stopped by to see the new Cupertino Bike Shop at McClellan Road and Stevens Canyon Road. It looks like it’s still weeks away from completion, but be sure to visit Vance Sprock and dog Daisy when the shop opens. Local residents are fortunate to have three outstanding pro shops within three miles of one another: Cupertino Bike Shop, Chain Reaction Bicycles, Bicycle Outfitter.
Cupertino Bike Shop's new home on Stevens Canyon Road at McClellan, opening soon.

Cupertino Bike Shop’s new home on Stevens Canyon Road at McClellan, opening soon.

Upper Alpine Road repaired

December 15, 2013

Upper Alpine Road (dirt) has been repaired.

Upper Alpine Road (dirt) has been repaired.

A friend told me the upper section of Alpine Road that had a washout has been repaired, so I checked it out. It’s about a half-mile down from Page Mill Road in the “freeway” section.

Eons ago there was probably a washout in this same location and San Mateo County repaired it by widening the road. The culvert plugged up again and washed out a year or so ago. In wet years this ravine has a decent flow, but since the Great Drought it hasn’t seen much water.

I’m told Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District made the repair, even though the road is still under the jurisdiction of San Mateo County. But don’t hold your breath that the county would do anything to fix Alpine Road.

The “road” is in the best shape I’ve seen it, all things considered. It’s a far cry from what it was in the late 1980s when it was graded for the last time and there weren’t any washouts. The bypass trail is still an insult to cyclists. Elite mountain bikers and hikers (not than anyone hikes here) wouldn’t think so though.

Flashlight or bike light?

December 8, 2013

EagleTac flashlight at 548 lumens.

EagleTac flashlight at 548 lumens.


Just about every year I buy a bike light, mainly because technology keeps getting better. Today’s LED lights offer the best lighting ever.

Three technologies account for the improvement: better batteries (lithium ion), power management ICs (mostly analog) and light emitting diodes (LEDs).

The ICs have been shrunk to incredibly small sizes (2mm x 2mm) and they have plenty of intelligence, allowing various light settings (high, medium low), flashing, etc.

Lithium-ion batteries have been around a while, but it’s only recently they’ve become common in bike lights. I’m impressed with the advances over just the past three years.

Most cyclists will go with a traditional bike light. It has the mounting equipment and that’s huge.

However, I opted for a flashlight and rubber band for handlebar mounting. After a couple of months use, I like my choice. It’s an incredibly small light, but puts out 548 lumens and the rechargeable Li-ion battery lasts at least a week of daily use (about 40 minutes a day). It can flash and has a half-dozen different light settings.

The brand is EagleTac, model D25LC2 Clicky, and sells for about $62. An equivalent bike light, such as NiteRider Lumina 550, sells for about $82 online. The difference is that you get the bike mount hardware. If you’re using rechargeable batteries, be sure to charge them at least once a month, otherwise they’ll lose their ability to recharge.

MTBR has an extensive 2014 light comparison on its website.

He rode to the moon and back

December 8, 2013

HP's Homestead/Wolfe campus is giving way to Apple's new spaceship HQ. Jobst Brandt used to work at this location.

HP’s Homestead/Wolfe campus is giving way to Apple’s new spaceship HQ. Jobst Brandt used to work at this location.

I stopped by to see Jobst Brandt and as I was there I thought about all the miles he’s ridden. My estimate is nearly 500,000 miles, or to the moon and back.

He rode a bike since childhood, but I figure he had 50 years riding 10,000 miles a year, and that is a number he has used in correspondence. I have no doubt it’s true.

For a while in the 1970s, Jobst rode from his home in Palo Alto to the HP facility at Homestead and Wolfe Road in Cupertino. For a time I also worked nearby on Tantau and it was about 14 miles one way via Foothill Boulevard. Jobst rode both ways on most days, and on Sundays anywhere from 50 to 130 miles.

When he worked at HP Labs in Palo Alto, he always rode the Loop — Sand Hill Road, Portola Road, Alpine Road, Arastradero Road. He often complained about merging onto Page Mill Road at the I-280 exit. I hear ya.

For those of you who received the annual woodblock Christmas card, here’s one of my favorites, the avocet. It looks like he started doing these in 1965 and stopped in 2007, from what I could see.

Jobst Brandt woodblock carvings from the 1980s. There's something wrong with this photo. Guess.

Jobst Brandt woodblock carvings from the 1980s. There’s something wrong with this photo. Guess.

Laurel train memories

November 27, 2013

Laurel shack in downtown Laurel. Where's the train?

Laurel shack in downtown Laurel. Where’s the train?

I have no idea why there’s a small shack in Laurel. Maybe it’s a bus stop. Does a county bus go here? Or was it a train stop? I find that hard to believe because the train stopped running here in 1941 or so.

The Laurel train tunnel has never been easier to see from the road. Someone cleared out the brush leading to the tunnel. If you want to see what the original Old Santa Cruz Hwy looked like, cross Summit Road and continue to Hwy 17. It’s in amazingly good shape for being so old.

Joy of cycling: Let me count the ways

November 17, 2013
A good way to go to Santa Cruz. $5 one way from San Jose Diridon Station.

A good way to go to Santa Cruz. $5 one way from San Jose Diridon Station.

Today’s ride was nothing special, but here’s what makes cycling fun:

  • Riding across Silicon Valley early on a Sunday morning. Not much traffic.
  • Picking up Coyote Creek Trail on Tully Road and knowing someday it will make it to the Bay.
  • Riding past Hellyer Park Velodrome
  • The crunch of sycamore leaves on a remote section of Coyote Creek Trail
  • Santa Clara County Model Aircraft Skypark
  • Hawks soaring
  • Seeing the windsock at the Metcalf 600 megawatt power plant blowing north
  • Riding up to Anderson Reservoir
  • Watching migrating Canadian geese land in Anderson Reservoir
  • Crossing Hwy 101 on Burnett Avenue with no ramps
  • Riding north on Hale Avenue at 24 mph with a tailwind

Enjoy your ride.

Invisible bike helmet a Swedish invention

November 10, 2013

My helmet after a crank failed while I was sprinting.

My helmet after a crank failed while sprinting.


I predicted airbag protection in my 2008 futuristic story about using trucks as wind breaks on freeways. I think that will come to pass as well, but not in my lifetime.

Now some women in Sweden have developed an airbag helmet that wraps around your neck. That may be fine in Sweden where it rarely gets above freezing, but not elsewhere.

Still, it’s a start and they’re on the right track.

Peters Creek Trail – still there and not much changed

November 10, 2013

 Nice day on the Bay Area Ridge Trail near Hickory Oaks Trail.


Nice day on the Bay Area Ridge Trail near Hickory Oaks Trail.


I haven’t ridden Peters Creek Trail single-track in Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District for about a million years, so today was as good a day as any to see what it’s like.

Starting at Grizzly Flat the trail descends on a hillside over some rocky sections and then smooths out entering the trees. It’s part old road and part single-track for a mile or so before reaching Two Moon (Green Scum) Lake and Jikoji Zen Center. Having ridden here since the mid-1980s, I can say the trail/road is in about the same shape I remember it. There is ongoing trail maintenance.

We saw a gaggle of hikers and some cyclists, and everything was Kumbaya. Most cyclists in this area know there are hikers, the trail is not steep, so they are well behaved.

I’m not sure what was going on with the air quality, but it smelled and looked like a forest fire had turned the air smoky. I think it was the inversion combined with people using their fireplaces.

Speaking of fires, residents in the mountains from Pescadero to Half Moon Bay area may feel they’ve been burned when they find out they’re going to have to pay fire protection of $150 a year per building on their property, according to the Half Moon Bay Review. The State of California says it needs to make up a Calfire shortfall somehow.

Enlightened government – Marin Municipal Water District

November 5, 2013

Pine Mountain Road descent to Kent Lake.

Pine Mountain Road descent to Kent Lake.


Water districts are no friend of cyclists around these parts, except in Marin County. The Marin Municipal Water District takes an enlightened approach to managing its 18,000 acres.

No doubt they realize that trying to keep people out is a lost cause when Marin County residents’ backyards border district land, so they make the best of it.

There’s plenty of bike riding. Not to be missed — Pine Mountain Road and San Geronimo Ridge Road. Of course, there’s also the railroad grade up Mt. Tamalpais. We’re talking Shay locomotives, so the grade can be 8 percent. It’s no wonder the mountain bike got its start here.

San Jose, San Francisco disappoint
The same cannot be said for the San Jose Water or San Francisco water departments. They must own stock in a razor-wire company.

After decades of public pressure, San Francisco finally allows people onto the peninsula watershed overlooking Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir, but it’s docent led. I find this description particularly offensive describing Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail. “Because of environmental restrictions within our fragile ecosystem, groups must be accompanied by a volunteer trail leader.”

Marin County’s watershed isn’t fragile?

San Jose Water Department, in business since 1866 and publicly owned (listed on the NYSE), is even worse. They took over the South Pacific Coast right of way at Aldercroft Heights in 1947 right under the noses of Santa Clara County officials.

The right-of-way runs through a narrow canyon cut by Los Gatos Creek between Aldercroft Heights and Wrights Station Road. It’s one of the more spectacular roads you could ever hope to visit, but today it’s off limits with high fences and frequent guard patrols. Paranoia runs deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

MROSD – from Vision Plan to ballot measure…maybe

November 4, 2013

Mindego Hill off Alpine Road. Will it ever be open? How about Big Dipper Ranch nearby? I've seen plenty of cow pies in the East Bay Parks. They don't have a problem with public access and open range.

Mindego Hill off Alpine Road. Will it ever be open? How about Big Dipper Ranch nearby? I’ve seen plenty of cow pies in the East Bay Parks. They don’t have a problem with public access and open range.


If you think the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) has a hidden agenda for its well-managed Vision Plan, you’re entitled to that opinion. I don’t believe that’s true because MROSD strictly adheres to the Brown Act, making available its finances and meeting notes on its website.

Few people attend MROSD meetings, so unless you go to the effort and look at the website, you’re missing out.

Ballot measure
After looking around I noticed that the District is moving closer to a funding measure on the local ballot, which was reported by the San Jose Mercury News (7/14/2011).

At the Sept. 25, 2013, meeting they contracted with George Gary Manross, Ph.D., who owns Strategy Research Institute (SRI), to monitor their vision plan. Manross was contracted by Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) to conduct a benchmark study to assess likely voter opinion regarding the District’s Vision Plan and related themes, as well as the feasibility of placing a successful funding measure on the local ballot in the near future.

Should the District move forward with a ballot measure, it would retain SRI’s services for writing the ballot language, as well as handling the data management and statistical analysis of District public surveys. Manross is an influential figure in California politics, according to Wikipedia. He predicted Chuck Reed would win the race for mayor of San Jose against Cindy Chavez (I could have predicted that one).

Property tax increase?
The bulk of the District’s revenue — 73 percent or about $30 million — comes from property taxes, with the rest from “transfers in” and “other.”

We all want open space, no denying that. How much the public is willing to pay for it when it’s off limits to humans is another matter.

POST received about $13 million in 2102, $16 million when you add interest and other commitments, which isn’t bad for a non-profit that keeps a low profile.

Now if only we could enjoy the land instead of just looking at it on a map.

Next up, at least there’s one enlightened water district…


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