Peter Johnson had a machinist’s soul

January 17, 2022

Jobst Brandt, Olaf Brandt, Peter Johnson, Jan Causey Johnson in Switzerland, 1984. Jobst Brandt photo

When it came to having someone mend my smashed frame in 1981, I immediately thought of Peter Johnson.

I got to know him on Sunday rides with Jobst Brandt, and sharing that kind of toil and strife gave me confidence that he’d do a good job.

Peter warned me that I shouldn’t expect the bike to last forever. When tubes have to be reheated they become more brittle and joints are prone to failure.

I was a starving cyclists at the time and needed a quick fix. So Peter built a new fork, and replaced the toptube, downtube, and headtube.

The bike lasted five more years and got me through a three-week ride in the Alps. I couldn’t complain.

Peter and Jobst complemented each other, like wheels on pavement. Peter the machinist built and maintained Jobst’s bike for more than 25 years.

Peter on Gavia Pass in 1984. Jobst Brandt photo

They toured the Alps six times, 1982-85, 1989, and 1990. That’s a lot of miles and climbing.

Now Peter is gone. I last saw him a few years ago, in the hospital after heart surgery. He died in Bern, Switzerland, a place he loved to visit.

Peter was a regular on Sunday rides well into the 1990s, and his wife Jan joined him on many occasions. Our Wool Jersey Gang had some fun adventures exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I’ll never forget my last visit to Peter’s machine shop in 2006. He owned enough tools and machines to build a car from scratch. Not to mention spare bike equipment.

Peter built obscure parts in his job, things you’ll never see but find their way into vital machinery.

Jobst asked Peter to machine special washers that lodged between a Shimano SPD clipless pedal and a Campagnolo or Shimano crank arm. I had already broken two cranks at the pedal eye, so I jumped at the opportunity to have Peter build me some washers and mill in the crank’s pedal hole opening.

While the washers were tiny and didn’t look like they could do much to prevent a failure, they have worked perfectly for years. The snug fit keeps the pedal from moving.

Machine shop in 2006

Finally, Peter could invent. He built a threadless headset in the early 1970s, well before they were “invented.” It was used by Marc Brandt and Grant Handley in 1976.

Parts wear out with use, and we’re no exception. Now there’s one less machinist to keep the wheels turning. We had some good Sunday rides together, memories that last a lifetime.

Mobile book marketing

January 13, 2022

Custom jersey made by Owayo.

Look for me in the months ahead wearing my book jersey.

Maybe I’ll bring a copy or two so I can sell them out on the road.

Jersey is sold by Owayo, manufactured in Germany.

Superb quality and perfect fit. I recommend this company for custom jerseys.

I paid full price for it.

Alpine Road closures an encouraging “sign”

October 10, 2021

Work underway on Alpine Road will mean weekday closures.

UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2022): Heard on the street, Alpine Road work can’t begin until San Mateo County officially “gives” the road to Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD). That could take another year.

Efforts must be made so that MROSD doesn’t have to start over with environmental impact reports.

Then it will be another two years before work is completed. As noted below, the plan has already been drafted.

It looks like the promised makeover for Alpine Road is underway, based on the sign I saw today.

I rooted around and found the Alpine Road environmental impact report done by LSA, an environmental consulting firm based in Richmond, Calif. It was published in October 2020. If the link doesn’t work, you can download the file from my site, below.

I rode to the green gate and waited for riders coming down. They said there is no indication of repairs.

Riding to the green gate I didn’t see anything either, beyond a couple of signs saying the road is closed during weekdays.

Reading the report, it might be the job site is at Joaquin Road and Alpine Road junction, not visible at this time.

Alpine Road repair a short distance down from Joaquin Road.

The report is exhaustive, and exhausting to read. As much as I value a thorough plan, I wonder if we need every little detail accounted for.

Back in the day, huge construction projects were completed in a flash. Now it is true that some catastrophes (think St. Francis Dam) occurred, there are also construction disasters even with environmental impact reports.

The report points to completion in three months — at least that’s the goal. That could mean construction begins next summer?

Let’s hope so.

(I don’t know all the agencies paying for the work, but it’s our tax dollars. Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is the primary sponsor.)

LSA report download

Rain takes a break

December 31, 2021

I found lots of riders enjoying the sunshine on Thursday, myself included as I made one last attempt to find chanterelles.

Russian Ridge parking area. No water here.

Sadly, I found none, and it’s not for lack of rain. It may be that all the places I came to know lost their mojo. Chanterelles are mysterious fungi. They spook easily.

I soldiered on and made my Alpine Road/Old La Honda Road/Skyline loop. At the bottom of Alpine Road just before Pescadero Road, I came across trucks and patrol cars.

Alpine Road West still magical.
That mushroom was about all I saw.

They were cleaning up a downed redwood, which took out communication lines for nearby houses. AT&T was on it.

When you see lines down, be fearful. Live power lines can kill, as they did on Portola Road in Portola Valley some years ago.

Skyline Boulevard turned into a cloudy, foggy churn up to Alpine Road, cold and damp. Winter has only just begun.

I can’t think of a better way to avoid Omicron than a bike ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Old La Honda Road view to the Pacific. Stuff of dreams.

Wet weather finally

December 14, 2021

This round of stormy weather gave our Santa Clara home 2.87 inches of badly needed rain, and a total of 7.08 inches since September. And snow on Mt. Hamilton.

Guadalupe River running strong at San Jose airport

Guadalupe River is raging and the often flooded underpass at Hwy 101 is flooded once again.

Flooding at Hwy 101 and Guadalupe River underpass
San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail waterfall

San Tomas Aquino Creek’s “Niagara Falls” is flowing nicely.

Even more good news, construction is underway at the De La Cruz Blvd./Trimble Rd. and Hwy 101 overpass. The road will be widened with a bike lane.

Trimble Road and Hwy 101 overpass construction

It comes too late for me, as I stopped daily commuting here in 2010.

Today I’d probably take the paved Guadalupe River path, although not on days like today when it’s flooded.

I had a few close calls here as huge trucks squeezed by me on the overpass, and I dodged cars taking the Hwy 101 south on-ramp.

I enjoyed the ride, except for this short stretch.

Airport parking structure never fails to impress.

Sky Lane Cycling Track in Bangkok

December 5, 2021

Wow, how times have changed since my visit in 1989. This recreation gem is located near the Bangkok airport.

I suspect the airport has moved to a new location farther from the city. (Yes, 2006.)


Palo Alto opens Hwy 101 pedestrian/bike bridge

November 22, 2021

Palo Alto’s new recreation overcrossing improves baylands access.

After years of work and millions of dollars, cyclists finally have a better way to reach the Palo Alto Baylands.

The wide overcrossing includes interpretive signage and a place to sit.

The trail continues to E. Meadow Drive, which has a bike lane and continues into Palo Alto. Or you can take the lightly traveled Bayshore Road paralleling highway 101.

Judging by the traffic this morning, the bridge will see plenty of wheels for recreation and commuting.

Stevens Creek Reservoir at 10%

November 17, 2021

Stevens Creek Reservoir very low.

I haven’t seen Stevens Creek Reservoir so low.

I’ve only seen the spillway overflowing once or twice since 1980.

Built in 1935, this dam will eventually silt up. It happened at Searsville Lake.

Sunday weather awesome for cycling. This is November?

Once Upon a Ride… available in hardcover

November 14, 2021

Available now in hardcover.

I published two titles in hardcover recently. Available on Amazon. Printed in Illinois.

Once Upon a Ride… is a new cover, but same content. The only negative is the paper. Glossy would improve the images.

Mirais, Mirais everywhere

November 12, 2021

What is a Mirai you may ask? It’s a hydrogen fuel cell car made by Toyota. Looks a lot like a Prius.

Today I saw two of these elusive vehicles!

Looking into it, I found out there are a couple of stations in the South Bay and a few more elsewhere in the Bay Area. Nationwide there are only 48 stations (maybe more), almost all of them in California.

So the car’s 400 mile range will get you around most of the state, but that’s all.

I encountered these machines on my way to Almaden Reservoir, where water is about as scarce as hydrogen fuel these days.

The reservoir is 41 percent full — not so bad.

The new bridge over Los Alamitos Creek is quiet today. No workers.

Built in 1935 (refurbished 1964), the bridge needs replacement. Because the span will have a completely new alignment, eliminating a sharp curve, it qualified for a Federal subsidy at 100 percent reimbursement to the county.

New Alamitos Creek Bridge completion set for 2022.
Decent water level. Back in 2014 it was empty.

Atmospheric river more like a creek

November 10, 2021

Lest you think the “atmospheric river” we experienced a couple weeks ago fixed the drought, check out Guadalupe Reservoir.

It’s at 11 percent. Pathetic.

Mt. Tamalpais got plenty of rain, but the South Bay might as well be in the Mojave Desert.

With La NiƱa in the forecast, we might be looking at a third year of drought, and water rationing.