Why do riders say “CAR BACK”?

July 24, 2016

Loma Mar store construction continues.

Loma Mar store construction continues.


Yesterday the Devil’s Slide Ride rolled by as I climbed Alpine Road, so it was not unexpected that I rode with some of these participants raising money for Parca, an organization supporting people with developmental disabilities.

All well and good. However, the “car back” crowd was out in force. I can’t say what causes this quirky and annoying behavior, but I wish it would stop. It’s entirely unnecessary, even in the unlikely event the person ahead has a hearing problem.

If you disagree and you say “car back” or “car up,” I’d like to hear from you. Give me your reasons for stating the obvious. Just be civil about it.

I decided I didn’t want to be a curmudgeon and make a rude comment, so I just slowed to a crawl and let the rider pass. I then picked up the pace and followed. It worked: no more incessant “car back” chirping.

Loma Mar store creeps toward completion. The exterior looks to be in place, minus the windows. Maybe it will open before year’s end.

Summit Road a cool choice in July

July 17, 2016

One of my favorite trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Mount Madonna and Summit Road.

One of my favorite trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Mount Madonna and Summit Road.


As I contemplated riding to Santa Cruz, that prospect looked less and less desirable as I approached Summit Road on Old Santa Cruz Highway. It was downright foggy and cool.

I decided to strike south for Summit Road where it would no doubt be warmer — not that I really enjoy taking Summit Road. Then I’d ride down Mount Madonna Road, for 11 miles of dirt.

Summit Road offers little in the way of views overlooking the south valley, or the Pacific Coast for that matter, even though it follows a ridge. There’s a lot of tall brush and hillsides to block vistas.

The road rolls along, never too steep up or down, but it’s a lot of washboard, dust and some gravel. Many people continue building their dream homes up there, all off-grid.

The stretch of pavement down to Mount Madonna Road makes the gnarly dirt worth it as paved Summit makes a beeline downhill at about an 8 percent grade. Last night’s dense fog condensed in the trees, making for wet pavement, but not enough to cause riding issues.

Mount Madonna Road is, as always, smooth dirt but a bit dusty below the redwood tree drip line. I blasted down the paved road (14 percent) to Redwood Retreat Road and then home via Uvas Road, thankful for the lack of any headwind — more like a tailwind.

Loma Prieta Way becomes Loma Prieta Avenue, then Loma Prieta Road at the Summit Road junction.

Loma Prieta Way becomes Loma Prieta Avenue, then Loma Prieta Road at the Summit Road junction.

Newspaper article gives balanced report on mountain biking

July 16, 2016

Henry Coe is one of the best state parks for wild and scenic riding.

Henry Coe is one of the best state parks for wild and scenic riding.


I read the San Jose Mercury News daily and I was pleased to see today’s article about mountain bikes because it gave a balanced view of the pastime some 40 years after it got its start in the Bay Area.

The headline “Bay Area lays out welcome mat to once-shunned mountain bikers,” pretty much sums up the article. We’re told that some parks are making accommodations for mountain bikes, especially new riders who want to learn more in a safe environment.

The sentiment expressed in the article mirrors what I’ve been noticing over the years. I’ve followed the mountain bike boom since the early 1980s when Tom Ritchey started building top-of-the-line frames out of his garage. The sport, if you can call it that, was born out of a desire to ride bikes off-road.

That’s a wonderful attitude to have because riding a bike off-road allows you to see miles and miles of open terrain, far more compared to hiking. It can also be mixed with road riding, giving a healthy individual the ability to ride from home in Santa Clara Valley into the mountains and back in a matter of hours.

The only downside is that off-road cycling has a kinship to off-road motorcycling. All that’s missing from today’s mountain bikes is the motor. They have suspension, beefy brakes, strong frames, wide, sturdy tires. Great for speeding down hills.

That was the rub in the beginning and it’s still the rub today, only most of the young Turks who rode like Yahoos back then have aged and saw the error of their ways, or just chalked it up to youth.

Nothing wrong with that. Young people like to have a little excitement and the mountain bike is a better option than a lot of other risky outdoor activities.

While I believe things will improve for mountain bikes, we still need to remember that the bike is the “car” on the trails. That means yielding to other trail users and slowing down to a crawl to pass.

With the mountain bike comes responsibility, no different from driving a car. I always keep that in mind while I’m riding trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

PodRide a look at the future

July 13, 2016

It’s so darn cute. For that reason alone, PodRide should be a popular choice for the day when we rely more on human-powered hybrid transportation.

Best route to traverse Santa Clara Valley

July 5, 2016
Here's the route traced in red, shown on Google Maps. Click on map for large size.

Here’s the route traced in red, shown on Google Maps. Click on map for large size.

Probably one of the worst rides in Santa Clara Valley is riding across the valley itself. You’ll encounter dozens of lights and stop signs, not to mention plenty of traffic. You can check the route in Google Maps view.

After 25 years trying, I think I’ve come up with the best route. It’s not perfect and it’s not the shortest or fastest, but it avoids most traffic without going more than a half-mile total out of your way.

There are a few tweaks I didn’t show here, but this is close enough. The Hwy 85 bike overpass is problematic, because it can’t be ridden without a dismount, so if you’re willing to put up with a tricky intersection at Fremont and S. Bernardo Avenue, take that route instead.

My advice at this intersection, when there’s traffic, is to go straight instead of turning left and pull over to the right side of Fremont or do a U turn on Bernardo once across Fremont.

Inverness, The Dalles and Fremont through Sunnyvale are far superior to Homestead Road’s heavy traffic and frequent lights.

Once Upon a Ride…available now

June 29, 2016

Once Upon a Ride... a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.

Once Upon a Ride… a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.


Thirty-six years in the making, Once Upon a Ride… offers the reader the most complete complete account of Jobst Rides ever. Even if you own the other three magazines, Adventure Rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, High Sierra and Mount Hamilton by Bike, there’s something new here.

Over the years I’ve posted past ride reports, based on my personal journal, on Magcloud, WordPress blog and a personal website. All of those articles, including 60 new ones about rides with Jobst Brandt and/or his friends, are included here.

It’s a lot: 100,000 words, 169 photos, with almost all photos matched to the report. Now you don’t have to search all over the place for Jobst Ride stories, most of which are no longer posted.

All for the price of an inner tube, $5.99, PDF.

You can view it on your computer, laptop or tablet. Smartphones not recommended. The file download is 33 Mb, so give it some time to download. A nice feature is searchability. It’s also 12-point type — easy on the eyes.

If you want a keepsake, buy a print copy for $45.80, not including shipping. It’s printed in the U.S. using HP high-speed printers, a nice touch since Jobst helped develop HP printer technology at HP Labs.

Available on Magcloud.com

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

Bay Trail has a new surface

June 2, 2016
Bay Trail between Sunnyvale and Mountain View has a new surface, thanks to Google.

Bay Trail between Sunnyvale and Mountain View has a new surface, thanks to Google.

What will $2.9 million buy you in Palo Alto? Other than a modest three-bedroom house, it gets you four miles of smooth dirt trail between Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

That’s what Google is spending on trail improvements for the Bay Trail, out of their own pocket. I took a spin on part of the trail starting from the Sunnyvale Water Treatment plant, and it’s a big improvement over what was there. The bumps, ruts and gravel have been replaced by smooth dirt and fine quarry sand. Can’t complain.

The trail is still closed behind Moffett Field, opening on June 4, according to the sign.

Google hopes that an improved trail will encourage more employees to ride bikes to work. I’m all for that.

What I don’t know is how the trail will hold up in the rain. I’m guessing it will be much better than what was there, but it may still be muddy in spots.

San Jose Airport has a New Fence

May 24, 2016

A new perimeter fence at the north end of the San Jose Airport is in place.

A new perimeter fence at the north end of the San Jose Airport is in place.

What will $3.4 million buy you in the Bay Area, besides a modest house in Palo Alto? How about a new fence around the San Jose Airport.

Work is finishing up now. I noticed it on my morning ride. Ewert Road, as it’s called (now there’s a trivia question), used to be the main route for the long-term parking lot on the west side of the airport.

But as we all know, that parking lot was shut down several years ago and moved closer to the airport on the east side of the Guadalupe River.

Based on the new layout — the road was split in two — the interior will be used by patrol vehicles, the exterior for bikes and the occasional patrol vehicle.

Follow up: The fence shown here is temporary. A permanent fence is being built behind this one.

Mt. Hamilton a Cool Way to Go

May 23, 2016

The spring on the Mt. Hamilton backside is running nicely.

The spring on the Mt. Hamilton backside is running nicely.

I put off riding over Mt. Hamilton several times due to weather, so even though it wasn’t all that nice Sunday morning, I headed out bright and early.

The temperature hovered in the low 50s much of the way to the summit as the sun struggled to shine through the high cloud cover. It finally came out after noon and things warmed up nicely.

I saw a few riders on the way up, but things were mostly quiet with the exception of the car rally that went by.

I headed down the backside and made a point to stop at the spring to see how it was doing. The water is flowing nicely. It’s good to drink, but I didn’t need water since it was so cool.

On my way down a Sheriff passed by, which is a rarity. I haven’t seen one up here in years.

Near Arnold Ranch several riders came by me and we rode together off and on. I stopped in San Antonio Valley to see if I could find my glove dropped a month ago. No luck. I was amazed by how tall the grass had grown and now it’s all brown, fuel for a fire. That’s a downside of plentiful rain.

The refurbished Junction store is open for business and the food looks good.

The refurbished Junction store is open for business and the food looks good.


I stopped at The Junction bar and grill to see the refurbish. It’s clean and efficient, but gone is the taxidermy nailed to the wall, the ancient National Geographic magazines, old photos of Jot ‘Em Down Store, the giant tortoise out back, and the people who ran the place. The new management does a good job tending to customers and their prices are reasonable.

Outside, the tables are still there and they even added patio umbrellas. But what I really miss is Car Man. Bring him back, please.

I wasn’t in the mood for the loop, so I turned around and headed back up Mt. Hamilton. It’s about 8,300 feet of climbing to do the traditional loop through Livermore and Calaveras Road, while it’s 9,100 feet going out and back. Still, I enjoy the quiet of Mt. Hamilton Road.

Besides, I wanted to check out the world’s smallest concrete dam just off the road. It holds quite a bit of water. I’m guessing it was built in the 1940s.

As I struggled up the steep backside of Mt. Hamilton, I took comfort in knowing the wind was at my back most of the way and that the temperature was nice for climbing.

This is the world's smallest concrete dam just off Mt. Hamilton Road.

This is the world’s smallest concrete dam just off Mt. Hamilton Road.

Steel-belted tires a source for flats

May 15, 2016

Steel-belt wire, a sure way to get a tire flat.

Steel-belt wire, a sure way to get a tire flat.


Third in line after glass and puncture vine, I claim wire from steel-belted tires to be a source for bike tire flats. I had one of those a few weeks ago and it’s a hassle to remove the tiny wire. I had to add a boot and extract it at home.

I used to think the wires came from street sweepers, but someone told me it was car tires. It’s hard to believe, but I told myself I’d stop and take a photo if I came across a tire shred. Sure enough on Saturday I found some on Summit Road just south of Gist Road. How it got there is a mystery. Maybe it fell off a truck carrying junk.

I checked out those little-ridden roads nearby, Schulties, Redwood Lodge, Morrill Cutoff to see if they survived the winter; they did, with a couple of minor mudslides and downed trees, since cleared.

Finally, Sempervirens Fund celebrated its 116th anniversary Saturday at the new parking lot for Castle Rock State Park. I was passed by a phalanx of cars heading up Hwy 9. I figured some event must be underway because traffic was far worse than normal.

When I mentioned this to a woman at the parking lot entrance she claimed it was just weekend traffic. We should all be thankful that so few people recreate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Even a minor increase in traffic triggered by a special event overloads mountain roads.


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