Guadalupe River Trail open

May 9, 2023

Small puddles will be found at Trimble Road and Hwy 101, but they’re only a couple of inches deep.

Trimble Road undercrossing. A small puddle.
Guadalupe River Trail at Hwy 101.

Watch out for turtles crossing the trail.

Turtle crossing the trail near Montague Expressway.

Guadalupe River path still blocked

April 13, 2023
Guadalupe River at Montague Expressway on Wednesday, April 13, 2023

Now that the rains have stopped, San Jose city and water departments will be clearing out the Guadalupe River underpasses.

This one at Montague has a mountain of debris. I’m sure the one at Hwy 101 is also flooded or blocked.

Trimble Road had some mud a few weeks ago.

Enjoy your ride.

Butano Fire Road lives on

April 10, 2023

Butano Fire Road at its best two miles up from Cloverdale Road.

While trying to track down a Jobst Ride photo taken in 1981, I found myself once again riding on Butano Fire Road. It follows the northern border of Butano State Park and overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

The fire road is unique in that it offers a direct route from Hwy 236 to Cloverdale Road, but it wasn’t the Jobst Riders’ favorite. We much preferred Gazos Creek Road, which cuts through Big Basin Redwoods State Park and has spring water from West Waddell Creek. Then there’s the fun descent that tests a rider’s skills.

David Epperson tries out Butano Fire Road in 1983.

I don’t know why, but when David Epperson visited and I offered to take him on a memorable ride, I chose Butano Fire Road, downhill. Back in the day, David took some unforgettable photos of mountain bike riders in locations that made you wish you were there.

In 2013, David was named to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

My thoughts focused more on the time I rode up the fire road with Jobst. It’s a fun climb for three miles, but then the real climbing begins, another six miles of unrelenting 10-18 percent grade over crushed white shale on an exposed ridge.

The views from Butano Fire Road can’t be beat.

That was bad enough, but remember we had already ridden 40 miles. I was hammered when we reached China Grade pavement. There’s a brief rest on Hwy 236 before another 10 kilometers of 5-7 percent grade to Skyline Boulevard.

Nowadays I’m doing more thinking about past rides than I am pedaling.

I’m not complaining. In 2020, the forests of Butano State Park burned along with the trees in Big Basin, one of the worst firestorms in a century.

The forest is recovering after three years.

The fire, the pandemic, and old age conspire against us, but we persevere. I made it to Jackson Flats Trail, looked up at the ridge line and decided that was enough.

There was still Gazos Creek Road to see. The road (paved in 1992 from Cloverdale east for a couple of miles) is one of my favorites in Northern California as the creek cuts through a canopy of trees in a remote valley free of cars. What more can you ask for?

Gazos Creek Road a question mark.

The road is, well, closed, kind of. Several orange cones block the road, but it’s not like you can’t just ride through.

On the ride back, I remembered those days with a stiff tailwind on Cloverdale as we headed for Santa Cruz. If only. The headwind wasn’t so bad.

Pescadero Creek Road has always been a favorite for cyclists thanks to the redwoods and a gentle climb to Loma Mar. Pescadero Creek is flowing strong, its clear, cold water offering a visual respite from the redwoods.

One more stop, the Haul Road. Sadly, the road is still closed a mile from the Wurr Road entrance, thanks to the CZU fire, which was finally halted when the fire fighters took a stand here.

The Haul Road is one of my favorites.

At least the road is in good shape, despite the heavy rains we’ve had all winter.

Those were the days… when I could do the ride from home.

Stevens Creek Trail inching forward

April 6, 2023

Stevens Creek Trail extension at W. Fremont Avenue.

Forty years ago, I stood with a group of cyclists and Mountain View City Parks and Recreation Department’s Charlie Gibson, listening to the grand plan for Stevens Creek Trail.

At the time, the trail only went for a mile or so out at the baylands, where construction was relatively straightforward.

Charlie and others collaborated with many groups to see the trail extend south to Sunnyvale and Cupertino, which resulted in two undercrossings at creek level and a massive bridge over Caltrain tracks and Central Expressway. It’s an impressive job that shows anything is possible.

But back then, running the trail under Hwy 85 at creek level presented a huge obstacle. Years later, the trail was extended over Hwy 85 via an overpass, east of the creek. This is one of the best designed multi-use trail overpasses I’ve used.

I take the trail weekly and enjoy riding through secluded woods and open spaces, sometimes only feet away from busy freeways.

Now the trail is moving ahead with an extension to Fremont Avenue. The trail’s ultimate goal is to reach Stevens Creek Reservoir. While it won’t ever be entirely off-street, since the creek winds through a private golf course, it could reach McClellan Ranch Preserve.

How the trail gets there is still up for debate. There was a proposal to go through Rancho San Antonio County Park. For more about the trail, check out the Friends of Stevens Creek Trail website.

Four cities, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Altos, and Mountain View, are working with the county, state, and water departments to hammer out the route to Fremont Avenue.

I was shocked to learn the trail will go under Hwy 85 at creek level, which just goes to show anything is possible.

While this proposal isn’t ideal — the trail will close during rain events — it’s considered the best alternative. Guadalupe River Trail has a similar arrangement. This winter the trail has been closed for months thanks to the river inundating the underpasses.

The plan calls for two entry points on Fremont Avenue, but here’s where I’m having difficulty with the proposal. Both trail landings are next to the Hwy 85 on and off ramps. And I mean next to, as only feet away.

As far as I’m concerned, these trail landings are unacceptable, and I’m not alone, given the number of concerns raised at a recent planning meeting, available on YouTube. The meeting was hosted by the city of Sunnyvale on Jan. 18, 2023.

Anyone who has ridden on Fremont at Hwy 85 knows there’s a lot of traffic, and the motorists are anxious to enter and exit the freeway as fast as possible. The 85 on ramp going north has only one lane, but there are two lanes up until the Bernardo Avenue stop light. Cars are known to cut off cyclists who are “threading the needle” between both lanes.

As one attendee observed about the landings, a rider going east on W. Fremont Avenue would have ride in the far left lane and make a U turn at Bernardo to access the trail, or take a sidewalk.

Pedestrians would have equally difficult conditions crossing busy freeway on-ramps. That’s a recipe for an accident.

So why are the landings here and not on the other side of Fremont? The plan beyond Fremont is still up in the air, even after a master plan was approved in 2015. They couldn’t decide what was the best route.

My advice is to figure out enough of the next extension to be able to locate the landings on the south side of Fremont, and then proceed.

Some cyclists have urged the agencies to look at extending the trail around the Stanford Children’s Health Center, which borders Stevens Creek.

While I advocated for this option, I doubt the cities will want to fight over the land with Stanford, and I can’t imagine Stanford willingly giving up dozens of parking spaces used by their patients. But, hey, it can’t hurt to ask.

Of course, there’s still plenty of time to submit your ideas to the city of Sunnyvale.

I’m thankful public trails for cyclists and pedestrians are receiving increased attention. I think it’s the right way to go and a huge public benefit.

One of these days it would be nice to ride from the baylands to the Cupertino foothills without having to deal with cars. That’s the goal.

Storm damage cleanup ongoing

March 16, 2023

Magdalena Avenue closed temporarily to fix power lines.

The sky may not be falling, but the trees and power lines sure are.

Today I experienced the results of more rain, as I was turned back on Magdalena Avenue by crews who were fixing a downed power line.

I usually take Stonebrook Drive past the former rock quarry and wind my way over to Moody Road. I saw the quarry around 1982, probably about the time it shut down and was converted into housing and a private lake.

The excitement continued on Foothill Expressway, where the street signals were out. I don’t mind though. Motorists are more attentive at intersections.

Everywhere you look, tree companies are cutting up fallen trees. There must be thousands of trees down in the area.

At least the snow has melted on Mount Hamilton. The backside is going to be a wildflower super bloom this year. I’ll miss it.

Weather turns riding into a daily adventure

March 12, 2023

Soggy undercrossings everywhere, including Penitencia Creek and I-680.

With all the rain, finding a place to ride has its challenges. Today I struck out at Penitencia Creek and the I-680 undercrossing.

I was none too keen on having muddy feet. And then it started raining.

It’s raining in the foothills, and the underpasses at Guadalupe River and San Tomas Aquino Creek trail are under water or muddy.

That’s nothing compared to Donner Summit today, where snow keeps accumulating.

I’m reminded of China Grade. Here’s a passage from my novel, describing efforts to bring steam engines up to the railroad camp supporting tunnel digging at Donner Summit:

Progress came, but only with great effort. Progress. It meant everything to Strobridge. Without it, he’d be out of a job. He played King of the Mountain atop a snow pile that hovered over the prow. A line of locomotives snorted and churned their pistons, pouring billowy clouds of white steam into the frigid, still air. Engineer Billings reversed the engines for several hundred yards. He pushed the lever forward; the trains lurched and built up speed. That giant, ugly wooden spear crashed into the snowpack, clearing fifteen feet of the track before stopping. Workmen shoveled at a frenetic pace to clear the track, but Strobridge saw little progress. He spit in disgust and yelled at an engineer. “We need a better plow. This will never do. It just confirms what I’ve been telling Mr. Crocker. Only miles of snowsheds will keep the snow from impeding operations.”

The snow kept falling. From February 18-22, 1867, six feet accumulated. Another storm in early March dumped ten feet. Still, the men continued working as the snow did not bother their labors inside the tunnel. Nitroglycerin exploded in the wet and cold. Workers built a stone wall at the west entrance to tunnel eight. They blasted, dug, shoveled, and wheeled rock to the tunnel entrances, where they dumped debris over the cliffs. Snow tunnels protected them from the biting winds. At night, an eerie glow cast shadows on the snow walls as men shuffled back and forth. Blasting shook the snow walls, but they held until spring.

James Strobridge oversees the prow as it tries to clear the tracks near Donner Summit. (Photo by Alfred A. Hart)

Skidders available on Amazon

October 2, 2022

Skidders is available for Kindle or in print on Amazon.

Skidders is available now on Amazon in its re-imagined form. It’s the near future and self-driving cars are changing our world.

Nick Lee, a car company marketing manager, learns that hackers plan to hijack the president’s new self-driving limousine while taking a celebratory lap around Washington, D.C. It’s only one week before Congress votes on a law mandating that all new cars be self-driving. Will a plan to stop the hackers succeed? It’s white hat vs. black hat hackers and insurrectionists in a global duel to decide the future of autonomous vehicles.

At its core there’s cycling, but I’ve expanded the topic to include other elements. The Day of Discord, as I call it, will be explosive.

Reservoirs filling up after recent rains

February 25, 2023

Stevens Creek Reservoir looking northeast. It’s at capacity.

Today I braved the cold in the last search of the year for chanterelle mushrooms. I was not disappointed.

I didn’t go high enough to see snow, but the white stuff made the Cupertino foothills look even more spectacular than they already are.

In years past, I’ve found Montebello Road to be a good choice for riding to see the snow.

Snow blankets Bay Area foothills

February 24, 2023

Snow on Hwy 17. Caltrans photo says it’s 17. See Twitter for more.

I haven’t seen snow like this since 2011 when six inches fell on Skyline Boulevard.

Back then I was brave enough to ride up Hwy 9 and check out the white stuff, but those days are behind me.

It’s a disaster area in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with downed trees closing Hwy 9 and other roads.

Yesterday on my tame ride to the Sunnyvale Baylands Park, I saw seven big trees blown over by the windstorm.

We’ve had an inch of rain in the past two days, and more on the way. Let it rain.

If you do venture out, be mindful of black ice. It’s transparent and easy to miss.

Santa Cruz Mountains reeling from storms

February 13, 2023

Roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains take a beating during heavy rainstorms. Last year was no exception.

Larry Rairden captured much of the devastation on video and posted it on YouTube.

I was especially disappointed to see the Burns Creek bridge wash away on Redwood Lodge Road. It was fixed in the summer of 2021 after being wiped out by flooding.

I used to ride on all of these roads and I’m not surprised they’ve been damaged. I’ve never heard of Stage Road having issues, but it’s not too surprising.

What’s worse, Highway 9 will be closed for a time for a bridge repair, with an alternate route on Redwood Gulch Road and Pierce. Lovely.

It’s going to be a while before the roads can be repaired.

Best routes south through San Jose

January 12, 2023

Alamitos Creek Trail near Camden Avenue.

For decades, I rode my bike through San Jose without paying attention to “safest route.”

All I cared about was “most direct route.”

These days I avoid traffic and air pollution, so I’ve spent months seeking out new roads to ride.

I recently mentioned Cherry Avenue as an option, along with Hillsdale Avenue.

I continued south on Cherry Avenue all the way to Blossom Hill Road and linked up with the Guadalupe River Trail and Alamitos Creek Trail. The end of Alamitos Creek Trail brings you to McKean Road, which opens a world of possibilities.

I’m not saying this is a route for beginners because I’m talking about riding through San Jose going south where traffic is terrible.

You won’t find a better cycling road than Cherry Avenue, though. It’s wide with spacious bike lanes and a single lane of traffic both directions. It does narrow and get busier after Almaden Expressway.

The big negatives are Minnesota Avenue and Pine Avenue intersections with only stop signs. I can’t imagine crossing these intersections during rush hour.

Linking up with Guadalupe River Trail and Alamitos Creek Trail has a few warts.

First, the sad story about Guadalupe River Trail. It ends at Virginia Street and that’s a shame. There’s a big gap between Virginia and Hwy 85 where it picks up.

Adding to the end of trail sadness, homeless camps line the river trail south of Hwy 85. It’s a crime that the wealthiest place in the world (Silicon Valley) can’t take care of the less fortunate. I know it’s a complicated issue, but one that can be fixed.

I didn’t expect to make it through the creek trails without issues due to the recent rains, and I was right. Almaden Lake Park is closed, so I had to take Coleman Road and Winfield Boulevard to reach Alamitos Creek Trail.

The river/creek look like they haven’t caused much damage, with only minor flooding along the trail.

Don’t bother trying the Guadalupe River Trail north of Blossom Hill Road. It’s a dead end and closed, although the homeless use it.

Another option for riding south is Leigh Avenue. It has a bike lane most of the way, but there’s a lot of traffic in places and two lanes each direction at times. It’s much friendlier after Camden Avenue.

I’ve included a suggested Cherry Avenue route on Ride with GPS.