Old Calaveras Road — one and done

January 13, 2021

Beautifully restored adobe house on Piedmont Road. Worth a visit.

Today’s ride to Calaveras Reservoir brought back memories and a discovery of something old turned into something new (restored), to be cherished for years to come.

I’m talking about the Milpitas Adobe House, built in 1835, tucked away in a cul-de-sac near Piedmont Road and Calaveras Road.

I started riding the Mt. Hamilton loop to Livermore in 1980, leaving from Milpitas. Jobst Brandt, our tour guide, knew all the places of interest, so he never failed to lead us past the old, dilapidated adobe on an equally old Piedmont Road.

Sadly, Old Piedmont Road didn’t make it, but the adobe did, thanks to efforts by concerned citizens and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority.

Old Piedmont Road fell victim to modernization and winter rains from 1982-83. I have no written record, so I’m relying on memory. A large slide forced the road to close, so we started using the new Piedmont Road. Sections of the old, abandoned road are still visible south of the adobe, and other sections still in use farther on.

Riders enjoy car-free riding on Calaveras Road.

I believe the old road took up some of the new Piedmont before it started uphill on the east slope. Jobst liked avoiding cars, so we took the old road until its demise.

But I digress. I wanted to check out Old Calaveras Road. In all my years or riding, I have never been on it.

For good reason, as I learned today. Old Calaveras Road starts at Evans Road and immediately I knew that this would be my last time. There is a section of 20-23 percent. It doesn’t go for long, but the climbing higher up isn’t easy either.

The good news is that there isn’t any traffic, as there is on Calaveras Road on a weekday morning. Plenty of it, moving fast.

Calaveras Reservoir finished. It welcomes Smith Creek and Isabel Creek runoff.

The payoff is a view of Spring Valley Golf Course and short descent. Nice if you like golf.

Traffic dissipated after turning left on Calaveras Road at Felter Road, and I could enjoy the views on a day drenched in sunshine.

I checked out the Calaveras Reservoir retrofit, finished after God only knows how many years and constant road closures.

Imagine what it must have looked like when this valley was farmland and a small community. Not a bad place to settle down.

I recalled all those rides around Mt. Hamilton and the final grind from Sunol to the Calaveras Road summit. In the early days we had some spirited chases. In the later years, not so much. Today it’s an achievement just to go on a ride.

Alpine Road has a hidden bridge

January 9, 2021

Bridge over Corte Madera Creek on dirt Alpine Road, looking south.


Back in the winter of 1982-1983, Corte Madera Creek flooded from heavy rains. That was the start of ongoing problems at Alpine Road’s concrete bridge spanning the creek.

The bridge is about 100 yards beyond the green gate, where east slope Alpine Road pavement ends.

As an aside, a half mile of road leading to the green gate wasn’t paved until October 1987.

I don’t have any photos of the bridge before 1986, so there may have been a suitable crossing. I would have taken a photo, if there were a problem. I suspect that the bridge was already obscured by debris.

Between 1986 and late December 1989, when the road was graded for the last time by San Mateo County, we walked down to the creek and crossed on rickety wooden slats put there by a concerned citizen.

Olaf Brandt and Jobst Brandt clamber over a makeshift bridge on Alpine Road in 1986.


There were other landslides we had to traverse during the late 1980s, some which Jobst Brandt and friends worked on to make rideable.

After the grading, we were shocked to find out that there had been a substantial concrete bridge in place. We had no idea based on the lay of the terrain.

It’s still there today, obscured by brush and trees.

Alpine Road at Corte Madera Creek bridge, January 7, 1990. Jeff Vance, Brian Cox, Jobst Brandt shown.

A bridge for rich and poor

January 8, 2021

New bridge on Three Creeks Trail in San Jose.


There’s a chasm between San Jose’s rich and poor, but now they’re united by a new bridge over Los Gatos Creek.

I’m talking about the bridge for Three Creeks Trail, which replaces an ancient railroad trestle spanning Los Gatos Creek. The other two creeks are Guadalupe (River) and Coyote Creek.

The bridge sat in storage for seven years while a citizens group battled to preserve the Union Pacific bridge, whose timbers were soaked in creosote and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Old trestle in 2013.


As much as I enjoy trains and appreciate their utility, that trestle was downright ugly. We’re talking about a minor spur line. If this were something with more historical importance, I would have hoped for its preservation.

The piers residing in the creek accumulated debris, another reason for removal. It also caught fire on several occasions. Homeless encampments line the creek and nearby trails.

What we have now is a stylish bridge that enhances the trail and commemorates the trestle with a descriptive placard. See it soon before the Vandals attack. (Where are the Huns and Goths when we need them?)

A placard gives the area’s history.


While the bridge has a lot going for it, I can’t say as much for Los Gatos Creek Trail leading to downtown San Jose. It winds through a ragtag industrial area where I passed numerous encampments. And garbage. Lots of garbage.

Heading southwest Three Creeks Trail makes a beeline through portions of Willow Glen, an upscale neighborhood where Teslas can be found. The trail only goes for a mile before dead-ending at Falcon Place.

One of these days it could be extended to Guadalupe River and its trail, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

Lonus Street and the environs where the new bridge is located are about as transient-ory as there is in San Jose, so I would never encourage the trail’s use going north.

One of these days, when we figure out a way to end homelessness and clean up the garbage (don’t hold your breath), these trails will offer a great way to get around San Jose’s downtown.

Accuracy test: Specialized Speed Zone Pro vs. Garmin Edge 500

January 5, 2021

They’re 99.2 percent accurate. Is that close enough?


What’s more accurate? A wireless cyclometer from 2000 or a Garmin Edge 500 with GPS, released in October 2009.

I can’t say for sure, but given the recent test, I’d say wireless cyclometers, with the proper calibration, are just as accurate.

On my morning ride — clear skies, smooth, flat roads — the difference after 26 miles came to 25.99 (Garmin) vs. 26.19 (Specialized).

That distance means a lot to runners. It’s the length of a marathon.

So, doing the math, one of the cyclometers is 99.2 percent accurate. Close enough, right?

Not so fast. Let’s say 25.99 is the correct number. If the marathon were to be run based on the Specialized measurement, it would mean a runner has to cover an extra 1056 feet, or 352 yards.

Were this to be a world record attempt, where seconds matter, the runners would be way better off saving 352 yards, or about 60-70 seconds.

Even when doing a century ride, having to pedal another 0.8 miles isn’t a deal breaker.

Meanwhile, note that the Bay Trail at the Sunnyvale water treatment plant has been rerouted again. More pipe work is going on behind the facility.

Bay Trail rerouting will be another couple of weeks at Sunnyvale water treatment plant.

Garmin Edge 500 release date October 2009

Gloom haven on Skyline Boulevard

December 28, 2020

Upper Alpine Road on a winter’s day.


Today’s ride could be described as “gloomy,” in every sense of the word.

Upper Alpine Road sat in a pea-soup fog, but things got better after descending a couple hundred feet.

During these Covid19 days open space trails are crawling with residents who would normally be walking the malls.

I’ve never seen so many people enjoying the outdoors, even on a day better suited for watching TV on a warm couch.

Despite our recent “rain” events, the ground is barely wet. The local reservoirs are empty.

Ending on yet another sour note, the trash on Hwy 84 near La Honda is revolting. Beer cans and bottles litter the roadside.

I always wondered if county road crews picked up trash. Now I figure they did, before Covid came along.

Somebody in La Honda needs to round up some volunteers to clean the road.

One bright note on a dreary day, the hairpin turn on Alpine Road.

Searsville had a dirt bicycle track

December 26, 2020

Nick Van Male with Peter Rich on the Searsville Track, 1956.


Research by John Woodfill regarding bikes owned by Jobst Brandt led to another interesting find. Around 1956 there was a quarter-mile bike track at Searsville Reservoir. It was dirt and banked.

Searsville Reservoir, located just off Sand Hill Road and Portola Road junction, is today an ecological football. Tear down the dam (silted in) or leave it be?

Jobst was among a cadre of Peninsula cyclists, loosely called Pedali Alpini, who purchased Cinelli road and track bikes from Cupertino Bike Shop. Owner Spence Wolf was one of the exclusive dealers for Cinelli, considered the premiere racing bike in the 1950s.

There’s a photo showing Nick Van Male and Peter Rich on the track, published by The Almanac.

The track was removed in 1957.

Unless you are a local, you may not know that Searsville Reservoir was a popular recreation area. Picnics and the like.

All that changed in 1975 when the land was turned into the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. The Almanac has all the details.

The track and another “secret” board track in San Francisco (allegedly) is mentioned in writings by Erich von Neff, a former longshoreman from San Francisco. Published in Half Moon Bay Memories.

I’m not sure why President Obama is shown on the page, but Jacob Bronstein is with him. He “recorded” his books.

Calaveras Road had a railroad — kind of

December 14, 2020

Calaveras Road looking east from Milpitas near Piedmont Road.


Anyone who rides a bike on Calaveras Road knows how hard it is in the first mile leaving Milpitas.

That steep slope didn’t stop engineers from moving a steam shovel to help build Calaveras Reservoir.

In 1916, for those of you too young to remember, a huge steam shovel was transported up the hill to the dam site.

They laid track, using two steam engines to haul it up the steep grade, which is 15 percent or more in places.

The track was ripped up and repositioned all the way to the dam site.

I didn’t believe it possible, but the San Jose Mercury News ran a photo. See below.

Calaveras Road with a “rail line” in 1916.

Found On Road Dead

December 11, 2020

I couldn’t resist. Seen today just north of Montague Expressway on the Guadalupe River Trail.

If bikes could talk, what would this one have to say? Where has it been? Who used it? Why was it abandoned?

In April 2018, GenZe added 250 Ford GoBikes to their fleet in the Bay Area.

Shoes raining down, but it’s not what we need

December 6, 2020

Guadalupe Reservoir has room for runoff. Meanwhile, it’s raining shoes.


Guadalupe Reservoir, which captures runoff from Mt. Umunhum, could use some more wet stuff. My home rain gauge says 0.07 inches.

We’ll be taking sponge baths this summer at this rate.

Meanwhile, shoes are raining down on Hicks Road. Not what we need right now. A fun diversion, I suppose.

Hicks Road can use a cleanup on the way to the reservoir heading south. I’m on it.

I think it’s becoming apparent that Covid has cut into county cleanup.

I don’t know if they actually clean “remote” county roads. But judging by what I’m seeing, they do.

John Forester and Kittie Knox fought for cyclists to have a place on the road

November 24, 2020

Kittie Knox, shown here in 1895, battled racist elements of the League of American Wheelmen.

It is only now that I learn of the passing of John Forester in April, an influential cyclist in the 1970-80s for his insistence that cyclists adhere to the same rules of the road as cars.

I met Forester when he lived in Palo Alto in the 1980s. I bought his nylon bike bag that mounted behind the saddle, using it on my trips through the Alps.

I knew Forester’s reputation and background when I met him, so I was not taken aback by his quirky personality and abrasive manner.

His strident views about cycling were both his strength and his downfall. He couldn’t compromise and in politics that’s a recipe for disaster.

Forester wrote and advocated the principles of Effective Cycling. I bought his self-published book mainly to show my support for cyclists’ rights to the road.

I agree with pretty much everything he advocated, but where we part ways is when it comes to bicycle facilities.

Forester disparaged bike lanes, bike paths, and other amenities for the bike.

Over the years I’ve gradually shifted my thinking from battling cars on equal footing to supporting a bike network separate from cars.

The deal is, we need both.

Bike advocate Ellen Fletcher, who served on the Palo Alto City Council when Forester was living in Palo Alto, didn’t always see eye to eye with the outspoken bike advocate. She was a politician who understood the importance of compromise.

Their political rivalry came to a head at an organization called the League of American Wheelmen. I won’t go into the details here because I was not privy to the situation. However, there is an outstanding article written by Joe Biel that delves into their differences that came to the forefront within this organization.

All of this is irrelevant today. The American Wheelmen was a seriously influential group in the 1880s, but not much more than a mouthpiece for disenfranchised cyclists in the 1980s.

The dark history of the League of American Wheelmen and its racist past is exposed by Biel in his story about a young black woman from Boston who could ride circles around most men — Kittie Knox.

Biel’s story is an eye-opener and one that everyone should read to understand that racial prejudice runs deep in this country.

Thanks to the Internet, I can share some excellent writing about cycling matters from the past. Still relevant today:

How Kittie Knox changed bicycling forever by Joe Biel

Bicycling magazine interview with John Forester by Peter Flax