Trash Mountain a sad sight indeed

May 6, 2021

Several miles up from Smith Creek. The burn extends to within a half mile of Smith Creek.

My 42nd annual ride up Trash Mountain left me in a sad mood on what should have been an uplifting occasion: perfect weather with a cooling onshore breeze (tailwind no less), and a newly paved road to the summit.

Instead, I saw a continuing eyesore, trash everywhere, spilling down slopes. This was my first close-up of the devastating fire that engulfed the mountain last August. It’s worse than I thought.

Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of trees were cut down after the fire. I’ll especially miss the giant manzanita that lived several miles from the summit next to the road.

Manzanita tree in 2010

Now the mountainside looks like a disaster area. It’s barren where there used to be welcome tree shade. Reminds me of Mt. Diablo.

The irony is that the road is in the best shape ever. Only three small patches were left unpaved from Quimby Road to the summit.

There’s another stretch of road, about a mile and a half, that’s not new, but that’s it. Smooth, fresh pavement for nineteen miles. And beautiful new culverts.

What should be done to clean Trash Mountain? My suggestion is to recruit residents who live on the road. I think some do clean near their property, but I doubt that it’s a coordinated effort.

Another thought is to dedicate a day for cleanup, the same as we do for coastal cleanups, Coyote Creek cleanups, and so on. Put up signs at the base of Hwy 130 and invite the public.

With some coordination, it could be cleaned within an hour. The heavy items would take longer and require some extra effort.

As for the road itself, I think all that’s left is striping. Thanks to O’Grady Paving in Mountain View.

Note that the observatory parking lot and approach is still closed. There’s a water spigot at the summit, first building on the right.

Halls Valley descent no longer bumpy.

Fatigue Limit – 7

May 3, 2021

Penny farthing race sprint finish.

Nothing can compare to the camaraderie cultivated between individuals with like intentions beginning a long ride. Turning the pedals works wonders to loosen the tongue and put the rider in a mellow frame of mind. The legs are still supple, the lungs rested. And so it was in this upbeat mood that we began a long climb heading into the hills. We followed Martinez Road [Alpine Road] next to Corte Madera Creek, which had carved out a narrow canyon over millennia. Oaks, madrone, big-leaf maple, redwoods, and laurel hugged the steep slopes, giving us shelter from the sun.

I had been on this road before with Carl. Calling it a road stretched the definition. Carl assured me that San Mateo County would claim the right of way and improve it “one of these days.” He often railed against the county’s capricious treatment of roads as they put off maintenance or abandoned them all together.

Gary stayed in the pack as riders jockeyed for position around him on the rutted trail marked by mud puddles. They waited for the inevitable surge, at which time their good-natured friendliness would evaporate as fast as fog on a hot summer morning. They were like a school of sardines transformed into a pack of hungry sharks.

Gary had plenty of competition from local riders. Tim Mafer had shown promise in recent races at San Jose’s dirt track. He lived on Skyline near Spring Ridge where his father grew hay and cultivated vineyards. Paul Johansen, track racer and frame builder in Menlo Park, followed behind Carl, who stayed near the front.

Even though Carl was twice the age of many riders in our group, he had the strength to keep up. I fell to the back, gasping for air as the pace quickened, but managed to hang on.

Fatigue Limit home

Alpine Road looks the same

April 28, 2021

Upper Alpine Road hasn’t seen any maintenance,
although this section has always been good.

Recently I mentioned in my blog that a rider told me the Alpine Road improvement, announced by Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District last year, was underway.

I decided to check for myself. I rode down from Page Mill Road for a quarter-mile and that was far enough to tell me nothing has been done in this section.

I didn’t see any evidence of road maintenance or brush removal. Maybe improvements are being made elsewhere, but I had no desire, physically, the check out the entire trail.

Today’s weather couldn’t be nicer, unless you prefer things a little cooler. I rode up Old La Honda Road and wondered what it must have been like back then to try to ride up it on a highwheeler, or down. Impossible? For me, yes.

I’m impressed that a four-horse stagecoach could manage the distance to La Honda and back. It must have been quite the experience.

This was the main stage road to the Pacific Ocean in the 1800s. The Highway 84 route up the eastern slope didn’t come along until much later.

I located Hallidie’s road that intersects with Old La Honda, 0.2 miles from Skyline, and took a photo. The gate is still there with strands of barbed wire for good measure.

Sadly, the road is no longer rideable, and would even be difficult to explore on foot. It’s visible from Old La Honda for a short distance. Trees have fallen over the road and it’s heavily overgrown.

I’m lucky to have ridden down it a couple of times. Life moves on…

Hallidie’s road at Old La Honda Road. Now just a memory.

Fatigue Limit – 6

April 26, 2021

Cigar-chomping official watches
race finish around 1890.

Gary had sinewy muscles like a cheetah’s, and physical proportions right out of a gym book. Everything about his physique spoke to speed and grace on the bike. And he had yet to start riding. I understood why this twenty-year-old rider was going places.

“Where to fellows?” Gary asked. “I’m up for a good ride. I’ve been doing so much traveling by train this past week that I haven’t practiced much.”

Carl looked at Gary’s bike and pointed to the drivetrain. “You must be left handed.” Everyone laughed, Gary included. Our circle of sycophants followed as Carl rode west, waving his hand like a modern-day wagon master. Our Pied Piper on the bike rode all the trails and logging roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We joined him, anxious to stay on his wheel for fear of becoming lost in the hills. His large size made for a good draft. We weren’t proud.

“Not another Koenig Ride!” someone yelled. “If there’s any grizzlies in those hills, we’re sure to find them.” Everyone laughed as the pace picked up to a comfortable level allowing for conversation. We rode west on Menlo Park and Santa Cruz Turnpike [Alpine Road], a well-graded thoroughfare to Portola Valley, passing the occasional horse rider and wagon on the way into the oak-covered hills. Small stands of redwoods made their appearance. These stately trees grew in abundance in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a lure for any logger with a lust for fine lumber.

Some of the wealthiest families in the San Francisco Bay Area lived by the road, including Andrew Hallidie, inventor of San Francisco’s iconic cable cars. The presence of wealthy landowners and their connections with local politicians ensured that the road would be well maintained. Water wagons plied the pastoral boulevard daily.

We passed Chapete’s [Alpine Inn] where cyclists stopped after a ride for a cold brew and to share stories of adventure in the far corners of San Mateo County. Before the cyclists, it was the woodsmen who worked the nearby sawmills telling tall tales. Loggers shared a common bond with Carl’s riders. They liked the outdoors, worked hard, and spent long hours in the woods.

Fatigue Limit home

Fatigue Limit – 5

April 19, 2021

Coventry Rotary in 1879. Chain driven.

I had no regrets about missing out on the highwheeler. I started with a safety bike only a year ago, my father paying a king’s ransom for the machine. Still, I admired the local racers who suffered through their formative days riding highwheelers. They were modern-day essedarii, riding high out of the saddle where a tumble could mean a trip to the infirmary. They made the switch to safeties in a heartbeat once Carl changed over. The mechanical engineer always berated the beastly highwheelers, declaring them an engineering travesty. He pointed out the advantages a chain afforded the Coventry Rotary tricycle and called for a two-wheeler of similar design. It took ten years, but the bicycle industry finally came around to Carl’s way of thinking. Only a handful of professional racers still rode highwheelers. We assumed it was because their sponsors required it of them. They weren’t fools, but they were beholden.

Everyone’s attention turned from Carl to Gary when he rolled up, riding a custom-made Harry S. Roberts, imported from England with the latest lightweight tubing and iron rims, drivetrain on the left. Its new coat of pearlescent paint glistened in the sun. Gary’s blond hair complemented the bike color. He greeted the riders with an expressive smile, slapping hands and wheeling a circle before planting his feet. The riders crowded around, anxious to share a brief moment with the new cycling phenom. Racers worshiped anyone who could outride the pack. The personality wasn’t what mattered, just the leg muscles, the lungs, and the winning spirit. Gary had all of it and the riders wanted a piece of it. They hoped that some of his magic would rub off by following his draft. If only it were that simple. Bike racers need guile to win. Those talents weren’t necessarily God-given. Gary had quick reflexes, feared nothing, and had that unassailable confidence, but he also had cunning. He knew when to strike, when to stay back in the pack. Few racers could do what he did with the same proficiency.

Fatigue Limit home

Jobst Brandt’s bike in the US Bicycling Hall of Fame

April 16, 2021

Jobst Brandt’s bike shortly after restoration in late 2011.

Jobst Brandt’s last bike, built by Peter Johnson, is on display at the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis, Calif.

It was faithfully restored in 2011: Dave Prion, assembly and parts; Peter Johnson, frame alignment and other visual blemishes, parts; Painting, D&D Cycles.

Everything on it is original to what Jobst used on trips through the Alps, especially the Carradice saddlebag with the custom-built seat mount. It has an Avocet 50 cyclometer.

I’m happy to see that the bike has found a good home where people can check it out along with many other bicycle artifacts on display at the 8,000 square foot building located in Central Park.

Hall of Fame Facebook page

Misery on a mountain

April 15, 2021

Mt. Hamilton Road has long delays for road work. Avoid until work is finished.

Update (4/21): I filed a request for Caltrans to post an electronic sign at Alum Rock Avenue and Mt. Hamilton Road. They said they did so.

I didn’t see the flashing sign as I rode by Grant Ranch Park on Mount Hamilton Road. Am I blind?

It said “Expect one hour delays.”

They weren’t kidding. Caltran is repaving the entire road at one time. Thus the long delays.

The road was badly damaged by heavy equipment used to douse the Mt. Hamilton fire last August. The fire started north of Mt. Hamilton and spread south, enveloping the summit, but fire fighters kept it from damaging Lick Observatory.

I don’t know if work is continuing on the weekend.

From what I understand, they’re quite a ways down the mountain, so they might not have much more work to do.

Use extreme caution on the road. Dozens of dump trucks are driving up and down the mountain. They take up the ENTIRE ROAD on the curved sections.

I turned around, not wanting to wait two hours. Quimby Road let me avoid the trucks on the way down, but it’s no joy ride. Avoid this road going up or down.

My understanding is that Hwy 236 between Hwy 9 and Big Basin Redwoods State Park is also closed for the same reason. Let me know, if you can confirm.

Fatigue Limit – 4

April 12, 2021

Solo ride on the new pneumatics at Niagara Falls, N.Y. in 1890.

“What about Dunlop’s pneumatic tire? Have you seen it? Is it as good as they say?”

Carl reattached his wheel, picked up his knapsack and headed for the door. “Not Dunlop! He re-invented the pneumatic tire conceived by Robert Thomson. Mr. Thomson should sue, but I’m quite sure he thinks like me. He wants to see technology advance. Come on. We’re going to be late. We don’t want to miss a ride with Velo Master Mandrel. I’ll tell you about Dunlop’s tire on the way. All I’ll say right now is they’re better than the Victor’s cushion tires.”

We mounted our safety bikes with hard-rubber wheels and rode north on the El Camino to the bike shop and hardware store on University Avenue. Windy Hill’s patch of pastoral greenery marked the distant hills and reminded us adventure awaited. We overtook a water truck spraying the road. The wagon shot a thin stream my way. It mixed water and dirt that splashed, coating my shirt in a veil of mud. I cursed to the heavens. The driver saw us coming, knew he might spray us, but kept at it. It was the kind of insult we cyclists got used to. We were punching bags for the horse riders and other transportation.

“At least it didn’t include a horse’s Eau de Cologne,” Carl replied after a laugh.

“He saw us coming,” I fumed.

“Get over it kid. Find a way to get back at him.”

Carl turned down Lytton, one of the new streets in Palo Alto where a land rush ensued when Timothy Hopkins put lots up for sale months earlier. I had written several articles about the new town and its role in supporting Stanford University.

“I think I know where we’re headed Carl.”

“My house is almost finished.” Carl dismounted near the intersection of Middlefield Road. “They’ve got the roof done. Nice work. In a few more weeks I’ll have something more to my liking.”

We rolled up to Orr & Peterson’s where cyclists congregated. I recognized a few of the riders, but Carl knew everyone. He mingled and exchanged words with the wheelmen, always appraising riders’ bikes. “Those wheels aren’t going to last,” he griped. “You’ve got to build them with three-cross lacing. Didn’t you read my article? That frame looks like a giant grasshopper! Who built that? Oh! An Ordain-ary. Blessed by the Pope!”

Most riders who knew Carl had grown accustomed to his constant browbeating. They shrugged and paid him no attention, but a few listened intently, mostly the young, impressionable riders like myself. Another rider showed up on his penny-farthing. I stifled a laugh. He would not be joining us on the long climb that was sure to come.

Fatigue Limit home

Alpine “Road” improvement in progress

April 9, 2021

CalFire maintains a fountain at its station on Skyline Boulevard at Hwy 9.

A mountain biker I came across at Page Mill Road and Alpine Road told me that Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) is making improvements to Alpine Road.

From his description the gnarly single-track section has not yet been improved, so I will wait before trying. He said the “road” is much wider now from brush being removed.

Beyond that, my ride up Hwy 9 went well enough. The main reason I avoid the road these days, besides old age, is the traffic. It’s none too pleasant even on a weekday. Too many drivers buzz by. Same with Skyline Boulevard.

Skyline Boulevard played host to a side show recently, near Horseshoe Lake. Maybe it was the same ones who laid down donuts on Cañada Road.

Today was one of those sunny spring days that looked warm, but wasn’t on Skyline. A cold wind blew off the ocean. I brought along a trash bag and stuffed it in my jersey for the descent to Page Mill Road.

Page Mill Road is without a doubt in the best condition I’ve seen it since 1977.

More Alpine Road trivia: In 1907, Peter Faber discovered a coal vein on his property while fixing a landslide on Alpine Road. The road had been closed for two years.

Fatigue Limit – 3

April 5, 2021

Start of a race in the 1890s.

That was an understatement. The young rider’s reputation spread like a raging wildfire across Northern California. His exploits on the bike rewrote the record books, overshadowing the accomplishments of the best riders. He proved in every race he entered that he could beat the best cyclists. Carl made adjustments with his spoke wrench while I watched. Carl knew everything about cycling, but his knowledge was worldly. In his travels to the East Coast and Europe he met the great minds of engineering, knew some by first name. He corresponded so frequently that it took the postmaster extra time to gather up all the letters.

I shuffled through a pile of missives strewn across his dining room table. The names read like a Who’s Who — John Dunlop, Pierre Lallement, John Kemp Starley, Albert Overman, Henry Sturmey, Eugene Meyer, Hans Renold, Alfred Reynolds, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche. His Renaissance man attributes shown through.

“You do know some influential people,” I said, my mouth agape at the names I had perused.

Carl continued turning spokes, listening for the right pitch when they pinged and settled into place. At moments like these he was more piano tuner than wheelbuilder. After each wheel tightening, he carefully stress-relieved the spokes by grabbing pairs and squeezing them. Was there anything this man could not do? Here he was, a piano repairman one minute, a dairy farmer with the right “squeeze” the next.

“Certainly. These fellows understand scientific principles.”

“Including Sigmund Freud? Isn’t he a psychologist?”

“He’s a blowhard. I don’t buy what he’s selling, but he has a few good ideas. Besides, he’s German. I understand his writing.”

“And what about Friedrich Nietzsche? I learned about him in school. He’s a nihilist.”

“Don’t say that. It’s a highfalutin word for a realist. He doesn’t believe in prophets or fairy tales, nor do I.”

Fatigue Limit home