Alpine Road’s “muddy” history

Upper Alpine Road between Page Mill Road and Portola Valley got its start in the mid 1800s as a trail, then a crude wagon road.

In 1893 San Mateo County declared the road a public right of way and made improvements.

It was all about the economy. The county supervisors thought they could siphon away business going to Santa Clara County by having a better road down the east slope of the coast range.

And so began the road’s tortured history of closures caused by earthquakes and storms that wiped out culverts and bridges.

Look at these photos taken by Jobst Brandt around 1974. The road turned into a muddy mess during wet winters.

Laurence Malone struggles up Alpine Road in the mud.
Dirt bike and cyclists find the mud hard going on Alpine Road. Jobst Brandt photos.

According to Peter Johnson, a cyclist who rode Alpine Road on many occasions, he walked up it faster than half of the cyclocross competitors could ride/walk that day.

The race was hosted by the Palo Alto Bicycle Club, fulfilling a United States Cycling Federation requirement that a club hold one race a year.

I don’t know who won the race, or where it went after reaching Page Mill Road. Maybe someone will read this and post a comment with the information.

For certain, five-time U.S. cyclocross national champion Laurence Malone entered and is shown. Other names mentioned as possibly appearing in the photos are Joe Ryan and Tom Hill, according to Dino Ride on Facebook.

Jobst knew to stay off the road when wet, but we almost always encountered the gooey stuff at “Mud Turn.”

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