Jim Westby enjoyed Native Sons Cutoff on a warm day in October 1982.
Time once again to turn back the clock and enjoy an adventure ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Jobst Brandt and friends.
November 29, 1981
Riders: Jobst, Jim Westby, Tom Sullivan, Sterling McBride, Dave McLaughlin, Ted Mock, Bill Robertson, Rick Humphries, John ?, Paul Mittelstadt, Tom Ritchey
Route: Up Bear Gulch Road, down Swett Road, Star Hill Road to Native Son’s Cutoff, Tunitas Creek Road to Hwy 1, Stage Roads to Pescadero, Pescadero Road, up Alpine Road, down Page Mill Road
Weather: Cold, then cool, mild on the coast. Clear to partly cloudy
Tire/Mechanical failure: Sterling – flat
It has been said that a dog is man’s best friend. That may apply to bird hunters, but not to cyclists, especially when riders are on their bikes flying downhill.
Dogs and bikes have a nasty habit of colliding, like a magnet to steel. Jobst has had more than his share of encounters.
The riders showed up at Jobst’s doorstep well dressed for the cold weather. Sterling and Mack wore their new baby-blue foot warmers, inspired no doubt by the blue-footed booby commonly found on our Pacific shores.
Paradoxically, they dressed in shorts to face the numbing cold. I dressed more conservatively with a wool long-sleeve jersey and plastic bags for foot warmers. Everyone else suffered in regular cotton socks.
We took Sand Hill Road heading west on the newly paved and striped bike route. Jobst held a steady, yet conservative pace. He had already done some long rides over the Thanksgiving holiday. It was easy to tell because his red bike had a coat of mud, a bit more than you would normally see.
On Highway 84 outside Woodside, Jobst and Robertson became involved in a discussion (one often heard from Jobst) about nuclear weapons, overpopulation and the movies Alien and Wolfen. Jobst noted that the reason homes cost $100,000 on average around the country is because we are feeling the effects of a burgeoning population.
When people talk of head counts, they usually look to Bombay or Hong Kong. Overpopulation in the U.S. with its miles of empty prairie and high plains? No way.
The real riding began on Bear Gulch Road, a steep paved grade that never lets up all the way to Skyline Boulevard. Bear Gulch Road is also a very private road, so private in fact that a big steel electronic gate keeps out the curious near the base of the hill.
The road has a long and murky history involving wheeling and dealing, payoffs and greedy landowners who want their very own road. They paid to have it paved if San Mateo County would make it private and maintain it. [More on this later]
The county agreed but retained half-ownership. None of this ever stopped Jobst from riding on Bear Gulch Road, however. He grew up here and he continued doing what he had been doing since his youth, exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains by bike. Private property be damned.
We all followed along willingly, letting him deal with irate landowners when the time came. This Sunday was one of those times.
A mile past the gate we were stopped by a landowner driving an orange van. Maybe because Jobst is the tallest of the bunch, or because he looks like a natural born leader, he got tagged for a discussion about trespassing on the nicely paved road. The conversation went something like this:
“This is a private road, you know, so why don’t you turn back?”
“I know that,” Jobst said. “But look, we’re not trying to cause any trouble. We just want to ride our bikes through here.”
“But if somebody gets hurt, there could be trouble,” said the landowner. “We have to insure the road.”
“Well, the county technically owns half of this road. If it wasn’t for Mortimer J. Skinflint pushing the county supervisors so hard, this road would still be public.”
“That’s not true. This is a dangerous, narrow road. Some riders come flying down here and are a real hazard. [and we thought we were the only ones using the road]
“We’re not riding down and we never do,” Jobst claimed. “We just ride uphill. Besides, Old LaHonda Road is narrow and dangerous, and school buses drive it all the time. It’s a public road.”
“I don’t think you have all your facts straight about what this area is like,” the landowner argued. “What’s your name?”
“Brandt, Jobst, J-O-B-S-T.”
“Where do you live? What’s your address?”
“In Palo Alto. I’m in the phone book.” [they were still used back then]
“Well, the insurance is the real problem. We have to pay for it and we don’t want anyone hurt on this road and suing us.”
Jobst continued. “But I’ve been using this road even before it was paved. I know all about it. I bet I’ve used this road a lot longer than you.”
The landowner shot back, “I’ve lived here for 20 years.”
Jobst countered, “I’ve lived here longer than that.” [40 years]
The landowner never got upset during the conversation, but it wasn’t clear what he had in mind as he drove off.
We continued our ride, passing the landowner on the way as he worked on his house next to the road.
Jim, Tom S., and I fell off the back on the hard climb, no doubt a bit wasted from the previous evening of wine tasting.
After heading north on Skyline, we turned left onto the steep, pot-holed Swett Road and continued down to Star Hill Road, which turned to dirt soon enough.
But it was on a wide, gently sloping paved section where Jobst met his fate. A mongrel dog weighing at least 40 pounds dashed toward us, Jobst seemingly protected in the middle of the pack.
This dog didn’t pull up as dogs usually do. He barreled into us despite an angry chorus of commands from the riders. We all scattered and somehow Jobst tangled with the dog.
His bike fell out from under him and he rolled once, using his right hand to break the fall. He lay on the pavement for several seconds before moving. Then he sprung up and said, “I’m all right.” He only complained of a sore wrist and the shock of falling.
But Jobst’s bike wasn’t so lucky. I noticed that the paint had buckled in the downtube and top tube where they meet the head tube. Tom Ritchey came over to inspect his handiwork and determined that it was only warped, not broken, still safe to ride.
Jobst said this was his second dog collision. He had his other one 22 years ago with the same result — a broken frame.
Meanwhile, a motorist wearing his Sunday best drove up and honked at us to get off the road.
We continued the ride on Star Hill Road, peeling off onto the bumpy, leaf-covered Native Son’s Cutoff, a route only known to Jobst and friends. It turned out to be a muddy spoor after recent rains, so we slipped and slid down the road as our hands froze on the brake levers in the dark, dank forest.
Giant gray and and brown mushrooms covered the trail, which brought howls of delight from Sterling and Mack: “Shrooms!” Sterling then flatted, right where Tom R. had flatted a week ago, ruining an expensive silk sewup. That had proven enough for Tom, who was riding on new clinchers. [It was about this time that everyone switched to clinchers]
Back on Tunitas Creek Road we headed downhill, while Jobst turned back home, feeling the effects of the fall.
We headed to Pescadero on Stage Roads, stopping at the local grocery store for a bite to eat and to see Miss Pescadero 1981. We headed home over Haskins Hill and Alpine Road bathed in the late- afternoon sun on a November day.