Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Skies fit for a picture postcard

March 26, 2020

Baylands trail looking east toward Mission Peak.

Today’s ride into the baylands revealed just how clear our skies were before industrialization took hold.

Puffy white clouds and blue skies made my eyes hurt. Green hills shined like emeralds.

Google’s massive new office, which looks more like the Big Top, continues toward completion. So do the equally unique Nvidia offices made mostly of glass, ceiling included.

I’ve seen the Bay Area skies at their worst (the late 1970s) when a brown haze obscured the hills, and now at their best. I much prefer breathing fresh air.

Maybe this will be the last time we see such clear skies. Enjoy the outdoors while you can.

Google complex next to NASA Ames. My Moto G camera leaves much to be desired.

Every day feels like Christmas morning

March 24, 2020

Santana Row on a slow day. Really slow day.

About the only occasion when traffic comes to a standstill in the Bay Area is Christmas morning. I remember the time I rode up Hwy 17 (a four-lane highway over the Santa Cruz Mountains) on Christmas morning thinking I wouldn’t see any cars.

Well, I saw plenty of cars even though traffic wasn’t anything like it is on a normal day.

Today I didn’t stray far from home because the skies looked like they were about to unleash some badly needed precipitation. They’re still thinking about it as we creep into a drought (only 7 inches this rain season).

My ride took me to Santana Row, one of the most upscale shopping/living areas anywhere in the world. It looks like a faux Paris.

Just a few people out for a stroll.

At what was once the parking lot for the Century 20s theaters a huge concrete structure is going up. It sure looks like a parking garage.

I rode under the 280 interstate through a pedestrian walkway, riding by a homeless person sprawled out on the hard, cold concrete. His thin sleeping bag couldn’t have kept him warm.

Only someone loaded up with alcohol or drugs could sleep through such harsh conditions.

One of the dome theaters is still standing. A parking garage and three office buildings to come.

Dream days like this keep the pedals turning

March 22, 2020

View looking toward Mount Diablo from Elena Road in Los Altos Hills.

As I finished my ride through Los Altos Hills under partly cloudy skies and a warm sun, I experienced a strange sensation. This is a dream come true.

No traffic. Clean air. Mild temperatures. Flowers blooming. People out for a neighborhood walk. Behind this dream there lurks the reality — an unseen enemy sucking the life out of civilization.

I’m optimistic that once this is behind us, we will reflect on the good that comes out of this test and alter our lifestyles toward a more sustainable world.

No matter how things turn out, I find solace on the bike. As long as the wheels are turning, I can persevere.

Meanwhile, I took the Frankenbike for a spin, climbing an 11 percent grade for a short stretch. Of course, there’s no climbing out of the saddle, but I managed.

The only negative with the handlebars is twitchy handling. I have to avoid sudden motions.

This bike also has a waxed chain. It’s still quiet after 130 miles.

It’s heartening to see bike repairs still being done. Hey, if the car dealerships can keep their shops open through this shutdown, so can bike shops.

Some bike shops in the area are still open for repairs.

Bike riding in a ghost town

March 21, 2020

I live in the heart of Silicon Valley, the world’s most innovative, and expensive, slice of real estate, but now it’s a ghost town.

On my Saturday ride around town I enjoyed clear, fresh air. It’s hard to explain, but I noticed. My lungs noticed.

Fortunately, the run on grocery stores has abated. There weren’t any lines outside and even the local store selling water didn’t have a line, but business was hopping.

In this day and age, filtered water is an essential service. And fortunately so is our city’s farmer’s market, which has a nice selection of fruits, vegetables, cooked food and even beef from a local ranch.

As expected, San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail had its share of walkers and cyclists. However, it was nowhere near as bad as lunch hour on a weekday in the summer. The trail becomes unrideable.

The weather continues to be cool and cloudy with scattered showers. I anticipate seeing even more walkers in the coming days when spring brings warm weather.

Last night I watched Breaking Away, and after 40 years it hasn’t lost any of its endearing appeal. It reminded me of those exciting times when bike riding became a passion, when rides with Jobst Brandt and his cadre became a weekly escapade.

Those were the days.

What, me worry?

March 18, 2020

Hunkered down in the garage while the coronavirus spreads. The PVC tubing keeps me upright.

As we shelter in place here in Santa Clara County, it’s time to reflect. Things could be worse.

I won’t dwell on the worse. My question is this: Should I go for bike rides? I’m a senior citizen, so I’m most at risk.

I’m not riding outdoors today because the weather sucks. I can ride the trainer in the garage.

I spent eight weeks staying off my bike, except for the trainer, to help rehabilitate my sore neck. Now my neck is much better.

I had just started riding normally when the coronavirus hit. Government officials tell us to stay home. I could ride around town and I’d probably be fine, but does it send the wrong message? Cyclists are under close scrutiny at all times, being out on the road.

I’ve seen some people walking in my neighborhood, but not many. I haven’t seen any cyclists.

According to the San Francisco shelter in place edict, you aren’t supposed to ride, but then it references another section where it says you can ride, walk, etc., for health reasons and essential transportation.

Meanwhile, there’s something much worse than riding a bike — going to buy groceries. Stores are packed from panic buying, but some of the increase in business is because people are staying at home with their children. It’s only natural we’ll see more people shopping.

My advice is to stay away from the big-box stores. They’re a zoo. Instead, support your neighborhood stores. They’re out there. You just have to look.

I’ve had good results going to a small produce market. They’re not as crowded.

While I worry about catching the virus, I’ve had something similar before — the swine flu N1H1 in 2010. I didn’t realize it at the time. I just thought of it as the flu, but I’m sure it was N1H1. For the first time in memory, I had lung problems. Fortunately I didn’t have pneumonia, but I needed antibiotics.

I’ve had bronchitis one other time, in 1995. I had to cut short my Sierra ride, but still managed to ride over Monitor Pass and back again over two days. Antibiotics finally cured me.

If you’re young and healthy, you have nothing to worry about from the coronavirus. Just stay away from elderly relatives until this blows over. That’s why Italy is so hard hit.

One final note. Please don’t drive into the Santa Cruz Mountains to go for a mountain bike ride or to hike, once the weather improves. The roads can’t handle an increase in car traffic. It’s already bad now. It takes only a modest increase in traffic to create traffic jams.

Go for a walk in your neighborhood and avoid the crowds.

What are your thoughts on the coronavirus and bike rides?

UPDATE: I rode on Thursday morning and enjoyed nice weather, clear air. There’s still traffic, light to moderate, and the big trucks are still headed to Permanente. I saw a fair number of cyclists, but lots of people walking in their neighborhood. A big plus is the reduction in NO2 pollution.

Bike rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains have a new look

March 13, 2020

Here’s the view from Old La Honda Road that makes my day.

Gone are the days when I rode from home on 50-100 mile rides through the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It’s more like 45 miles after driving to Skyline and parking. You’ve got to adapt, and adapt I will.

Today I drove up Hwy 9 and noticed some cyclists dutifully picking up roadside garbage. I commend them. I’ve done that too.

Skyline Boulevard between Page Mill Road and Hwy 9 no longer has a stoplight. The slide has been repaired and the road widened.

I headed down Alpine Road and took solace in wearing a long-sleeve jersey. It wasn’t as nice today as yesterday.

A bike rack and deck at Loma Mar Store look inviting.

First stop, Loma Mar Store to visit the owner. They have great pastry and coffee, among other delectable deli dishes. The entire building is out-of-this-world beautiful. Visit and you’ll see why it took five years to build.

When I arrived in Pescadero I noticed a dense fog blanketing the ocean, so I headed up Stage Road under sunny skies and a refreshing breeze.

The ride up Hwy 84 has the usual moderate traffic, but less than on the weekend. I turned onto Old La Honda Road to enjoy the solitude — one of my favorite roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The views…

That’s what I call a nice culvert. This one is near the larger repair/slide that doesn’t look as nice.

The culverts have been repaired, so no more closures.

Skyline Boulevard brought me back to the real world. It was getting late in the day, so commuters blasted by at 60-70 mph while thumbing their noses at the 914 millimeter (three-foot) rule.

To top off the enjoyable ride, my neck didn’t hurt much. Advil helps.

I’m not a fan of riding in dense fog. Right turn on Stage Road.

Bike riding in the Big Apple

September 23, 2019

Williamsburg Bridge on a mild September day in NYC.

My plan was to visit Dave Perry, author of Bike Cult, who lives in Brooklyn near Williamsburg Bridge.

I’ve never visited New York City, but I’ve watched enough YouTube videos to have a good idea what it’s like riding a bike there, and getting around Manhattan where I was staying.

After touring the Statue of Liberty (a must see), I could rent a Citibike and pedal over the bridge, a five-mile ride.

With mild weather, there was nothing to prevent me from a quick trip to visit a Jobst Rider from way back (mid 1970s) who I had never met.

Dave lived in Palo Alto near Keith Vierra, Tom Ritchey, Bill Robertson, and others. He raced and had some success, but then Greg LeMond came along and gave all of these talented Northern California riders reason to pause. “And I thought I was hot stuff.”

I downloaded the Citibike app on my Android phone and proceeded to stumble through the registration process. That wasn’t so bad, but when it came time to unlock the bike, I had to read the instructions printed on the rack to figure out how to enter the five-digit code sent to my phone.

There is a keypad with “1, 2, 3” and LED lights next to each number. You punch in the combination to unlock the bike.

As soon as I pulled the bike out of the rack located in Battery Park, I knew I wasn’t going to be speeding around town. These bikes weigh about 45 pounds. They’ve got fenders, a bell on the left twist grip, and automatic-gear twist shifting on the right hand grip.

The seat was too high, so I lowered it using the convenient quick release. It could be difficult to adjust for someone with weak hands.

I shoved off and noticed the sluggish steering. At least the tires are wide and thick, because you wouldn’t want a flat.

Compared to riding in San Francisco, NYC has a lot going for it. There’s a comprehensive bicycle network, including protected bike paths on some streets.

I followed a bike path along the East River, although it doesn’t go all the way to Williamsburg Bridge. I had to take Clinton Street, but it has a protected bike lane.

There’s no relaxing while riding in NYC. I had to watch out for other riders, walkers, joggers, cars. Most cyclists knew what they were doing. The boldest of the bold weave in and out of traffic with a death wish.

They make a sport of it and hold races through Manhattan, which you can watch on YouTube.

I was just trying to keep out of everyone’s way and make it in one piece to my destination. It’s intimidating riding in crowded cities, especially when you’re old and riding an unresponsive tank. In my youth it wasn’t a concern.

Riding over the Williamsburg Bridge, I appreciated the lengths that the city went to to accommodate walkers and cyclists. It has a separate lane above the cars and next to the subway/train that whizzes by every few minutes.

I enjoyed the ride in mild weather and saw nice views, but I wondered what it would be like to deal with snow and ice.

The one comparison between the Bay Area and NYC that stands out is the kind of cyclists I see. In NYC it’s utilitarian riding with an assortment of bikes, no helmets. Riders are dressed in street clothing. I saw a young woman wearing stockings and a miniskirt.

Bike lane on 8th Avenue near Central Park, minus the bollards.

Downtown I witnessed something out of a magazine advertisement — a Wall Street “suit” riding on a Citibike!

In the Bay Area it’s all Lycra and Spandex, sunglasses, and shiny helmets.

I made it to my destination and had a brief conversation with Dave, who had been out riding. He looks fit.

After sharing memories of days gone by, I headed back the way I came, this time feeling more comfortable with the riding and the bike.

At least I didn’t get lost and survived the ride. The cost came to $13 for a 10-mile ride. The day pass is the best option. It can get expensive if you pay for a 30-minute ride and go over the time limit.

Considering the difficulties of getting around in Manhattan, riding a bike can be a good option in some situations.

Since car traffic was banned in Central Park, there has been an explosion of cycling here. However, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. There are daily bike-to-bike and bike-to-pedestrian accidents.

Best way to see Central Park is via a pedicab. Look for the guy who hails from Uzbekistan.

Pedicabs ply the streets of Manhattan, offering rides after Broadway shows, etc.

Alpine Road then and now

August 31, 2019

Alpine Road just past the green gate today.

Alpine Road at the same location in May 1990.

This morning I decided to check out Alpine Road and take a photo to compare it to the same location from May 1990.

That year is pivotal in the road’s long history. The last time San Mateo County graded the road was December 1989.

While climbing the shaded, paved section of Alpine Road, a rider passed me wearing a Veloro Bicycles jersey. It had to be Gebhard Ebenhoech, the shop OWNER, so I caught up.

We exchanged pleasantries before I headed past the green gate at Alpine Road where the dirt begins.

It didn’t take long to find the spot, which is only a couple hundred yards past the green gate. I’m pretty sure this is where I took the photo. Even if it’s not, you get the picture.

The tree on the right resembles the one from 1990. Of course the terrain has changed to the point of being unrecognizable after 30 years.

The whole point of this exercise is to remind everyone, for the millionth time, that Alpine Road used to be our gateway to the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It was far and away the best route to Skyline Boulevard, avoiding all traffic and offering spectacular views higher up.

Late-summer days like today weren’t so pleasant back then either, as the dust accumulated on the road, but it was still a good ride.

Loma Mar Store – open at last

August 18, 2019

A view of Loma Mar Store from the patio. Spacious.

The colorful sign posted on 8150 Pescadero Creek Road outside Loma Mar Store sums it up best — Open at Last. It took 5 1/2 years, but the wait was worth it.

I stepped inside and marveled at the spacious, open floor plan. Every detail said quality. Anyone can see that the owners put heart and soul into their store and brought a dream to life.

Over the years since its closure, I’ve stopped by from time to time and watched the store being rebuilt. I think all that’s original is the tree out front.

The store became a favorite way station for Jobst Brandt since he started cycling in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the 1950s. He was joined by a cadre of riders in the 1960s. They were engineers, bike racers, programmers, machinists.

This band of Merry Pranksters, minus the drugs, explored the Santa Cruz Mountains by bike. Jobst knew every trail and abandoned road in the area, and all roads led to Loma Mar, eventually.

Jobst Brandt sits outside the store in 1987.

Jobst became our Pied Piper, our bard, our Francis Bacon in the saddle as he made astute observations about the world around us. In the 1970s-80s he liked to stop at Loma Mar and visit owner Roger Siebecker, who served as the town’s postmaster, store owner, and volunteer firefighter.

On one occasion in the 1970s, Roger came to the rescue of Jobst and several riders who crashed on the frozen Wurr Road bridge one winter day. Bones were broken.

I got to meet the gracious owners, Jeff and Kate, this Sunday morning as they greeted local residents come to see the beautiful store that opened six days ago. It has always been the heart and soul of Loma Mar, a tiny community tucked away in majestic redwoods.

Fuel for the return ride.

It’s hard for me not to feel nostalgia about this place, as I’ve been riding here since 1980. Jobst’s adventure rides became the highlight of every weekend, an escape from the pressure cooker atmosphere of Silicon Valley.

Visiting the store gave me a feeling that “community” really means something. The appeal of the small town hearkens to simpler times when people knew each other by first name and life moved at a slower pace. I enjoyed that feeling every time I stopped by, if only briefly.

Jeff encouraged me to return and I promised I would try. But it’s a long way from where I live and the miles aren’t getting any easier. Cyclists heading down to the coast may want to stop and pay a visit, enjoy a coffee, pastry, sandwich. You too can be part of the Loma Mar community.

Loma Mar Store, open for business.

Nothing beats dirt

June 23, 2019

An early morning ride on a dirt road. It makes my day.

My days left in the saddle are dwindling and ride distances shrinking, but I still manage to find some dirt to ride to remind me of past Jobst rides.

There’s always the baylands levees, where dirt roads abound, but it’s not so easy to find trails in the nearby hills within a 35-mile loop from home.

My favorite dirt road/trail reminds me of Alpine Road in every respect. It’s close to Foothills Park and it goes somewhere, bridging two roads often used for cycling. If you want to know what it was like riding Alpine Road before its demise, this is the place to ride.

I was introduced to the trail in 1979 by employees of Palo Alto Bicycles, who frequented the route on their morning rides before work.

They showed me other trails as well, most of them off limits to bikes even then, but they were young and brash, and I was up for the adventure.

Alpine Road as it appeared on Sunday, May 13, 1990. A mile or so past the green gate, end of pavement.