Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Brown skies continue in Bay Area

August 29, 2016

Montebello Road summit looking west.

Montebello Road summit looking west.


If you think the forest fires are out, not quite. Check out the skyline from the summit of Montebello Road. Fabulous weather though.

Purisima Creek Road cuts through a heavily logged canyon

August 23, 2016

Purisima Creek Road just below the Grabtown Gulch Trail junction.

Purisima Creek Road just below the Grabtown Gulch Trail junction.


If you were to go back in time to, let’s say 1880, and visit Purisima Canyon, you wouldn’t recognize it. The loggers clear-cut the canyon starting in the 1850s and ending in the 1920s.

There was ongoing logging here into the 1960s, but it was more like tree thinning.

On Monday morning as I rode down the “trail” from Skyline Boulevard, which I’ve been doing since 1980, I was struck by how much more brush and undergrowth I saw compared to the old days. It used to be pristine, redwoods and little undergrowth. I suppose the difference in plant life is mostly from the lack of logging, but it may also be climate change at work.

Water source for the Alvin Hatch Mill. I took a beautiful photo of Jobst Brandt drinking from the creek here in 1981.

Water source for the Alvin Hatch Mill. I took a beautiful photo of Jobst Brandt drinking from the creek here in 1981.

Most of the redwood was turned into shingles back then, mainly because it was hard to remove trees from the steep canyon over the hill to the port of Redwood City. There weren’t any harbors nearby on the Pacific Coast.

The first mill was water-powered, where Harkins Fire Road joins Purisima Creek Road at the canyon entrance. Later sawmills relied on steam engines, or steam donkeys.

Borden & Hatch Mill  in the 1880s, near where I took the first photo, top of page (From Sawmills in the Redwoods).

Borden & Hatch Mill in the 1880s, near where I took the first photo, top of page (From Sawmills in the Redwoods).


Going downhill, the first location where two sawmills existed is located where Purisima Creek runs under the road through a large steel culvert. That’s where the road levels out somewhat and there’s a sharp right turn. Right here is where a cable way was installed to haul logs uphill to Swett Road. Purdy Pharis, Shingle King, sunk a lot of money into the project, but it never was successful. He died about the time the operation was underway in 1884.

Farther down, at the Grabtown Gulch trail intersection, were two more logging camps, Charles Borden Mill and Hartley Shingle Mill, both operating around 1900-02.

Finally another half mile or so below this site was the Borden & Hatch Mill, which ran from 1871-1900.

While most of the wood went to making shingles, some was used to build a flume for Spring Valley Water Company in 1871. The nine-mile long flume, located in what is now the San Francisco Watershed (Frenchman Creek and stone dam) lasted 20 years before being abandoned.

This was the first time I rode in the Santa Cruz Mountains on a Monday. There’s no traffic to speak of on Kings Mountain Road (2 going up, 5 going down) and the same goes for Tunitas Creek Road. However, Santa Clara Valley traffic during rush hour is no picnic. I’ve learned how to get around it mostly car-free though.

Mount Hamilton enjoyable with air conditioning on full

August 7, 2016

Lick Observatory, built around 1875, backside.

Lick Observatory, built around 1875, backside.


Here it is August when it should be stinking hot, but instead I enjoyed the Bay Area’s natural air conditioning, running full blast, on my ride up Mt. Hamilton.

Lick Observatory was as regal looking as ever, a lasting legacy to one of the state’s wealthiest early Californians, James Lick.

As I was climbing, I saw the daredevil longboarders, with follow car, descending at breakneck speed. And I thought cycling was dangerous. Example here:

Summit Road a cool choice in July

July 17, 2016

One of my favorite trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Mount Madonna and Summit Road.

One of my favorite trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Mount Madonna and Summit Road.


As I contemplated riding to Santa Cruz, that prospect looked less and less desirable as I approached Summit Road on Old Santa Cruz Highway. It was downright foggy and cool.

I decided to strike south for Summit Road where it would no doubt be warmer — not that I really enjoy taking Summit Road. Then I’d ride down Mount Madonna Road, for 11 miles of dirt.

Summit Road offers little in the way of views overlooking the south valley, or the Pacific Coast for that matter, even though it follows a ridge. There’s a lot of tall brush and hillsides to block vistas.

The road rolls along, never too steep up or down, but it’s a lot of washboard, dust and some gravel. Many people continue building their dream homes up there, all off-grid.

The stretch of pavement down to Mount Madonna Road makes the gnarly dirt worth it as paved Summit makes a beeline downhill at about an 8 percent grade. Last night’s dense fog condensed in the trees, making for wet pavement, but not enough to cause riding issues.

Mount Madonna Road is, as always, smooth dirt but a bit dusty below the redwood tree drip line. I blasted down the paved road (14 percent) to Redwood Retreat Road and then home via Uvas Road, thankful for the lack of any headwind — more like a tailwind.

Loma Prieta Way becomes Loma Prieta Avenue, then Loma Prieta Road at the Summit Road junction.

Loma Prieta Way becomes Loma Prieta Avenue, then Loma Prieta Road at the Summit Road junction.

Once Upon a Ride…available now

June 29, 2016

Once Upon a Ride... a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.

Once Upon a Ride… a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.


Thirty-six years in the making, Once Upon a Ride… offers the reader the most complete complete account of Jobst Rides ever. Even if you own the other three magazines, Adventure Rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, High Sierra and Mount Hamilton by Bike, there’s something new here.

Over the years I’ve posted past ride reports, based on my personal journal, on Magcloud, WordPress blog and a personal website. All of those articles, including 60 new ones about rides with Jobst Brandt and/or his friends, are included here.

It’s a lot: 100,000 words, 169 photos, with almost all photos matched to the report. Now you don’t have to search all over the place for Jobst Ride stories, most of which are no longer posted.

All for the price of an inner tube, $5.99, PDF.

You can view it on your computer, laptop or tablet. Smartphones not recommended. The file download is 33 Mb, so give it some time to download. A nice feature is searchability. It’s also 12-point type — easy on the eyes.

If you want a keepsake, buy a print copy for $45.80, not including shipping. It’s printed in the U.S. using HP high-speed printers, a nice touch since Jobst helped develop HP printer technology at HP Labs.

Available on Magcloud.com

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

Mt. Hamilton a Cool Way to Go

May 23, 2016

The spring on the Mt. Hamilton backside is running nicely.

The spring on the Mt. Hamilton backside is running nicely.

I put off riding over Mt. Hamilton several times due to weather, so even though it wasn’t all that nice Sunday morning, I headed out bright and early.

The temperature hovered in the low 50s much of the way to the summit as the sun struggled to shine through the high cloud cover. It finally came out after noon and things warmed up nicely.

I saw a few riders on the way up, but things were mostly quiet with the exception of the car rally that went by.

I headed down the backside and made a point to stop at the spring to see how it was doing. The water is flowing nicely. It’s good to drink, but I didn’t need water since it was so cool.

On my way down a Sheriff passed by, which is a rarity. I haven’t seen one up here in years.

Near Arnold Ranch several riders came by me and we rode together off and on. I stopped in San Antonio Valley to see if I could find my glove dropped a month ago. No luck. I was amazed by how tall the grass had grown and now it’s all brown, fuel for a fire. That’s a downside of plentiful rain.

The refurbished Junction store is open for business and the food looks good.

The refurbished Junction store is open for business and the food looks good.


I stopped at The Junction bar and grill to see the refurbish. It’s clean and efficient, but gone is the taxidermy nailed to the wall, the ancient National Geographic magazines, old photos of Jot ‘Em Down Store, the giant tortoise out back, and the people who ran the place. The new management does a good job tending to customers and their prices are reasonable.

Outside, the tables are still there and they even added patio umbrellas. But what I really miss is Car Man. Bring him back, please.

I wasn’t in the mood for the loop, so I turned around and headed back up Mt. Hamilton. It’s about 8,300 feet of climbing to do the traditional loop through Livermore and Calaveras Road, while it’s 9,100 feet going out and back. Still, I enjoy the quiet of Mt. Hamilton Road.

Besides, I wanted to check out the world’s smallest concrete dam just off the road. It holds quite a bit of water. I’m guessing it was built in the 1940s.

As I struggled up the steep backside of Mt. Hamilton, I took comfort in knowing the wind was at my back most of the way and that the temperature was nice for climbing.

This is the world's smallest concrete dam just off Mt. Hamilton Road.

This is the world’s smallest concrete dam just off Mt. Hamilton Road.

Steel-belted tires a source for flats

May 15, 2016

Steel-belt wire, a sure way to get a tire flat.

Steel-belt wire, a sure way to get a tire flat.


Third in line after glass and puncture vine, I claim wire from steel-belted tires to be a source for bike tire flats. I had one of those a few weeks ago and it’s a hassle to remove the tiny wire. I had to add a boot and extract it at home.

I used to think the wires came from street sweepers, but someone told me it was car tires. It’s hard to believe, but I told myself I’d stop and take a photo if I came across a tire shred. Sure enough on Saturday I found some on Summit Road just south of Gist Road. How it got there is a mystery. Maybe it fell off a truck carrying junk.

I checked out those little-ridden roads nearby, Schulties, Redwood Lodge, Morrill Cutoff to see if they survived the winter; they did, with a couple of minor mudslides and downed trees, since cleared.

Finally, Sempervirens Fund celebrated its 116th anniversary Saturday at the new parking lot for Castle Rock State Park. I was passed by a phalanx of cars heading up Hwy 9. I figured some event must be underway because traffic was far worse than normal.

When I mentioned this to a woman at the parking lot entrance she claimed it was just weekend traffic. We should all be thankful that so few people recreate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Even a minor increase in traffic triggered by a special event overloads mountain roads.

Pedale Alpini gang resurrects a Jobst Ride in all its muddy glory

May 9, 2016

Here's why you want lots of brake clearance.

Here’s why you want lots of brake clearance.


As I am told, the “bike club” name Pedali(e) Alpini was coined when three of its principles — George Koenig, Rick Bronson and Jobst Brandt — got to talking. They all met each other on or near Alpine Road, so they wanted to use the road name in the club title. Someone suggested “Alpini” to give it an Italian flair, which made a lot of sense considering the Italians were going crazy for bike racing back in the 1950s.

Peter Locke, another Pedali Alpini (Pedale is not exactly a complimentary word in French, and the source of some angst among the Pedale Alpini cadre) member said there were no meetings other than conversations they had out on a ride. Quite a few of these riders had successful racing seasons and Koenig went on to compete in the 1960 Olympics.

But I digress. One John Woodfill keeps the club name alive, buying authentic wool jerseys with the same pocket arrangement, colors, and name. He called for a ride starting at the house of Jobst Brandt, Sunday, 8 a.m. Olaf Brandt, Millo Fenzi, Steve Lubin, and Matt Forrester joined John.

While it had rained the past several days, we weren’t going to let that stop us and, besides, it wasn’t much rain, or so we thought.

In keeping with tradition, we headed up Alpine Road. At the green gate the riders waited patiently for my arrival, confident that the road ahead would be dry. It sure looked dry. That would be true for, say, 400 yards.

The farther we rode, the muddier it got. At the bypass trail I wasn’t about to try riding steep sections where a fall might break my precious aging bones. Dodging poison oak growing next to the trail, we made our way uphill, all of us remembering this used to be a pleasant road for cycling, 30 years ago. By the time we got to Page Mill Road, my brakes carried with them what seemed like a pound of Alpine Road.

We headed on to Alpine Road and descended into Portola State Park. None of us believed the Haul Road could possibly be muddy like Alpine. It’s about a 2,000 foot descent to the park where things never dry out in the bowels of the redwoods, including the Haul Road after several days of rain. On the ride over the swank new Pescadero Creek bridge, we looked dutifully for trout, saw none. Jobst always complained that when he was young the place had five-pounders begging to be caught.

Pescadero Creek Bridge. From left, Steve Lubin, John Woodfill, Millo Fenzi, Matt Forrester.

Pescadero Creek Bridge. From left, Steve Lubin, John Woodfill, Millo Fenzi, Matt Forrester.


Our ride turned into a cyclocross event as we hiked up to the Haul Road. Still, it didn’t look all that bad. We headed north and I quickly realized this would be a ride that brought back memories of the winters of 1982-83. It was muddy, pig heaven. A grader had recently done its job on the road, making matters worse.

However, in the majestic redwoods with light poking through the clouds, the scenery made things more bearable as we slogged our way up and down the gentle climbs. Some of us had cyclocross bikes or machines with good brake clearance. That made the ride not so bad.

After more brake clearing with the help of redwood sticks, I managed to reach Wurr Road, where we continued to our next obstacle, the ancient wooden bridge where dozens of cyclists have crashed, some breaking bones. We took it easy crossing, but things were dry. It can be a challenge on icy mornings.

Sadly, Loma Mar Store remains closed, covered with tarp, a remodel taking way too long. The traditional food stop would wait until Pescadero. We had a bite to eat at the main store where tourists mingle with locals preparing for the 116th annual Pescadero IDES Holy Ghost Celebration. As I sat their watching life go by, I wondered how in the world Gordon Moore, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, went from here to Silicon Valley fame and fortune. Moore’s Law has its roots in sleepy Pescadero.

The plan was to ride up Gazos Creek Road into Big Basin State Park and home via Hwy 9. I had enough mud for the day and took the speedy route home via Stage Road and Hwy 84. I saw Gazos Creek last year. It can wait a little longer until things dry out. (Jobst and I rode up Gazos Creek Road on May 18, 1986.)

Quarry Park discovery in Saratoga

April 21, 2016

Quarry Park is a mile outside Saratoga on Hwy 9.

Quarry Park is a mile outside Saratoga on Hwy 9.


There’s a welcome addition on Hwy 9 just one mile outside Saratoga, Quarry Park, which opened last October. I hadn’t noticed it until a week ago, so I decided to check it out.

Starting around the 1870s this site has been host to a copper mine, lime and rock quarry. Santa Clara County operated the site as a rock quarry from 1921 to 1967. However, they kept using the location as a place for private picnics and parties.

The city of Saratoga purchased the land in 2011 with the intention of turning it into a park, working with Santa Clara County and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Trucks drove inside here to load up on gravel.

Trucks drove inside here to load up on gravel.

Here's what the quarry looked like when in operation. Hiking trails above here now.

Here’s what the quarry looked like when in operation. Hiking trails above here now.

Cyclists will enjoy it for its modern bathrooms with running water and flush toilets.

But I had other designs, to ride down John Nicholas Trail starting on Skyline Boulevard. Fortunately Hwy 9 and Skyline had only a thin veneer of wetness in isolated locations, not enough to slow me down.

Nice view from higher up on the trail.

Nice view from higher up on the trail.


I entered the trail from the Sunnyvale Mountain parking area, about 4.5 miles south of Saratoga Gap, Hwy 9 and Skyline. It’s only 0.2 miles on the Skyline Trial to reach John Nicholas. I was the only person using the trail.

I stopped to take a photo at the scenic overlook before plunging down through the redwoods following the man-made trail that keeps a steady grade all the way down to Lake Ranch Road. It’s a popular trail on weekends.

I rode to Black Road, skirting the shores of McKenzie Reservoir, which looks like it’s less than one-third full. I’m not sure why it’s so low after a decent winter’s rains.

Upon reaching Los Gatos Creek Trail at Lexington Dam I was surprised to see a sign that said the trail was closed due to down power lines from a car wreck on Hwy 17. I suspected that the trail was open and someone forgot to remove the sign but I wasn’t going to take any chances, so I hoofed it up and over St. Joseph’s Trail.

That trail has an ugly climb of about 0.3 miles but then it’s easy going back to downtown Los Gatos on a rocky road.

No name creek bridge near where the trail meets Lake Ranch Road.

No name creek bridge near where the trail meets Lake Ranch Road.

Santa Cruz ride a breeze

April 17, 2016

Wave action damage on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

Wave action damage on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.


This ride was almost a duplicate of the one on March 17. I cut off two miles by riding down Hwy 17 a short distance instead of taking Alma Bridge Road.

The plan was to ride Mt. Hamilton but the high pressure system moving in created sustained winds of 30 mph winds at the summit. By noon things calmed down, but I decided to stay away.

I came across the Los Gatos bike racing club at Skyline after a climb up Page Mill Road. They left me in the dust before the Alpine Road descent.

The house across from Sam McDonald park that had a redwood tree fall into it lies empty.

In Loma Mar, after the Ferraris passed me, I saw the store in the same condition it has been for the past month. I wonder when it will open?

On Cloverdale Road I didn’t have much of a tailwind, a sign of things to come. Riding down the coast I had only the slightest tailwind, but it was lovely watching the big waves crash ashore.

In Santa Cruz I took a photo of the wave damage on W. Cliff Dr., which has been repaired. It’s never-ending.

It was survival mode on the Mtn. Charlie Road climb, with one cyclist blowing by me near the start of the climb. Nice day for riding.


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