Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Far from the Madden crowd

February 7, 2016

Tailgate party on Mt. Hamilton summit, Super Bowl Sunday.

Tailgate party on Mt. Hamilton summit, Super Bowl Sunday.


I had the bright idea to ride up Mt. Hamilton on Super Bowl Sunday because, you know, everyone and their brother would be glued to their TV set eating ten pounds of Doritos, each.

Turns out there was an unannounced tailgate party at the Lick Observatory parking lot that nobody told me about, but it was all over the Innernet on one of those ride group postings we call Social Media.

As I churned my way up the 19-mile climb under clear skies and gentle breezes, I noticed a heck of a lot of riders flying by. So while I did avoid the Madden crowd, I ran smack dab into the madding crowd. They no doubt, in addition to blood doping, are mechanical doping. I felt like a dope as I had to rely on my own two aging legs, capable of generating about 60 watts, enough to power our feeble kitchen light bulb.

I had a long conversation with the owner of a new carbon-fiber Colnago. Of course, I had to tell him how I bought a new Colnago frame off Greg LeMond back in 1980. He won it in a race and already had a half-dozen new bikes, so he gave it to Palo Alto Bicycles for safe keeping. Paid $400.

Mostly when you’re riding up Mt. Hamilton people are in a big hurry, like they’re late for the train or something, and don’t want to slow down and have a conversation. It’s not that way with the slower riders, who seem more willing to exchange pleasantries beyond “on your left.”

With 3 million, 218 thousand millimeters to go before the summit, give or take a millimeter, I passed a young woman who was being so nice to everyone as they passed that they had to slow down and be nice back. She just bubbled with enthusiasm, the kind of chipper attitude that makes life a little more tolerable.

That kept me in a good mood until I reached the summit and saw a mob of cyclists. There must have been a thousand, maybe more. They stood around jawing about everything under the sun, some recounting their near-death encounters with cars.

I edged closer as one guy described being run over by a Chevy Suburban, which is only slightly smaller than a bus. The driver admitted he had been drinking and, amazingly, stopped to check to see what that object was caught under his wheels. Turns out he ran over the cyclist, who broke a bunch of bones and now has so much metal in him he sets off the airport metal detectors every time he flies.

After downing a Clif Bar product, I headed back down Mt. Hamilton and noticed that all the riders who blasted by me on the way up, also blasted by me on the way down. I even got passed by guys riding mountain bikes with those enormous tires that look like they belong on a monster truck.

I’m now in the market for one of those motors you stick in your seat tube and churns out 150 watts without anyone being the wiser.

Just don’t tell anyone.

Flooding on Guadalupe River recreation path

November 25, 2015

FYI, the mighty Guadalupe River has submerged parts of the Guadalupe River recreation path.

I saw it beneath the Hwy 237 overpass. While it might have been less than a foot deep, I wasn’t going to risk submerging my bottom bracket.

I can imagine other locations are also under water, such as at the Trimble Road overpass and Hwy 101.

San Tomas Aquino Creek trail is OK with the exception of a wet section beneath the Great America Parkway overpass.

Aptos Creek Road makes the grade

November 22, 2015

Aptos Creek Road after grading. Much smoother now.

Aptos Creek Road after grading. Much smoother now.


Today I celebrated a 20-year anniversary of dubious distinction: a head-on collision with a mountain biker bombing down Aptos Creek Fire Road in Forest of Nisene Marks state park.

It’s something I’ve written about, but it bears repeating. Bikes going fast are deadly weapons. We had a walker killed on Page Mill Road by a cyclist earlier this year. It happens.

I was lucky. I got my bell rung for about 10 minutes and rode home some 35 miles. I was even luckier because Jobst Brandt helped fix my tweaked wheel so I could ride. I was not wearing a helmet (wish I was).

The cyclist who hit me was not so lucky. He dislocated his shoulder and needed a ride out. He was wearing a helmet. He waited several hours for a ranger to arrive. The rider was nice enough to pay for my damaged parts. I hope he learned his lesson.

Today I saw one racer barreling downhill. Everyone else rode safely, including about 10 youth doing a commercial bike tour. A few mountain bikers have exceptional riding skills and can manage to avoid accidents, but most riders lack these skills. They’re yahoos and they’re the ones who crash because they ride beyond their abilities.

Here’s the good news: Aptos Creek Road, which connects Buzzard Lagoon Road and Aptos Creek Fire Road (green gate) was graded since I last rode there in May 2013.

It’s a dramatic improvement. I found a photo from 2013 that illustrates the rocky boulder field and one that may be the same location. It’s hard to tell because the grading made the road smooth, as smooth as I remember it from riding here in the early 1980s.

Dirt roads degrade over time, mostly from water erosion, and just a little from bike tires. So we should thank the government agency that went to the trouble to grade the road, whether state or county. It’s greatly appreciated.

Today’s ride was much like the one in 1995: A beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-70s and sunny skies. Only this time I didn’t get a headache.

Aptos Creek Road in May 2013, before grading.

Aptos Creek Road in May 2013, before grading.

Reynolds Road to nowhere

November 17, 2015

Nice views of San Francisco Bay from Reynolds Road.

Nice views of San Francisco Bay from Reynolds Road.


I’m sure anyone riding on Hicks Road and passing by Reynolds Road wonders where it goes.

I can tell you: it goes nowhere. That is to say, it goes uphill paved for a mile at a 10 percent grade, or more, before reaching a Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District sign. I'm sure you can imagine what it says: no traipsing.

The road turns private and goes beyond to ranch houses and the like, according to maps.

It's part of the Sierra Azul preserve, MROSD's largest. This section is called Rancho de Guadalupe. It makes one wonder why this road exists and why county tax dollars were used to pave it, if nobody uses it beyond a handful of ranches? Maybe it was because realtor interests anticipated growth here back in the day.

Based on what I've seen perusing topo maps, there are some roads that go to interesting places. One of these days they might even be open to the public.
Reynolds Road off Hicks Road. Open for a mile or so.

Hickory Oaks Trail brings out riders

November 14, 2015
Hickory Oaks Trail view looking northwest.

Hickory Oaks Trail view looking northwest.

I’ve been riding on the Hickory Oaks Trail and Long Ridge for about 30 years. Today was one of those days you’ll remember for the fine weather and clear skies, as long as you take a photo.

Highway 9 still has a stop light about three miles up from Saratoga, but it looks like work will be done soon.

Skyline Boulevard has new pavement near the CDF station, but it’s still rough farther north for a few miles. Will they wait until next spring to repave?

Who can forget the pumpkin tree?

October 29, 2015

Jobst Brandt and Mike Higgins pass by the pumpkin tree on Pescadero Road in 1984.

Jobst Brandt and Mike Higgins pass by the pumpkin tree on Pescadero Road in 1984.


I know I can’t. In the early 1980s the residents of a house on Pescadero Road hung pumpkins from their apple tree starting in late October.

We enjoyed passing by and admiring the tree every Halloween.

The owners of the house are long-since gone, along with the tree, but the memories remain.

Pumpkin tree location today.

Pumpkin tree location today.

Dumbarton Bridge and Coyote Hills Park tour

September 26, 2015

After reading about the tack attack on Kings Mountain Road, I decided to scratch my plan to ride there.

Turns out the tacks were spread over 50 yards back in June, but an effort to raise a $10,000 reward to catch the criminal made news, again.

I took various paths and expressways to make it over Dumbarton Bridge and then around Coyote Hills and along Alameda Creek.

That reminds me of the time I rode over Dumbarton with Jobst Brandt and friends on April 17, 1983, six months after the new span opened, while on our way to watch the Coors Devil’s Cup Criterium in Walnut Creek, won by Steve Tilford.

Because we were following Jobst, you can be sure we did the unexpected, which meant riding ON THE BRIDGE road, not the separated bike path on the south side.

Back then the striping was four lanes, two each direction, with a generous shoulder, so we rode without being hassled. Striping increased to three lanes after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Due to construction near Crow Canyon Road, we also had to cross Interstate 580.

I’ve lived here long enough to remember driving over the OLD Dumbarton Bridge. Narrow would be the operative word.

Car-free riding in Silicon Valley

September 10, 2015

Here’s a 25-mile ride where I can avoid cars for most of the way. It’s good riding when dry, but not possible when wet because the levee roads become a quagmire.

I do this ride when it’s hot and smoggy, like today.

A Mt. Hamilton and Quimby Road one-two punch

September 7, 2015

There's a soda machine and ice cold water available at the north entrance to the observatory.

There’s a soda machine and ice cold water available at the north entrance to the observatory.


Back in the day, Jobst Brandt took us up Quimby Road and then up Mt. Hamilton Road to the summit, just for fun.

Anyone who has ridden up Quimby Road knows how much fun it can be, as you dance on the pedals up the 20 percent grade for miles. I exaggerate, but not much.

On this Sunday I decided to try riding over Quimby Road after the climb up Mt. Hamilton. It’s about a mile from Grant Ranch park to the Quimby Road summit, mercifully less steep than the west climb from Santa Clara Valley.

Hordes of cyclists rode up Mt. Hamilton on this fine day, although temperatures climbed into the high 80s by mid-afternoon.

On the way back down near Grant Ranch I encountered Marc Brandt, the nephew of Jobst Brandt and bike racer par excellence in the early 80s. These days he’s happy to be riding after his recent hernia surgery, which he proudly showed me.

Marc Brandt rides up Mt. Hamilton Road in 2008 on a gearless bike.

Marc Brandt rides up Mt. Hamilton Road in 2008 on a gearless bike.

Marc stops for a chat, his first time up Mt. Hamilton since 2008.

Marc stops for a chat, his first time up Mt. Hamilton since 2008.

In the distant past Marc lived for a time off Sierra Road overlooking Alum Rock Park. His time there included raising turkeys. There’s more to the story, I am told, but Marc will have to tell it himself…

I survived the descent of Quimby Road, which is saying a lot because it’s not easy on the brakes. This would not be a good place to break a front brake cable.

If you’re looking for an interesting road in south San Jose, there’s always San Felipe Road, a rural route that will take you back to the early 1900s with aging ranch houses and range-fed cattle, all free of cars.

Ride it to the end and then take Metcalf Road, passing the Pratt & Whitney facility (no jet engine testing heard) and then the motorcycle park before one of the most unpleasant descents in Santa Clara Valley.

Mtn Charlie tree a hidden gem

September 2, 2015

Now we're talking.  This is an old-growth redwood, Mountain Charlie.

Now we’re talking. This is an old-growth redwood, Mountain Charlie.


I first read about the Mountain Charlie Tree about 30 years ago in the San Jose Mercury News and now I finally found it.

At the time they didn’t want to reveal its location, but it has a state historical marker, so there’s no reason to keep it a secret.

A website has all the details on location, as well as where you can find other historical markers about Mountain Charlie.

As we all know, Mountain Charlie McKiernan was one of the earliest settlers in the Santa Cruz Mountains and survived a fight with a grizzly bear.

We have him to thank for Mountain Charlie Road, which he built himself and opened to the public as a toll road.

It has hardly changed, only now quite a few people reside next to the narrow paved road.

The tree is located downhill from Mountain Charlie Road just off Glenwood Highway, which as we all know used to be the main route to Santa Cruz from Los Gatos.

Just to give you some perspective on its height, at 260 feet it’s nearly as tall as the tallest building in San Jose, “the 88.”

The plaque next to the tree has all the details. The "Queen" is about 100 feet away.

The plaque next to the tree has all the details. The “Queen” is about 100 feet away.


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