Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

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.

Braking: front, rear or both?

August 30, 2015

I'm not going to declare this an old-growth redwood, but still impressive.

I’m not going to declare this an old-growth redwood, but still impressive.


Yesterday I did one of the most difficult descents in the Santa Cruz Mountains — Bear Creek Road (Summit Road to Hwy 17) –using only my front brake.

The road is steep — about 16 percent in several sections — and has washboard bumps on tight turns, the worst kind of road for descending fast on a bicycle.

There has been some debate over whether or not to use your rear brake while descending. Jobst Brandt gave his thoughts on this subject in one of his rec.bike posts in 2000. For the record, he never said you should not use your rear brake while descending. In fact, there are situations where it is advisable.

Of course, we all know that about 90 percent of braking power comes from the front brake, so using the rear brake is not going to make a lot of difference in most situations. Jobst and Sheldon Brown, both experts on the subject, wanted to get across the point that going over the handlebars while braking does not result from using just your front brake.

I didn’t go any faster on my descent compared to using my rear brake. As Jobst pointed out, one’s ability to descend depends on innate abilities — he compares the mind to a CPU — so using your rear brake or not while descending isn’t going to make much difference on how fast you make it down a mountain.

That said, I made it down the road, as I have dozens of times, without incident and didn’t notice any improvement or increased difficulties from using only the front brake.

The reason most cyclists crash is because they’re riding too fast for conditions, not from improper braking. Jobst rarely crashed, considering the miles he rode, but on two occasions where he crashed and broke bones, it was from riding too fast for conditions. The same goes for driving a car. It happens every time there’s a snowstorm or icy roads.

Meanwhile, my quest to find the Mountain Charlie tree ran into a snag, so this one I photographed nearby will have to do.

Finally, I’m giving the first person who can identify this black device a free copy of my novel Skidders. And I’ll give you another copy if you can tell me where it’s located.

Can you ID this thing? Let me know.

Can you ID this thing? Let me know.

“Friday light” lives up to its reputation

August 21, 2015

Pescadero cemetery. Amaryllis belladonna is named after the Greek beauty Amaryllis and bella donna which means beautiful lady in Italian.

Pescadero cemetery. Amaryllis belladonna is named after the Greek beauty Amaryllis and bella donna which means beautiful lady in Italian.


This is my second long ride on a Friday and I’m beginning to believe it’s the lightest traffic day in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Of course, the drawback is fighting morning traffic in Silicon Valley with a 7:30 a.m. departure. It gives me a chance to see how most people live.

I’m not liking what I’m seeing at the intersection of Homestead Road and Bernardo Avenue. Parents jam up the intersection turning right from Homestead, which blocks the bike lane for at least eight car lengths. I’d never want my children to ride to Cupertino Middle School on Bernardo.

On top of that, there’s no bike lane on Bernardo. Who wants their children to ride a bike to school? That’s what I figured. Nobody, and I can’t blame them.

But I digress. Once I got onto Moody Road, things got better. It was clear sailing the rest of the way until Old La Honda Road, where quite a few motorists braved the drive up to Skyline. That’s what happens when Hwy 84 closes from a downed tree.

In addition to no traffic, the weather couldn’t have been better. High clouds and temps in the 60s.

There might be one benefit from the drought. I’ve never seen so many belladonna flowers. Bellissimo!

Loma Mar store. It's going to be a while before it's finished. They also need a new sign.

Loma Mar store. It’s going to be a while before it’s finished. They also need a new sign.

McKenzie Reservoir drinks in the sunshine

August 14, 2015

Two deer ambled down to the lake for a drink as I snapped the photo.

Two deer ambled down to the lake for a drink as I snapped the photo.


I’ve been riding past McKenzie Reservoir on Lake Ranch Road since 1980, but the good news now is that it’s sanctioned by the county.

In May 1984 Jobst and friends rode by here and stopped to drink from a stream that runs by a big redwood next to the road. I’m not so inclined to drink from local streams these days with the drought and increased pollution making it less appetizing.

As happened in 1984, I saw a gaggle of kids riding by, part of a commercial business catering to youth summer camps, Bike Dojo.

While that’s all well and good, when I was a kid we explored our local parks and trails unsupervised, something that would be unthinkable in today’s world. How times have changed.

East Ridge Trail where have you been?

August 1, 2015

Anybody missing a toy? They're at the Big Basin Park maintenance yard.

Anybody missing a toy? They’re at the Big Basin Park maintenance yard.


As I look around for the remaining trails I haven’t ridden (filling my bucket list), I stumbled across East Ridge Trail in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

I’m told Jobst had ridden it, but I imagine not often. I headed out today to see what I was missing. As it turns out, not much.

East Ridge Trail is an old logging road, I’m guessing (aren’t they all?), not really a trail, which is why it’s open for bikes. No single-track is open in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

I picked it up on the right a few hundred yards down China Grade after turning left at Hwy 236. You can’t miss the trail. There’s a big iron gate and a sign that says authorized vehicles only.

After a brief climb, the road starts a short descent into a saddle and at the low point there’s a dirt road off to the right that descends fairly steeply. That goes to Rogers Road and the state parks maintenance area. It’s open for bikes.

I continued on East Ridge Trail uphill. The 1.1-mile road, as you might imagine, follows a ridge and that means plenty of up and down. There’s one climb that’s impossible to ride because it’s about 35 percent and loose. But try anyway.

The road dumps out onto the little-used Lodge Road. I’m betting Lodge sees fewer cars than any road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s a goat trail and doesn’t really go anywhere special.

I headed right because I wanted to check out Rogers Road and the trail I chose not to take.

After two miles I came to a junction and headed straight into more “authorized vehicles only” territory, the park maintenance yard. While there I got into a conversation with one of the park workers. That’s when I noticed a tree stump covered with all kinds of toys, left behind by park users over the years.

Anyway, the road I didn’t take comes into Rogers Road. Check it out. It’s all downhill, as opposed to East Ridge. There’s another trail that comes into the park maintenance area, but that’s one of those Once Upon a Ride reports.

East Ridge Trail where it crosses Lodge Road in Big Basin State Park.

East Ridge Trail where it crosses Lodge Road in Big Basin State Park.

Mammoth display trumpets bone discovery

July 28, 2015
Mammoth artwork at Trimble Road and Guadalupe River trail.

Mammoth artwork at Trimble Road and Guadalupe River trail.

Mammoth bones were removed for study.

Mammoth bones were removed for study.


Remember 2005 when they found the mammoth bones in the Guadalupe River next to Trimble Road? Who can forget?

Now there’s a life-size mammoth artwork on display next to the discovery site. It looks much better than that coiled snake in downtown San Jose.

With my life back in order, I toured the Alviso Slough/Guadalupe Slough levy, which is in great shape now that the gravel put down in the first mile has settled.

It’s pretty amazing that gravel sinks into the ground the way it does. It just seems to disappear.

Lots of lone white pelicans, egrets, cormorants swimming around. Even a couple of night herons made a showing.

Alviso levy on a warm morning.

Alviso levy on a warm morning.