Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

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.

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 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.