Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Alpine Road repairs

April 27, 2014

Alpine Road needs some culvert cleaning. Otherwise big washouts will continue to plague the trail.

Alpine Road needs some culvert cleaning. Otherwise big washouts will continue to plague the trail.

Saturday I headed up Alpine Road to check out some alleged grading done near the intersection with Page Mill Road.

Although we had a quarter-inch of rain, the trail stayed dry, at least until the graded section a quarter-mile from the top.

My road bike’s meager brake clearance jammed the wheels tight with mud. So much for road repairs. Had it not been graded, things would have been better.

What I find curious is that culverts are not maintained. The one shown is mostly blocked. It’s this lack of maintenance that leads to catastrophic results, as we have witnessed in years gone by.

Enjoy the road/trail while you can.

Skunk Ride

April 13, 2014

Bridge Trail goes downhill from the Haul Road to Pescadero Creek and then joins Camp Pomponio Road, formerly called Honor Camp Road.

Bridge Trail goes downhill from the Haul Road to Pescadero Creek and then joins Camp Pomponio Road, formerly called Honor Camp Road.

I don’t remember seeing a skunk in the wild, until today on the Haul Road in Pescadero Creek County Park.

It was a short distance from Camp Pomponio Road. As soon as I saw the skunk headed my way I stopped, and so did the skunk, who instantly held up its tail for a spray. We eyed each other for about five seconds before I shooed him away. He never came closer than 50 feet, which is close enough for me.

I found the paved Camp Pomponio Road infinitely more enjoyable than Portola Park Road for climbing out of the Pescadero Creek drainage.

There’s a gate about a mile and a half up, so there’s zero traffic on the narrow road that goes through a spectacular redwood grove. It was obviously logged many decades ago.

After the gate there’s about another mile of climbing, but still virtually traffic-free. The only cars using the road are going to the Tarwater Trail parking area.

You can be sure it’s steep, about 20 percent near the merge with Alpine Road, but it’s so much more beautiful and remote than Portola Park Road.

Way Back Machine and New Idria Ride

March 30, 2014
Portola Valley glamour shot of a 1987 Saso.

Portola Valley glamour shot of a 1987 Saso.

Today I rode my Way Back Machine around Portola Valley and all in all it’s not much different riding compared to my Ritchey Break Away. Both are nice.

However, I have to admit downtube shifting leaves something to be desired compared to brake-lever shifting.

While I’m on the topic of “way back,” last Thursday I rode the New Idria loop with some friends, a 115-mile adventure ride in the wilds of San Benito County.

We were the first cyclists to ride on the disputed Clear Creek Road since it was closed in 2008 by the Bureau of Land Management, which claimed we were breathing in asbestos dust on our way to the New Idria mine.

Now it has re-opened, but with a list of prohibitions a mile long that essentially bans off-road motor bike riding and just about every other recreational activity that might stir up dust.

Photos, story and a video are on my personal website.

Bridges Connect Bay Area

March 23, 2014

Interstate 280 spans Crystal Springs canyon.

Interstate 280 spans Crystal Springs canyon.

On my ride to San Francisco I stopped to admire two bridges — Eugene Moran Memorial Bridge in San Mateo County and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Eugene Moran bridge spans the canyon created by San Mateo Creek, and a big canyon it is. It’s all the more impressive because Crystal Spring Reservoir’s dam is right there. It’s still undergoing an earthquake retrofit but one of these days it will be finished and we can resume our rides on Skyline Boulevard.

That’s a good things because riding on the bike bridge over Interstate 280 at Highway 92 is a pain. How many bike bridges do you know of with an 11 percent grade? Who approved such a plan?

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a busy Sunday tested my patience. Hundreds of cyclists formed a rumba line going across the span. Pseudo racers jockeyed for position with road boulder cyclists. It was quite the scene.

Clear skies made the ride up to 820 feet and the Marin Headlands overlook worth the effort.

I finally had a chance to ride through the Fort Baker tunnel, and fortunately I took the downhill route. It’s about a half-mile and speeds of 25 mph on a bike are typical. The wet, muddy stuff in the bike lane made for some interesting riding.

The tunnel is fairly well lit. You don’t need a light. The bike lane is wide. Wait at the tunnel entrance for a green light before proceeding.

One of these day they ought to close several lanes of the Golden Gate Bridge for bikes. That will be the day.

On a side note. My novel, Skidders, a story about autonomous cars making cycling safer, is moving along. It will be posted on my website a week before Christmas. Free. I’ll also post it on Kindle.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. Nice day for riding.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. Nice day for riding.

Mt. Hamilton’s weird wacky weather

January 21, 2014

Livermore Fire Station 6 houses a century-old light bulb that still works.

Livermore Fire Station 6 houses a century-old light bulb that still works.

There’s a warm winter’s day and there’s a freakish warm winter like the one we’re having. For weeks the daily low on Mt. Hamilton summit has been in the high 50s to low 60s. What better time to do the Mt. Hamilton loop to Livermore and back?

I figured I could do the entire ride in shorts and maybe even a short-sleeve jersey. Starting Sunday at the base of Mt. Hamilton, the temperature was in the mid-40s at 7:30. Within 15 minutes I had climbed above 1,000 feet where it was already in the low 50s. By the time I reached Halls Valley (Grant Ranch Park) it was in the mid-60s and it stayed that way to the summit.

The land is parched on the backside of Mt. Hamilton. No flowers. Not a blade of grass. There’s only one pond with water near the road, where there are usually a dozen.

As I passed Arnold Ranch, the flower bed so painstakingly maintained along the road dried up. I’d be surprised if we saw a single daffodil this year.

I pulled into the Junction Store and fortunately it has re-opened, under new ownership. I jokingly told the owners I would try JotEmDown store if they were still closed. Another benefit about this day’s weather was the lack of wind. It’s usually a slog riding on Mines Road with a steady headwind. It got so warm I had to shed my long-sleeve jersey.

In Livermore I checked out the centennial incandescent light bulb inside Fire Station 6 on East Avenue that has burned for more than a century. However, as expected, the station wasn’t open. You’ll need to plan your visit on a special day to get a look.

With a nice tailwind, I took Stanley Boulevard to Pleasanton, a pleasant-on experience now that the bike lane is complete.

Riding by Calaveras Reservoir, which is receiving a stronger dam, I noted a fair amount of water.

Visiting the innovation vortex: Google

January 12, 2014

Google campus. Picture taking encouraged.

Google campus. Picture taking encouraged.

I used to ride on Charleston Road, about a million years ago, where pheasant and burrowing owls roamed the undeveloped marshland. Now it’s Google land. I checked it out today and my otherwise mundane ride turned into something whimsical.

When I lived in Mountain View and commuted to work on Shoreline Boulevard, I had to ride over Hwy 101 on a narrow two-lane road. That’s one nightmare I’m happy to put behind me.

Google encourages bike riding around campus. Way to go. Google bikes.

Google encourages bike riding around campus. Way to go. Google bikes.

I don’t know why, but Mountain View has long been a vortex for innovation, and not just technology. Runner’s World magazine occupied the present-day Togo’s sandwich shop (Togo’s launched in San Jose in 1967) and Gold’s Gym at the intersection of Shoreline and 101.

I couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time in 1977. Frank Shorter triggered the marathon boom when he won at Munich in 1976, but that was just the icing on the cake. It gave the baby boomers something to aim for — running a marathon — as they embraced health and fitness.

Runner’s World publisher Bob Anderson moved his fledgling long-distance running newsletter from Kansas to Mountain View in the early 1970s. In large part it was because the long-running magazine Track and Field News is based in Mountain View. When I arrived in 1977 the running boom shifted into high gear. The magazine grew to become a household name. After the 1984 Olympics the bloom was off the boom. A few years later Anderson sold the magazine and it found a new home in Pennsylvania, where it still thrives.

Meanwhile, Google occupies the exalted role as Oracle for the World Wide Web, the best search engine for humankind’s vast treasure of knowledge and daily life. In the scheme of things, Google is the most relevant company in our lives. Right here in Mountain View.

Newark community center, Maybury Road, has an absolutely brilliant bronze baseball diorama. Made my day.

Newark community center, Maybury Road, has an absolutely brilliant bronze baseball diorama. Made my day.

Swimming with the sharks

December 29, 2013

Excellent surf in Santa Cruz on Saturday.

Excellent surf in Santa Cruz on Saturday.

With so little rain, winter rides have taken me to places I wouldn’t normally go this time of year.

We rode 9.5 miles of dirt to reach Hwy 1 and then headed to Santa Cruz for more spectacular weather and surfers enjoying their sport. Nice waves.

Laurel train memories

November 27, 2013

Laurel shack in downtown Laurel. Where's the train?

Laurel shack in downtown Laurel. Where’s the train?

I have no idea why there’s a small shack in Laurel. Maybe it’s a bus stop. Does a county bus go here? Or was it a train stop? I find that hard to believe because the train stopped running here in 1941 or so.

The Laurel train tunnel has never been easier to see from the road. Someone cleared out the brush leading to the tunnel. If you want to see what the original Old Santa Cruz Hwy looked like, cross Summit Road and continue to Hwy 17. It’s in amazingly good shape for being so old.

Joy of cycling: Let me count the ways

November 17, 2013
A good way to go to Santa Cruz. $5 one way from San Jose Diridon Station.

A good way to go to Santa Cruz. $5 one way from San Jose Diridon Station.

Today’s ride was nothing special, but here’s what makes cycling fun:

  • Riding across Silicon Valley early on a Sunday morning. Not much traffic.
  • Picking up Coyote Creek Trail on Tully Road and knowing someday it will make it to the Bay.
  • Riding past Hellyer Park Velodrome
  • The crunch of sycamore leaves on a remote section of Coyote Creek Trail
  • Santa Clara County Model Aircraft Skypark
  • Hawks soaring
  • Seeing the windsock at the Metcalf 600 megawatt power plant blowing north
  • Riding up to Anderson Reservoir
  • Watching migrating Canadian geese land in Anderson Reservoir
  • Crossing Hwy 101 on Burnett Avenue with no ramps
  • Riding north on Hale Avenue at 24 mph with a tailwind

Enjoy your ride.

Loma Prieta Road defines open space

November 1, 2013

Since so few people have traveled the length of Loma Prieta Road, and probably never will the way things are going, I’ll give you a tour.

I’ve been riding on the road since 1981 and in that time it hasn’t changed much. When Jobst rode it in the early 1960s it wasn’t much different either, except for the gates.

Iron gates
Two iron gates were added where Loma Prieta Road joins Summit Road. One or more were added where Loma Prieta Road joins Soda Springs Road and one at Mt. Umunhum Road.

Loma Prieta Road starting at Summit Road.

Loma Prieta Road starting at Summit Road. Dirty bump just ahead.

This is speculation because not even Jobst mentioned when they went in, but it was probably in the late 1960s at the height of the dirt motorbike boom.

The gates are still there, but the ones at Summit Road are open all the time for residents from Loma Chiquita Road. That’s right. They can drive their vehicles on the road, but bicycles are banned. At numerous locations MROSD recently added big red “keep out” signs.

Over the decades we would see on average one vehicle. In the 1980s, especially after the Lexington fire, we were verbally harassed. “This is a private road,” was the mantra. In the 1990s we saw vehicles only occasionally and they usually didn’t stop.

Approach from south
We almost always approached from the southwest on Summit Road. Loma Prieta Road is well maintained as dirt roads go. It starts out with a fairly stiff climb that gets steep, around 16 percent. In the late 1990s that short, steep section was paved, thus eliminating its affectionate name — dirty bump.

Once over the dirty bump the road levels and heads through thin chaparral and brush. There’s a road junction at the base of Loma Prieta, which has radio antennas on the summit. Off to the right is Loma Chiquita Road, which is gated, paved and private. Workers occasionally drive to Loma Prieta summit to maintain the radio towers. One time they asked me the way to Loma Prieta as I was riding up Mt. Bache Road.

Loma Prieta junction with Loma Chiquita Road.

Loma Prieta junction with Loma Chiquita Road.

Spring watering hole
Staying left on Loma Prieta Road, passing a MROSD keep out sign, the vistas open up looking north toward Mt. Umunhum. It’s spectacular countryside broken by drainage basins. In a quarter mile there’s a spring and a small stone basin, used by early cars that needed to fill their radiators.

A modern water tank, which supplies the spring, can be found a short distance up the hill. The spring is always running.

Drinkable water at the spring.

Drinkable water at the spring.

The road follows a ridgeline so there’s not much climbing or descending. There’s one junction at a sweeping left turn you need to avoid. Heading straight and downhill would not be a good idea because it descends steeply to Alamitos Road.

Jobst Brandt stops for a drink on a flat section at an old chestnut orchard.

Jobst Brandt stops for a drink on a flat section at an old chestnut orchard.

A couple miles farther on, the road smooths out and there’s a former chestnut orchard. Up until around 2005 the only residence next to the road was a trailer here. I never saw the owner but I did see his black dogs. They were none too friendly, but they kept their distance. Shortly after that there’s an MROSD gate with its usual access signage, including the “bikes OK” symbol.

After a long descent, the road levels and there’s the Cathermola Road junction on the left. Keeping right, the road climbs and gets steeper until it’s about a 10 percent grade for a half-mile or so. The only residence near the road is just before Mt. Umunhum Road on the right up a short hill. I know the owner, but he shall remain nameless.

Final climb to Mt. Umunhum Road.

Final climb to Mt. Umunhum Road.

MROSD does not own the entire road, but it’s close. As I’ve noted before, all roads cross private property, but we have easements so people can get around. Public roads are roads that have been in use by the public for long stretches of time. Determining what makes a road public is where attorneys make their living.

Once at paved Mt. Umunhum Road, a left turn takes you to the former radar base. There’s a camera mounted above a high gate. I haven’t been there in eons. Presently the District is removing all the toxic waste from the base. They planned to do that work in 1986, but a lawsuit and a host of other obstacles stood in the way.

Flat repair on Mt. Umunhum Road.

Flat repair on Mt. Umunhum Road.

Turn right and it’s all downhill on the aging road with some deep fissures hidden in the shade of pine trees. A gate about two miles down is the official “keep out” location where nobody is allowed to pass. The road is steep in many locations, although not as steep as Hicks Road.

I’ve ridden this route about 16 times and only once saw other cyclists, riding mountain bikes.


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