When the levee breaks..

January 18, 2015
Moffett Field Trail has what appears to be a broken levee.

Moffett Field Trail has what appears to be a broken levee.

After a quick check, I noticed the Moody Blues still haven’t been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located in Cleveland, Ohio, of all places.

I thought that was an oversight, but maybe not. I recently mentioned this band to someone, age about 40, and the name drew a blank. If I had┬áreferenced “Nights in White Satin” that may have rung a bell.

Before I end my digression, have you heard of the band “The Stooges”? They made it into the hall of fame, but probably because their lead singer was Iggy Pop.

Now here’s the point: What happens when the levee breaks? I’m talking about the Moffett Field Bay Trail bordering the NASA Ames research center in Mountain View.

It brings to mind a song of the same name by Led Zeppelin (in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Here’s a short clip for those who have never heard the song.

That stretch of trail opened in September 2010 and I was there. It’s a great place to ride and avoid cars.

Meanwhile, I tried out the Permanente Creek Trail overpass at Hwy 101, gateway to the Google Mountain View campus. It’s a straight shot over the freeway — a great way to go as opposed to Shoreline Boulevard.

A towering redwood memory in Big Basin State Park

January 11, 2015

A tree dedication thanks to Sempervirens Fund efforts.

A tree dedication thanks to Sempervirens Fund efforts.


In 1998 I dedicated a redwood tree located in Big Basin State Park to Jobst Brandt. It was done through a fund-raising effort created by the Sempervirens Fund and backed by the park.

After all these years I finally had a chance to stop by and see the tree. Jobst led many rides through the park starting in the early 1960s, notably Gazos Creek Road, but he also visited more remote locations in and around the park.

Jobst fondly remembered the time he drove his car with his wife Helga on Gazos Creek Road back in the 1960s before the dirt road was closed to traffic. That must have been some drive.

Of course these days the road is closed to cars, although the rangers still drive their trucks on it for routine maintenance.

The tree is located about fifty yards southwest of the Barnes Kiosk on North Escape Road at Opal Creek.

It’s a medium-sized redwood in the grove, but still a fitting tribute to Jobst, who loved taking North Escape Road on his way to Gazos Creek Road. My dedicated tree isn’t the only one in Jobst’s name.

Sempervirens Fund, located in Los Altos, is the state’s oldest land trust. Photographer Andrew P. Hill was instrumental in the organization’s founding, which ultimately led to the establishment of Big Basin Park by the state of California in 1902.

Andrew pushed for the park based on an all-too-familiar incident that still goes on today. A landowner accused Andrew of trespassing while he was out taking photos one day in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Andrew and Jobst had a lot in common there. It’s a big reason why Jobst gave generously to Sempervirens, POST, and Save the Redwoods.

I’m not sure what was going on this Sunday, but hikers filled the parks. Castle Rock and Big Basin had full parking lots. Maybe it’s the “New Year’s resolution” effect.

On my way home I discovered I had only 65 cents and had forgotten to bring food. I stopped in at the gas station at Hwy 9 and Hwy 236 in Boulder Creek to see what pennies would buy. These days, not much.

A Tootsie Pop goes for 19 cents. Such a deal. It was fuel enough for the long climb up Bear Creek Road, Summit Road and home on Skyline.

My Jobst Redwood is just off North Escape Road at Opal Creek.

My Jobst Redwood is just off North Escape Road at Opal Creek.

Gazos Creek Road never fails to delight

January 6, 2015

Brian clears debris from Waddell Creek to improve drainage.

Brian clears debris from Waddell Creek to improve drainage.


Intent on trying out my newly renovated rear brake bridge (increased clearance), I contacted Brian for a Sunday ride with dirt.

Gazos Creek Road couldn’t have been a better choice, although I wondered if it would be muddy from the recent rains.

Hardly. It hadn’t rained since Dec. 24, plenty of time for the road to dry.

I’ve been enjoying Gazos Creek Road through Big Basin State Park since 1980, following Jobst Brandt and friends on one of his regular clockwise circuits down Hwy 9, 236, Gazos Creek Road, home on Pescadero Road.

While the temperature never went much above the mid-50s, we enjoyed filtered sunshine and the late-afternoon sun climbing Alpine Road.

We stopped at a tributary of West Waddell Creek, which had been all but dry last winter. Now it’s a burbling stream where the man-made cut in solid rock channels water into an inviting pool.

Many a car stopped at this spot to tank up on water for the inadequate, always thirsty radiators of the day.

After passing the summit encampment where a ranger station once stood, we headed steeply downhill, thankful that the deep gravel dumped here in years past had all but disappeared. A few short stretches of gravel didn’t slow us down.

By now it was almost 2 p.m. and a quick calculation told me that it would be dark before I got home. In his later years, Jobst often descended Page Mill Road in near darkness, a feat I was not anxious to emulate.

We hustled up Alpine Road, discarding the Hwy 84 option because while less steep, it added four miles to my route, so it was a wash. Alpine Road is so much more fun anyway.

There’s nothing more beautiful than a late-afternoon climb on Alpine Road. We made it down Page Mill with plenty of light and then it was a fast ride home.
west-waddell-creek

Silicon Valley and traffic-light heaven

December 25, 2014

Casa Grande in New Almaden, built 1854 . The red brick was painted white at least 10 years ago. Home of the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum.

Casa Grande in New Almaden, built 1854 . The red brick was painted white at least 10 years ago. Home of the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum.


Recently on one of my regular rides on a certain road in the heart of Silicon Valley I discovered the longest stretch without a stop light.

Qualifier – it has to be a public road used by cars. Any road north of Blossom Hill Road in San Jose and south of Palo Alto.

Do you know where it is? Distance? Send me your guess.

Answer: Central Expressway between Mary Avenue and Bowers Avenue – 3.8 miles. There are only three stoplights (counting Owens Corning) continuing on to De La Cruz Blvd., 5.8 miles.

Electric bicycles, mushrooms and solid tires

December 7, 2014

Skyline Boulevard looking at Old La Honda Road.

Skyline Boulevard looking at Old La Honda Road.


Saturday I tried out an electric bicycle at Bicycle Outfitter (BO) and had a chance to discuss its prospects with the staff.

At BO, as with most bike shops, electric bikes are greeted with mixed feelings. I can relate to that. When a rider goes blasting by on an electric bike, I’m none to happy, then wish I had one.

However, electric bikes are already well established in China and are gaining a following in Europe. They have their place for commuting, the market they’re going after.

The bike I rode Saturday is a commuter with a top speed of 20 mph, if you’re just running on battery power and not pedaling. It looks like the typical commuter bike with a long wheel base, solid frame, motor in the rear hub. The battery is removable and sits over the rear wheel.

While the bike had heavy, durable tires, I wouldn’t ever want to have a rear flat. Were I to own one, I’d mount the new Tannus solid tire out of Korea. Solid tires have been around for decades, but this latest version looks promising. (One user’s experience.)

Tannus solid tires eliminate flats. (Tannus photo)

Tannus solid tires eliminate flats. (Tannus photo)


It’s lightweight and has decent rolling resistance, not as good as a pneumatic tire of course, but close enough. From what I’ve read, the only drawback is that it’s a bear to mount on a standard rim. It’s rated for 6,000 miles. That means it will probably last at least several years for a commuter.

So what about the performance rider who still wants go to electric? I’ve found two wheels that hold promise — the FlyKly and the Copenhagen. They’re similar in design and both have something else in common that has many buyers frustrated. The wheels were supposed to be available months ago.

As with any new product, production delays can be expected, and because there’s electronics involved, it gets more complicated. The product has to work flawlessly. If it doesn’t, someone could be injured and lawsuits would quickly shut down the companies.

While I won’t go into the details, I would be torn between which one to buy. The FlyKly appeals to the minimalist in me. It’s unobtrusive and weighs only 6.6 pounds. The drawback is that it only works with a single speed.

The Copenhagen is painted a garish red, weighs 13 pounds, but works with any standard road bike. Just swap wheels and you’re all set. Both wheels are wireless and require an app running on a smartphone, iOS or Android.

Once they come out, I’ll be interested to read the reviews. At about $700, they’re relatively affordable. For someone who commutes longer distances, they could pay for themselves in short order.

Meanwhile, with the recent rains my chanterelle friends have finally returned after a two-year absence. They’ll join me and spaghetti for dinner in the coming days.

Chanterelles are back after a long absence. They like rain.

Chanterelles are back after a long absence. They like rain.

Once upon a ride: A crank that cracked

November 27, 2014

One of my favorite photos of Jobst, taken on Butano Ridge Trail looking toward the Pacific Ocean. 1981.

One of my favorite photos of Jobst, taken on Butano Ridge Trail looking toward the Pacific Ocean. 1981.


November 21, 1982
Riders: Jobst Brandt, Ray Hosler, Peruez, John
Route: Alpine Road, Rapley Road, Skyline Blvd., Hwy 9, Hwy 236, China Grade, Butano Ridge Trail to Cloverdale Road, Pescadero Road, Alpine Road, Page Mill Road
Weather: Cold and hazy, then warm.
Tire/mechanical failure: broken crank

Jobst didn’t have much of a turnout for this pre-Thanksgiving Day ride. It was just me, Strange John and an HP co-worker of Jobst, Peruez from Iran.

While Peruez was something of a novice, Jobst never discriminated and welcomed all who turned up, just as long as they could keep a decent pace.

This Pied Piper of the Santa Cruz Mountains headed out on yet another adventure. I often wondered when this aging rider would lose his following. It looked like it had already begun. When would the day come when nobody showed up, and would Jobst still ride? [I don’t know the answer, but Jobst almost always had someone show up for his Sunday ride until well into the 2000s.]

John mentioned riding up Rapley Road and Jobst took up him up on the challenge. We climbed to nearly the end of the Alpine Road pavement before turning right onto a dirt road, crossing Corte Madera Creek and then heading straight up the hill, destination Skyline Boulevard. [The road goes to Thomas Fogarty Winery property.]

So steep is the road that no matter how good its condition, it is an extremely difficult climb. On this Sunday the road condition could be called “perfect.” Rains the day before had removed the dust and made traction as good as pavement.

John pulled ahead with his 30-tooth rear cog while Jobst muscled his way up using the power of his mighty legs and extra-long crank arms that gave him additional leverage.

Halfway up, when it seemed the agony could not be endured any longer, the riders saw that they were a long ways from Skyline. Jobst circled while he waited for me and Peruez. He warned us that the road gets steeper and to ride as slowly as possible. How about walking? That worked.

At the top Jobst opened a gate and let us through. To our right was a newly planted vineyard and the Rapley home. On one occasion Rapley himself (I have no idea of the name) met Jobst and his band of merry riders. Rapley expressed his displeasure in blunt terms.

As we climbed on Skyline, Jobst looked down to see Tom Ritchey preparing for a ride with the Palo Alto gang. Later that day Tom would lay bleeding on Haskins Hill following a spill behind the wheel of Keith Vierra.

As the riders descended Hwy 9, Jobst waited for everyone to follow along.

We made our way on China Grade to a logging road that took us down to Butano Ridge Trail, a roller-coaster dirt road that runs along the spine of a ridge overlooking Portola State Park to the east.

We pushed and lugged our bikes up the steep spots, except for Jobst, who managed to ride every hill.

Rather than take Dearborn Park Road down to Pescadero Road, Jobst decided to take a chance following the ridge trail all the way to Cloverdale Road, crossing all-too-private property and residences.

On the first of three magnificent hills, Jobst showed he still had legs strong enough to snap steel. As he pushed mightily on his right pedal, the alloy metal of the Campagnolo Record crank finally had enough. It snapped, throwing Jobst off his bike. [It might have been a left crank, but my journal says right, so it stands.]

It was not until the long downhill to Cloverdale Road that I caught up to Jobst. He rode with his right leg dangling, like someone with a paralyzed leg. And yet he rode with purpose, unfazed by adversity, in full command of his crippled machine.

[By 1982 the land owners already had plans to pave the road, which they did a few years later. They made every effort to keep cyclists out. One irate owner chased after Jobst and friends, who took refuge in Pescadero. They later saw the owner, but with other cyclists mingling at the local store, he had no idea who to finger.]

While riding to Loma Mar for food and to call on the pay phone for a ride home, Jobst came across two cyclists who were searching for mushrooms on the roadside. Jobst stopped to help them look. Mushroom hunting was one of his favorite winter activities.

After striking up a conversation with the married couple, Jobst learned that they had a spare crank back at their house on Pescadero Road. A plan was hatched. Jobst would remove his broken crank and install the owner’s.

I rode ahead with Peruez to Loma Mar for a bite to eat. After Jobst arrived, I remarked about the steepness of the hills on Butano Ridge Trail.

Jobst said with a touch of remorse, “There were days when I rode up those. Keith was right next to me.” I had a hard time believing he could have done that. But then I thought back to the hill and considered the force required to snap that crank. I realized that back in the day when Jobst was young, even those hills gave way to legs as powerful as locomotive pistons.

[Jobst broke at least a dozen cranks in his long riding career. He finally solved the issue by developing a simple remedy based on the car lug nut. It has a tapered end that fits snug against the wheel frame. It was only when that innovation came to pass that car lug nuts stopped unthreading.]

Jobst solution for crank failure at pedal eye. There's a 2-piece washer that fits into the drilled indent. One half is shown on the crank; both halves shown on the pedal thread.

Jobst solution for crank failure at pedal eye. There’s a 2-piece washer that fits into the drilled indent. One half is shown on the crank arm; both halves shown on the pedal thread.

Wurr Road bridge a sign of the times

November 18, 2014

Wurr Road's Pescadero Creek bridge makes it pretty clear you need to cross with caution.

Wurr Road’s Pescadero Creek bridge makes it pretty clear you need to cross with caution.


While I can’t deny Pescadero Creek bridge on Wurr Road in San Mateo County has seen its share of bike crashes, do we really need a sign suggesting that we walk our bikes across?

I first rode over the bridge with Jobst Brandt in 1980. He occasionally spoke of a huge crash here in the mid-1970s. Jobst and friends came flying down the road one frigid winter morning and the result was chaos as they skidded on the icy bridge.

Several riders crashed, broke bones, or were knocked out.

Today the bridge could use a little work, but better yet, replace it with something modern.

The good news is that few cyclists venture onto Wurr Road near the sleepy town of Loma Mar. Instead they stay on the busy Pescadero Road.

The fact that these signs just went up makes me wonder if there wasn’t another bike wreck here recently.

Continental Gatorskin rear tire lasts 5,400 miles

November 12, 2014

My Continental Gatorskin  tire lasted 5,400 miles. (Continental photo)

My Continental Gatorskin tire lasted 5,400 miles. (Continental photo)


5,400 miles. That’s how long my Continental Gatorskin 700 x 28 rear tire lasted. Not bad. It saw quite a few miles of dirt too.

I paid $52 for the tire, so it had better last that long. A small amount of cord is showing, so you know it’s time for replacement.

Recently I ran over a large staple and, although it jammed into the rear tire, it did not cause a flat. I stopped after about five seconds and removed the staple, which had not gone in far enough to cause a flat.

I credit some of my good fortune to riding a quality tire.

I still have a Michelin Pro Optimum on the front with the same mileage and it will probably last until I decide it’s time for a new one, usually when the sidewall begins to fray [I took it off a month later because it looked ratty].

Front tires require close attention because if one blows on a fast descent, you could be in trouble.

One word of advice from Continental in its instruction sheet, written in 16 languages, says to toss your tire, tube and rim strip after three years, irrespective of miles ridden.

I guess I’m just too cheap. I’m riding a tire that’s nine years old. It’s on my rain bike. I stored a tire for 28 years before using it. Worked great.

I ride inner tubes until they have so many holes they’re not worth patching, but usually I have to replace them because the tube fails at the valve.

I’m trying out a Continental Grand Sport Race Road tire next. The 700 x 28 version has an actual 28 mm cross-section. Amazing! Check back in 10 months for my report.

When the river runs dry

November 9, 2014

An old bridge reveals itself at the bottom of the empty Chesbro Reservoir near Morgan Hill.

An old bridge reveals itself at the bottom of the empty Chesbro Reservoir near Morgan Hill.


In case you hadn’t noticed, the drought continues. I checked out Chesbro Reservoir, which is at 1 percent, on Oak Glen Avenue.

Uvas Reservoir is at 3 percent, Guadalupe 4 percent.

Chesbro is so low that a bridge over the old road is clearly visible. Why are all these old roads at the bottom of reservoirs?

Horse and wagon needed easy access to water, so they followed the creeks. It wasn’t until the advent of more reliable car radiators in the 1930s that easy access to water wasn’t a big deal.

In the 1950s when the local reservoirs were built, the were roads moved to higher ground.

A road too narrow

November 1, 2014

Scene of the bike accident on McCllellan Road. Images taken from Google maps. Yellow speck represents a cyclist. (Click on image for larger size)

Scene of the bike accident on McCllellan Road. Images taken from Google maps. Yellow speck represents a cyclist (Click on image for larger size).

The death of a 15-year old cyclist on Monday, October 27, on McClellan Road in Cupertino bothered me. I’ve ridden that stretch of road many times, mostly during weekend rides.

The fact that a double-trailer big rig was involved didn’t surprise me, although the location did. I’m sure those trucks are not supposed to be on McClellan.

I’m guessing the driver was shuttling between a construction site and the Permanente Quarry on Stevens Canyon Road and got lost or tried to take a shortcut.

I took a screen capture (to scale) of a similar truck and overlaid it onto the scene of the accident. It’s immediately obvious what could have happened. There’s just not enough room for bike and truck on that stretch of McClellan. The driver was turning right onto Bubb and was probably moving right after passing the cyclist.

What happened next is what has happened on more than one occasion. The second trailer struck the cyclist.

From what I’ve read, the Monta Vista High School student who died was an avid cyclist. No doubt that’s why he rode his bike to school.

If you think a double-trailer truck is bad, imagine a triple-trailer. They’re allowed on highways in 10 states, fortunately not California, although the truck industry has lobbied for it. Let’s keep them out of California.

While Cupertino has a great reputation for accommodating bikes on its streets, every community can do better. What happened Monday morning on McClellan shouldn’t happen again.


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