Pedale Alpini gang resurrects a Jobst Ride in all its muddy glory

May 9, 2016

Here's why you want lots of brake clearance.

Here’s why you want lots of brake clearance.


As I am told, the “bike club” name Pedali(e) Alpini was coined when three of its principles — George Koenig, Rick Bronson and Jobst Brandt — got to talking. They all met each other on or near Alpine Road, so they wanted to use the road name in the club title. Someone suggested “Alpini” to give it an Italian flair, which made a lot of sense considering the Italians were going crazy for bike racing back in the 1950s.

Peter Locke, another Pedali Alpini (Pedale is not exactly a complimentary word in French, and the source of some angst among the Pedale Alpini cadre) member said there were no meetings other than conversations they had out on a ride. Quite a few of these riders had successful racing seasons and Koenig went on to compete in the 1960 Olympics.

But I digress. One John Woodfill keeps the club name alive, buying authentic wool jerseys with the same pocket arrangement, colors, and name. He called for a ride starting at the house of Jobst Brandt, Sunday, 8 a.m. Olaf Brandt, Millo Fenzi, Steve Lubin, and Matt Forrester joined John.

While it had rained the past several days, we weren’t going to let that stop us and, besides, it wasn’t much rain, or so we thought.

In keeping with tradition, we headed up Alpine Road. At the green gate the riders waited patiently for my arrival, confident that the road ahead would be dry. It sure looked dry. That would be true for, say, 400 yards.

The farther we rode, the muddier it got. At the bypass trail I wasn’t about to try riding steep sections where a fall might break my precious aging bones. Dodging poison oak growing next to the trail, we made our way uphill, all of us remembering this used to be a pleasant road for cycling, 30 years ago. By the time we got to Page Mill Road, my brakes carried with them what seemed like a pound of Alpine Road.

We headed on to Alpine Road and descended into Portola State Park. None of us believed the Haul Road could possibly be muddy like Alpine. It’s about a 2,000 foot descent to the park where things never dry out in the bowels of the redwoods, including the Haul Road after several days of rain. On the ride over the swank new Pescadero Creek bridge, we looked dutifully for trout, saw none. Jobst always complained that when he was young the place had five-pounders begging to be caught.

Pescadero Creek Bridge. From left, Steve Lubin, John Woodfill, Millo Fenzi, Matt Forrester.

Pescadero Creek Bridge. From left, Steve Lubin, John Woodfill, Millo Fenzi, Matt Forrester.


Our ride turned into a cyclocross event as we hiked up to the Haul Road. Still, it didn’t look all that bad. We headed north and I quickly realized this would be a ride that brought back memories of the winters of 1982-83. It was muddy, pig heaven. A grader had recently done its job on the road, making matters worse.

However, in the majestic redwoods with light poking through the clouds, the scenery made things more bearable as we slogged our way up and down the gentle climbs. Some of us had cyclocross bikes or machines with good brake clearance. That made the ride not so bad.

After more brake clearing with the help of redwood sticks, I managed to reach Wurr Road, where we continued to our next obstacle, the ancient wooden bridge where dozens of cyclists have crashed, some breaking bones. We took it easy crossing, but things were dry. It can be a challenge on icy mornings.

Sadly, Loma Mar Store remains closed, covered with tarp, a remodel taking way too long. The traditional food stop would wait until Pescadero. We had a bite to eat at the main store where tourists mingle with locals preparing for the 116th annual Pescadero IDES Holy Ghost Celebration. As I sat their watching life go by, I wondered how in the world Gordon Moore, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, went from here to Silicon Valley fame and fortune. Moore’s Law has its roots in sleepy Pescadero.

The plan was to ride up Gazos Creek Road into Big Basin State Park and home via Hwy 9. I had enough mud for the day and took the speedy route home via Stage Road and Hwy 84. I saw Gazos Creek last year. It can wait a little longer until things dry out. (Jobst and I rode up Gazos Creek Road on May 18, 1986.)

Ultegra Cassette lasts 25,000 miles

May 2, 2016

Cassettes wear out eventually. Small cogs go first.

Cassettes wear out eventually. Small cogs go first.


Inquiring minds want to know: How long will my freewheel cassette last? How about 25,000 miles?

That’s what I got from my Ultegra 6700. Here are some caveats:

1. Cleaned the chain regularly, like every 500 miles.

2. Rode mostly on pavement, only about 2 percent off-road.

3. Replaced the chains between 0.5 and 0.75 on the Park chain-wear measurement tool.

So how do you know when your cassette sprockets are worn? The chain skips or catches sometimes; you feel the occasional slip when starting up. Note that when a chain is worn, front chainwheel shifting degrades.

Track your miles. I can’t imagine a cassette lasting more miles than what I got from mine.

Once again, I got about 6,500 miles from Ultegra 6600/6701 chains. I could not detect any difference between the models in terms of longevity or shifting.

Unless you break a sprocket, I wouldn’t bother trying to save money by swapping out the smaller or worn cogs. I replaced only the sprockets, not the body. It’s running smoothly.

Finally, my Ultegra brake pads lasted about 25,000 miles as well. I moved the back to the front to extend life. I still have the originals on the back, so more than 25,000 miles with careful management. Of course, I ride where there are a lot of hills, so these pads could last longer.

Electric Bike Expo in Palo Alto

April 24, 2016

People try out ebikes at the Expo held in Palo Alto.

People try out ebikes at the Expo held in Palo Alto.


There’s still time to stop by the Electric Bike Expo in Palo Alto today and test ride a wide variety of bikes.

I helped out at the raffle for a Tempo bike, a joint effort by the San Jose Earthquakes Community Fund, Branham Hills Little League, Silicon Valley Humane Society, and the California Bicycle Coalition.

Bosch and other sponsors set up the booths and test area in the Stanford Shopping Center next to Macy’s.

I’m encouraged to see the number of different ebikes and their increasing sophistication. As Marc Brandt said while visiting the expo, “Electric bikes are empowering.”

One guy who stopped by the raffle area said the ebike allows him to commute to work on his bad knees. It beats driving.

A Tempo ebike is being raffled off. It's $5 a ticket.

A Tempo ebike is being raffled off. It’s $5 a ticket.

Quarry Park discovery in Saratoga

April 21, 2016

Quarry Park is a mile outside Saratoga on Hwy 9.

Quarry Park is a mile outside Saratoga on Hwy 9.


There’s a welcome addition on Hwy 9 just one mile outside Saratoga, Quarry Park, which opened last October. I hadn’t noticed it until a week ago, so I decided to check it out.

Starting around the 1870s this site has been host to a copper mine, lime and rock quarry. Santa Clara County operated the site as a rock quarry from 1921 to 1967. However, they kept using the location as a place for private picnics and parties.

The city of Saratoga purchased the land in 2011 with the intention of turning it into a park, working with Santa Clara County and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Trucks drove inside here to load up on gravel.

Trucks drove inside here to load up on gravel.

Here's what the quarry looked like when in operation. Hiking trails above here now.

Here’s what the quarry looked like when in operation. Hiking trails above here now.

Cyclists will enjoy it for its modern bathrooms with running water and flush toilets.

But I had other designs, to ride down John Nicholas Trail starting on Skyline Boulevard. Fortunately Hwy 9 and Skyline had only a thin veneer of wetness in isolated locations, not enough to slow me down.

Nice view from higher up on the trail.

Nice view from higher up on the trail.


I entered the trail from the Sunnyvale Mountain parking area, about 4.5 miles south of Saratoga Gap, Hwy 9 and Skyline. It’s only 0.2 miles on the Skyline Trial to reach John Nicholas. I was the only person using the trail.

I stopped to take a photo at the scenic overlook before plunging down through the redwoods following the man-made trail that keeps a steady grade all the way down to Lake Ranch Road. It’s a popular trail on weekends.

I rode to Black Road, skirting the shores of McKenzie Reservoir, which looks like it’s less than one-third full. I’m not sure why it’s so low after a decent winter’s rains.

Upon reaching Los Gatos Creek Trail at Lexington Dam I was surprised to see a sign that said the trail was closed due to down power lines from a car wreck on Hwy 17. I suspected that the trail was open and someone forgot to remove the sign but I wasn’t going to take any chances, so I hoofed it up and over St. Joseph’s Trail.

That trail has an ugly climb of about 0.3 miles but then it’s easy going back to downtown Los Gatos on a rocky road.

No name creek bridge near where the trail meets Lake Ranch Road.

No name creek bridge near where the trail meets Lake Ranch Road.

Disc brakes slice and dice the peleton

April 18, 2016

Disc brakes have become an issue in the pro peleton.

Disc brakes have become an issue in the pro peleton.


I’ve heard about some strange accidents in my day, but now there’s one more to add to the list — disc brakes slicing into legs.

Fran Ventoso abandoned Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix with a serious cut on his lower leg, now confirmed by multiple sources. He wasn’t the only rider injured by a disc brake. His open letter is posted on Velonews.

The photos are the kind best viewed by medical personnel used to seeing ugly injuries.

I’ve never used disc brakes, but people who do swear by them. They stop better in wet weather, no argument there. They’re becoming the norm on mountain bikes and now the pro peleton is using them.

The peleton will quickly decide whether or not they continue using disc brakes. So far the warning signs are dire. Not only are cyclist being cut, they’re being burned. In a crash, and there are more than a handful in races, riders have touched the hot rotors.

Another concern was pointed out by Jobst Brandt years ago — wheel separation. The front caliper is behind the fork, not in front as with all side-pull caliper brakes. It is not unheard of for a disc brake quick release, left loose, to loosen to the point that it doesn’t hold the wheel in place. When that happens, the wheel goes flying as the brake is applied.

Another potential drawback of disc brakes is hydraulic failure.

So why do disc brakes continue to gain in popularity? Some of it is marketing inertia. All industries are looking for the next big thing and disc brakes have sex appeal. They’re high-tech and they work better in the rain.

Another advantage is that now rims can be made lighter and will last longer since pad wear has been transferred from the rim to the rotor. Rim wear is a concern for people who ride lots of miles in the mountains. A rim can be worn to the point of failure. Jobst Brandt could attest to that.

I’m not interested in having disc brakes because I like to maintain my bike and dealing with hydraulics is just one more complication.

Disc brakes can be made safer and I’m sure they will now that the word is out. This injury reminds of the squirrel-caught-in-wheel stories that sprang up about a decade ago, around the time 16-spoke wheels became popular (Google it).

Yes, squirrels can become lodged in the front fork as they try to leap through the wheel. It has happened to more than one cyclist. It’s an ongoing concern for anyone riding 16-spoke wheels.

Santa Cruz ride a breeze

April 17, 2016

Wave action damage on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

Wave action damage on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.


This ride was almost a duplicate of the one on March 17. I cut off two miles by riding down Hwy 17 a short distance instead of taking Alma Bridge Road.

The plan was to ride Mt. Hamilton but the high pressure system moving in created sustained winds of 30 mph winds at the summit. By noon things calmed down, but I decided to stay away.

I came across the Los Gatos bike racing club at Skyline after a climb up Page Mill Road. They left me in the dust before the Alpine Road descent.

The house across from Sam McDonald park that had a redwood tree fall into it lies empty.

In Loma Mar, after the Ferraris passed me, I saw the store in the same condition it has been for the past month. I wonder when it will open?

On Cloverdale Road I didn’t have much of a tailwind, a sign of things to come. Riding down the coast I had only the slightest tailwind, but it was lovely watching the big waves crash ashore.

In Santa Cruz I took a photo of the wave damage on W. Cliff Dr., which has been repaired. It’s never-ending.

It was survival mode on the Mtn. Charlie Road climb, with one cyclist blowing by me near the start of the climb. Nice day for riding.

New electric bicycle law gives local communities jurisdiction

April 7, 2016

Check out electric bikes like this on electricbikereview.com

Check out electric bikes like this on electricbikereview.com


I don’t know about you, but I see more and more electric bicycles buzzing around on city streets, mostly a good thing.

The California state legislature last year changed how it defines the various electric bikes with Assembly Bill 1096. The new law deletes the “motorized bicycle” definition and defines an “electric bicycle,” a bike with fully operable pedals and an electric motor below 750 watts.

Now there are three classes, and manufacturers are required to affix labels designating which category they belong in, starting in 2017.

Class 3 electric bicycles “speed pedal-assisted” provide assistance only when the rider is pedaling and limit speed to 28 mph. They are banned from all bike lanes and paths, unless a local community decides otherwise.

Class 1 “low-speed pedal-assisted” and Class 2 “low-speed throttle-assisted” are OK to ride in bike lanes and paths, and have a maximum speed of 20 mph.

However, local communities can regulate Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles on their paths and bike lanes as they see fit. That’s an important point and one I wish the state hadn’t enacted.

Most if not all bike lanes and paths extend through multiple jurisdictions in the Bay Area. So now you are responsible for knowing where electric bikes are allowed and where they are not allowed.

I don’t have a problem with electric bikes on bike lanes and my only reservation on bike paths is that people keep their speed down when passing other cyclists and pedestrians.

Of course, that safety tip applies to bicycles. I can appreciate bike commuters being in a hurry and wanting to ride more than 15 mph on paths, but there’s no reason to speed by slower trail users. I see it all too often.

Right now bicycle and pedestrian committees around the Bay Area are taking up this issue. Mostly the city councils will go along with a bike committee recommendation, but you never know.

As electric bicycle/battery technology improves, I can see the day when the majority of bikes sold are electric assist.

People for bikes.org summary

New Idria ride breaks tradition

April 4, 2016

Off to a gloomy start.

Off to a gloomy start.


We don’t take our traditions lightly when it comes to bike rides and New Idria is no exception. We had done the same route since 2003, but it was time for a change.

Clear Creek Road has become a rutted spoor, not worthy of being ridden on a road bike. We found two alternative roads. More on that later.

Our ride got underway at 8:20 a.m. from Paicines on Hwy 25, called the Airline Highway because it’s so straight and flat that a Boeing 707 could make an emergency landing here, or so it would seem.

We finally recruited a new rider to join us, Matthew Forrester, who rides a steel frame with 25mm Continental tires. John Woodfill and Brian Cox completed our four-rider team.

Need permits
As a side note, to do this ride you need to sign up on a BLM website and carry your permit. There’s a $6 processing fee, which does not go into BLM coffers, but some company that manages the website. Get the Serpentine ACEC permit on Recreation.gov.

As we rolled along there wasn’t much to see through the dense valley ground fog, temperature a cool 51 degrees. However, we heard the song of red-winged black birds alongside the marshy areas next to the road. The fog burned off after about an hour to be replaced by warm sunshine and calm air.

When we arrived at Willow Creek Road where Willow Creek crosses Hwy 25 we briefly entertained the thought of taking this route, but that would involve hopping fences, encountering bovine, angry dogs and crossing San Benito River, which we already had to look forward to on Old Hernandez Road.

Highway 25 near Pinnacles.

Highway 25 near Pinnacles.


The ride through the San Andreas Rift Zone passes scattered vineyards on a winding road that speaks to why so many people enjoy living in the Bay Area. After passing the Pinnacles National Park entrance we began a climb of 8 percent and noticed at the summit a brief road closure due to a rock slide. It was easy enough to walk through the slide, but I rode around.

Old Hernandez Road and San Benito River
We turned left onto Old Hernandez Road 21 miles into the ride to be greeted by rocky cliffs glowing brown in the morning sun, overlooking the San Benito River valley. We passed the Jefferson Elementary School in this remote setting and continued south, passing the first sign indicating the road was closed 5.5 miles ahead.

Ready to cross San Benito River, but where?

Ready to cross San Benito River, but where?


The road hugs the hillside overlooking the lush river valley where ranchers raise cattle and horses. It’s an idyllic setting and one enjoyed from the saddle as we rolled along the mostly flat road. Brian suggested we take this route in 2005.

The road ends at Smoker Canyon Creek where there’s a ranch house and barn with a threatening sign that this is private property and the road is closed. After about a half-mile on a flat alluvial plain we reached the mighty San Benito River, which never fails to surprise us with its depth and ease or difficulty of crossing.

This year, unlike years past, the river had a thick layer of mud both sides of the shore. I proudly removed my slippers from bike bag and took off my shoes, not wanting to get them wet. The others ventured upriver a short distance and crossed. However, I charged directly into the river and immediately got stuck. My feet sank a foot into the muck and when I tried to remove my foot, a slipper came off. I spent minutes extricating myself before fording the river upstream.

Washing of the feet in San Benito River.

Washing of the feet in San Benito River.


We washed off our feet and remounted for the ride ahead, an undulating dirt road that goes for four miles before reaching pavement. In this secluded valley we came across cattle outside their fence. When they saw us they began trundling ahead of us, uncertain what to do. Eventually they headed off to the left and took refuge in the shade of an oak tree, realizing that there was a cattle guard just ahead.
Can't you read?

Can’t you read?


Without a car to be seen, this road gives a nice break from the routine of traffic on Hwy 25, as well as a flatter route to Coalinga Road.

We headed left onto Coalinga Road following the San Benito River, a section that looks a lot like the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

At this point you can’t help but notice the wildflowers: California Goldfields, purple Owl’s Clover, Blue Lupine, California Poppies. These flower displays kept us entertained until the steep climb through Lorenzo Vasquez Canyon. At the summit there’s Sweetwater Spring, 2900 feet, where we have on occasion taken a drink to get our dose of arsenic.

It’s a quick descent followed by a short climb and another descent to arrive at Hernandez Reservoir and Valley, which may or may not have water depending on the amount of rainfall. This year there has seen rain (9 inches in Panoche). We crossed San Benito River for the last time on a concrete spillway.

Clear Creek Road
The ride complexion changes dramatically with a long ascent following Clear Creek on a dirt road. Four off-road motorbikes passed us coming down the hill. ORV and motorcycle users took issue with the BLM closing the road in 2008, but to date it is still closed. That may change if the Clear Creek Recreation and Conservation Act is passed by Congress.

Traditional photo at the summit.

Traditional photo at the summit.


We continued uphill on the road, which crosses Clear Creek 10 times on concrete pads. Each time I crossed, I accumulated dirt in my front fork/brake area, forcing stops to dislodge the mud from my Ritchey Break Away. About three miles up the narrow canyon we came to a locked green gate that prevents motorists from continuing on to New Idria without a permit. BLM provides a combination after registering. Mostly rock hounds use the permit process; this area is rich in minerals. Mine tailings can be seen everywhere.

The temperature had been climbing in the canyon until halfway up when clouds moved in and cooled things down nicely. Wind had not been much of a factor and would not cause us difficulty until Panoche Road.

The real climbing begins at a signed junction where we turned left and began a 2.7-mile grind to the summit at 4,450 feet. It’s about a 10 percent grade and the road is covered with loose rock and sand, making going tough if you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of leg power. However, stronger riders will make it up the road with relative ease.

Aurora Mine breaks tradition
At the summit we took the obligatory group photo and then decided on breaking tradition. We had always gone down Clear Creek Road, but over the years it has become deeply rutted. We agreed to take an alternate route that passes Aurora Mine to the south 0.4 miles on a flat stretch of dirt road. It was a wise decision.

Fabulous descent on the Aurora Mine route.

Fabulous descent on the Aurora Mine route.


The road condition was such that descending proved straightforward, even for road bikes as the road snaked its way down an exposed ridge with spectacular views of Panoche Valley in the distance. The route adds a few tenths of a mile to the the ride, but it was well worth it.

We reached the New Idria holding pond with its distinctive blue-green water that holds a plentiful supply of toxic water.

Back on Clear Creek Road we ran into many places where the ORV users had churned up the road when muddy, turning it into an obstacle course with watery mud holes. I ventured to ride around one of those holes, but found myself descending into the water hole and bouncing out, my bike covered in mud.

Mine entrance on lower Clear Creek Road a mile from New Idria.

Mine entrance on lower Clear Creek Road a mile from New Idria.


We descended steeply for a mile on the rutted road before reaching another junction where we broke tradition again. I noticed a road to the north that followed a ridge and then plunged down to New Idria. I let the others take that route, while I took the traditional route past the mine entrance. There’s one section that requires walking before the mine, but is otherwise rideable.

The other riders reached New Idria only seconds before me and said the road is vastly better than the traditional route.

In New Idria there’s slow progress to dismantle the smelting plant and clean up this Superfund site. It’s hard to believe that this was at one time a thriving community with around-the-clock mining operations to extract cinnabar and other ores. The mine closed in 1972 after 118 years of use.

It was already 3:30 p.m. so I realized that I’d be riding in the dark once again.

The ride complexion changes dramatically leaving New Idria. The road descends steeply on mostly dirt for a mile before finally bottoming out. From here there’s a nice descent through Vallecitos Valley where you’re greeted by wide-open spaces occupied by cattle, windmills and grassy plains.

Griswold Canyon
New Idria road climbs gradually and then descends gradually into Griswold Canyon. Along the way we found ourselves riding on the dirt shoulder, much smoother compared to the pavement, patched time and again. John saw some tri-colored blackbirds among the red-wing variety, a much less common bird.

Griswold Canyon, cut by the same named creek, gives riders a chance to pick up the pace, especially so since we had a nice tailwind that blew us into Panoche Valley for the run to Panoche Road.

A left turn here put us into the teeth of a headwind that blew constantly until we reached Panoche Inn five miles later. This is the only store, so we stopped for an ice cream cone, the store’s specialty. Owner Larry and his wife lovingly care for the store, living out back.

New Idria Road open spaces.

New Idria Road open spaces.


John enjoyed talking with Larry about their chance encounter in downtown Palo Alto last year, his wife visiting Menlo Atherton high school for the class of 1965 reunion. It’s a small world.

Speaking of a small world, we were passed several times by a man and his wife on an off-road motorcycle. They took a different route from us, but we kept running into one another. Things got really weird when we saw them once again in the same Hollister taqueria later that evening! We exchanged stories about our adventure rides.

But I digress. We still had 27 miles to ride and it was already after 6 p.m. Fortunately I brought my trusty EagleTac LED light.

The headwind continued for the next hour and a half, but once climbing it was no longer a factor. John stayed behind to ride with me while Matthew and Brian went ahead, anxious to reach Paicines before dark. Neither had a light. They almost made it, arriving at 7:50 p.m.

Night riding
We crested Panoche Pass at 2,100 feet and from then on the climbs were brief and easy. It was mostly downhill following Tres Pinos Creek through a canyon and then into a valley.

This time of day is my favorite. The setting sun brings out vivid colors and puts valley oaks in stark contrast to green meadows populated by wildflowers, a riot of yellow, blue and purple. We especially enjoyed the deep blue Larkspur covering the hillsides. With temperatures dropping into the low 60s, it was ideal weather for riding at a brisk pace.

By 7:40 p.m. it was time for the light, which is every bit as powerful as a car’s headlight. We could see potholes during long descents. Another benefit of night riding is that it seems like you’re going faster than you really are.

In pitch darkness we arrived at Paicines, 8:20 p.m. and 114.5 miles on our cyclometers.

It’s good to see that others are taking up the quest, including Stefan Eberle and his Dutch friend. We have Bruce Hildenbrand to thank for pioneering the route, one of the best adventure rides you could ever ask for in the wilds of San Benito County.

Recommended route to New Idria from summit.

Recommended route to New Idria from summit.

Mt. Hamilton backside road stories

March 28, 2016

The old road followed Arroyo Bayo.

The old road followed Arroyo Bayo.


One of the most wild and scenic roads in the Bay Area is Hwy 130, San Antonio Valley Road, on the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

I’ve ridden there since 1980 and it never fails to impress. Over the years I’ve wondered about that dirt road alongside Arroyo Bayo after the hill out of Isabel Creek.

Jobst Brandt, who rode on the backside of Mt. Hamilton more than any cyclist, may have mentioned riding there, but I’ve forgotten.

But Peter Locke has not forgotten, and he rode with Jobst. He told me recently by phone how they rode through the creek. He had fond memories of fording the creek numerous times, as well as crossing a reservoir. Here’s Google Maps after the Isabel Creek climb.

Red line shows where the road went.

Red line shows where the road went.

I looked at a USGS topographic map from 1955 and sure enough the dirt road that you see today along the creek was the main road.

It’s fast disappearing, but it’s still used by landowners in some sections.

I wouldn’t want to try riding there today, but back in 1956-57 when Jobst, Peter and others rode it, the road was maintained.

The road enters a narrow section.

The road enters a narrow section.


Here's where the first section of road returns to present Hwy 130.

Here’s where the first section of road returns to present Hwy 130.

USGS topo map from 1955.

USGS topo map from 1955.

Good Friday for a ride over Mt. Hamilton

March 26, 2016

More wildflowers in San Antonio Valley this year.

More wildflowers in San Antonio Valley this year.


I’ve never ridden over Mt. Hamilton on Good Friday, so I thought I’d give it a try. I was not disappointed, until Calaveras Road, but more on that later.

I left at 7:20 a.m. under sunny skies, negotiating moderate traffic on Pruneridge, Hedding, Berryessa to get to the base of Mt. Hamilton Road, Hwy 130. I can’t say enough about the value of turning Hedding into a bike boulevard. It makes the ride across the Valley so much more enjoyable, or at least tolerable.

During the climb, ground and valley fog boiled up, reducing visibility to 100 yards in the first few miles, but once above the fog it was clear skies and mild temperatures the rest of the way.

I saw no cyclists and only a few cars heading to the summit. Same for the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

I noticed the pipe two miles down is not flowing. It must be plugged, but the creek was running, so I got some water. I would have hiked up the trail to fix it, but I had a long ride ahead.

When I stopped to take pictures in San Antonio Valley, I removed my long-sleeve jersey and gloves. One of the gloves fell out, so now I have to go back next week and find it. I can’t imagine anyone would stop to pick up a lone glove.

At The Junction store I stopped for a bite to eat and watched as workers continue the renovation under guidance of the new owners. I have no idea when it will open. April 1 was mentioned, but these things usually take longer than anticipated.

On the ride along Mines Road I was happy to see that the two traditional creek flows across the road are finally waiting for cyclists who don’t want to get their bikes wet. I rode through at a slow pace. It has been at least three years since I saw them flowing.

Wildflowers bloom in profusion along Mines Road, mostly yellow, and blue lupine in the rocks. It’s a good thing to see after heavier winter rains than we’ve seen in years.

I noticed the usual swirling winds as I headed to Livermore. I’ve only had a few rides here with no wind or a tailwind.

I took the College Avenue, Murrietta Blvd. route through Livermore, the best route by far to reach Stanley Boulevard, unless you’re into riding bike paths along Arroyo Mocho Creek.

Now that Stanley has a bike lane all the way to Pleasanton, it’s a breeze and by that I mean winds from the north.

Business was booming at Meadlowlark Dairy, the traditional stopping place to grab an ice cream cone or the like. Is it the only drive-through store in the area? Maybe.

I was warned about Calaveras Road during the rush hour, but I had to see for myself. Besides, this was Friday Light, Good Friday Light no less.

It didn’t help, or is it worse on other weekdays? Narrow Calaveras Road was not built for a congo line of commuters driving like it was Laguna Seca, not when every corner is blind. Anyone who rides here on a weekday has a death wish, and the same goes for drivers going against rush-hour traffic.

I made my way back home across the Valley and thanked my lucky stars I had survived.

Work continues on The Junction store.

Work continues on The Junction store.