DeAnza College makes a small change for cyclists

November 2, 2015

Access improved on DeAnza College campus to McClellan Road.

Access improved on DeAnza College campus to McClellan Road.


Back in July 2011, I mentioned on my blog how it would be nice if a small access road from DeAnza campus to McClellan Road could be open for two-wheel vehicles.

Lo and behold, it was done! I noticed it today on my ride. The access point bridges between De Anza College Parkway and McClellan Road, near the Hwy 85 overpass. There’s good visibility both directions.

Cyclists can now use this route as a continuation from the Mary Avenue bike path through Cupertino.

It may have been something the school intended to do well before 2011, but whatever the reason, it’s greatly appreciated.

This access point at DeAnza College and McClellan Road no longer has chains across the path.

This access point at DeAnza College and McClellan Road no longer has chains across the path.

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.

Silicon Valley needs a transportation system like Zurich’s

October 28, 2015

One of the more colorful trams in Zurich.

One of the more colorful trams in Zurich.


Today’s San Jose Mercury News ran an editorial by architect Thang Do that outlined what we need to do to make Silicon Valley a better place to live.

He warns that with all the construction underway, we better do something about our transportation system or we’re headed for permanent gridlock.

He mentions Zurich as a shining example of a city that understands public transportation. Here’s why:

The city has an integrated and comprehensive network of tram, rail, bus, and even riverboats to take you where you want to go in the city, throughout the country for that matter. One ticket gives access to all public transportation, with the exception of intra-city rail.

Imagine stepping out of the Zurich airport with all your luggage and walking fewer than 50 yards to a waiting tram whose platform is flush to the pavement. Just roll your baggage on.

A model of transportation efficiency. Hauptbahnhof station with bike racks.

A model of transportation efficiency. Hauptbahnhof station with bike racks.


Every tram has an LED screen that shows your location and the stops ahead, including connecting trams. Every stop has a shelter with an LED sign indicating the time of arrival for trams, along with machines for purchasing tickets.

Local trains accommodate bicycles and stations have large areas dedicated to bicycle parking. Many streets have bicycle lanes and because there are relatively few cars on the streets, traffic is not an issue.

VTA light rail does have one up on the Swiss trams: VTA provides racks for bikes.

Zurich and Switzerland have thought of everything when it comes to getting around on public transportation. There’s no need to own a car, which is a reality for most people living in the landlocked country. That’s a good thing because living in Zurich is as expensive, if not more so, than living in Silicon Valley.

We can learn from Zurich. The sad truth about Silicon Valley is that the Valley of the Heart’s Delight once had a wonderful light-rail network, which was dismantled piece by piece with the arrival of the automobile.

Light-rail line from the late 1800s exposed on The Alameda in 1984 at Santa Clara University bypass.

Light-rail line from the late 1800s exposed on The Alameda in 1984 at Santa Clara University bypass.

In hindsight, we blew it, but we mustn’t give up hope. We can build a transportation system equal to that of Zurich. All we have to do is, in the words of Patrick Stewart: “Make it so.”

Even the fanciest shopping area, Bahnhofstrasse, has light rail.

Even the fanciest shopping area, Bahnhofstrasse, has light rail.

Intra-city and intra-regional trains whisk you all over the country with ease.

Intra-city and intra-regional trains whisk you all over the country with ease.

Tram interiors are roomy and accommodate luggage.

Tram interiors are roomy and accommodate luggage.

Ticket machines are everywhere and take all manner of payment.

Ticket machines are everywhere and take all manner of payment.

You can even take riverboats in Zurich. They thought of everything.

You can even take riverboats in Zurich. They thought of everything.

Mount Umunhum summit poised to open in Fall 2016

October 24, 2015

The latest word from the open space district is that the Mt. Umunhum summit will be open in fall 2016. That means they’ll repave the five-mile stretch of road up from Hicks Road.

There’s a trail under construction from the Bald Mountain Parking Area a couple miles below the summit, slated to open in spring 2017.

It looks like a decision on the fate of the cube will be determined after October 2017 when a private/public partnership needs to be in place.

As for the opening of Loma Prieta Road, which is what we really care about, there’s no mention of a timeline. I’m still wagering it won’t happen in my lifetime.

KQED posted a nice historic video on Mount Umunhum.

Moffett Field Trail closed

October 24, 2015

Bay Trail at Moffett Field is closed for resurfacing.

Bay Trail at Moffett Field is closed for resurfacing.


Bay Trail in Mountain View, at Moffett Field, is closed for resurfacing. It should be open in early February.

This is a nice trail to take around Moffett from Sunnyvale to Mountain View, although it gets muddy when wet.

The alternate route is described on a Bay Trail website.

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.

Lilliputian bike light an LED marvel

September 17, 2015

Is there a smaller bike light? From Kikkerland.

Is there a smaller bike light? From Kikkerland.


We have LED lights, yet another semiconductor marvel, to thank for small, powerful bike lights that brighten those rides home in the dark.

None would be smaller than the Lilliputian Kikkerland® flasher bike light.

I found this useful doo-dad at The Container Store for $2.99, including front and rear units. While the size and price are small, the amount of light it puts out is nothing of the sort.

In the fast- or slow-flash mode you’ll be seen with ease at night, both front (white) and rear (red). In the non-flash mode you can even see the road ahead.

Weighing just 7 grams each, you can’t complain about the weight. The clever mounting is fabulous. There’s a stretchy rubber loop that wraps around the handlebar. The body has two small notches to hold the loop. It’s a secure fit.

They come with replaceable CR1220 batteries, which are a breeze to change.

The only issue you may have is that they’re flimsy and may require some tape or glue to keep in one piece. Other than that, they’re a handy item to keep in a bike bag for those rides at night when you’re caught without a light.

Check out the video above.

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.

Bearing down on yet another creak!

September 3, 2015

Be sure to remove the clear cellophane cover on the Rema patch, or else.

Be sure to remove the clear cellophane cover on the Rema patch, or else.


What does it take to get a break these days? I’ve been riding a bike for about 10,000 moons and counting and I’ve never had such a run of bizarre creaks. Enough already.

I had an ongoing noise that sounded EXACTLY like ball bearings clattering with each wheel rotation. Or at least that’s how I imagined ball bearings would sound when clattering.

I went so far as to buy a new front hub in pursuit of the phantom noise. I figured that the dimpled race was at fault. It fixed the problem, so I thought, but the sound came back.

I can put up with the occasional noise, but when it happens with every wheel rotation, the annoyance factor goes through the roof.

Finally, today I looked at the rear wheel, figuring it was a bad rear seal that’s bent. I’m always attributing my issues to something complicated.

Well, after removing the wheel I decided to press down on it. As I went around I found the source of the creak. It was one spot. Odd.

So I oiled the spoke nipples and spoke cross overs. Hey, you never know.

Anyway, that didn’t fix it, so I took off the tire and tube. I haven’t had a flat in AGES, thanks to these bullet-proof Continental Grand Sport Race tires.

I noticed I hadn’t bothered to remove the cellophane cover on a Rema patch. It’s an innocuous piece of plastic that can be difficult to remove, so I left it.

That was my undoing! I removed it and put the tire back on. Yes, that was the problem. No more clatter. Lesson learned, the hard way.


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