Everything is “under construction” these days

July 22, 2017

Panoramic view of Dumbarton Bridge. Will the railroad bridge ever be used?


I figured I’d ride over to Dumbarton Bridge this morning, taking my familiar route along the Sunnyvale-Mountain View-Palo Alto baylands — but things didn’t turn out that way.

Everything in the Bay Area, as we all know, is “under construction.” I’m seeing buildings being torn down and new ones go up at a dizzying pace, reshaping what used to be known as Silicon Valley. The Valley is no longer about silicon, but social media, search engines, virtual reality and iPhones.

The San Francisquito Creek Trail, starting at the Baylands Athletic Center in Palo Alto, is closed until January for flood control improvements.

I had to take one of the least desirable streets in Palo Alto, E. Bayshore Road, then north on Pulgas Avenue back to familiar territory.

After taking some pics of the Dumbarton Bridge, I decided to make my way back on the north side of Hwy 84, not quite sure what it offered in the way of a side road. There’s a dirt road for a ways, but you’ll need to get back on Hwy 84, which has a wide shoulder.

In a short distance you can turn right at the light onto a path that dumps into the Facebook parking lot. I wound my way through here and decided to check out the famous sign at the main entrance.

Sure enough, a steady stream of Facebook users had the same idea, so I waited for my time to snap a photo. That sign is nothing more than the old Sun Microsystems sign with some panels slapped over it.

Facebook. It’s a love-hate relationship for many people.

As I headed back to Menlo Park and Palo Alto, it was hard to believe that start-up Facebook occupied the old Avocet headquarters on University Avenue once upon a time. Not the building owned by Palo Alto Bicycles, but the one right across the street. It’s a small world.

At least one thing hasn’t changed — the charm of riding through tree-lined streets in Menlo Park and Palo Alto. It brought back memories. Sigh.

I took the always popular Bryant Street — Ellen Fletcher’s legacy — we call Bike Boulevard and headed home through the remnants of Silicon Valley on Central Expressway.

Cyclists outnumber cars on Saturday’s ride

July 16, 2017

First of three bridges over Purisima Creek on the descent.


Is it possible? Cyclists outnumber cars in the Santa Cruz Mountains on any given Saturday?

It’s true and the disparity grows by leaps and bounds, at least based upon 40 years of personal experience.

I saw bikes everywhere on my ride up Kings Mountain Road, down Purisima Creek Road, up Tunitas Creek Road. I saw five road bikes riding UP Purisima Creek Road. Good luck with that.

Decades ago I could ride up that logging road, but I was young and the road was in perfect shape. Now my legs can’t generate the watts needed to make it up the steep climb (18 percent in places) on loose dirt.

It wasn’t just cyclist on the trail, but hikers by the dozens, their cars spilling out from the puny parking lot and lining the paved road on the coast side of Purisima Creek.

As I climbed Tunitas Creek Road into the sweltering heat I saw more dozens of riders, most going up. Gone are the days when I was the only one out there along with Jobst Brandt and friends.

On the descent of Kings Mountain Road I saw a lone cyclist riding uphill, followed by six cars! The driver behind the cyclist no doubt lacks experience driving in the mountains. On that straightaway it would be easy to get by. When I encounter bike followers I slow to a crawl on straightaways. It doesn’t take long for the driver to get the message it’s OK to pass.

The good news is that Purisima Creek Road has been cleared of several mud slides and a road bike can get down it without dismount.

Of course, the coast weather left no doubt as to why it’s the place to be on a hot day. Glorious.

Red hot pokers, or torch lily, grow near the coast. They’re native to Africa.

Mt. Umunhum Road paving the way to summit

July 9, 2017

Mt. Umunhum Road at Hicks Road shows signs of paving for the grand opening in September.


After a 37-year wait, it looks like I’ll live to experience the ride to the Mt. Umunhum summit, legally.

Mark your calendars for Sept. 16-17. Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District plans a grand opening event, reservations required.

Today I rode by and it’s a good sign to see the road closed for repaving. It was badly broken up in some sections and not at all fun where the potholes were hidden in the tree shade higher up.

From what I’ve seen in recent photos, the view will be nothing like what I encountered back in the 1980s when the air base occupied the summit, looking like a ghost town. Buildings have been razed, the land returned to nature, with the exception of the concrete obelisk.

There’s a lot more that could be done up there to improve access and connect roads, but this is a start. I don’t expect to be around to see those connections blessed by the MROSD, but at least future generations can enjoy the rides to more distant roads.

Jobst Brandt, who grew up in Palo Alto, began riding up here in 1957 and never stopped until poor health got in the way. He welcomed dozens of riders to start the journey from his house to see the mountain, myself included, and now having seen it up close we are all appreciative that the mountain is finally open for public use.

Gazos Creek Road turns to dust

July 2, 2017

The always wet section of Hwy 236.


As I was riding on Hwy 236 across wet pavement and through soupy fog, I wondered if Gazos Creek Road would be muddy? I needn’t have worried.

There’s something about this stretch of Hwy 236 about two miles off Hwy 9. It’s the wettest place in Big Basin State Park. It must be a combination of the altitude and location.

As I rode on the little-used North Escape Road, I saw an unbelievable sight — another cyclist, coming up. I think that has happened maybe two times in all the years I’ve been riding here.

It should come as no surprise though, because the park was already packed with cars at 9:30 upon my arrival. It must be the 4th of July holiday crowd. In my four decades riding here, I have noticed a dramatic increase in traffic in recent years.

That’s a mighty big tree section a couple miles from park headquarters.


Fortunately the crowds had no intention of cycling on Gazos Creek Road, although I did see a total of six riders on the eight miles of dirt from park headquarters to the paved Gazos Creek Road — a record.

This being July, I was not surprised that the road had become a sand pit in many sections. Par for the course. With adroit bike handling I managed to avoid most of the dusty sections. It stayed that way for the first six miles before the big descent at Sandy Point.

Gazos Creek Road in the narrows after the steep descent.


I didn’t see any serious road damage from the past winter’s heavy rains. A few places had been cleaned up, but even they didn’t look bad. I think the park rangers do most of the maintenance, although San Mateo County claims the road at the Santa Cruz County line, about two miles out from park headquarters. It’s closed, with gates at both ends, but since most of the road is in the state park, the county hasn’t made any effort to chase away cyclists.

While the sand pits made riding less than ideal, the descent went without a hitch, the loads of rock ballast dumped here in years past now a memory. I still see short stretches of pavement in steep spots, laid down by a landowner who needed to transport some particularly heavy items to his property.

Back on pavement, I glided down the road following the delightful Gazos Creek. A half mile before the right turn to Cloverdale Road I passed a mudslide that required heavy equipment to fix the road.

Gazos Creek Road did not escape the winter’s wrath.


As I continued up Pescadero Road in pleasantly cool weather and high overcast some youths invited me to try blackberries they were picking on the side of the road. I took them up on their offer and we got to talking about blackberries. I learned that there is a variety, Himalaya (5 leaves in a cluster), that is crowding out the native California blackberries (3 leaves in a cluster). They showed me the Himalaya, a much heartier looking plant that yields a lot of berries.

I checked my blackberries growing in the garden and determined they’re the California variety.

Some days the weather and physical abilities click and all is right with the world. Today was one of those days.

Canada Geese, Gooses, Goose, whatever, pay a visit

June 26, 2017

Canada Goose flock makes way for me and the bike on the Alviso levy.


Did you know the Canada Goose lives between 10 and 24 years in the wild? These guys are spending their summer vacation out on the Alviso levies. They’re usually none too happy to see me.

Zayante Road digs out

June 24, 2017

Clever! Zayante Store’s biodiesel fuel pump has been put to good use. Guess what?


One of the roads hammered in this winter’s rains was Zayante, a secluded route that goes from Felton to Summit Road. I decided to check it out, knowing that the road is open.

I came in at Quail Hollow Road, my usual route these days. I saw several locations lower down where the road has been eroded, but it got worse just past the fire station deep in the redwoods that marks the last of the steep climbing.

I had already seen numerous places where the road is caving in during my climb from Zayante Market. But just before the hard right turn that climbs steeply, the place where Zayante Creek crosses under the road, the hillside on my left had slid out. Then higher up I saw more evidence of mud on the road. It must have been quite a mess.

Residents have maintained their sense of humor despite roads collapsing around them.

I’ve been riding Zayante Road every year since 1980 and this is the worst I’ve seen it after winter rains.

I continued on up Summit Road with the intention of riding down Black Road and home via Lake Ranch Road, which passes by McKenzie Reservoir on its way to Sanborn Park.

However, I never would have thought that trail could be closed from the winter rain.

I’ve also been riding here since 1980 and never had any problems with the road sliding out. The signs said otherwise. I’m certain I could have gotten through, but decided to continue down Black Road and take Los Gatos Creek Trail.

Skyline Boulevard, Hwy 35, is still closed. I wonder when it will be fixed? While it was a bad winter, the winter of 82-83 was equally bad and I don’t recall as many roads being closed. I lay partial blame on the lack of maintenance. If culverts aren’t cleared, bad things happen.

Lake Ranch Road closed? That’s what the sign says.

Sinkholes and the like

June 14, 2017

One of my favorites. Ken Kesey got to know this road pretty well.


Saturday’s ride brought refreshing, cool air and clear skies, the kind of weather cyclists dream about in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I stayed away from sinkholes and other unseen hazards to complete my ride.

Niles Canyon bike rides could get safer

June 9, 2017

Niles Canyon on my 2012 ride. Widening two bridges will help, but a trail is needed for safe cycling.


I can see the day when cyclists (and hikers) will safely ride through Niles Canyon on a beautiful recreation trail. More importantly, so can members of Alameda County, East Bay Regional Parks, the city of Fremont, San Francisco Water Department, the town of Sunol, and other agencies that have a hand in determining Niles Canyon’s future.

This historic canyon, where the transcontinental railroad snaked its way through starting in 1869, now hosts two railroad lines, both active, and busy state highway 84.

You might think there wouldn’t be room for a trail, but as it turns out there is ample space, and East Bay Parks has already done some preliminary research to show how a trail could be built in three stages.

Judging by the turnout at public meetings and a “Stroll and Roll” event held in 2015 (another one planned for this fall), there’s plenty of public support. Finding the estimated $70 million needed to complete the project is going to make this a long-term effort over a couple of decades or more.

The San Jose Mercury News ran a story about the trail plan in early 2016. A year later, I wanted to find out more. Suzanne Wilson, project manager for the Niles Canyon Trail Connectivity Feasibility Study, answered a few questions.

So, just how much of a priority is the trail with East Bay Parks? “While the Park District is very involved in and supportive of the project, Alameda County is ultimately the lead agency at this time,” said Wilson. “Supervisor [Richard] Valle and [Scott] Haggerty’s respective offices have continued the effort, with the support of the Park District, to keep the momentum going as this is a project that is important to their districts.”

While I won’t go into the details, you can read up on the trail plan on the East Bay Parks website. It’s a PDF file and takes some time to load.

Assuming the trail gets the go-ahead, and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t, it’s going to take money from many sources. How about the recent increase in gas tax? Wilson said the parks agency is keeping an eye out for opportunities, but noted that most of the money raised will go toward shovel-ready projects.

It’s hard to put into words the importance of a trail through Niles Canyon. Ask any cyclist who has ridden in the area and they’ll express their frustration with riding from the Bay to East Bay/Livermore Valley. Niles Canyon is ridden, but it’s one of the worst routes for a bike. My opinion.

I know of two cyclists killed on Hwy 84 through Niles Canyon and no doubt there may be more. A trail through Niles Canyon is more than a “nice to have” for the cycling community. Future generations will enjoy rides through a scenic canyon cut by Alameda Creek.

Jobst Brandt Tour de Alps 2018 Calendar planned

June 7, 2017

A sample of the Jobst Brandt Tour de Alps 2018 calendar.

As a tribute to Jobst Brandt’s bike rides through the Alps over 50 years, I put together a 2018 calendar.

I’ve got enough good photos for several more calendars.

It won’t be available until September. There’s not much point in selling them now.

This teaser will also alert area bike shops that might want to sell them.

Any money raised will go toward the cost of scanning the thousands of transparencies taken by Jobst.

Some of the images in this calendar were made into posters back in the 1980s.

Butterfly Mariposa Lily makes my day on Mt. Hamilton

June 5, 2017

Quite a sight. Butterfly Mariposa Lily on Mt. Hamilton.


It’s not often these days I can stop to take a photo on Mt. Hamilton and see something new. I’ve seen it all before, until I came across the Butterfly Mariposa Lily growing on the side of the road past Smith Creek. It made the ride worth the effort.

I’ve never seen this flower on Mt. Hamilton, or anywhere else for that matter, but it is listed in a compendium of wildflowers on Mt. Hamilton, so I guess it’s not all that rare.

I took some pics of Calochortus venustus and continued on up the mountain in ideal weather. At the summit I noticed strong, cool winds and wondered what the backside had to offer.

It wasn’t nearly as windy once I crossed Isabel Creek and it was mostly a tailwind anyway. On the next descent I saw more signs of the winter’s heavy rain as I passed a stop sign and barricades where the road is caving in.

While the weather service promised lower temperatures, in the mid 70s, it was a bit warmer, maybe as much as 80 degrees at the Junction store where I shelled out $5.50 for a bottle of Gatorade® and a Payday®.

Refreshed, I headed out onto Mines Road, past Ruthy’s place and began the long climb that never fails to give my legs a test. I descended and then continued up the last hill, the Double S. From there, at 2800 feet altitude, it’s all downhill to Livermore, mostly.

It’s also where headwinds can be expected, but just how severe is always the question. Today it wasn’t so bad and it was a welcome cool air. I crossed two dribbling creeks over the road that I figured might be dry by now, but it was a wet spring.

The ride down the canyon gives you a chance to rest up and enjoy the view, which can be breathtaking with wildflowers in bloom, but I missed out on those due to work on Mt. Hamilton Road that didn’t end until late May.

Fortunately, Mines Road survived the harsh winter, with only one stop sign and road problem, while the 1982-83 slide repairs have held up without any issues.

In Livermore I decided to take Stanley Boulevard as opposed to the shorter but unfriendly Hwy 84 over Pigeon Pass. In Pleasanton the one-degree drop in temperature could be noticed, but it was still hot enough to bring out the ice cream crowd as they lined up to be served at the drive-through Meadowlark Dairy. I wasn’t after ice cream, just Gatorade, so there was no need to stand in that line.

I chose Foothill Road over the usual Pleasanton Sunol Road since I was headed down Niles Canyon, Hwy 84. It’s a pleasant, quiet ride on Foothill in the shade of trees and not much traffic, but I suspect that’s not true on a weekday. I bet it’s jammed with commute traffic.

Once on Hwy 84 I was reminded why I stay off this road unless there is no other choice, and that was the situation today since Calaveras Road, my usual route, is closed for God only knows how long. It’s just as well since the Waze crowd turned it into a commuter’s race course.

I made my way home via Stevenson Boulevard/Boyce/Cushing Fremont, about as good a route as you can hope for in this area.

After some research I found out that there is a plan to build a recreation path through Niles Canyon. That’s even better than my thought of widening the road. You can find out more on a Bike East Bay website. Be sure to contact Alameda County’s Chris Miley by email and let him know you support such a plan.

Niles Canyon has a lot of beauty, but it can’t be enjoyed on Hwy 84, by car or bike, as anyone who has driven there can attest.

If they need money, they should look to the state of California, which, if it knows what’s good for it, will abandon that stretch of Hwy 1 at Big Sur that sees rock slides every five minutes. Imagine where all that money could be put to better use…in Niles Canyon.