Dream rides that will never be…in my lifetime

Last Chance Road in 1975, crossing Waddell Creek. Bud Hoffacker, in back, and Bill Robertson, far right.

As you grow older, you begin to think about unfulfilled dreams, like bike rides on roads that do not exist or are off limits.

I’ve compiled a long list, but these gems rise to the surface. At least we can dream about what might be. Some of these roads might come to pass, but too late for me.

Niles Canyon Trail. I stopped riding through Niles Canyon a couple of years ago. I’ve probably ridden it 30 times, and each time I swear is the last.

The good news is that there’s a way to build a recreation path through the canyon, and county officials have expressed their support. It’s just going to take money. It will happen, in a couple of decades. My guess.

Bear Gulch Road. Why, why, why did San Mateo County give up on this gorgeous road? It’s another version of Old La Honda, only it goes to the Pacific Ocean, almost. I’ve ridden it on the east side a few times, on the west side only once.

Old Cañada Road. Most people don’t realize there’s an old Cañada Road, hidden away in the San Francisco Watershed. It goes from Edgewood Road to Highway 92. But there’s more. It’s a short hop on Hwy 92 to access roads into the San Francisco Watershed north of the highway. I’ve ridden Old Cañada a couple of times, the watershed, just once. It’s magical, delightful, inspirational, beautiful. Sigh.

Loma Prieta Road. It spans the wild and scenic countryside between Mt. Umunhum and Summit Road in Santa Cruz County. The views from up there take your breath away. I’ve ridden it about 16 times since 1980. MROSD owns a lot of the road. The agency promises to open it one of these days. I’m guessing it will be open for bikes 30 years from now. What’s so frustrating is that the MROSD signs are already posted along the way.

South Pacific Coast Railroad right of way. The tunnels that cut through the Santa Cruz Mountains were blasted shut in 1942 by Southern Pacific. I often dreamed about those tunnels when climbing steep grades on the way to Santa Cruz. It’s such a tragedy, but the Santa Cruz Mountains can be a harsh mistress.

Mill Valley to Fairfax. Sure, mountain bikers can make the trek, but it’s a grind. Widen Camino Alto/Corte Madera or build a nice paved trail for the road riders. Long term, open the Alto Tunnel. So frustrating.

Last Chance Road. Still doable between Big Basin Redwoods State Park and the Pacific Coast, but it’s not legal and it’s a narrow trail today. I’ve ridden it about 20 times and watched the road degrade into a wisp of a path. It’s much better than taking Highway 9, but what isn’t?

Highway 9 from Felton to Santa Cruz. Speaking of Highway 9, it’s about time something was done to make cycling safer between these two towns. If only the railroad right of way would accommodate bikes. I’ve ridden lower Hwy 9 maybe 20 times, but each time I swear will be the last.

Alpine Road. I’ve ranted about the loss of Alpine Road (east) for years. It’s still rideable after a fashion, but I like to remember it as it was in 1990, the last time San Mateo County graded the road. So many great memories riding up Alpine.

These are niggling obstacles that should be fixed:

Diablo Road. This is the only route available for accessing Mt. Diablo’s South Gate Road from Danville. Is it too much of an imposition to give up a few feet of land for a bike lane? I guess so. The road is way too narrow for today’s traffic.

Highway 92. There’s no shoulder for three miles to Half Moon Bay. I rode it in 2010 on a weekday, thinking it would be better. Big mistake. Garbage trucks ply the road. On a weekend it’s a parking lot all the way to Interstate 280. A shoulder would help, but the best option to visit Half Moon Bay is to take the Coast Highway from the south. Residents refuse to widen the road, not even for a bike lane.

More rides later, maybe.

Last Chance Road in 2011. That little thread of dirt is the road, such as it is.

11 Responses to “Dream rides that will never be…in my lifetime”

  1. Rama Says:

    Bear Gulch in particular sounds like a dream. I found your old post and this on how it was made private. What a bummer. https://blog.sfgate.com/bicycle/2016/03/22/road-thieves-of-the-santa-cruz-mountains/

  2. jay Says:

    Did HW92 solo 3-4 in summer of ’94 on Saturdays when training for a x-country ride. It was actually pretty fun then, but I would leave my home in Mtn. View when the sun was first coming up so that I reached the intersection of 35/92 by 7am. Then HW1 to Empire Grade, Felton Empire, Zanante, Summit, Skyline, Page Mill. Biking could be so amazing–it felt so good to be young and living in such a great place. It was a blessed time and felt like my endless summer.

    Surely everyone who has ridden a bike long enough has memories like this that make one wonder what life would had been like with no biking in it.

  3. Jon Blum Says:

    Great list. Isn’t it nice, though, that Mt. Umunhum is not on it? It’s been reclaimed from the road thieves. Around the same time, Cupertino gifted Pruneridge Ave to Apple. Money talks.

    One I might add to the list is what appears to be an old RR right-of-way connecting Hooker Gulch (end of Aldercroft Heights Rd) to the Wrights Station tunnel entrance on Wrights Station Rd. Big fence and scary warning signs at each end, but if it were open, it would be a nice connection, bypassing Old Santa Cruz Highway.

    It appears from maps that Loma Prieta Rd goes a long way (with some name changes), from Summit Rd near the Summit Store to Mount Madonna. I am curious how much of it is actually open. Roads to Ride South (1985) describes it as mostly dirt, and open despite the signs and gates. Obviously that is not a current source, so I am curious what is the current status in terms of access and pavement. I may be referring to the wrong street, as there are several with similar names.

    • jamesRides Says:

      Summit Rd is open from Loma Prieta Rd to Mt.Madonna. I rode this two years ago climbing Loma Prieta and then descending Mt. Madonna to Redwood Retreat and G8 back to San Jose (90 miles). Once past Loma Prieta the road is lumpy gravel with ruts and lot’s of undulations. You can’t go fast on a road bike so you have to climb all of the undulations from the bottom – no momentum. Incredible long distance views, but the local environment is fairly ugly until you start descending. G8 is not a good ride in the afternoons due to headwind and traffic. Good ride to do once!

  4. Ray Hosler Says:

    I read in the paper that San Jose Water might be involved with a land purchase to open the Los Gatos watershed. I think it’s a long-shot, but at least open space groups see the potential.

  5. AlphaRoaming Says:

    The Road Abandonment document for Bear Gulch Road clearly there is a 20 foot easement for public use. Can we legally be stopped from walking there?

    • jamesRides Says:

      The last paragraph of the abandonment document states that non-motorized use of the easement shall be permitted only by action of the board of supervisors. So, until such an action occurs if you were found on that easement a sheriff could issue you some type of ticket, probably not for trespassing on private land (given the easement), but probably for violating some county ordinance for being in a non-public area.

      • AlphaRoaming Says:

        Yes, but 2 paragraphs before that it states there is an easement, without any conditions of usage. The paragraphs appear independent of each other. The first one for “riding and hiking” and the other being “non-motorized transport”.

      • jamesRides Says:

        Hi Alpha: A public government agency can “close” a public easement by ordinance. This is something that a private landowner does not have the power to do. One paragraph claims the public easement, the other paragraph says it can not be used by the public until such a time that the board of supervisors permits usage. Non-motorized transport is essentially bicycling, walking/running, animal drawn carts, etc, passage without the help of a motor.

        Are you interested in having the easement opened?

      • AlphaRoaming Says:

        Indeed, I’m interested in exercising the public’s rights. I’m more likely to go hop the fence, with a copy of the document, than I am to go to inquire at the county offices.

        I still read this differently than you. Those paragraphs appear completely independent to me. Anything other than hiking/riding requires County action. Hiking/riding appear open regardless.

  6. Raymond Hosler Says:

    Can you afford a good lawyer? Probably for the courts to decide. According to Jean Rusmore, the county has an easement for “future trail use.” Most times when there’s an easement problem it has to be decided in court. There’s another road near Bear Gulch that has the same situation. The owner closed the gate to the road, long used by locals. Now they have only one in/out road to Hwy 84.

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