Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Siren wail of New Idria calls for a change

April 23, 2017

Midway in the climb to New Idria. Car-free riding.

Without question one of the best rides I’ve taken includes a visit to the historic mining town of New Idria in the wilds of San Benito County.

It offered everything an adventure rider could ask for — long stretches of dirt, a climb to 4,500 feet, fording a river, visiting an old mining town, and no cars.

The down side is that the one-day ride took a long time. Over the years I’ve slowed, to the point that we were finishing the ride in the dark. Not that I didn’t like riding in the dark with a powerful light. It was just too much.

I decided enough is enough and thought of another ride — out and back to New Idria starting in Paicines, altitude 680 feet. It’s 104 miles — plenty of miles for an aging crank — there isn’t any traffic, the countryside is beautiful and I could still see New Idria.

I headed out at 7:20 a.m. on Saturday under clear skies, temperature 48 degrees. As luck would have it I saw two riders with whom I rode the loop route, just getting started on their ride. They figured we’d meet up later, but I figured we wouldn’t. My New Idria ride is far easier now, much easier than even I imagined.

Welcome to New Idria, population 0.

Weather couldn’t have been better as I headed into the hills on a gradual climb that would take me to the 2,200-foot pass at Summit Ranch, according to the road sign. I didn’t see a reading of more than a brief 9 percent grade on my GPS. I also didn’t notice any wind.

By the time I reached the only store 27 miles into my ride — Panoche Inn — it would be a 20-minute wait before it opened at 10 a.m. I searched for water, but found none. I had to decide — wait or carry on? I figured I could beg for water from target shooters who frequent Griswold Canyon 10 miles ahead. I also wanted to check out a small campground at the canyon entrance.

I continued, still not experiencing the usual winds that blow through Panoche Valley. I noticed the grass is already brown and I didn’t see any evidence that the winter had been wet here. I did cross a small stream higher up on Panoche Pass, something I had never experienced before.

I found the campground, but it’s nothing more than a pit toilet and some signage. Fortunately there were shooters but I decided I could wait until the return ride. It wasn’t all that hot, about 65 degrees.

Steady climbing took me to 1,700 feet, where I found the view more appealing — green grass and cows by the hundreds enjoying their morning munch. The patch-quilt road had new patches of black tar to fill in the worst potholes. Potholes and patches made riding a challenge as I bumped along and favored the smooth dirt shoulder.

At the adobe house the climbing starts getting serious. I noticed a rock collecting camp, Benitoite, on my right and made a note to stop there to look for water upon my return.

Adobe house, where the serious climbing begins.

The last quarter-mile to 2,648 feet altitude offers strong riders a chance to test their resolve on loose dirt with grades of 20 percent. I have long since lost any need to prove my mettle.

At the mine I watched a drone take flight and no doubt I can check YouTube for the footage. The old mine now has a chain-link fence around it and almost all of the other buildings have been torn down. As a Super Fund site, I can imagine that the area will continue to change, unless the EPA is de-funded in the years ahead.

I turned around at 12:12 p.m., plenty early compared to years past. At the mining camp I didn’t see anyone, so I walked around looking for water, finding a large plastic jug next to a hose attached to a spigot. After a pour I confirmed it was water, a bit turbid, but probably drinkable. I figured the worst that could happen would be a dose of mercury, equivalent to eating fish from the bay.

The ride back included a brief tailwind and more bumpy road. I didn’t see any Super Bloom, just tall grass with a mingling of wildflowers.

Back at Panoche Inn I stopped and purchased some refreshingly cold Gatorade from the new owner Sam, Larry and wife having retired late last year. They served up huge ice cream cones for $1 and had $1 bills plastered on the ceiling.

After 15 minutes I headed off into a headwind at 2:20 p.m., but nothing too bad. It helped cool things down as temps had climbed into the mid to upper 70s. The climb didn’t seem nearly as bad as years past, mainly because the afternoon was still young and I hadn’t ridden loose dirt to 4,500 feet.

Fortunately things cooled down a bit as cloud cover moved in. The journey ended at 4:39 p.m. with 104.5 miles on the GPS. It was a relatively easy ride with only 5,400 feet of climbing (compared to 7,750 for the loop ride), better suited to my riding interest these days.

What’s left of the mining community, which thrived from 1857-1972.

Wildflowers reaching their glorious best

April 15, 2017

Redwood Retreat Road has its share of wildflowers this time of year.

Judging from what I saw today, next weekend or two will be the peak of the wildflower season in the Bay Area. I saw plenty of clover on Redwood Retreat Road.

The downside with much of the area close to San Jose is there’s a lot of wild grass covering the flowers, especially after a wet winter.

That’s why the backside of Mt. Hamilton is worth the ride. There isn’t nearly as much grass, so the wildflowers have the ground to themselves.

Skyline Boulevard washout brings out the gawkers

April 9, 2017

Skyline Boulevard is closed a mile southeast of Castle Rock State Park. It’s going to be a while before it’s fixed.

Sorry, but I counted myself among the many gawkers who wanted to see the Skyline Boulevard washout at 16169 Skyline on Sunday.

I arrived as a drone pilot was launching his buzzing video camera into the sky. Needless to say, I was not welcome, nor is anyone else except, it would seem, drone pilots.

A semi-official construction person wearing a hard hat told me I had to leave but he let me take a photo and generally was nice enough about letting me have a look, but I can understand his concern. One guy on a motorcycle wanted to ride through, I was told. Looks like enforcement will be ratcheted up.

I was planning to continue riding southeast, but my itinerary was out the window. I could have taken the Skyline Trail, which parallels the road, but it was so wet and goopy, I decided against it. The washout probably didn’t bother the trail.

Instead, the direction of the slide was toward the Deer Creek drainage to the south. The trail is on the opposite side of the slide.

As a Sheriff arrived at the east side of the slide, I turned around, and saw a Sheriff driving up from the west as well.

Highway 9 has so many sags that it will be a while before they’re all fixed. There’s one signal-light work area. The Santa Cruz Mountains still feels like a place under siege by the weather gods.

Beauty shot from Skyline. Clear skies after recent rain and downright cold in the morning.

Mtn. Charlie Road survives the winter, barely

April 2, 2017

Some fields are still flooded on Cloverdale Road.

I figured Saturday would be as good a day as any for a spring ride along the coast to Santa Cruz, with all the wind we’ve been having.

I wasn’t as lucky as I’ve been in some years, but the tailwind was enough to make the ride as enjoyable as possible on a day drenched in sunshine and temperatures in the high 60s.

One year I averaged 20 mph all the way to Santa Cruz, pushed by a strong tailwind. Those days are behind me as I grind out the miles in my usual survival mode.

On Cloverdale Road I saw evidence of the heavy winter’s rain and understood why strawberries from Watsonville will be in short supply. Some fields are flooded, although the Swanson pick-your-own strawberry patch looks to be in good shape. A tractor tilled the soil next to one of the large plots planted with strawberries.

I blasted through Santa Cruz on the always busy Hwy 1 and then made my way to the San Lorenzo River path and bridge where the homeless congregate in large numbers.

On the way up El Rancho Drive the stop sign and slide has finally been fixed and local residents have the good fortune of not having other slides to deal with.

As I made my way up Glenwood Highway I saw plenty of warnings that there’s no access to Hwy 17, but I was headed up Mountain Charlie Road, which I heard was open.

Sure enough Mt. Charlie was open, although the “road closed” signs are still there. The road is looking more and more like the goat path it was in the 1980s, pavement crumbling everywhere.

I came across a slide that had been repaired (closing the road) about halfway up. Near the summit I saw another big culvert blowout that took out half the road and will surely need fixing.

Old Santa Cruz Hwy survived the winter in good shape, as did Los Gatos Creek Trail. There’s still a lot of roadwork to be done in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Skyline Boulevard southeast of Castle Rock State Park, and Zayante Road are closed.

Spring weather favors Pescadero

March 13, 2017

Pescadero from Bean Hollow Road overlooking the flood zone.

I decided to check out Pescadero and the area after the recent flooding downtown. Pescadero Creek wraps around the town, so it’s always at risk during wet winters like this one.

Fortunately the damage was minor even with the downtown flooded. Dozens of families visited the town to enjoy a Spring day with plenty of sunshine and gentle breezes.

Having ridden Bean Hollow Road only once, I tried it again to get a better view of Pescadero below. The road, I believe, is part of the old Coast Highway, and it sure looks like an extension of Stage Road as it climbs quickly to a plateau where I found farmland in abundance.

Wildflowers on Haskins Hill.

The view did not disappoint. It’s a great place to see Pescadero.

I headed south on Hwy 1 to Gazos Creek Road. As you might expect, the road has plenty of sags and creek erosion of embankments. This is one of my favorite roads. Too bad it’s always at risk from the creek.

Finally, no ride report on Pescadero Road would be complete without mention of the Loma Mar store. It creeps toward completion. I’m wondering if it will be a private residence and a store, or just a residence?

Loma Mar store creeps toward completion.

Cycling in this weather is for crazies

February 21, 2017

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail at Scott Blvd. I went back to cross at street-level.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail at Scott Blvd. I went back to cross at street-level.

There’s no question that this winter’s rain tops the list for causing the most destruction to area roads. At least since I’ve lived here, 1977.

Just about all the main roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains have been damaged, some severely. Reservoirs are overflowing. Coyote Creek is a disaster. It’s hard to imagine the toll it’s taking on local residents. The creek is treated like an open sewer, which is why anyone exposed to the floodwater needs to wash down.

I was going stir-crazy, so I headed out despite the threat of rain, which did not disappoint. I checked out Saratoga Creek where it dumps into San Tomas Aquino Creek. It’s obvious Saratoga Creek has a lot more runoff than San Tomas.

I got as far as Scott Boulevard on the trail. It was flooded, but fortunately the road can be crossed at street-level. Old Mountain View-Alviso Road, also flooded.

Hwy 237 underpass, flooded. I watched as a rider decided he had to keep going, so he dismounted and walked his bike along the embankment. I had enough for the day.

Saratoga Creek at San Tomas Aquino. A lot of water.

Saratoga Creek at San Tomas Aquino. A lot of water.

Mt. Hamilton Road weathers the storms

February 12, 2017

Eucalyptus down on Mt. Hamilton Road, first mile of climb.

Eucalyptus down on Mt. Hamilton Road, first mile of climb.

As I expected, Mt. Hamilton Road has made it through the recent wet weather with only minor rock falls and a bit of mud here and there.

It’s not worth mentioning the areas with so little rock sliding. I saw road crews out in force today, so they’ll have the debris scraped up by now.

I’m glad I wasn’t riding up the lower climb when a giant eucalyptus fell across the road. It looks like the tree was already dead or dying. I remember it from my many climbs up Mt. Hamilton.

Tree before it fell. I guess it wasn't dead after all, but not a good lean. (Google Maps photo.)

Tree before it fell. I guess it wasn’t dead after all, but not a good lean. (Google Maps photo.)

I can do without the eucalyptus. It has enough negative characteristics that I wish it had never been imported from Australia. If you’re curious about the fascinating history of how it came to California, I found a story in the Santa Barbara Independent. Yes, the main promoter of the tree lived in Santa Barbara.

Mt. Hamilton sees a lot less rain than the Santa Cruz Mountains, which have been hammered. The roads may be worse off than the dreadful winter of ’82-’83.

This creek about a mile up from Smith Creek is usually dry.

This creek about a mile up from Smith Creek is usually dry.

Rains dredge up mud and a bike

February 10, 2017

Flooding has blocked the Guadalupe River Trail at Hwy 237.

Flooding has blocked the Guadalupe River Trail at Hwy 237.

I managed to make it to Alviso this morning following the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail. The underpasses were muddy, but passable.

Saratoga Creek is really gushing, more than San Tomas Aquino.

It was a different story on the Guadalupe River Trail, flooded at the Hwy 237 underpass. No doubt other low-lying underpasses are also flooded.

I found a Marin mountain bike, minus its wheels, propped up on the levee near Gold Street. Stolen and abandoned? It was purchased from The Bike Connection, Palo Alto.

It will be a while before I try riding in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They’re a soggy mess.

Anybody need a bike? Cost about $650 when new around 2000.

Anybody need a bike? Cost about $650 when new around 2000.

If there was a cycling hell…

February 3, 2017

Typical street scene in a Manila suburb. Tricycle motorbikes, motorbikes, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, trucks.

Typical street scene in a Manila suburb. Tricycle motorbikes, motorbikes, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, trucks.

It would be the Philippines. You haven’t experienced traffic until you’ve been to Manila. Or Bangkok. Or New Delhi. Or anywhere else in Asia where the climate is tropical.

It’s hot, it’s humid, the air is fetid with the smell of diesel belching from aging jeepneys that the government is desperate to see replaced with newer, cleaner models.

Yet people still ride bikes here, at all hours, with and without lights or even reflectors. Few wear helmets. I saw them all the time, some wearing masks or handkerchiefs to try to protect their lungs from the debilitating air.

While bikes can maneuver around traffic, I can’t imagine an autonomous car lasting five minutes here during rush-hour. It would be laughable. The car would make it ten feet before shutting down, or just sit there waiting for an opening to safely go forward.

I was fortunate to have a relative who knows how to drive here, someone who does it so well he even worked for Uber. It didn’t take long for him to realize it was a money-losing proposition. I had an Uber driver take me home one evening from Makati and it was a paltry 75 pesos. That’s $1.50. It wouldn’t have even covered the cost of gas. Of course I gave him a lot more than that in cash (Uber takes cash in the Philippines).

Manila’s intersections outside of the ultra-wealthy sections of Makati are mostly unsignaled, which means turning left is a daunting task. Near the airport we had to cross three lanes of traffic while turning left, most of the time without any traffic control. There were roundabouts chocked with traffic.

Yet there are very few accidents because people who drive in Manila know how to yield. It’s like a school of fish maneuvering through another school of fish. They’ve got built in radar. It just works.

I’m not saying it’s better than our signaled intersection driving in the U.S., but it does work well enough that people can struggle to and from work daily.

Head for the Hills
There is one place near Manila where cyclists have a respite from the heat and traffic. It’s Tagaytay, where there are a few roads without traffic. Cyclists enjoy riding up a concrete road that spirals upward for 2,500 feet to the summit of Mt. Gonzales.

Cyclists begin the climb up Mt. Gonzales. Those huge fat tires popular here.

Cyclists begin the climb up Mt. Gonzales. Those huge fat tires popular here.

Riders at the summit and entrance to Palace in the Sky prepare for the descent.

Riders at the summit and entrance to Palace in the Sky prepare for the descent.

There they find a Palace in the Sky, literally. Marcos had it built in 1981, but it was never finished because his government was toppled by the People Power revolution from 1983-86. Today it’s a park where Manila residents can escape the ever-present heat in the valley below.

Cyclists face a daunting climb, some sections as steep as 20 percent and longer stretches of 15 percent, hard under any conditions but more so here with the heat and humidity.

At the summit they’re rewarded with cooler temperatures, fair winds and views of Mt. Taal, a volcano inside a lake. In recent years the roads in and around Tagaytay have been widened so cyclists can manage to get around a lot more safely. There’s still the ever-present traffic on crowded weekends.

When I think about any types of problems I have riding in Santa Clara Valley, I remind myself just how good we have it compared to so many places around the world. This is Shangri-La.

Colnago Ferrari. I'm assuming this is a knock-off of the real thing, which does exist.

Colnago Ferrari. I’m assuming this is a knock-off of the real thing, which does exist.

Winter storm floods creek path

January 9, 2017

That's a lot of debris. You'll want to ride on Great America Parkway a short distance and then take a left.

That’s a lot of debris. You’ll want to ride on Great America Parkway a short distance and then take a left.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail made it through the weekend rainstorm everywhere but here at the Great America Parkway underpass.

Use extra caution at the underpasses where there’s a slurry of slippery mud.

I also rode on the Sunnyvale Baylands trail over to Mountain View and the Google road improvement made it rideable even with all the rain.