Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

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.

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.

Cyclists back to enjoying Mt. Hamilton Road

May 29, 2017

Your taxes at work. Mt. Hamilton Road is open for cycling now that the slide has been repaired.


I checked out the newly opened Mt. Hamilton Road today and was not disappointed as I was swallowed up by the Western Wheelers peloton. Must have been 50 or more.

The club riders were tuning up for their annual Sequoia Century in June.

I stopped to take a photo of the new retaining wall and drainage. While I couldn’t see any drainage work on the west side, I assume they developed a way to catch the runoff because there’s a large steel pipe sticking out on the retaining wall side.

Then I discovered there’s a water fountain right at the entrance kiosk to Grant Ranch Park. Nice to know.

Now if only Calaveras Road were open, I could do my annual Mt. Hamilton ride. Sadly, it looks like it will be closed for at least another month. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was much longer. The SF Water District would probably just as soon keep it closed permanently.

That would suit me fine if they left it open to bikes and hikers. The use of the road by daily car commuters is criminal.

Santa Cruz County still digging out from winter storms

May 21, 2017

Schulties Road is closed to cars.


Tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the “town” of Laurel isn’t a destination, rather it is a memory of what used to be, the living quarters for workers at a thriving sawmill and a train stop for the South Pacific Coast Railroad.

I like to ride by here once a year to check out the tunnel entrance and enjoy quiet solitude in the redwoods, but today’s ride hearkened back to Jobst Rides of old — those adventures following the brutal winter of 1982-83, memorialized in Once Upon a Ride.

As I rocketed down the bumpy Redwood Lodge Road I noticed a sign just off San Jose-Soquel Road that said the road was closed. And someone wrote in pen, “They’re not kidding.”

They weren’t, but I knew that no road closure was too great to overcome on a bike. I expected to see a barricade around every corner but I kept descending into the bowels of the redwoods, bottoming out at Burns Creek. It was here that I saw the last barricade warning of road closure ahead. I had just passed another slide that was fixed and in 1982-83 there was yet another slide on the steep descent to Burns Creek.

Not more than a tenth of a mile later I saw the closure, a big blob of mud occupied the road. Since it has been there for weeks, the local residents who live just up the hill installed wooden stairs, which made the clambering so much easier. First, I eased the bike down a steep slope onto the old road.

Once past that slide I saw another warning on Schulties Road. I wasn’t a bit surprised as this remote track lost its pavement decades ago and is little used except by a handful of local residents. I continued on and at the last house saw the first slide. It’s a doozey with a steep drop-off into the gulch that feeds Burns Creek and close to another tunnel entrance crossing the creek.

I carefully walked over the downed wires and across the log bridge (no riding here) and then onward, wondering what other road closures lay ahead.

In less than a mile I came to another blob, this one so big that there was no way around. I had to go over. I gingerly put my foot down and in it sank, but not enough to swallow my shoe. I managed to walk through the slide and on the other side cursed my brakes with their narrow clearance. Mud caked what little space there is between pad and rim.

If not for those two obstacles, Schulties is in fine shape, dry and always pleasant without traffic in the dense redwoods. From what I could tell, Santa Cruz County will fix the road, in due time.

This Schulties slide is still sticky mud. Expect to get muddy.

Roadwork continues in Santa Cruz Mountains

May 6, 2017

Slide at Hwy 9 and Redwood Gulch Road needs a retaining wall.


While Caltrans ponders what to do about fixing Skyline Boulevard, Hwy 9 road work goes on and on. Eventually, Saratoga to Skyline will be one big retaining wall, if this keeps up.

Starting Thursday, May 11, Hwy 9 will be closed to traffic (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) both directions at Redwood Gulch Road.

I rode up Hwy 9 today and the stop light is still in place above Redwood Gulch, another location where a retaining wall is being built.

A retaining wall will no doubt be needed at the large slide (now a barren hillside) at Redwood Gulch Road.

However, Hwy 236 held up well, with only one sag near upper China Grade.

North Escape Road into Big Basin Redwoods State Park also survived, with only a road collapse (no dismount) at the bridge crossing Opal Creek. A couple of trees also toppled across the road, but they fell at such an angle that no dismount is necessary.

As for Gazos Creek Road, the ranger I spoke with could only say that crews had been out working on the “muddy” road. I suspect it’s rideable, but muddy in spots.

On my way up Bear Creek Road I rode past one stop-light repair less than a quarter mile from Hwy 9 and passed two eroded places with stop signs near David Bruce winery. Farther up on Bear Creek Road, past Summit Road, I noticed two slides have been fixed.

That’s what you get when Big Basin sees 92 inches of rain in a short time span.

Hwy 9 stop light several miles from summit. Expect up to a 5-minute wait.