Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Newt crossing a sign of the times

April 8, 2019

Is this a joke? About as funny as those defaced bike signs: “Share the Love”


It was not more than a minute or two after passing a smashed newt — flat as a pancake — while climbing Alpine Road that I came across an oh-so-cute “Newt Xing” sign.

A lot of good it did that poor fellow back there on the road.

Ever since the San Jose Mercury News published a feature about a scientist who is documenting the newt slaughter that takes place annually on Alma Bridge Road (and elsewhere), these signs have been springing up.

I’m told there is now a sign — like this one I presume — on Alma Bridge Road.

I’m not sure who’s behind the effort, but I question its efficacy. It’s well intentioned, but what is a driver supposed to do?

Newts don’t wear reflective vests in the dark. That’s probably when most of them meet their fate. Can’t we think of a better way than posting a silly sign?

It turns out Caltrans is working on it. So give it another 20 years before we have a plan.

Another sign that rankled just about as much is the San Mateo County warning for bikes: “Loose Gravel Bicycles Not Advised”.

I think it’s safe to take down these signs now.

I’m guessing Alpine Road and Stage Road were graveled about a year ago, or longer. There isn’t any gravel to speak of, except small patches on the roadside where wheels never tread.

When there is fresh gravel, watch out. I avoid freshly graveled roads when possible.

Although I used to think that traffic in the Santa Cruz Mountains wasn’t different on a weekday compared to a Sunday, I’m changing my mind. There’s way less traffic on a weekday, but that only applies to the west slope.

Stage Road lovely as always.


I’ve seen my share of drivers hurrying to work coming down Page Mill Road, Moody Road, you name it.

On my way into Pescadero I saw seven enormous tour buses blast by on Pescadero Creek Road, most of them chartered by Sierra Pacific Tours.

I wish they’d find a different road, like Highway 84. Pescadero Creek Road is too narrow for those giant tour buses.

One of these days the new Loma Mar Store will open. Jobst Brandt and friends always stopped there for food and drink on the way to far-off destinations.

It doesn’t have the funky charm of the old store, but new Loma Mar Store opening will be a momentous occasion for the locals.

Loma Mar Store November 1984 during “Bike Pile Ride.” Bob Walmsley, John Woodfill (wearing Bell), Bill Robertson, Dave McLaughlin, Sterling McBride, Tom Ritchey, Tom Holmes, Jim Westby, Jean Higgins, Mike Higgins, Ray Hosler (Jobst Brandt photo)


Meanwhile, sleepy Pescadero has an ATM machine and a new bank. At least I don’t recall seeing one.

Bike pile ride Nov. 4, 1984. Early mountain bikers join Jobst riders. Butano Ridge Trail.


This had to be the best day of the year so far for weather. No that was last weekend. Two weeks in a row. Delightful.

Stage Road overlook after the first climb going north. Breathtaking.

Remote Panoche Valley not so quiet now

April 1, 2019

A welcome sight no matter which direction you’re riding.


When we started riding to New Idria in 2003, we didn’t see too many cars as our ride group headed home to Paicines via Panoche Road.

Sixteen years is a long time in Silicon Valley years, so it came as no surprise that I saw a fair amount of traffic on the way home today. The 12 p.m. departure from Panoche Inn in the heart of Panoche Valley made it peak travel time, which didn’t help.

So what’s going on here? Well, for one the dirt bikers have switched their riding from Clear Creek to New Idria and environs, where county roads are still open, free of BLM harassment. Quite a few of the trucks driving by had dirt bikes.

I must have seen 20 big RVs driving the narrow, bumpy road. Where did they come from?

I’m sure some motorists driving sedans were looking for the mythical Super Bloom. Sorry, it did not materialize, but I saw plenty of wildflowers after a wet winter.

Owl’s clover on Panoche Road, at Panoche Valley looking west.


Finally, ConEdison’s 247 MW solar farm is taking shape. It probably doesn’t generate much traffic on a Sunday, but I can imagine it would on a weekday.

Panoche Valley solar farm in the distance, or is this a mirage?

As I sat in a Panoche Inn lounge chair looking at the distant emerald green hills, contemplating life and how it’s constantly changing, I saw what looked like a shimmering mirage, or a lake. I looked closer and, sure enough, it was solar panels. After years of environmentalists throwing up roadblocks, ConEdison finally started building, albeit it’s greatly reduced in size from the original plan.

Panoche Inn, under new ownership.


In the bar, I talked with the new owner. The dollar bills still hang from the ceiling.

The weather gods showered me with mild temperatures, sunshine and fair breezes. The hillsides burst with colors. There’s a narrow window here for best bike riding. Once the rains go away, the land turns a drab brown.

Green hills, the way you want to see them on this ride.


I finished riding at 2:30 p.m., 55 miles in the saddle. Such is life in the slow lane.

After the ride I learned that Judy Garland’s third husband owned a ranch in Paicines, and the “town” used to be called Tres Pinos, which today is now three miles up Hwy 25.

Parents of Lieutenant General Janet C. Wolfenbarger, the highest-ranking woman in the United States Air Force, live in Paicines. It’s a small world.

Old La Honda Road succumbs to winter’s rain

March 18, 2019

Old La Honda Road west had a culvert meltdown. Culverts can be blamed for many road problems.


As you already knew, Old La Honda Road (west) took a hit this winter when a chunk of road 0.3 miles south of Skyline Boulevard fell downslope.

Two concrete barricades make it impossible for cars to get through.

This slide resembles the one in 2017, 3/4 mile downhill.

I had other plans, so I continued south on Skyline Boulevard. I was none to happy to see the yellow markers installed down the middle of the road at the scenic overlook. Is this necessary?

Now cyclists have to ride through a narrow section that will make car encounters unpleasant. Drivers often hit 60 mph on this stretch. Let’s hope they slow down here.

Today was one of those days when you wish you were young and strong again. Such lovely weather and so little traffic.

Whoever approved this abomination has no empathy for cyclists.

Skyline Boulevard closure just about over

March 15, 2019

Skyline Boulevard repair is almost complete about a mile southeast of Page Mill Road.


Skyline Boulevard, closed since February 4 due to a road washout 5 miles northwest of Highway 9, will open on Monday, April 18, or thereabouts.

I checked it out today. The road had just been paved. It needs time to settle and the crews need to clean up.

It sure looks like the newly repaired road is narrower. Steel beams reinforce the downslope that washed out and undermined the road.

I’m not sure if the traffic signals were there before the repair. It makes me wonder if this is a temporary fix with a one-way traffic light. It might explain why the road is so narrow.

Skyline Boulevard closure. Note the traffic signals.

If you want to visit the site, you can. Skyline is only closed where the repair crews are working. There’s access to a MROSD trail that borders a Christmas tree farm on the south side. Look for a locked gate before the road closure.

The gravely dirt road has ups and downs for a quarter mile.

Palms swaying in the Cupertino breeze

March 11, 2019

Palm Avenue in Cupertino lives up to its name.


Most of the time streets named “Palm Avenue” don’t live up to their moniker, but not so with this so-named street in Cupertino, close to Cupertino Bike Shop on S. Foothill Boulevard.

I counted 30 palms, although a few of them were the lower California fan palm, as well as the Sago palm.

I’m not sure about the tall palms. They look like coconut palms, but it’s too cold here, so it’s more likely a variety of the California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera). Maybe somebody knows.

Hicks Road slides out

February 26, 2019

Hicks Road slide has a temporary fix. A half-mile south of Shannon Road.


Anyone who has ridden up this road knows why I call it “Horrible Hicks,” besides the simple alliteration.

The road suffered a slump in recent rains, bad enough that the county had to put up a mobile LED warning sign.

The road is open.

By the way, if anyone is missing a hubcap, there’s a whole bunch of them next to this slide on what appears to be another slide. Maybe the caps were on someone’s property higher up and they slid down the hill.

The slide is about a half-mile south of Shannon Road.

Historic USGS maps added to online archive

February 6, 2019

National Automobile Club map from circa 1937.


Thanks for jamesRides for pointing out some interesting history of Montebello Road, which has become a popular cycling route.

Not all roads are county, city, or state owned/managed/right of ways. Montebello Road and parts of Stevens Canyon Road were always on private property. I’m not sure when Santa Clara County took over maintenance and established a right of way on these two roads.

However, just because a road isn’t government maintained, etc., doesn’t mean it is not a public road. The way a road becomes “public” is through a pattern of use established over time.

The original owners of Montebello Road and Stevens Canyon Road probably saw no need to barricade their roads back in the day. The population was small and their neighbors were farmers and ranchers.

Things changed with the rapid growth of industry starting in the 1930s. By the 1950s, people had free time. The more adventuresome took up off-road motorcycling. Those abandoned iron gates, still visible in Stevens Canyon, were the result.

There’s more history of the Black Mountain area in Wikipedia.

Even better, a company called ArcGIS has made available most, if not all, USGS historic maps online. It’s easy to use and lightning fast to load maps, which can be downloaded.

My contribution above is a National Automobile Club map from circa 1937. There’s no date on the map other than 61237 in small numbers. It could be 1937, although Stevens Creek Reservoir is not shown, built in 1935.

Rain washout closes Skyline Boulevard

February 5, 2019

Snowy mountains sparkle in the sun on a clear day in Santa Clara Valley.


Once again, Skyline Boulevard has been closed due to a road washout caused by rain, 1.5 miles south of Page Mill Road. It doesn’t look serious, so the road should be open soon.

Old La Honda Road (west) is also closed due to a washout.

I decided to check out the snow that got deposited on the foothills behind where I live. I rode up Montebello Road and got a first-hand view of nature’s wondrous ways.

While I’m no fan of heavy snow, a light dusting in the hills once in a while is welcome.

Montebello Road holds up well in heavy rains. I didn’t see anything of concern.

I need to check my inclinometer, but it seems like the road has gotten way steeper over the past 40 years of riding on it. I guess it’s one of those geological phenomenons we’ll never fully understand.

This isn’t as heavy a snowfall as we had in February 2011. I rode to Skyline to check that one out, south of Hwy 9. I didn’t post it here, mainly because I didn’t want to encourage people going up there.

It was a zoo, and none too safe for riding.

Heavy snow covered the hills along Skyline Boulevard back in February 2011.

Old Santa Cruz Hwy’s concrete nears 100

January 26, 2019

Old Santa Cruz Hwy’s ancient concrete can be ridden for two miles between Summit Road and Hwy 17.


Today I checked out Old Santa Cruz Hwy between Summit Road and Hwy 17 for old time’s sake.

While Old Santa Cruz Hwy is still all concrete, it has been covered with a thick layer of pavement, except south of Summit Road.

The original road from San Jose to Santa Cruz dates back to 1856. It followed present day San Jose-Soquel Road from the summit. Mountain Charley’s toll road was used later on as well. Richard Beal has all the details in his book Highway 17.

The road was improved along the current Old Santa Cruz Hwy and Glenwood Drive/Highway alignment to state standards in stages starting in 1915. Concrete was laid in 1921-22, so the pavement is nearly a century old. The concrete is cracked in many places, but it’s still in daily use, with paved patches here and there.

The road’s longevity bear’s witness to the durability of concrete. Nothing compares. Asphalt lasts a long time, but concrete is the clear winner.

I can’t say the same for the land around the road. Several slides threaten the road, and trees have fallen in numerous places. Winter rains do that to the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Here’s the best ride to Santa Cruz and back

January 21, 2019

Ride to Santa Cruz from Los Gatos, and return. It’s about 5,200 feet altitude gain.


After gathering everyone’s input, I decided to share a map of the best route from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz and back.

It builds on the ride I profiled in Bay Area Bike Rides, editions two and three.

The ride has much to see as it literally covers historic ground that is the stuff of legends. You’ll ride by Mountain Charlie McKiernan’s house where, nearby, he battled a grizzly bear.

You’ll look down on the waters of Lexington Reservoir where there were two communities (Lexington, Alma) and tracks of the South Pacific Coast Railroad, swallowed up in 1952 with the dam.

There’s Holy City where a cultist tried to build a utopian society. Today it’s one shop (closed) on Old Santa Cruz Hwy at the entrance to Redwood Estates.

You’ll speed down San Jose-Soquel Road, one of the best descents in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and then turn right onto the less traveled Laurel Glen Road. Casalegno Store has been at this location since the 1920s.

On Branciforte Drive, watch your electronic devices go haywire as you pass the Mystery Spot. It’s a must visit to appreciate the lure of gullibility and sight tricks.

Avoid all the traffic by taking the scenic San Lorenzo River path, but watch out for needles.

Of course, once you’re at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, nothing beats a ride along West Cliff Drive to soak in the festive beach atmosphere, along with watching surfer dudes and dudettes ride the waves.

The return ride will test your legs on Mountain Charlie Road, but I much prefer the climb over the descent. On the ride up you’re alone with your thoughts on a quiet road. Seeing the bright blue grain silo (converted into a house) makes the climb worth the effort.

Once you’re done, you’ll join me in launching a GoFundMe campaign to bring back the South Pacific Coast Railroad right of way as a world class bike path. We’ll only need 800 million dollars or so to tear out Lexington Reservoir, open the tunnels, rebuild some creek bridges, and buy some of San Jose Water Company’s land. Enjoy your ride.

(P.S. The climb total with tunnels would be 600 feet going south, 900 feet going north, average grade 1-2 percent.)

Mileage Log > Start at E. Main Street and ride south on Los Gatos Creek Trail, next to Hwy 17, keeping Los Gatos Creek on your left. 1.3 Steep section. 1.77 Alma Bridge Rd. 5.95 Keep right on Aldercroft Heights Rd. 6.46 Left onto Old Santa Cruz Hwy at stop sign. 9.11 Mountain Charlie Rd. 10.14 Left onto Summit Rd. at stop sign. 11.5 Morrill Cutoff. Cuts over to San Jose-Soquel Rd. No traffic but steep and bumpy. 12.65 Summit store. 12.84 Right onto San Jose-Soquel Rd. 14.8 Redwood Lodge Rd. 20.77 Right onto Laurel Glen Rd. at Casalegno store. 23.0 Becomes Mountain View Rd. 23.9 Left onto Branciforte Dr. at stop sign. 26.9 Granite Creek Rd. 27.36 Mystery spot. 28.6 Glen Canyon Rd. 29.22 Becomes Market St. 30.05 Right onto Water St. at traffic light. 30.43 Right onto path to circle under bridge over San Lorenzo River. Take path south. 31.8 Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on right past parking lot. Return on river path: 33.53 Right, crossing bridge, then jog left to begin Felker St. 33.78 Right onto Ocean St. at stop sign. Cross Ocean St. to begin Plymouth St., keeping left after crossing. 33.9 Keep right on Plymouth at on-ramp to Hwy 17. 34.13 Becomes Fernside St. 34.27 Left onto Emeline Ave. at stop sign, crossing under Hwy 1. 34.49 Keep left on Emeline at junction. 34.58 Left at parking driveway to Plymouth St. 34.64 Right onto Plymouth St. at stop sign. 35.1 Becomes El Rancho Dr. 35.75 Keep right at junction for La Madrona Dr. 37.72 Left onto Hwy 17 flyover at stop sign. Becomes Mt. Hermon Rd. 38.44 Right onto Scotts Valley Dr. at traffic light. 38.54 Left onto Bean Creek Rd. at traffic light. 42.19 Left onto Glenwood Dr. at stop sign. 43.15 Left onto Mountain Charlie Rd. 44.9 Steep section. 45.45 Steep section. 48.22 Right/straight onto Summit Rd. at stop sign, crossing Hwy 17. 48.41 Left at stop sign onto Summit Road, followed by immediate left onto Mountain Charlie Rd. 49.91 Left onto Old Santa Cruz Hwy at stop sign. 51.83 Right onto Aldercroft Heights Rd. Alternate route is stay on Old Santa Cruz Hwy, Hwy 17 on ramp, exit onto Alma Bridge Road in half mile. 52.34 Left onto Alma Bridge Rd. 56.52 Right onto Los Gatos Creek Tr. at Lexington Reservoir dam. 58.28 End ride on E. Main St.