Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Mt. Hamilton a Cool Way to Go

May 23, 2016

The spring on the Mt. Hamilton backside is running nicely.

The spring on the Mt. Hamilton backside is running nicely.

I put off riding over Mt. Hamilton several times due to weather, so even though it wasn’t all that nice Sunday morning, I headed out bright and early.

The temperature hovered in the low 50s much of the way to the summit as the sun struggled to shine through the high cloud cover. It finally came out after noon and things warmed up nicely.

I saw a few riders on the way up, but things were mostly quiet with the exception of the car rally that went by.

I headed down the backside and made a point to stop at the spring to see how it was doing. The water is flowing nicely. It’s good to drink, but I didn’t need water since it was so cool.

On my way down a Sheriff passed by, which is a rarity. I haven’t seen one up here in years.

Near Arnold Ranch several riders came by me and we rode together off and on. I stopped in San Antonio Valley to see if I could find my glove dropped a month ago. No luck. I was amazed by how tall the grass had grown and now it’s all brown, fuel for a fire. That’s a downside of plentiful rain.

The refurbished Junction store is open for business and the food looks good.

The refurbished Junction store is open for business and the food looks good.

I stopped at The Junction bar and grill to see the refurbish. It’s clean and efficient, but gone is the taxidermy nailed to the wall, the ancient National Geographic magazines, old photos of Jot ‘Em Down Store, the giant tortoise out back, and the people who ran the place. The new management does a good job tending to customers and their prices are reasonable.

Outside, the tables are still there and they even added patio umbrellas. But what I really miss is Car Man. Bring him back, please.

I wasn’t in the mood for the loop, so I turned around and headed back up Mt. Hamilton. It’s about 8,300 feet of climbing to do the traditional loop through Livermore and Calaveras Road, while it’s 9,100 feet going out and back. Still, I enjoy the quiet of Mt. Hamilton Road.

Besides, I wanted to check out the world’s smallest concrete dam just off the road. It holds quite a bit of water. I’m guessing it was built in the 1940s.

As I struggled up the steep backside of Mt. Hamilton, I took comfort in knowing the wind was at my back most of the way and that the temperature was nice for climbing.

This is the world's smallest concrete dam just off Mt. Hamilton Road.

This is the world’s smallest concrete dam just off Mt. Hamilton Road.

Steel-belted tires a source for flats

May 15, 2016

Steel-belt wire, a sure way to get a tire flat.

Steel-belt wire, a sure way to get a tire flat.

Third in line after glass and puncture vine, I claim wire from steel-belted tires to be a source for bike tire flats. I had one of those a few weeks ago and it’s a hassle to remove the tiny wire. I had to add a boot and extract it at home.

I used to think the wires came from street sweepers, but someone told me it was car tires. It’s hard to believe, but I told myself I’d stop and take a photo if I came across a tire shred. Sure enough on Saturday I found some on Summit Road just south of Gist Road. How it got there is a mystery. Maybe it fell off a truck carrying junk.

I checked out those little-ridden roads nearby, Schulties, Redwood Lodge, Morrill Cutoff to see if they survived the winter; they did, with a couple of minor mudslides and downed trees, since cleared.

Finally, Sempervirens Fund celebrated its 116th anniversary Saturday at the new parking lot for Castle Rock State Park. I was passed by a phalanx of cars heading up Hwy 9. I figured some event must be underway because traffic was far worse than normal.

When I mentioned this to a woman at the parking lot entrance she claimed it was just weekend traffic. We should all be thankful that so few people recreate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Even a minor increase in traffic triggered by a special event overloads mountain roads.

Pedale Alpini gang resurrects a Jobst Ride in all its muddy glory

May 9, 2016

Here's why you want lots of brake clearance.

Here’s why you want lots of brake clearance.

As I am told, the “bike club” name Pedali(e) Alpini was coined when three of its principles — George Koenig, Rick Bronson and Jobst Brandt — got to talking. They all met each other on or near Alpine Road, so they wanted to use the road name in the club title. Someone suggested “Alpini” to give it an Italian flair, which made a lot of sense considering the Italians were going crazy for bike racing back in the 1950s.

Peter Locke, another Pedali Alpini (Pedale is not exactly a complimentary word in French, and the source of some angst among the Pedale Alpini cadre) member said there were no meetings other than conversations they had out on a ride. Quite a few of these riders had successful racing seasons and Koenig went on to compete in the 1960 Olympics.

But I digress. One John Woodfill keeps the club name alive, buying authentic wool jerseys with the same pocket arrangement, colors, and name. He called for a ride starting at the house of Jobst Brandt, Sunday, 8 a.m. Olaf Brandt, Millo Fenzi, Steve Lubin, and Matt Forrester joined John.

While it had rained the past several days, we weren’t going to let that stop us and, besides, it wasn’t much rain, or so we thought.

In keeping with tradition, we headed up Alpine Road. At the green gate the riders waited patiently for my arrival, confident that the road ahead would be dry. It sure looked dry. That would be true for, say, 400 yards.

The farther we rode, the muddier it got. At the bypass trail I wasn’t about to try riding steep sections where a fall might break my precious aging bones. Dodging poison oak growing next to the trail, we made our way uphill, all of us remembering this used to be a pleasant road for cycling, 30 years ago. By the time we got to Page Mill Road, my brakes carried with them what seemed like a pound of Alpine Road.

We headed on to Alpine Road and descended into Portola State Park. None of us believed the Haul Road could possibly be muddy like Alpine. It’s about a 2,000 foot descent to the park where things never dry out in the bowels of the redwoods, including the Haul Road after several days of rain. On the ride over the swank new Pescadero Creek bridge, we looked dutifully for trout, saw none. Jobst always complained that when he was young the place had five-pounders begging to be caught.

Pescadero Creek Bridge. From left, Steve Lubin, John Woodfill, Millo Fenzi, Matt Forrester.

Pescadero Creek Bridge. From left, Steve Lubin, John Woodfill, Millo Fenzi, Matt Forrester.

Our ride turned into a cyclocross event as we hiked up to the Haul Road. Still, it didn’t look all that bad. We headed north and I quickly realized this would be a ride that brought back memories of the winters of 1982-83. It was muddy, pig heaven. A grader had recently done its job on the road, making matters worse.

However, in the majestic redwoods with light poking through the clouds, the scenery made things more bearable as we slogged our way up and down the gentle climbs. Some of us had cyclocross bikes or machines with good brake clearance. That made the ride not so bad.

After more brake clearing with the help of redwood sticks, I managed to reach Wurr Road, where we continued to our next obstacle, the ancient wooden bridge where dozens of cyclists have crashed, some breaking bones. We took it easy crossing, but things were dry. It can be a challenge on icy mornings.

Sadly, Loma Mar Store remains closed, covered with tarp, a remodel taking way too long. The traditional food stop would wait until Pescadero. We had a bite to eat at the main store where tourists mingle with locals preparing for the 116th annual Pescadero IDES Holy Ghost Celebration. As I sat their watching life go by, I wondered how in the world Gordon Moore, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, went from here to Silicon Valley fame and fortune. Moore’s Law has its roots in sleepy Pescadero.

The plan was to ride up Gazos Creek Road into Big Basin State Park and home via Hwy 9. I had enough mud for the day and took the speedy route home via Stage Road and Hwy 84. I saw Gazos Creek last year. It can wait a little longer until things dry out. (Jobst and I rode up Gazos Creek Road on May 18, 1986.)

Quarry Park discovery in Saratoga

April 21, 2016

Quarry Park is a mile outside Saratoga on Hwy 9.

Quarry Park is a mile outside Saratoga on Hwy 9.

There’s a welcome addition on Hwy 9 just one mile outside Saratoga, Quarry Park, which opened last October. I hadn’t noticed it until a week ago, so I decided to check it out.

Starting around the 1870s this site has been host to a copper mine, lime and rock quarry. Santa Clara County operated the site as a rock quarry from 1921 to 1967. However, they kept using the location as a place for private picnics and parties.

The city of Saratoga purchased the land in 2011 with the intention of turning it into a park, working with Santa Clara County and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Trucks drove inside here to load up on gravel.

Trucks drove inside here to load up on gravel.

Here's what the quarry looked like when in operation. Hiking trails above here now.

Here’s what the quarry looked like when in operation. Hiking trails above here now.

Cyclists will enjoy it for its modern bathrooms with running water and flush toilets.

But I had other designs, to ride down John Nicholas Trail starting on Skyline Boulevard. Fortunately Hwy 9 and Skyline had only a thin veneer of wetness in isolated locations, not enough to slow me down.

Nice view from higher up on the trail.

Nice view from higher up on the trail.

I entered the trail from the Sunnyvale Mountain parking area, about 4.5 miles south of Saratoga Gap, Hwy 9 and Skyline. It’s only 0.2 miles on the Skyline Trial to reach John Nicholas. I was the only person using the trail.

I stopped to take a photo at the scenic overlook before plunging down through the redwoods following the man-made trail that keeps a steady grade all the way down to Lake Ranch Road. It’s a popular trail on weekends.

I rode to Black Road, skirting the shores of McKenzie Reservoir, which looks like it’s less than one-third full. I’m not sure why it’s so low after a decent winter’s rains.

Upon reaching Los Gatos Creek Trail at Lexington Dam I was surprised to see a sign that said the trail was closed due to down power lines from a car wreck on Hwy 17. I suspected that the trail was open and someone forgot to remove the sign but I wasn’t going to take any chances, so I hoofed it up and over St. Joseph’s Trail.

That trail has an ugly climb of about 0.3 miles but then it’s easy going back to downtown Los Gatos on a rocky road.

No name creek bridge near where the trail meets Lake Ranch Road.

No name creek bridge near where the trail meets Lake Ranch Road.

Santa Cruz ride a breeze

April 17, 2016

Wave action damage on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

Wave action damage on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

This ride was almost a duplicate of the one on March 17. I cut off two miles by riding down Hwy 17 a short distance instead of taking Alma Bridge Road.

The plan was to ride Mt. Hamilton but the high pressure system moving in created sustained winds of 30 mph winds at the summit. By noon things calmed down, but I decided to stay away.

I came across the Los Gatos bike racing club at Skyline after a climb up Page Mill Road. They left me in the dust before the Alpine Road descent.

The house across from Sam McDonald park that had a redwood tree fall into it lies empty.

In Loma Mar, after the Ferraris passed me, I saw the store in the same condition it has been for the past month. I wonder when it will open?

On Cloverdale Road I didn’t have much of a tailwind, a sign of things to come. Riding down the coast I had only the slightest tailwind, but it was lovely watching the big waves crash ashore.

In Santa Cruz I took a photo of the wave damage on W. Cliff Dr., which has been repaired. It’s never-ending.

It was survival mode on the Mtn. Charlie Road climb, with one cyclist blowing by me near the start of the climb. Nice day for riding.

New Idria ride breaks tradition

April 4, 2016

Off to a gloomy start.

Off to a gloomy start.

We don’t take our traditions lightly when it comes to bike rides and New Idria is no exception. We had done the same route since 2003, but it was time for a change.

Clear Creek Road has become a rutted spoor, not worthy of being ridden on a road bike. We found two alternative roads. More on that later.

Our ride got underway at 8:20 a.m. from Paicines on Hwy 25, called the Airline Highway because it’s so straight and flat that a Boeing 707 could make an emergency landing here, or so it would seem.

We finally recruited a new rider to join us, Matthew Forrester, who rides a steel frame with 25mm Continental tires. John Woodfill and Brian Cox completed our four-rider team.

Need permits
As a side note, to do this ride you need to sign up on a BLM website and carry your permit. There’s a $6 processing fee, which does not go into BLM coffers, but some company that manages the website. Get the Serpentine ACEC permit on

As we rolled along there wasn’t much to see through the dense valley ground fog, temperature a cool 51 degrees. However, we heard the song of red-winged black birds alongside the marshy areas next to the road. The fog burned off after about an hour to be replaced by warm sunshine and calm air.

When we arrived at Willow Creek Road where Willow Creek crosses Hwy 25 we briefly entertained the thought of taking this route, but that would involve hopping fences, encountering bovine, angry dogs and crossing San Benito River, which we already had to look forward to on Old Hernandez Road.

Highway 25 near Pinnacles.

Highway 25 near Pinnacles.

The ride through the San Andreas Rift Zone passes scattered vineyards on a winding road that speaks to why so many people enjoy living in the Bay Area. After passing the Pinnacles National Park entrance we began a climb of 8 percent and noticed at the summit a brief road closure due to a rock slide. It was easy enough to walk through the slide, but I rode around.

Old Hernandez Road and San Benito River
We turned left onto Old Hernandez Road 21 miles into the ride to be greeted by rocky cliffs glowing brown in the morning sun, overlooking the San Benito River valley. We passed the Jefferson Elementary School in this remote setting and continued south, passing the first sign indicating the road was closed 5.5 miles ahead.

Ready to cross San Benito River, but where?

Ready to cross San Benito River, but where?

The road hugs the hillside overlooking the lush river valley where ranchers raise cattle and horses. It’s an idyllic setting and one enjoyed from the saddle as we rolled along the mostly flat road. Brian suggested we take this route in 2005.

The road ends at Smoker Canyon Creek where there’s a ranch house and barn with a threatening sign that this is private property and the road is closed. After about a half-mile on a flat alluvial plain we reached the mighty San Benito River, which never fails to surprise us with its depth and ease or difficulty of crossing.

This year, unlike years past, the river had a thick layer of mud both sides of the shore. I proudly removed my slippers from bike bag and took off my shoes, not wanting to get them wet. The others ventured upriver a short distance and crossed. However, I charged directly into the river and immediately got stuck. My feet sank a foot into the muck and when I tried to remove my foot, a slipper came off. I spent minutes extricating myself before fording the river upstream.

Washing of the feet in San Benito River.

Washing of the feet in San Benito River.

We washed off our feet and remounted for the ride ahead, an undulating dirt road that goes for four miles before reaching pavement. In this secluded valley we came across cattle outside their fence. When they saw us they began trundling ahead of us, uncertain what to do. Eventually they headed off to the left and took refuge in the shade of an oak tree, realizing that there was a cattle guard just ahead.
Can't you read?

Can’t you read?

Without a car to be seen, this road gives a nice break from the routine of traffic on Hwy 25, as well as a flatter route to Coalinga Road.

We headed left onto Coalinga Road following the San Benito River, a section that looks a lot like the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

At this point you can’t help but notice the wildflowers: California Goldfields, purple Owl’s Clover, Blue Lupine, California Poppies. These flower displays kept us entertained until the steep climb through Lorenzo Vasquez Canyon. At the summit there’s Sweetwater Spring, 2900 feet, where we have on occasion taken a drink to get our dose of arsenic.

It’s a quick descent followed by a short climb and another descent to arrive at Hernandez Reservoir and Valley, which may or may not have water depending on the amount of rainfall. This year there has seen rain (9 inches in Panoche). We crossed San Benito River for the last time on a concrete spillway.

Clear Creek Road
The ride complexion changes dramatically with a long ascent following Clear Creek on a dirt road. Four off-road motorbikes passed us coming down the hill. ORV and motorcycle users took issue with the BLM closing the road in 2008, but to date it is still closed. That may change if the Clear Creek Recreation and Conservation Act is passed by Congress.

Traditional photo at the summit.

Traditional photo at the summit.

We continued uphill on the road, which crosses Clear Creek 10 times on concrete pads. Each time I crossed, I accumulated dirt in my front fork/brake area, forcing stops to dislodge the mud from my Ritchey Break Away. About three miles up the narrow canyon we came to a locked green gate that prevents motorists from continuing on to New Idria without a permit. BLM provides a combination after registering. Mostly rock hounds use the permit process; this area is rich in minerals. Mine tailings can be seen everywhere.

The temperature had been climbing in the canyon until halfway up when clouds moved in and cooled things down nicely. Wind had not been much of a factor and would not cause us difficulty until Panoche Road.

The real climbing begins at a signed junction where we turned left and began a 2.7-mile grind to the summit at 4,450 feet. It’s about a 10 percent grade and the road is covered with loose rock and sand, making going tough if you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of leg power. However, stronger riders will make it up the road with relative ease.

Aurora Mine breaks tradition
At the summit we took the obligatory group photo and then decided on breaking tradition. We had always gone down Clear Creek Road, but over the years it has become deeply rutted. We agreed to take an alternate route that passes Aurora Mine to the south 0.4 miles on a flat stretch of dirt road. It was a wise decision.

Fabulous descent on the Aurora Mine route.

Fabulous descent on the Aurora Mine route.

The road condition was such that descending proved straightforward, even for road bikes as the road snaked its way down an exposed ridge with spectacular views of Panoche Valley in the distance. The route adds a few tenths of a mile to the the ride, but it was well worth it.

We reached the New Idria holding pond with its distinctive blue-green water that holds a plentiful supply of toxic water.

Back on Clear Creek Road we ran into many places where the ORV users had churned up the road when muddy, turning it into an obstacle course with watery mud holes. I ventured to ride around one of those holes, but found myself descending into the water hole and bouncing out, my bike covered in mud.

Mine entrance on lower Clear Creek Road a mile from New Idria.

Mine entrance on lower Clear Creek Road a mile from New Idria.

We descended steeply for a mile on the rutted road before reaching another junction where we broke tradition again. I noticed a road to the north that followed a ridge and then plunged down to New Idria. I let the others take that route, while I took the traditional route past the mine entrance. There’s one section that requires walking before the mine, but is otherwise rideable.

The other riders reached New Idria only seconds before me and said the road is vastly better than the traditional route.

In New Idria there’s slow progress to dismantle the smelting plant and clean up this Superfund site. It’s hard to believe that this was at one time a thriving community with around-the-clock mining operations to extract cinnabar and other ores. The mine closed in 1972 after 118 years of use.

It was already 3:30 p.m. so I realized that I’d be riding in the dark once again.

The ride complexion changes dramatically leaving New Idria. The road descends steeply on mostly dirt for a mile before finally bottoming out. From here there’s a nice descent through Vallecitos Valley where you’re greeted by wide-open spaces occupied by cattle, windmills and grassy plains.

Griswold Canyon
New Idria road climbs gradually and then descends gradually into Griswold Canyon. Along the way we found ourselves riding on the dirt shoulder, much smoother compared to the pavement, patched time and again. John saw some tri-colored blackbirds among the red-wing variety, a much less common bird.

Griswold Canyon, cut by the same named creek, gives riders a chance to pick up the pace, especially so since we had a nice tailwind that blew us into Panoche Valley for the run to Panoche Road.

A left turn here put us into the teeth of a headwind that blew constantly until we reached Panoche Inn five miles later. This is the only store, so we stopped for an ice cream cone, the store’s specialty. Owner Larry and his wife lovingly care for the store, living out back.

New Idria Road open spaces.

New Idria Road open spaces.

John enjoyed talking with Larry about their chance encounter in downtown Palo Alto last year, his wife visiting Menlo Atherton high school for the class of 1965 reunion. It’s a small world.

Speaking of a small world, we were passed several times by a man and his wife on an off-road motorcycle. They took a different route from us, but we kept running into one another. Things got really weird when we saw them once again in the same Hollister taqueria later that evening! We exchanged stories about our adventure rides.

But I digress. We still had 27 miles to ride and it was already after 6 p.m. Fortunately I brought my trusty EagleTac LED light.

The headwind continued for the next hour and a half, but once climbing it was no longer a factor. John stayed behind to ride with me while Matthew and Brian went ahead, anxious to reach Paicines before dark. Neither had a light. They almost made it, arriving at 7:50 p.m.

Night riding
We crested Panoche Pass at 2,100 feet and from then on the climbs were brief and easy. It was mostly downhill following Tres Pinos Creek through a canyon and then into a valley.

This time of day is my favorite. The setting sun brings out vivid colors and puts valley oaks in stark contrast to green meadows populated by wildflowers, a riot of yellow, blue and purple. We especially enjoyed the deep blue Larkspur covering the hillsides. With temperatures dropping into the low 60s, it was ideal weather for riding at a brisk pace.

By 7:40 p.m. it was time for the light, which is every bit as powerful as a car’s headlight. We could see potholes during long descents. Another benefit of night riding is that it seems like you’re going faster than you really are.

In pitch darkness we arrived at Paicines, 8:20 p.m. and 114.5 miles on our cyclometers.

It’s good to see that others are taking up the quest, including Stefan Eberle and his Dutch friend. We have Bruce Hildenbrand to thank for pioneering the route, one of the best adventure rides you could ever ask for in the wilds of San Benito County.

Recommended route to New Idria from summit.

Recommended route to New Idria from summit.

Mt. Hamilton backside road stories

March 28, 2016

The old road followed Arroyo Bayo.

The old road followed Arroyo Bayo.

One of the most wild and scenic roads in the Bay Area is Hwy 130, San Antonio Valley Road, on the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

I’ve ridden there since 1980 and it never fails to impress. Over the years I’ve wondered about that dirt road alongside Arroyo Bayo after the hill out of Isabel Creek.

Jobst Brandt, who rode on the backside of Mt. Hamilton more than any cyclist, may have mentioned riding there, but I’ve forgotten.

But Peter Locke has not forgotten, and he rode with Jobst. He told me recently by phone how they rode through the creek. He had fond memories of fording the creek numerous times, as well as crossing a reservoir. Here’s Google Maps after the Isabel Creek climb.

Red line shows where the road went.

Red line shows where the road went.

I looked at a USGS topographic map from 1955 and sure enough the dirt road that you see today along the creek was the main road.

It’s fast disappearing, but it’s still used by landowners in some sections.

I wouldn’t want to try riding there today, but back in 1956-57 when Jobst, Peter and others rode it, the road was maintained.

The road enters a narrow section.

The road enters a narrow section.

Here's where the first section of road returns to present Hwy 130.

Here’s where the first section of road returns to present Hwy 130.

USGS topo map from 1955.

USGS topo map from 1955.

Good Friday for a ride over Mt. Hamilton

March 26, 2016

More wildflowers in San Antonio Valley this year.

More wildflowers in San Antonio Valley this year.

I’ve never ridden over Mt. Hamilton on Good Friday, so I thought I’d give it a try. I was not disappointed, until Calaveras Road, but more on that later.

I left at 7:20 a.m. under sunny skies, negotiating moderate traffic on Pruneridge, Hedding, Berryessa to get to the base of Mt. Hamilton Road, Hwy 130. I can’t say enough about the value of turning Hedding into a bike boulevard. It makes the ride across the Valley so much more enjoyable, or at least tolerable.

During the climb, ground and valley fog boiled up, reducing visibility to 100 yards in the first few miles, but once above the fog it was clear skies and mild temperatures the rest of the way.

I saw no cyclists and only a few cars heading to the summit. Same for the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

I noticed the pipe two miles down is not flowing. It must be plugged, but the creek was running, so I got some water. I would have hiked up the trail to fix it, but I had a long ride ahead.

When I stopped to take pictures in San Antonio Valley, I removed my long-sleeve jersey and gloves. One of the gloves fell out, so now I have to go back next week and find it. I can’t imagine anyone would stop to pick up a lone glove.

At The Junction store I stopped for a bite to eat and watched as workers continue the renovation under guidance of the new owners. I have no idea when it will open. April 1 was mentioned, but these things usually take longer than anticipated.

On the ride along Mines Road I was happy to see that the two traditional creek flows across the road are finally waiting for cyclists who don’t want to get their bikes wet. I rode through at a slow pace. It has been at least three years since I saw them flowing.

Wildflowers bloom in profusion along Mines Road, mostly yellow, and blue lupine in the rocks. It’s a good thing to see after heavier winter rains than we’ve seen in years.

I noticed the usual swirling winds as I headed to Livermore. I’ve only had a few rides here with no wind or a tailwind.

I took the College Avenue, Murrietta Blvd. route through Livermore, the best route by far to reach Stanley Boulevard, unless you’re into riding bike paths along Arroyo Mocho Creek.

Now that Stanley has a bike lane all the way to Pleasanton, it’s a breeze and by that I mean winds from the north.

Business was booming at Meadlowlark Dairy, the traditional stopping place to grab an ice cream cone or the like. Is it the only drive-through store in the area? Maybe.

I was warned about Calaveras Road during the rush hour, but I had to see for myself. Besides, this was Friday Light, Good Friday Light no less.

It didn’t help, or is it worse on other weekdays? Narrow Calaveras Road was not built for a congo line of commuters driving like it was Laguna Seca, not when every corner is blind. Anyone who rides here on a weekday has a death wish, and the same goes for drivers going against rush-hour traffic.

I made my way back home across the Valley and thanked my lucky stars I had survived.

Work continues on The Junction store.

Work continues on The Junction store.

17-Mile Drive a cyclist’s dream

March 24, 2016

After a few rounds of golf at Spyglass, nothing beats a bike ride on 17-Mile Drive.

After a few rounds of golf at Spyglass, nothing beats a bike ride on 17-Mile Drive.

You haven’t lived in California until you’ve ridden on 17-Mile Drive along the Pacific Coast between Carmel and Pacific Grove.

That applies to car and bicycle, as well as golf cart. I rode part of it along the coast as well as the less traveled upper 17-Mile Drive.

The upper drive winds through tall stands of pine trees mixed with houses perched on hillsides with ocean views. It’s a stiff climb for a couple of miles, although a cyclist riding a fixed gear and lugging a surfboard seemed to be doing just fine as I struggled to hold his wheel.

The ride down to the ocean goes swiftly on Ronda Drive. About the only cyclists who take this route are those who get lost, myself included.

Once back on the ocean drive it’s a flat ride passing famous golf holes to one side and the roiling ocean on the other, assuming it’s after a storm moves through.

It’s best to ride here on a spring weekday, as opposed to a weekend in the summer when the coast is socked in with dense fog and there’s lots of traffic.

Another little known fact about this area, the hills in Pacific Grove/Monterey rival anything you’ll find in San Francisco. Stay away from Prescott Avenue and nearby streets going north-south, unless you enjoy really steep grades.

Santa Cruz ride awash in sunshine

March 18, 2016

Molino Creek just past the Smith Creek drainage.

Molino Creek just past the Smith Creek drainage.

I had never ridden to Santa Cruz on a Thursday, so I gave it a try, this being the nicest day of the week.

I was not disappointed with the weather. It was short-sleeve jersey all the way from Page Mill Road home. It even got warm riding through Scotts Valley.

It’s hard not to notice all the rain that has fallen in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Tributaries are gushing, swelling the big creeks, like Pescadero.

Across from Sam McDonald County Park on Pescadero Road, the remains of a tree that fell last week were being cleared from the house it fell into.

As I headed south on Cloverdale Road I was struck by the lack of any noise, including the wind. It stayed that way heading down the coast until Davenport. The new pavement helped reduce car-tire noise.

After Davenport the tailwind picked up to 10-15 mph, enough to make the ride go easier. I checked out West Cliff Drive, where all was quiet for a Thursday. Same for the Boardwalk.

On Mountain Charlie Road I saw only three vehicles, about average even for a Sunday. Things changed once I got to Los Gatos as the rush hour was well underway at 4:30 p.m. That’s the only drawback to riding long on a weekday.

Pescadero Creek a mile past Loma Mar. Lots of water.

Pescadero Creek a mile past Loma Mar. Lots of water.