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.

Niles Canyon bike rides could get safer

June 9, 2017

Niles Canyon on my 2012 ride. Widening two bridges will help, but a trail is needed for safe cycling.

I can see the day when cyclists (and hikers) will safely ride through Niles Canyon on a beautiful recreation trail. More importantly, so can members of Alameda County, East Bay Regional Parks, the city of Fremont, San Francisco Water Department, the town of Sunol, and other agencies that have a hand in determining Niles Canyon’s future.

This historic canyon, where the transcontinental railroad snaked its way through starting in 1869, now hosts two railroad lines, both active, and busy state highway 84.

You might think there wouldn’t be room for a trail, but as it turns out there is ample space, and East Bay Parks has already done some preliminary research to show how a trail could be built in three stages.

Judging by the turnout at public meetings and a “Stroll and Roll” event held in 2015 (another one planned for this fall), there’s plenty of public support. Finding the estimated $70 million needed to complete the project is going to make this a long-term effort over a couple of decades or more.

The San Jose Mercury News ran a story about the trail plan in early 2016. A year later, I wanted to find out more. Suzanne Wilson, project manager for the Niles Canyon Trail Connectivity Feasibility Study, answered a few questions.

So, just how much of a priority is the trail with East Bay Parks? “While the Park District is very involved in and supportive of the project, Alameda County is ultimately the lead agency at this time,” said Wilson. “Supervisor [Richard] Valle and [Scott] Haggerty’s respective offices have continued the effort, with the support of the Park District, to keep the momentum going as this is a project that is important to their districts.”

While I won’t go into the details, you can read up on the trail plan on the East Bay Parks website. It’s a PDF file and takes some time to load.

Assuming the trail gets the go-ahead, and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t, it’s going to take money from many sources. How about the recent increase in gas tax? Wilson said the parks agency is keeping an eye out for opportunities, but noted that most of the money raised will go toward shovel-ready projects.

It’s hard to put into words the importance of a trail through Niles Canyon. Ask any cyclist who has ridden in the area and they’ll express their frustration with riding from the Bay to East Bay/Livermore Valley. Niles Canyon is ridden, but it’s one of the worst routes for a bike. My opinion.

I know of two cyclists killed on Hwy 84 through Niles Canyon and no doubt there may be more. A trail through Niles Canyon is more than a “nice to have” for the cycling community. Future generations will enjoy rides through a scenic canyon cut by Alameda Creek.

Jobst Brandt Tour de Alps 2018 Calendar planned

June 7, 2017

A sample of the Jobst Brandt Tour de Alps 2018 calendar.

As a tribute to Jobst Brandt’s bike rides through the Alps over 50 years, I put together a 2018 calendar.

I’ve got enough good photos for several more calendars.

It won’t be available until September. There’s not much point in selling them now.

This teaser will also alert area bike shops that might want to sell them.

Any money raised will go toward the cost of scanning the thousands of transparencies taken by Jobst.

Some of the images in this calendar were made into posters back in the 1980s.

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.

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 [I waited a week to be sure. The water did not make me sick].

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.