Category Archives: Ride reports (not Tu/Th)

Ride reports for everything *but* the Tuesday-Thursday morning ride

Mount Hamilton the hard way / don’t trust Strava to create a route

It should have been a pretty straightforward ride to Mount Hamilton. Normally, Kevin and I take the train down to San Jose, and ride from the station up to the top, and back. About 50 miles round-trip. But today I decided to make it a bit tougher, riding all the way from Redwood City instead of taking the train (but on the return, catching the train in San Jose).

Of course, back in the day, my friends and I would do the complete round-trip by bike, just over 100 miles. I wasn’t ready for quite that much punishment and, besides, the roads were a lot easier to navigate back then (less traffic on city streets). Riding one-way there, train back, seemed like a reasonable compromise. But… how to get there? I considered just mapping it out in a straight-forward fashion, heading south on Foothill, then Stevens Creek into San Jose, pretty much what I did 44 years ago. Not much fun, right? So I tried Strava’s route creation feature, thinking I should take advantage of the various bike trails and paths. With a bit of mucking around, I had a route that, I thought, made sense.

One of several gravel trails Strava's routing software put us onto. We opted out of any further gravel excursions.
One of several gravel trails Strava’s routing software put us onto. We opted out of any further gravel excursions.

And it did make sense, until it routed us, more than once, onto gravel trails. Fine for a hybrid, not so great for a roadbike with light tires. Thankfully it wasn’t too tough to figure out how to route around the gravel trails, but it added quite a bit of time to the ride.

Surprisingly, despite the extra miles and stress getting to Mount Hamilton, we felt pretty good getting up it. A fantastic little Vietnamese coffee/sandwich shop we found probably helped in that regard.

There was some drama; either we timed things just right or way-wrong as we raced to the train station and had, literally, 90 seconds to spare. Just one more red light and we wouldn’t have made it, causing us to wait another hour for next train. Not fun fumbling with the ticket machine, trying to make sure we got that right, knowing the train was just about to pull out!

How tired was Kevin? Tired enough to put the wrong glove on the right hand!
How tired was Kevin? Tired enough to put the wrong glove on the right hand!

Overall, about 82 miles for the day. Kevin’s really tired; I’m ready for more! Unfortunately, “more” will have to wait for a few days, as I travel to the bike industry’s trade show tomorrow and miss both Tuesday & Thursday-morning’s rides. Hate that. Hopefully there will be cool stuff to see and bring in for customers though. –MikeJ

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West Alpine “shortcut”

When you see the hillside slipping away, you get the feeling this "steep grade" sign is for real. It is.
When you see the hillside slipping away, you get the feeling this “steep grade” sign is for real. It is.
It becomes increasingly difficult to come up with “new” rides after 40 years. In fact, it’s tough to come up with something that my son, Kevin, hasn’t already ridden quite a few times. Still, he bugs me about wanting to do something “different” fairly often. The normal Sunday ride has almost become generic- up Old LaHonda, over Haskins to Pescadero, Stage Road north, up Tunitas & back down Kings towards home. I can’t even guess how many times we’ve done that ride.

But today would be different. To start with, up Page Mill Road. Page Mill has always been a tough one for me; one of the few climbs that, even after all these years, I’ve never been able to develop a rhythm for. Especially the bottom part, before the park. It never feels quite right, at least not until you get to the park entrance. Then, you can sink your teeth into it, until, between Gates 3 & 4, it sinks its teeth into you!

Not too bikes on Page Mill today, probably scared off by the heat, or threat of heat. Not a problem for us though, as I think our time in France, where it was frequently in the mid-90s and sometimes over 100, has recalibrated our bodies. We didn’t fly up the hill, but we didn’t die either. At just over 48 minutes, it was a respectable effort.

From there we dropped down the other side, descending West Alpine. Not all the way to the bottom though. At least not the bottom of West Alpine. Instead, we went to the real bottom of the world. Some would say into the depths of hell. All the way down to Portola State Park. Yikes. Check out the photo at the top; the bottom simply drops out of the road. Hard to believe that many, many years ago a couple of 13 or 14 year olds rode Schwinn Varsity 10-speeds, 40 pounders, down into that rabbit hole and back. I still remember how nasty the climb back out was, some 45+ years later!

Kevin studying the map outside the park office/visitor center
Kevin studying the map outside the park office/visitor center
The plan (remember, there’s always a plan) was to climb back out via Camp Pomponio Road, which connects back up to West Alpine just a little bit lower down than where we left it. Trouble is, the road into Portola State Park doesn’t really connect to the other road out! Not by paved roads anyway. We dropped into the park office to check out the maps and ask the rangers if there was any way to connect other than by Old Haul Road and a connecting trail (both dirt), but no, that’s what you have to do, so that’s what we did. Not, however, before discovering that the park office/visitor center sells ice-cold drinks! Energy bars too.

A mile or two of dirt, almost all of it rideable on a normal road bike, and we were back on a paved road again, Camp Pomponio. It starts out nicely; maybe a 6-8% grade, shaded by trees, broken pavement but easy to find a nice path up. That lasts for less than a mile; then it’s straight up! Whatever your lowest gear is, you’re likely to be using it. It’s also entirely exposed, as you can see in the photo. Thankfully, it is not endless, and before you know it you’re back at West Alpine again.

The steep section starts just ahead. Doesn't look so bad in the photo. This photo apparently lies.
The steep section starts just ahead. Doesn’t look so bad in the photo. This photo apparently lies.

From West Alpine it was a fast run downhill back to LaHonda, detouring, of course, past the Duck Pond. Before heading east (home) on 84, we stopped at the LaHonda market for a Coke and, I’ll admit it, a Snickers bar. Interesting thing about that Snickers bar was the expiration date- June 2016. Yikes. Either that means a ton of preservatives or it must be the freshest, just-made Snickers bar ever. Well, it didn’t taste fresh, so the safe assumption is that my body probably will now be self-embalming.

One of the most-interesting things about this ride was the run up 84 from LaHonda to Skyline. It was fun! Usually, that’s a bit of a grind, but today it just felt really, really good. A great way to end the ride (although it doesn’t really “end” at Skyline; it’s another 10 miles downwhill and through Woodside to get home to Redwood City).

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