Saturday turned out to be a spectacular riding day in the far East Bay and Jerome, Mark and Jeremy joined me for the Del Puerto Loop century that began in Livermore. Warm and sunny skies greeted us at the Livermore Civic Center; within minutes we were on the outskirts of town and in another, less familiar wine country. After a few warm up miles, we were on our way up Tesla Road, past wide open horse pastures, the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreational Area (apparently where all the local young men with dirt bikes go to play on a Saturday morning) and Lawrence Livermore National Labs. Tesla Road is a gentle, beautful climb up about 1,000 feet from our starting point before a big, beautiful, smooth and little-trafficked descent into the Central Valley town of Tracy.
Jeremy, Mark and I continued into the town proper in search of a cuppa Joe while Jerome continued on the route. After a refueling of espresso and Girl Scout Tagalongs, we found our way to the California Aqueduct Bike Trail for 15 fast miles with zero traffic (cars, bikes or people for that matter) along the eastern channel. The road surface along the path was a little bumpy and we did have to debike a few times to get around gates meant to keep the cars and terrorists away. All in all, though, this was a great way to get in some fast, scenic and carefree miles on the way to Patterson.
It’s easy to spot Patterson because there’s this big ass sign advertising all the fine dining establishments (you know, KFC, Jack in the Box, Denny’s) to the motorists speeding by on I-5. I think we could see the sign about three miles away along the aqueduct. We settled on the slightly more sensible choice of Quizno’s and enjoyed a little al fresco dining before starting the second half of our ride.
Just on the other side of I-5 begins a very gentle (3% grade or so) and picturesque 16-mile climb up Del Puerto Canyon to a regional park, but then the road turns steeper for several miles of 10+% grade up to the top of San Antonio Valley Road and the very popular Junction Cafe (and biker bar). All four of us stopped here for a spell and purchased more fluids. It was definitely a little toasty and dry out. I can’t ever recall a ride where I drained my 100-oz Camelback bladder three times! A few of the motorcycle dudes were intrigued by Jerome’s and Mark’s fetching rainbow jerseys and approached to ask if they ever hang out at the Eagle.
After the junction, we continued climbing up Mines Road up to about 3,000 feet. The road at the top was a little treacherous with gravel and sand due to recent cold evenings and the formation of black ice. We saw lots of warning signs for ice, but none of the real thing since we must have been well into the 70s for temperature. Once we topped out on Mines Road (for a total of 5,250 feet of climbing for the day), it was time for the final ten miles of steep descent back into lovely Livermore after our little 110-mile excursion.
Everyone rode strong, we had no flats and both Jeremy and Mark completed their longest ever rides. Well done! I highly recommend this route, but I wouldn’t advise it in the summertime. Check out the pics!