Careful of the Tracks!

I snapped this picture on a trip to Portland this summer. It sure makes it’s point.

Hollister Mini Death ride

The third annual Hollister Mini Death Ride ended up being greatly abbreviated, but it still felt like a ride thru a furnace, and yet seven of us survived to tell the tale. Fellow AIDS/LifeCycle Training Ride Leaders, George and Mary Beth came down to join Stephanie, Jerome, Doug, Wanderson and myself for this years ride, now ostensibly a pre-Big Sur Ride training ride.

An update was required to the traditional route (do two years make a tradition?) that has included the Cienega Road San Benito County Wine Trail for the morning warm-up to lunch in Paicines, prior to tackling the Quien Sabe (10 mile) and then Lone Tree Way (11 mile) climbs. The change was due to the replacement of the single lane bridge on Cienega near the Thousand Trails camp ground going on. While I have heard that you can walk down the gully and cross over and climb back up, I also figured that getting the worst climb done early in the day made sense. I had added a Santa Ana Valley warm-up loop up, at the request of one of last years riders, Julie’s husband Mike, who it turns out was vacationing in Hawaii (but doing the the Haleakala climb on Maui) and was spared this years ride.

Starting off with huge fresh made bagels from the Fault Line, we got ourselves going shortly before 9am, and I proposed the first route change for the day, eliminating the Santa Ana Valley warm-up, as long as the 6 mile ride to where the Lone Tree Road climb began was enough of a warm up, and everyone was agreeable. Heading out Fairview, Jerome advised me I was going too fast. I think its my fear that I will be holding up riders (because I sure don’t think of myself as a fast rider) that I have a difficult time starting out and maintaining a comfortable pace.

On Lone Tree Way, I pointed out the 2 gallon water stash I had placed the evening before, figuring we might need a refill. Lone Tree is an 11 mile, dead end road, and the climbing starts about 2 miles out after crossing over Arroyo Dos Picachos. The temperature climbed drastically, it wasn’t until we got up a bit higher that we got a small bit of breeze, but a check of the Polar HRM indicated it was already over 90 degrees. At about 2,000 feet is a virtual oaken tunnel and short downhill, deceiving you, there is still about 300 feet to go, and it’s a rough stretch, as those who have done it can attest. You arrive at a gated driveway, and I wonder “who lives way the heck up here, anyway?”

The good news was that some stretches of road that had some repairs done, previously this road has my vote as the worst road in San Benito county. The worst sections were made somewhat bearable. There are still some nasty broken asphalt sections, making the descent tricky, no one is going to break any speed records on this descent. And of course, we had to have a pair of dogs who wanted to hassles us, give us a bit of a scare just before the bridge. The water stock at the bridge came in very handy, even if lunch was only a couple miles away.

At the Fairview Market it was already 100 degrees, and I was already working on another re-route in my mind. I proposed the second change to the group, and it was all ‘ayes’ around; my thought was rather than do the full Quien Sabe climb, that we would do the gentler Quien Sabe-Santa Anita Road climb, the last planned out and back. As we headed to Tres Pinos, near the house, it just felt even hotter than the 102F in the sun, and I pulled over in the shade and proposed a much saner, flatter and shorter route, Tres Pinos and around Southside, and again no objections, such an easy group.

I phoned Bill at home to give him a heads up to our arrival in about an hour and a half. He was reporting 99.1 on our Weather Underground Personal Weather Station and was surprised that we weren’t back yet.

Fairview Road ends at Airline Highway 25, and it’s 3 miles to Tres Pinos, where there really is no sign of 3 pines. But the Country Store did have ice cream, and George, Mary Beth and Jerome took advantage as we stood in the shade across the street. Then it was time to get it over with. Southside is not the most direct, it adds about a mile and a half, but it has it’s own valley and it’s not in the direct headwind that usually is blowing east on Highway 25.

Then it was less then 2 miles back to the house, and about halfway there, I noticed my front tire going flat. Of course, this close but it wasn’t flat, so with some air (thanks to Jerome’s super pump, mine turned out to be broken) and held just long enough to get back to the house.

Roger appeared just after we got back, he had called in the morning, and was just getting up and I had suggested he could always drive down for the potluck. He also brought his bike and wanted to go our for a ride, and I suggested he skip it. But no, as soon as I headed to the shower, off he went, with instructions to Bill to not tell me where he was. Crazy kid, he went off to do the Santa Ana Valley and Quien Sabe loop, about 19 miles.

We were all quite overheated, so there was no great rush for the showers, but it sure did feel good once showered and changed. Bill had the potluck and barbecue totally under control. A friend of Wanderson’s, Russell, who lives here in town was able to come join us for tri-tip, salmon, combined with several pasta salads, a black bean salads, and the world famous cheesy garlic bread, and another group feast was presented. Coffee and Joseph Schmidt truffles completed the meal, and 7 more survived the Hollister Mini-Death ride for yet another year.

And at least Mary Beth and I did get our climb in, one very similar to the 7.5 mile 2,500 foot climb up Nacamiento Road we have to look forward to with Roger, Jeff and Scott, and a whole gang from ALC, in just two weeks!

The next day, Bill and I drove up to Quien Sabe and Santa Anita Roads where I had left a cooler with 3 gallons of water and several Vitamin Waters in ice, which we never got to. Someone had seen the cooler in the bushes and pulled it out, peaked inside, and then left it on the side of the road. Amazingly enough, the water I drained from the cooler was still cool.

Route profile

East Bay Parks & Reservoirs loop

Why the East Bay, when I live 90 miles away? Something new, and something old at the same time. I grew up in the East Bay, and since I live in Hollister, it’s always interesting to go back and ride in that area, its changed quite a bit, but a lot is still the same.

Being a Training Ride Leader for AIDS/LifeCycle, I had access to a large ride library there many of the East Bay training rides all start from the Orinda BART station.

And three years ago, I did my first ride from there, a ride that Tony lead, in fact. I was very glad that the weather was not like the ride 3 years ago, over Labor Day Sunday, when we did a 50 mile loop in 100 degree weather, including Redwood Road and the (then) freshly asphalted (and radiating the heat) San Ramon Valley Boulevard. And so the return to something old.

Bill B., David G2, Erika, Tony and Roger, Bart, Laura P joined Stephanie and I at the BART station, along with Jeff W. It was a bit overcast, but it was clearing as we rode out, just before 9am. The 7 miles past San Pablo Recreation Area went by quickly and we continued on Castro Ranch Road to Alhambra Valley Road and then on to Pig Farm Hill, which turned out to be a relatively short climb. And from what I heard, it’s a good thing that the pig farm is no more, Tony said you could smell “it” before reaching the top.

From there it was a nice descent, reminding me of Palomares Canyon. Here was the first minor route mishap of the day. ALCs route actually turns before Reliez Valley Road to get to the Alhambra Creek Staging Area for Briones Regional Park. I noticed the sign as we went past it, but the mileage did not agree with what I had mapped out on, one of the drawbacks to virtual routes. Laura, Jeff and I caught up with the group, who were ready to go.

We followed Reliez Valley Road to Pleasant Hill Road, and past Acalanes High School (my high school, although it looks nothing like it did from 1972-76.) On to Walnut Creek via Olympic Boulevard, where my second mistake, labeling the next right turn as Tice Creek Boulevard, instead of Tice Valley Boulevard. Bill knew the area and lead the faster riders (David G2 and Erika) on into Danville a different way. The others figured out my mistake and we continued on to Danville to regroup for lunch at Quiznos.

David G2 needed to get back to the city for some ongoing bike fit adjustments (have you seen his new Bianchi?), so he took Bailout option #1 back to Walnut Creek BART. Bill, Bart and Erika split off from us after lunch heading up Crow Canyon Road. The rest of us continued on San Ramon Valley Boulevard to Dublin Canyon. Can you say afternoon headwinds? As Stephanie and I got closer to the top, we were gaining on Tony & Roger on the tandem, but once they reached the top, they were long gone!

Stephanie & I hung outside of the Peets Coffee (next to the Castro Valley Safeway regroup point) for a while where we were hoping to regroup with Bill, Bart and Erika on their shorter but hillier ascent, but after 10 minutes or so, we decided to head on up Redwood Road. And only to find what the others had already come across, they were in the process of re-chipsealing the roadway, which meant there was gravel everywhere, especially near the shoulder. Yuck! Five miles up Jeff phoned to say that he and Laura had just gotten to the Safeway regroup, they were about 30 minutes behind us.

Eventually, Stephanie and I caught up to Tony & Roger on Redwood Road, and I hurried on down to take action photos of all of them as they turned up on to Pinehurst, but I didn’t get the burst setting on the camera in time. So I missed Stephanie all together, and Tony & Roger turned out blurry.

When we got to Moraga Road, Stephanie needed a quick bite to stave off a bonk she felt coming on. From there, it was one last, gentle climb up to the final descent back to Orinda BART. We all met at Starbucks afterwards.

Before I headed home, I swung back by the BART parking lot to see if Laura & Jeff were back. They weren’t, so I parked and regrouped things in the car for a few minutes, and then decided to head home. As I was exiting the parking lot onto Camino Pablo, there they were across the street turning off Camino Pablo back into the parking lot entrance. Glad to know they made it safe and sound also.

Route profile

Ride from Seattle to Vancouver (BC) and Party!

Five DSSFers headed to the Northwest to join Different Spokes Seattle on the R.S.V.P., Michael C. and his boyfriend, Jim, Michael S., Patrick, Bill as personal DSSF SAG driver and myself. Michael and Jim flew up, and the rest of us traveled together by car, over 2 days. Day one for us started in Hollister, on to the City to pick-up both Patrick and Michael, and then we headed for Medford. Patrick had made I-5 Survival kits complete with water and snacks. We made it to Redding where Bill had already staked out lunch at an In-N-Out. From there, we continued north on into Oregon. We reached Medford and turned on to Crater Lake Highway, and a little over an hour later, we arrived at Crater Lake National Park. Neither Bill, Patrick or Michael had ever been, so the first glimpse of the lake is kind of like the first time seeing the Grand Canyon, the beautiful blue water against the crater, and the clear blue sky we had that day.

Our second day was a shorter mileage day, and we made it to Seattle shortly after 4pm, and we quickly headed back out to the Capitol Hill area to have dinner before going to the meet ‘n greet mixer put together by Different Spokes Seattle, and walked several blocks to Crave, one of the restaurants recommended by DS/S for dinner.

Day 1
The starting point for RSVP! was Warren G. Magnussen Park, at the old San Point Naval Naval Station near Lake Washington. We headed out shortly before 7am. The route left the park and immediately got on the Burke-Gilman Trail, a rather bumpy (from tree roots) multi-use path (with a couple of walkers, unhappy with the large volume of cyclist using the path that early in the morning. It was a bit unsafe, many riders not calling out as they passed. The path took us around Lake Washington for about 10 miles thru Kenmore and Bothell. In Woodinville was the first climb of the day, not much by Bay Area standards.

We then passed thru Clearview and on into Snohomish where we caught up with the DS/S gang, and Bill, at the Snohomish Bakery & Cafe. From there we continued on the Centennial Trail, that leaves the city of Snohomish and travels north through farmland, wetlands, and fields to Lake Stevens. The main draw back to this trail (vs. the road), is that each intersection has these large barriers that you had to slow way down and carefully weave around, or if possible, go around the sides.

At Lake Stevens we opted to skip the mini-stop provided by the town and continue on to Arlington, at mile 53 where we were meeting up with Bill for lunch. We had fabulous panini sandwiches at a place called Little Italy. Leaving Arlington, we got on Highway 9 and the only real stretch of extremely busy road, with very little shoulder.

Bill later said it was quite un-nerving in the car following the cyclists, as some of the cars really wanted to get past him and drive fast. He followed the road for a while before changing the setting on the GPS to start using highways to get him back to I-5 and on to Bellingham, since we had not planned any more re-groupings with him.

The next stop was at the Lake McMurray Store at mile 64, just long enough to use the porta-potty, and then continuing on Highway 9 we circled the lake taking us through Bryant, around Lake McMurray and then around Day Lake as we headed north to Mt. Vernon to the Centennial Elementary School food stop/social, the only official Cascade Bicycle Club stop for the day.

Leaving Mt. Vernon, we crossed the Skagit River and headed on to the Skagit Flats to Burlington. Next stop was the Bow Country Store at mile 91, we regrouped and continue on together. We turned on to Chuckanut Drive or Highway 11 taking us to Samish Bay. This took us to the the last climb of the day, ending at the Pink Lemonade Stand at mile 102!

Three miles to go, Michael turned of 1/2 mile to head up to Western Washington University, where he was staying at the dorm, and I headed on to the route end at the Days Inn. Patrick had already met up with his sister, and they were chatting with Bill when I pulled in a few minutes later.

Dinner that evening was at Patrick’s sister and brother-in-laws. We sat out on the patio overlooking the fields having our appetizers (Scot’s homemade cheese, wonderful) followed by a fabulous pasta dinner with pesto, stuffed zucchini and squash, tomato and mozzarella salad, and a trifle for dessert. What wonderful end to a long (but relatively easy) days ride!

Day 2
We started Day 2 at about 6:40am at the Days Inn. The weather was a bit grayer then on Friday, and the chance for showers was higher. On the way to Lynden, we were passed by 4 gals riding in a loose paceline. But instead of pulling away from us, it seemed to me that they slowed down. And after following them for a mile, Michael and I passed them and left them behind. I commented to Michael about that later, and he had felt the same way. Kind of like the driver of the car who passes you and then annoyingly slows down.

In Lynden, there was quite a crowd outside Dutch Mothers, which apparently puts on a great breakfast buffet for RSVP riders, and so we walked down the road a bit and came upon Lynden Dutch Bakery, where we got some incredible pastries and a coffee. They were also kind enough to allow us to use their employee restroom also.

From Lynden, it was only 6 miles to the Aldergrove Border crossing to Canada. At the end of Double Ditch Road, we turn left on to East Boundary Road, aptly named, as the only thing separating the US from Canada is a ditch (of course!) Kind of surreal, the route sheet made mention of not crossing the ditch to Canada, bringing visions of Canadian marshals leaping out of the grass, should one of us make a break for it.

The actual border crossing was quite easy, we rode up individually, they had a special lane open for cyclists. I handed her my passport, she asked where I was from, I replied “Hollister” later thinking that was kind of dumb, would she have any idea where that was? I probably should have just replied California, but she let me thru anyway.

Our next regroup point with Bill was at Fort Langley. Just outside of town was a notation on the route sheet page that at mile 37.7 of the [WORST R/R TRACKS ON RSVP]. WALK BIKES ACROSS TRACKS. As I approached the track, I noted that it was slightly diagonal to the road, but appeared to have recently been redone. It that was a bad track crossing, it certainly wasn’t the worst on the ride.

We regrouped with Bill briefly at Fort Langley and chatted for a few minutes, before heading on to catch the Albion Ferry across the Fraser River. Again, cyclists were directed to line up on our own, and it appeared to when we got on the ferry that they allowed more cyclists than autos. And the line for cars was already fairly long when we pulled up. It was a very short ride across the river and we were on our way again.

At mile 46 was the official Cascade Bicycle Club food stop for the day, complete with a farmers market. Nice choice of fresh fruits and snack bars, similar to yesterdays official food/social stop.

Day 2 featured much heavier traffic. Leaving Maple Ridge, todays first busy route section was on Dewdney Trunk Road. Then we were on Lougheed Highway 7 to Port Coquitlam where we crossed over the Coquitlam River. Port Moody was the next stop at the Rocky Point Park mini-stop was at mile 58, with just 18 more miles to Vancouver and then PARTY! 🙂

Right back onto a highway, Highway 7A or the Barnet Highway, on the left side was the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area and on the right side was the Inner and Central Harbors. At mile 70.2, according to the route sheet, we entered Vancouver and we in the distance you could see downtown. Eventually we made it to Chinatown and things got quite busy on the road, between sharing the road (or not) and construction.

I was quite glad to get past that section and into Gastown and our destination, the Coast Plaza Hotel, where the P in RSVP was in full swing. We caught up with the DS/S gang there; Tim, Greg and Bill who was joined by his partner Don. Each rider had alread received a ticket good for either the meal or a beverage, I opted for the meal. The entire patio area off of the ballroom upstairs was filled with RSVP riders and friends.

We met Bill & Don, and was joined shortly by Tim. Michael called and reported that Jim was hit by a car in Chinatown on the ride into Vancouver. Jim was apparently okay, having been taken to the hospital to be checked out. Reports were that the bike was not in good shape, one wheel at a minimum was no good. Michael also said that at the scene a “witness” claimed that Jim pulled out in front of the car that hit him. He was hit from behind! Hello!! Anyway, Michael was giving Michael C and Jim some support and would be bit late meeting us, so we agreed to keep in touch by phone if we moved.

The Zin Restaurant & Lounge was quite nice, the bartender made some fabulous cosmopolitans. Diner was at O’Doul’s Restaurant & Bar at the Listel Hotel, By the time we were finished though, I was tired and very ready for bed. Goodbyes were said to the DS/S guys, we sure enjoyed their hospitality in Seattle, doing the ride, and our night out in Vancouver, lot’s of laughs and a great time!

San Francisco to San Jose and back via CalTrain

It was July 2004, my longest ride yet, Rico led this ALC training ride from McLaren Lodge to San Jose. With a slight diversion from Woodside to Portola Valley and Bart’s home for lunch, it was 79 miles. The following weekend was my first century, the Marin. Those are rides you don’t forget.

And so, with all the riding I have done in the Peninsula and South Bay, I suggested doing the ride again to Rico, but with a change. Instead of going thru Cupertino to Los Gatos, why not continue on Foothill Expressway into Stevens Canyon and over Mt. Eden and Pierce Roads. He was game!

So it was quite unfortunate that Rico injured his back during the week and couldn’t ride. Friend of his, Tim, joined David G2 and I at Velo Rouge, and we headed thru Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach. At the base of Skyline, we picked up Patrick and the four of us began the climb together. We didn’t stay together long, Tim took the lead, followed by DG2 and Patrick had not warmed up, since he lives just a few blocks from where he joined us.

We followed the ALC route for Day 1 to Crystal Springs Reservoir, and it was clearing up. By the time we had followed Canada Road into Woodside, it was sunny and clear, nice day. We picked up some lunch from the deli at Robert’s Market and sat across the street, enjoying the shade and watching the many cyclists passing thru this main hub in the Peninsula.

After lunch we headed down Woodside Road-Hwy 84 to Alameda de las Pulgas, which led us to Junipera Sera which loops around Stanford University and becomes Foothill Expressway at Palo Alto. Tim was out in front and I found myself trying to keep up with him and I watched as the average speed for the ride to that point got closer to 16 mph. And then I kept hoping for red stop lights! At the point where Foothill Expressway (now Boulevard) becomes Stevens Canyon Road is a small strip mall and that was our next regroup point. It had warmed up significantly, and after our little mini-peleton, we took a break in the shade and replenishing our water.

Stevens Creek Park is located along Stevens Canyon Road and Mt. Eden Road in the foothills between Saratoga and Cupertino. The road into the park has a nice shoulder and the road circles the reservoir and we continued up Mt. Eden Road. You can continue on Stevens Canyon Road and then take Redwood Gulch, but that is a very steep stretch of road, I have yet to try. After descending Mt. Eden Road, we then took Pierce Road up to the top, past the Mountain Winery and down to Highway 9 (the sign called it Congress Springs Road) and on into Saratoga.

Following Highway 9 we headed to Los Gatos for our last regroup at the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company (mmm, Chocolate gellato!) David saw an fellow ALC rider, who happened to be across the street for a cooking class, small world, and we all chatted about the Ride, and our ride so far that day.

Refreshed, we headed to the Diridon CalTrain station on the Los Gatos Creek Trail, which runs from Lexington Reservoir to San Jose. We ran into another ALC rider (yet, another David) that Tim knew, he joined us and rode to the train station, showing me a slight change to my route that avoided a rough section of Willow Road. We pulled up at about 3:50, plenty of time to catch the 4pm train headed north. And with four of us on the train chatting, the ride to Millbrae went by quickly. David & Patrick got off here to take BART the rest of the way, while Tim rode on.

Route profile

DSSF Rocks!

Hey guys, 


I woke up this morning thinking about you. DSSF has basically taught me everything I know about road riding. I remember my first ride with Stephanie over a year ago on my Mt bike. I kept thinking I’m ready for something like this. My body was out of shape from being out to sea for 2 years and this was exactly what I needed to get me going. The following week I bought my Serotta. Since then (as you know) I have been addicted to cycling. It’s amazing to me that my fitness improved so much I was able to complete a ride like the ALC. When I first joined I heard spokers talk about 100 mile rides. Was that possible? A month later I completed one. I am appreciative of this club and all the riders that have brought me up simply by doing something we all love. I respect you all and look forward to learning more and also sharing to new spokers as they come along.