Hills from HELL or the Not-so-mellow Metric

Listed as the Not-so-mellow metric by none other then our fearless web master, Jerome, I happened to be privy to the route ahead of time, so there was no need to find it the undisclosed location or unlock 16384 bit encryption to see it. What two hills from HELL am I referring to? Two that I was aware of but had never attempted: Redwood Gulch and Hicks Road. I was the only other rider to join Jerome for this epic ride! I had promised I would join him ahead of time. What the heck, they are only hills and the worst that could happen would be a little cross-training.

Redwood Wood Gulch is a 1.4 mile climb going from Stevens Canyon Road up to Highway 9, it’s notoriety is mainly from hearing about it thru some friends. It doesn’t even rate a spot it The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in California. It does climb 703 feet and averages a 9.4% grade. This was the gentler of the two climbs this day, not only was it shorter, but it was under the cover of redwoods, as this day did turn out to be a bit of a scorcher.

David at the top of Redwood Gulch
Our planned lunch was for the Blue Rock Shoot in Saratoga, but we arrived in Saratoga to a road detour, some sort of street fair had the area of Highway 9 and Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road all blocked off, so we continued on to Los Gatos for lunch at the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company instead.

I first heard of Hicks Road from Chris Thomas, he was out doing a test ride for an ALC training ride he was listing, and at the corner of Shannon and Hicks Road, he turned right instead of left. Hicks Road does make a listing in the Complete Guide to Climbing: “This hill is very steep and scenic and may be the most difficult in the Bay Area. Jerome and I arrive at this same corner and I asked if he was sure we didn’t want to turn left? Nope. And so we turned right and it is a very pleasant road for the first couple miles, then you hit what the book refers to as the cruz stretch: the first mile of the climb which averages 14%. Averages.

Guadalupe Reservoir

Then add a flat tire on the second section after Guadalupe Reservoir, needless to say, I had no choice but to walk the bike up to a section of road that measured under 10% grade, just to change the tube. And in the shade too.

I finally arrived at the top, where one can do the optional Mount Umunhum climb (no thank you, so glad it was not in the plan today). Jerome had a bee fly into his unzipped jersey and sting him under the arm, fortunately there was only a minor reaction. We then descended the south side of Hicks Road, a pretty road, but very, very steep. From there we passed by Almaden Reservoir on our way to McKean Road and the final job to Calero Reservoir and then over Bailey Road and back to South San Jose.

Jerome at the top of Hicks Road

Considering it was 90+ degrees, and the bulk of the 3800 feet of climbing we did in 64 miles was in these 5 miles of climbing, I have to say I was pleased overall. Even with some cross-training. Thanks, Jerome!

Riding on the surface of the sun

That was the description given to the section of the Napa-Lake Berryessa-Pope Valley loop ride, a joint Seismic Challenge training ride, co-led with Joseph Pulice. This was an extended version of the ride Stephanie Clarke led for last year’s Wine Country Weekend; instead of starting and ending at Lake Hennessey, we started and ended at the foot of the Silverado Trail. With 13 riders, two flats and one alien, it was a great day, despite the heat.


NewImageThe alien? One of the Seismic Challenge riders wore colored stocking, a full jacket and long fingered gloves all day, and she was given the nickname. We don’t think she sweated, so she must have been an alien. Check out the 1947 Packard we saw at Lake Hennessey on our return trip too!


The full photo gallery is here.

Palomares and Wind Farms

Four of us (Tara, Ben, Jerome and Roger) joined David at the Union City BART station, on that reasonably cool Saturday morning.

After a nice warm-up on Niles Canyon where traffic was not too much of a problem, we started the first climb on the ever popular Palomares, where Tara firmly established her KOM status.
As usual, we regrouped at Peet’s in Castro… Valley, before climbing Norris Canyon, which seemed to me strangely harder than when I did it two years ago around midnight ( http://blog.dssf.org/?p=181 :-).

In San Ramon, Tara, Ben & Roger opted for the shorter route and went back to Union City via Sunol, whereas David and I continued towards Camino Tassaraja and Livermore, where we enjoyed the famous windmills.

The winds were not too bad, but the climbs there are always nastier that expected. The return back through Pleasanton and Sunol proved uneventful, thanks mainly to a strong pull by David, whose endurance never fails.

More photos on


Palo Alto to Pescadero

I was thinking about putting a ride on the calendar for the Monday of the Fourth of July weekend, but had not gotten around to it, when David asked if I’d be interested in co-leading a Palo Alto-Pescadero loop. Heck yes, no route sheet to prepare for a change!

The gorgeous weather continued (was this weekend in July our summer?) Jerome, David and I enjoyed a wonderful ride, up Old La Honda and then over and down the west side of OLH to Highway 84, then Pescadero Road and Haskins Hill (David suggested this alternate route since the winds were predicted to be the opposite of normal). I have never riden Stage Road that quickly, great having a tail wind! When we got back up to the west Old La Honda turn off of Highway 84, I opted to just continue on 84 because my mind thought going up OLH would be tough and we already had a good day of climbing. It may not have been any worse. Maybe next time.

Jerome, David & David at the top of Old LaHonda, guess who was last…


Rulli Gran Caffe

I had an ulterior motive for posting this ride, an AIDS/LifeCycle training ride leader BBQ in San Anselmo, so David graciously accepted my request for a co-leader, knowing I would be continuing on to San Anselmo for the BBQ and riding back to the city later. Joining me for this was Rick McJenkin and his friend Conrad Corpus.

Conrad and Rick at Rullie Gran Caffe, Larkspur

Rick, Conrad and I were riding on to San Anselmo from Larkspur for a BBQ. I heard from many training ride leaders (all were invited to join the ride), that the traffic getting there was horrendous, over an hour just on 19th Avenue, so my idea (purely just to get some miles in), was a good one!

40 & Fabulous! Pride Ride

What a great turn out, 17 riders enjoyed a mostly sunny day as circled the City, counter-clockwise from the Ferry Building, many of us wearing our DSSF rainbow jerseys, to the cheers of many through out the city (and in areas where one might think the response might not be so positive, too!) A great time was had, and a new DSSF Pride tradition is born. Maybe next years route might be different, one suggestion was doing it the opposite direction to avoid the headwinds on Geneva in the afternoon, ideas?

The ones who live the closest are bound to be the last to arrive...The ones who live the closest are bound to be the last to arrive…

At Candlestick Point State parkSal and David G x 2


AIDS/LifeCycle 9 is here!

Tomorrow we head to the Cow Palace for orientation (Day 0), dropping off our bikes to be ready for ride out Sunday morning at 6;30am. We’ll watch the safety video (I heard it is new this year), and perhaps stand in a few other lines; pledge medical and tent, before check-in.

There are 25 current members riding this year, and as of this morning, Different Spokes members have raised over $119,000.00!

Riding this year are:

Adam Fritzler
Ben Marks
Chris Thomas
Dale Leininger
David Gaus
David Stouffer
Don Dodge
Eric Shangle
Frank Stelter
James Betbeze
James DeVinny
Janine Swanepoel
Jon Manzo
Joseph Collins
Joseph Pulice
Kevin Barden
Mitch Wood
Peter Graney
Roger Sayre
Scott Ciliberti
Serge Huard
Susan Fish
Thomas Nixon
Wanderson Carlos
William Bir

Six of us raised over $5k qualifying for the incentive jersey. Several others are close.

Six of us have been training ride leaders this year also: Chris Thomas, Janine Swanepoel, Joseph Collins, Joseph Pulice, Susan Fish, and myself.

Should have lots of pictures and stories to share. And if the iPad and WordPress app work in camp, perhaps even daily blog updates from the Ride.