Asphalt Perversion: Mines Road

Some rest for the wicked. Climb that hill!

Mines Road is a peculiarity in the canon of Different Spokes rides. For one thing it’s a real latecomer. In the early years of the club this ride was not offered at all. Ride forays into the Pleasanton/Livermore area were confined to flatter terrain, ie. the Shadow Cliffs Water Slide, and god forbid you wanted to scale anything higher than a freeway overpass! It was really David Gaus who championed this ride starting around 2010. The idea of a major schlep to Livermore to scale a godfersaken one-way-up-and-down road with serious vertical was bizarre. But then again David lived in Hollister at the time and riding in dried out, desolate landscape was nothing unusual. During the same era Will Bir had done the Canyon Classic Century (now defunct), which started in Patterson (home of Patterson apricots, mind you) and headed up Del Puerto and then descended Mines into Livermore, and he led that ride a few times. Somewhere along the line Stephanie Clarke got into Mines Road and she or David have managed to lead this ride practically every year since then.

Yay, more climbing!

This ride is also peculiar because it’s and out-and-back route rather than a loop: you get to withstand the startling uphill and then “enjoy” the spectacular downhill with all the neat views into Livermore that you were oblivious to while heading up. Unless you hit the hellacious headwind, which happen almost everyday in the afternoon, which is when you’re ending this ride. So you usually get two times the enjoyment: vertical and headwind in one ride! The other peculiarity of this ride is that it’s never led at any time of the year except spring in order to enjoy the wildflowers. Summer and early fall are absolutely out of the question due to the blistering heat (unless you go very early in the morning). Even late spring can be a challenging time to take on the climb, which is almost totally exposed for maximum sunnage.

Hmm, no wildflowers yet…

The ride starts anywhere on Mines Road after leaving Tesla Road and usually goes to the Junction Cafe at the intersection of 130 (Del Puerto Canyon Road). After a snack or lunch at the Junction we then turn around and head back to the valley. In a good, rainy year the wildflowers are actually better further up San Antonio Valley but most of the time the prospect of a burger and fries daunts any inkling to enjoy flowers, especially because it would involve even more climbing.

The Junction Cafe has been there for aeons in various incarnations and with various vibes, anywhere from serious biker drag (the motos love to do Mines and Del Puerto) to a western version of Deliverance. Currently the Junction is open on weekends only and at least prepandemic the line and wait for a meal could be onerous depending on how sunny the weather was to bring out the bikers. But the food is hearty and enjoying a leisurely nosh at the picnic tables is worth at least three out of four stars.

“Who’s up for climbing into San Antonio Valley for wildflowers?” [deafening silence]

With the pandemic still hovering over our heads this may be another year we skip Mines. It doesn’t help that we’ve had very little rain. But between now and early May is when they’ll be putting on their show. Anyone want to volunteer to lead it this year? Better hop to it!

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