Bay Bridge Bike Path To Open Weekdays On May 5

April 14th, 2017 by tony

Finally a bridge to somewhere

Although the Alex Zuckerman Path on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge has been partially open for over three years—making it literally a bridge to nowhere—the final short segment to Treasure Island was opened only this past fall and then only on weekends. The reason for the weekday closure was Caltrans’s concern that the ongoing demolition of the old Bay Bridge span posed a potential danger to any users on the new path. Whether that is in fact true or not, Caltrans has finally relented and agreed to open the path to weekday traffic starting next Friday, May 5. This is according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. You can read about at the site here.

If you haven’t ridden on the Bay Bridge path yet, it’s worth a visit especially now that it’s open all the way to Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands. Although you can drive and park near the beginning of the Alex Zuckerman path, it’s very easy to access by BART. From the Macarthur station you can take the 40th Street bikeway down to the Emeryville IKEA store to catch the beginning of the path. During the early stage of the demolition of the old bridge, it was startling to see that structure literally being taken down piece by piece; now there is but a remnant left. The bonus is that the old bridge no longer obscures the view of the Peninsula!

Yerba Buena Island has no businesses to speak of; Treasure Island has some food stands on the western waterfront as well as a couple of small restaurants now. The view of SF as well as of Berkeley from TI is not transcendent but it is unique and worth the visit. Just be sure to go on a clear, sunny day. It’s a short bike trip out and back but you can easily extend it by taking the San Francisco Bay Trail north as far as Richmond.

An Island In The Sun: Apple Blossom Recap

April 10th, 2017 by tony

Apple Blossoms!

Luck was with us this past Sunday for the Sebastopol Apple Blossom ride. Only the previous day we got an unexpected drenching, casting a pall over the prospect the Apple Blossom and making me wonder if I would have to post another last-minute cancelation. Unlike Saturday’s Cinderella participants, who got bombed for most of the morning with rain, we had a crystal clear sunny day with nary a cloud in sight! The six of us—John, Randy, Darrell, David Go., Carl, and I—had a gruntin’ good time surmounting the many small hillocks that pepper Sonoma county between Sebastopol and Occidental. Of particular note is Barnett Valley Road at 14%+; it seemed like all the other cyclists, of which there were many out on such a beautiful day, were smartly heading down rather than up it as we did. About midway to Occidental David remarked to me that we must have finished most of the climbing as we had already had 900 feet of elevation gain, which was the total for the route. No, I said, the RideWithGPS data said 900 meters, not feet! Oh. Bummer. Yep, more to come!                                 

Sonoma roads have not improved since we were last there four years ago. But what had changed is that even more apple orchards were left to wither and be replaced by ever more wine grapes. I can’t say I blame those farmers because it takes a number of years before a sapling is productive whereas grape plantings apparently can be productive in their second year. And when your orchard is old and needs to be replanted anyway, are you going to install more apple trees or put in grapes? Nonetheless we passed at least two orchards what were not only in bloom but were clearly being maintained, which is great because the Gravenstein is a delicious variety. It was still sad to see a number of abandoned orchards, covered in weeds and absolutely no pruning having been done. Those hoary old apple trees were literally put out to pasture.

By the time we arrived at the Union Hotel in Occidental we were ready for lunch. Seated in their outside patio courtyard on a bright day under the blooming redbud tree was delightful. Some had heaping servings of pasta or polenta and others of us, ever mindful of Kate Moss’s ‘nothing tastes as good as the way thin feels’ were more circumspect of the homemade Italian-American temptations. Yes, life is tough for supermodels!

The way back was considerably easier than the leg out. The lumps were smaller, less steep, and we had a rippin’ good downhill just out of Occidental. The views from the hilltops were superb, the crisp country air was rejuvenating, and the relative lack of cars was a welcome change from typical Bay Area conditions.

You may not have made the Apple Blossom ride this year but the trees are just starting to bloom, so go up there on your own in the next couple of weeks to enjoy the bloom and the pastoral setting after such a water-logged winter.

Gravensteins Still Live!

Will It Never End? Skyline Blvd. Closed [addendum]

April 10th, 2017 by tony

Ray Hosler reports that over on the Midpeninsula, Skyline Boulevard at Castle Rock State Park is closed due to an immense slip that wiped out the entire road. You can see the incredible pic here. For most Spokers this section of Skyline is way out of their regular riding territory. But if you’re planning to head south on Skyline towards Hwy 17, you are going to have to find another route. Ray mentions the Skyline Trail adjacent to the road but this is a dirt track, so it’s only for those of you who don’t mind riding your road bikes on non-asphalt. From the size of the slip it is going to be a very long time before this section is repaired–the road is completely gone.

Yesterday we had the fortune of riding near Sebastopol on the Apple Blossom ride (more on that on the next post). Although everything we rode was open, there are numerous closures and partial closures of our favorite cycling roads. You can see the complete list here. Note that Old Caz, Austin Creek, Old Duncans Grade, and Geysers Road are completely closed. There are sections of the Bohemian Hwy., Hwy 116, and Hwy 1 at Bodega Bay, and Mill Creek Road that are down to one lane. If you’re heading up to the Sonoma or Guerneville area to ride, check to make sure you don’t unexpectedly confront a road block.

Addendum: In yesterday’s East Bay Times there was an article about the road closure on Morgan Territory Road. Although the road is closed to car traffic, pedestrian and bicycle traffic are crossing the slide area. The road is listed as closed on the county public works site, but that doesn’t seem to prevent cyclists from using it. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should bike there. But it is possible for cyclists to cross the slide area.

Palomares Update

April 5th, 2017 by tony

Palomares Road was closed today—the fourth time this season—in order to clear it of debris, stabilize the hillside, and presumably to restore the road to its pre-mudslide condition. Palomares is not expected to reopen before May 5. More info is here.

As you already know, Redwood Road near Castro Valley is also closed. If you would like to see what it looks like, go here.

Finally, this one escaped my notice and probably doesn’t matter to most of you: Collier Canyon Road near Livermore suffered some winter damage and is currently down to one lane. The county is asking people to avoid using it. This is unfortunate because Collier Canyon Road is BEAUTIFUL at this time of year because it is verdant green ranch land. This road is just outside the county green line and has managed to avoid annexation to Livermore at least twice, which if it had succeeded would have surely meant massive residential development.

What Is A Social “A” Ride?

March 31st, 2017 by tony

Roger and I have been leading so-called Social “A” rides for almost two years. We felt the club was running on a steady diet of B+ rides, which often were quite a bit faster than B pace, and really didn’t have much to offer cyclists who would like to go perhaps a bit slower. Since the club is for all LGBT cyclists (and our fellow travelers and co-conspirators), we were hoping to break the cycle of B/C/D rides attracting faster cyclists who then joined and led more B/C/D rides by offering something different and seeing if we could get some momentum going and rebalance the club at least in this respect (there are other imbalances such as race, age, gender, and road vs. dirt).

We’ve had some success with a small but steady number of participants. Some riders have told us they welcome the slower paced rides because other club rides are just too fast for them, and for that reason they rarely go on club rides anymore. Some are new to the club and want to test the waters before they go on faster or longer rides. That’s actually a good thing: we hope that people continue to attend our rides OR “graduate” to harder ones as they get stronger and more confident. Some attendees are B/C/D riders who are “slumming”, taking a recovery day, or getting over a bug; a few are lapsed Spokers who are reinvestigating the club.

Although we started these Social A rides, we certainly do not claim ownership of the category. We want others will jump in and lead this type of ride and offer it to the club. That hasn’t happened yet but we are hopeful.

We also try to offer our rides around the Bay Area instead of nesting them in just one location such as SF. We’ve offered rides mostly in the East Bay since we live here but we’ve deliberately spread them around to the Peninsula, South Bay, and Napa. We have plans to lead rides in San Jose, SF, and Sacramento too.

The core of a Social ride is hanging out and gabbing not just riding. All club rides regardless of pace have that, but for the slower cyclist there’s not a lot of it if you’re left in the dust and riding by yourself or are panting too hard from the effort to keep up! So that’s what we mean by “social”: it should be possible for the less speedy cyclist to have a good time too. Another aspect of our Social A rides is we always stop for a good lunch. We’re not into Clif bars, sorry! And lunch is a fabulous way to practice all those skills you learned at finishing school.

This past winter has been unkind to all club rides with cancelation after cancelation due to rain. But we seem to be past the worst of the inclement weather and looking forward to an incredible spring and summer. The first Social A ride of the year—a ride through the Midpeninsula with lunch at the Prolific Oven in Palo Alto—finally took place a couple of weeks ago after being postponed three times due to rain! It was a small group: Roger, me, and two newcomers Brian and Michael. Strangely enough both Brian and Michael, who didn’t know each other, were from San Diego but now live in the Bay Area. Both are also very strong cyclists and were checking out the club. In fact Brian had completed the Furnace Creek 508, which is an ultramarathon ride in Death Valley!

So what happened on our Social “A” ride is what happens at a lot of our club rides: the pace got a lot faster. Social rides may be slower but they are not necessarily flat. Going up Sand Hill Road, then Olive Hill, and then into Portola Valley there wasn’t any panting even though we were going well past 17 mph at times. It’s not that we usually go this fast, but with unfamiliar newcomers I was just checking to see if the pace might be too slow. And it was, it seems. No one protested and when asked later on they said they were comfortable with it. So there! Social A rides are supposed to have a moving average 8 to 10 mph (that sometimes get pushed to almost 11); this time it was 13.5, which under normal circumstances would have me profusely apologizing.

The day was one of the first dry days in a while and it showed: the Midpeninsula, which is a hotbed of cycling anyway, was crawling with bicyclists starving for a ride. No matter which way we looked or rode we kept running into mobs. We stopped at the Arastradero Preserve to freshen up and encountered a recumbent cycling club. Much chatting ensued, most of it about the e-bike Roger was riding and comparing notes with the e-recumbents. One of our former Ride Coordinators, Bill Bushnell, has and is a big e-recumbent rider and they all knew Bill. After our close encounter with the ‘Bent kind we rolled into Los Altos Hills and took on Purissima and Elena, short but gritty hills, admiring all the homes we cannot afford, before cruising up Foothill to our lunch stop.

We love eating at the Prolific Oven. It’s old enough—35 years—to have become a Palo Alto mainstay; let’s hope their rent doesn’t go through the roof and drive them out of tony Palo Alto. Sandwiches there go beyond the mundane and always include a small slice of their chocolate cake with your order. Well, there goes the Paleo diet! The only oddity about this visit was the place was full of students, all on Apple laptops doing their homework and research. I felt so old and dated.

Our next social ride is on Sunday April 30 where we will finally get the answer to Paul Simon’s question, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” Stay tuned!

And Another One Bites The Dust!

March 29th, 2017 by tony

Redwood Road over near Castro Valley from the Marciel gate to the EBMUD Chabot staging area is now closed to all traffic. Winter storms had led to erosion of the edge of the roadway, which falls precipitously into San Leandro reservoir, but the area was only coned off and the roadway was narrowed to one lane. However last night the road partially collapsed and apparently the undercutting of the roadway is endangering the entire path of travel. You can read about it here.

Roger and I went riding to Castro Valley on Redwood today and noticed the crew erecting K barriers around the collapsed section, which is quite startling. The collapse is at mile marker 7.38, which is about a kilometer after you start the southbound descent. Apparently Alameda County had just begun closing the road as there was no indication when we entered Redwood off of Pinehurst. Only when we arrived at the bottom did we see that there was a closure erected at the EBMUD Chabot staging area. We stopped to talk to the guard and he said they had literally just closed it. Not wanting to be stuck in Castro Valley we immediately turned around and headed back to Orinda. When we got back to the collapsed section we were told that the road would be closed for two months and that it would be a “hard closure.” (My guess is that “two months” is bureaucratese for an indefinite period of time probably a lot longer than two months.) When we arrived at Marciel gate a tractor was now parked across the road blocking all traffic and turning them back. We spoke with the operator and he confirmed that K barriers will be put up across the roadway.

Road closures are a mixed blessing for cyclists. The positive is that cars can’t go there; the negative is that cyclists aren’t supposed to go there either. But unless there is rabid enforcement there is nothing to prevent you from lifting your bike over the barrier and continuing on your merry way. Just know that the roadway could collapse more at any moment and you might die. Apparently Contra Costa Public Works is wise to cyclist shenanigans because the Alhambra closure, which blocks the traditional Three Bears route and also has an indefinite closure period (i.e. “we need to find money before we can do any repair”), is not only blocked by K barriers but has chainlink fence completely across the roadway, from edge to edge, to prevent cyclists or pedestrians from entering. Lord knows if Alameda County will follow suit.

If you’re dead set on getting through Redwood—and I don’t blame you because it’s a major recreational cyclist thoroughfare without an easy alternate—there is a way: if heading southbound, cut through Anthony Chabot Park by means of Marciel Road; Marciel is paved. Take it most of the way down to the day use parking area and then cut off onto the Brandon trail, which is a fire road, and you’ll drop down just behind the Redwood Canyon golf course where you can catch Redwood Road again. Brandon is doable on a road bike and hopefully if the rain has stopped it should be pretty dry soon and less mucky.

Road Closure Tidbits

March 19th, 2017 by tony

Palomares Road has finally been reopened by Alameda County. The slides have been mostly cleared but there is one section that has only one lane open. Details about Palomares as well as other East Bay roads can be found here.

Morgan Territory Road is open today but it is only temporary. You can read the details here. The county seems to be planning to open the road on a very limited basis until the slide stops moving and it can effect permanent repairs.

Mt. Hamilton Road has been closed since Feb. 20 due to a washout, however repairs are underway. If you want to go up Hamilton from the Bay side, you will have to take Quimby to bypass the closure. Quimby is very steep. Ray Hosler has some details on his blog.

And yes, Alhambra Valley Road–part of the Three Bears loop–is still closed with no repair in the near future. Get used to riding up Pig Farm if you do the Bears counterclockwise.

Ron Wilmot and the Saddle Challenge

March 13th, 2017 by tony


Every March Different Spokes puts on an internal club fundraiser, the Saddle Challenge, to generate some money for Project Inform. Riders pledge to donate a certain amount of money, either a fixed or per mile amount, for the miles they ride during the month. The current Saddle Challenge is actually a mash-up of the Ron Wilmot Ride for Project Inform and the original Saddle Challenge, which started in 2002 and was not a fundraiser at all. It was intended merely to kickstart the riding season by having members log their miles. Trinkets like club caps were awarded to those with the most mileage. The following year the Saddle Challenge morphed into a fundraiser for the Ron Wilmot Bike Ride, which was a completely separate event. The Ron Wilmot Bike Ride was similar to the AIDS Walk: riders did 7.5 mile circuits in Golden Gate Park and pledged money depending on the number of miles they logged.

Who was Ron Wilmot? Currently in Different Spokes I think there are just two of us who had some contact with Ron, Derek Liecty and I, and unfortunately neither of us had more than a passing acquaintance with him. I don’t recall exactly when Ron joined Different Spokes but almost certainly he wasn’t riding regularly with us until the very late Eighties or the early Nineties. This was during “President for Life” Dennis Westler’s reign. I do recall he was a very friendly and warm person and an enthusiastic road cyclist. What also struck me about him was that he was the only person in the club who rode a Merlin titanium bike, an expensive rarity even during Merlin’s heyday. (I suppose that says more about me than him!) In those days although I was still road biking occasionally, I was deep into mountain biking and that may account for why I don’t remember seeing him on many club rides.

Ron was one of the owners/founders of Hartford Properties, which no longer exists. Hartford Properties was a real estate company located where the Chicago Title Co. currently exists on Market Street, not too far from the LGBT Center.

For those too young to remember, the early Nineties was the dark period of AIDS and the epidemic hit our club hard. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the club was decimated but it is true that we lost a large number of longtime members, and of course the AIDS Bike-A-Thon brought us a bigger profile and thus the club roster exploded to almost 400, many of whom were infected. I believe Ron was one of those folks, probably brought into the club because of the AIDS Bike-A-Thon. I’m not sure if Ron was an avid cyclist before the Bike-A-Thon or whether he was converted by us! I recall that Ron was regularly one of the most prolific fundraisers for BAT if not the most prolific. But I’d have to research the old BAT files (and Bay Area Reporters) to verify that. He rode in seven BATs.

It was probably no coincidence that Ron started his ride in 1995: the last AIDS BAT under Different Spokes was in 1994 (the 1995 and final BAT was run by Project Open Hand). The Ron Wilmot Ride for Project Inform shared one particular trait with the Bike-A-Thon: extremely low overhead. BAT prided itself on being able to give 100% of donations to beneficiary organizations (that wasn’t technically true in the last two years of BAT when in order to survive BAT named itself as one of the beneficiaries but even then the amount of money set aside for BAT was a pittance). The RWRFPI was able to hand over about 95% of donations to PI, meaning that overhead was just 5%, which is ridiculously low. In contrast I’ve read that the AIDS Lifecycle has an overhead somewhere between 30-40% (of course ALC also generates much more money overall). Ron was a big supporter of PI, personally raising more than $130,000 for the organization.

The first RWRFPI raised about $17,500 and garnered around 20 riders. So it wasn’t a big, flashy event. But the event lasted 13 years, the last one taking place in 2007. That little event managed to raise over $750,000 for Project Inform! Project Inform awarded him the Champion of Hope award in 1993 for his tireless support of the organization.

Ron died on February 5, 1997 at age 46 but not before he challenged the community to continue the RWRFPI and especially encouraging people with HIV to ride. He personally raised over $104,000 for AIDS causes. Incidentally Ron’s name is in the Circle of Friends in the SF AIDS Memorial Grove—see if you can find it the next time you walk through it.

Both BAT and the RWRFPI are no more. But the spirit of the event continues in the current Saddle Challenge as well as in the Double Bay Double. Perhaps the current lack of interest in the Saddle Challenge is partly due to fading memory. The deadly early days of the epidemic are ancient history for LGBT youth, the epidemic no longer garners headlines, and club members aren’t disappearing suddenly with their obituaries published in the BAR a few weeks later. It’s a different era.

The May/June 1998 ACLU of Northern California newsletter had a nice article about Ron, from which this is quoted: “Ron was HIV-positive for 18 years and devoted much of his energy raising money for AIDS organizations and educating himself and others about AIDS and AIDS treatments. He served on the advisory board of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services AIDS Project and was the first speaker in their ‘Putting a Face to AIDS’ speakers bureau. An avid cyclist who credited bicycling with keeping him asymptomatic for most of the years he was HIV-positive, Ron created a bike-a-thon to benefit Project Inform, an organization that provided him and others with accurate and up-to-date information on AIDS treatments. This lasting legacy that bears his name is held each May[sic]. The afternoon before his first bike-a-thon in 1995, Ron was taken to the emergency room after suffering a severe reaction to an experimental drug. Although he was hospitalized overnight, he nonetheless insisted on being at the bike-a-thon when it began at 10 a.m. Television crews had gathered awaiting the fundraiser’s creator. Ron’s friends got him out of the hospital 20 minutes before the event was to begin, and he appeared at the starting line, dressed in a biking outfit, perched on his bicycle to talk with reporters. [He did the ride too!] Ron’s partner, Jim O’Donnell, explained that Ron believed “Each life is meant to have a purpose, and it’s our responsibility to determine what our purpose is. For Ron, that meant giving back to the community he was part of and making it a better place.””


March 12th, 2017 by tony

In case you missed the news, the Warm Springs BART station is finally going to open up for service in just two weeks, on Saturday March 25. You can read the details here. Warm Springs station is near the Tesla plant in Milpitas, about five miles further south than the Fremont BART station.

The new station will make getting to South Bay rides a little easier. Getting to Penitencia Creek Park, the traditional start of the Mt. Hamilton ride, will be a little bit shorter, 10 miles instead of 15 or 16. The return on BART for the SF to SJ ride will be more tempting, only 15 miles instead of 20, for those of us who live in the East Bay because returning by Caltrain will always involve a transfer over to BART anyway, and it’s a shorter BART ride if you start at Warm Springs.

The Warm Springs station is also a little closer to some great rides, Calaveras, Felter, and Sierra Roads (not to mention Mt. Hamilton). And if you like bike paths, the Coyote Creek path is very close by, which you can connect with the Guadalupe River path and then back to the southern part of the Coyote Creek trail and take it all the way to Anderson Reservoir in Morgan Hill.

Weekday and Saturday rides should be easily accessible because BART opens early. But Sunday rides are going to be somewhat constrained because the earliest train from SF leaves around 8 a.m. and arrives at Warm Springs by 9 a.m.

You Don’t Need A Weatherman [sic] To Know Which Way The Wind Blows

March 8th, 2017 by tony


Some lessons are best learned the hard way. So it was this past week. Despite years of commuting by bike in inclement weather and the near incessant wetness we’re experiencing this winter, I made a couple of mistakes that caused me to abort rides. Both involved trusting the weather report.

Riding in the rain is at least tolerable and can even be enjoyable as long you’re dressed and equipped properly. But you have to remember to take it with you.

Last Saturday the weather forecast said possibility of afternoon showers. No problem. Roger and I put on what we thought was appropriate rain gear: waterproof jackets and helmet covers. I also brought along toe covers and Rainlegs. The weather was partly cloudy but not a hint of rain. Twelve miles into our ride the sky suddenly became very dark. If you’ve grown up in the Midwest or East Coast and it’s summer you know what that means. Roger blurted ominously, “Is that rain ahead??” Within minutes it started to dump—your classic quick spritz? No, this one didn’t stop; it just got stronger and stronger. And the rain turned to hail and sleet. Ouch! According to Roger’s Garmin the temperature went from 56 to 38 degrees in less than ten minutes. Piles of hail were accumulating on the side of the road like in an abandoned Christmas crèche. Rainwear works pretty well in rain but when it’s near freezing and you’re damp with sweat, you’re going to suffer. In Roger’s case he was extra-suffering because his legs and gloves got soaked. Not having fenders he got drenched with road spray. Despite making an immediate U-turn and skedaddling back home we had about nine miles of hail and rain under our belt. My hands, feet and lower legs were soaked but I wasn’t too cold. Although his jacket did its job, poor Roger was otherwise soaked and was shivering despite the ugly climb back to the house.

Last Tuesday the weather forecast was for partly cloudy and—gasp!—no rain. But the evidence was right in front of my eyes and I ignored it: it rained almost an inch early that morning and the roads were still wet hours after it had stopped. But hey, it’s the weather forecast so it must be right. Since I was going to go up Diablo, not wearing rain gear was going to be a treat because even in the best stuff (Showers Pass) a big effort will defeat any efforts to stay dry as you sweat inside your waterproof wonder. Everything went as planned until I got near North Gate Road. First, I noticed there was snow on top of Diablo—looks picturesque, but doesn’t that mean it’s cold up there? Then you know what happened next: the sky got dark and I ignored it because the weather forecast said no rain. About halfway up as I rounded a corner it started to rain. I beat a hasty retreat but not before getting soaked and chilled on the descent. By the time I got home the bike was completely filthed up and I had a skunk line down my back. No rain? Hardly.

As winter ends and spring begins we inevitably will be getting less rain and the temperature will be rising. Instead of consistently wet weather we’ll probably be getting more variable conditions, which means losing the habit of riding like it’s going to be wet and cold. Perhaps we should adopt the umbrella policy, i.e. “bring an umbrella to make sure it doesn’t rain.” Remember: the forecast is just an educated guess.