Ride Recap: Morgan Territory on 11/19

December 6th, 2017 by tony

Just a day after it officially reopened Different Spokes finally did its traditional autumn ride over Morgan Territory Road. Although road cyclists have surreptitiously been poaching the road since its closure last winter, this was the first legal opportunity to ride it. Last winter’s rains saw the road collapse and one hillside to flow over the pavement cutting off the residents from Marsh Creek Road. The county couldn’t initiate a repair until the hillside stopped moving, which took months. The closure was long but once work began it moved steadily along just in time to open for…more winter rains. Nonetheless the reinforced section of road looks quite burly and able to withstand whatever Mother Nature will dish out this year (especially since it’s probably going to be dry-ish).

Build The Wall!

Stephanie and David Gaus managed to persuade five of us to tag along—me, Jan, Roger Sayre, Gordon, and David Sexton. It was more or less the traditional route from Walnut Creek BART—out Ygnacio Valley Road, which has scary fast car traffic but a wide shoulder—with a pit stop in Clayton before hightailing out Marsh Creek. Marsh Creek is another one of my favs for scary passes; the SUVs out there just love to whip past you no matter what the sight line is like. At least it is an incentive to redline your heart rate in order to get onto Morgan Territory as fast as possible. Things were much more tranquil there! In fact there seemed to be virtually no one trying out the reopened road, cars or bikes. We had the road pretty much to ourselves. We did a stop at the new retaining wall to check out the reinforced road and then continued on with everyone going their own pace up the ascent. Despite the road repair on the lower section the rest of Morgan Territory seems to be left to degrade at a slow pace— like wrinkles on your face every year more cracks and bumps appear. Perhaps it won’t ever arrive at the level of decay of Planet of the Apes but it has a nice start.

Morgan Territory Preserve had noticeably few visitors that day—was there a football game going on, had people already fled town for Thanksgiving, or was it simply the lack of awareness that Morgan Territory was now open? We saw just three other cyclists the entire way.

After a long snack break filled with more idle and pointless chattering we launched down the gnarly descent. Roger Sayre led the way with Stephanie right on his tail. The descent down the south side of Morgan Territory to Highland is steep, curvy, and full of blind spots. To make it even more challenging the road is narrower than standard width so there occasionally is no center line. To go down quickly you need nerve, good bike handling, and a bit of luck. One mistake and you’re colliding with a car or launching yourself off the steep hillside. Risk taking has to be second nature to you. But the rest of us seemed not to be thrill seekers so we took it easy. Back on the flat Roger proceeded to show us what training with a powermeter can do: to add to his courageous descending, not only can he now climb like a maniac but he’s a beast on the flats too. Fortunately I was tucked in behind him the whole way.

We stopped at Hi Tech Burrito in Danville. The lunch was, uh, unmemorable but at least the rice and beans were good fuel. Roger missed the lunch stop and we had no idea where he had vanished to. After lunch with the sun lying low on the horizon the rest of us returned to Walnut Creek BART at a leisurely pace.

Ride Recap: Social A Ride—Iron Horse Trail to Khyber Pass Kabob

December 5th, 2017 by tony

Suitably stuffed with delicious Afghani food!

 

Last Saturday the threat of rain vanished and gave us a mostly sunny day to ride from Walnut Creek BART to our favorite Afghan restaurant, Khyber Pass Kabob in Dublin. We originally planned to ride to Dublin BART as well. But since we all wanted to do the full monty and ride back to Walnut Creek, we nixed the final mile after lunch to Dublin BART and just headed back the Iron Horse. Things always slow down in the club during the winter. Whether it’s the colder climate, holiday madness, or the winter doldrums, only Roy and Jim joined Roger and me for our easy gambol. What a gabby group! I can’t remember a Social Ride where there was as so much nonstop jabbering, which was perhaps abetted by being on the Iron Horse Trail where we could easily ride two abreast and free of car noise. We were all warmly dressed given the chilly morning, and we weren’t going very fast so it took longer to warm up from the effort. Regulars will be disappointed to hear that despite the tête-à-tête sized crowd we did not gossip about you (well, except for the Den Daddy)—not that your personal lives aren’t of interest to us but our personal lives just took precedence! Topics of lively interest included the advantages and misgivings of a Midwestern upbringing, why Thailand is so “hot”, what to wear on the bike when it’s cold, fabulous Japanese food, bikes we’ve had stolen, and many sundry digressions. So there!

Every time we go to Khyber Pass Kabob the food keeps getting better or so it seems. It’s in a slightly dumpy strip mall in Dublin, and recently their sign fell down and was propped in their doorway so now it looks even more down-market. But the family owners are as welcoming as ever and their food is incredible. We got there just after noon (how’s that for timing a ride!) and were the first customers. But before long it was nearly full. Roy had eaten there with us before so only Jim was the newcomer. I hewed close to habit and got the chapli kabob, a sirloin kabob spiced with green onions, cilantro and coriander whereas Roger explored a new dish to him, aushak, which is ravioli-like dish stuffed with leeks and topped with beef and yogurt. Roy ever watching his diet opted for borani kadoo, pumpkin sautéed with tomatoes and garlic while Jim went for the sabzee challow, chicken smothered in a spicy spinach sauce. We all shared a huge plate of freshly made Afghan bread, bolani, which was ten times better than the dreck you get at Costco.

Suitably stuffed we waddled back to our bikes and strolled back to Walnut Creek BART. Needless to say the ride back wasn’t at a breathtaking pace but it definitely aided our digestion!

We Recruit!

December 3rd, 2017 by tony

 

For a measly $20 you can support Different Spokes—that’s the cost of an annual membership. Different Spokes survives on folks willing to fork over a pittance. Almost all of you live in the Bay Area and know that $20 doesn’t get you very much. It’s way less than the cost of a good bike tire, about the cost of two cheap inner tubes, and just a bit more than a decent lunch. In a world of $4 lattes an annual membership in Different Spokes is a mere trifle to support your local LGBT cycling club!

We’re coming up to the end of the year when it’s time to renew. I know it’s easy to ignore that email reminding you to re-up especially with the prospect of yet another orgy of profligate holiday gifting. But your membership helps Different Spokes keep the lights on so please don’t ignore it. Membership dues barely pay for the ongoing running costs of the club. And by “running costs” we don’t mean Tony’s fabulous Rapha outfits! It means the web hosting, the liability insurance, our PO box, and just part of the expenses for our regular events such as the holiday party, the club picnic, and the Fall Social.

There are many other community organizations that deserve your donation or membership. If you are pondering whether to give that $20 to us or to the ACLU, in the era we are living in you know where it should go! But we hope that Different Spokes’ existence will continue to provide you with lots of fun, camaraderie, and relief from the grim reality in which we live. So please join/rejoin for 2018!

You don’t want that day to come when you click to get to the ride calendar and instead you get “404 Page Not Found”!

Quick East Bay Road Update

November 1st, 2017 by tony

As we approach winter we are finally seeing progress on reopening the storm damaged roads from last winter. Here’s the status update.

Morgan Territory Road. Still closed but expected to reopen by mid-November. Strangely the ribbon cutting ceremony is set for December! See the details here.

Redwood Road. Still closed but projected to open January 2018. Details here.

Palomares Road. Already reopened.

Calaveras Road. Still closed indefinitely from the Sunol side. The Milpitas side is now open but you can’t go all the way through.

Canyon Bridge/Pinehurst. Still closed but the temporary bridge is projected to be open by late November. Details here.

Alhambra Valley Road. Will open this Friday, November 3. Press release here.

And over on the Peninsula, Skyline Boulevard (State Route 35) at Castle Rock Park is still closed with no news of a reopening date.

Assume The Position

October 28th, 2017 by tony

“Is this what you’re looking for, boy?”

One does not willingly don shackles except under duress…or when the prospect of pain and pleasure mix to provide a heady bromide. Regardless I am now your ride coordinator at least until another slave/volunteer steps forward, in which case I will happily step aside. Let the games begin…

We have not had a formal ride coordinator for almost two years. In that time certain niceties have been lost such as David Goldsmith’s tracking of miles ridden by club members and his grisly list of riding stats. However he has been gracious enough to handle ride waivers in the interim and we owe him more than a simple ‘thank you’ for his tenure first as ride coordinator and then as ride waiver mistress as well as for originating and planning the Ride Leader Appreciation dinners. It’s nice that the club is finally doing something to thank ride leaders beyond mere verbal appreciation.

Reign of Terror

Here’s what I hope to shepherd along as your RC.

– Increase knowledge and awareness of the club insurance policy especially for ride leaders.

– Increase retention of new riders.

– Provide feedback from ride participants to ride leaders.

– More mountain bike/dirt rides!

– More delicious food on club rides!

– Find/train my replacement as soon as possible.

If you have pearls of wisdom (or discipline) you would like to share with me as I embark on this journey, contact ride-coordinator@dssf.org

Insurance

October 24th, 2017 by tony

 

Many of you may not know that our club has a liability insurance policy. This is an insurance policy to protect the club in case an accident occurs during a club event such as a ride or weekend trip. If one of the participants is involved in an accident, for example colliding with a pedestrian, our insurance would provide provide monetary protection in case of a settlement. Also if a ride participant were injured and wanted to sue the club, the policy would also come into effect. The club’s policy started about a decade ago when the League of American Bicyclists arranged to offer low-cost insurance through a carrier to its affiliate clubs, which we are. Prior to that we, like most bicycle clubs in the US, were coasting on a prayer and wishful thinking. Since clubs are hardly deep-pocket organizations, suing a club is unlikely to lead to a big payout. But litigants can go after individuals in the club, particularly officers, and it might end up being a costly decision. Keep in mind that even if you are a participant on a ride, that someone who is injured might implicate any of the other riders including you. The liability insurance policy is in place to handle those sorts of situations.

If you are a club member, you are covered by our policy on club rides and events. Technically you don’t even have to sign the club’s waiver to receive coverage although signing the waiver provides legal protection if an incident does occur, and of course there are other reasons to require a waiver and to sign it including emergency contact information in case of an accident and contact information of non-members (i.e. prospective members).

Our liability insurance is one of the two major ongoing, annual expenses running about $500 per year for our roughly hundred members and officers. (The other big expense is website hosting and related costs.) Your membership fee of $20 covers these expenses and without fundraisers such as Jock Sunday at the Lookout or donations we just break even (in a good year). One reason why the club doesn’t have to do more fundraisers is because of the incredible generosity of Jerome Thomere, who has been managing our website for 15 (!) years. Without the donation of literally hundreds of hours of his unpaid labor, we would have long ago had to go to a website developer/manager and that would have cost quite a bit more.

There are some things you should know about our insurance. First, it provides $1 million coverage per incident with a cap of $5 million per year. Second, it covers members and first-time participants on rides and events. If you are not a member either because you’ve lapsed or that you’ve never gotten around to joining, then our policy excludes you from coverage. The first time a non-member attends a ride, they are covered but after that they are not. If an incident were to occur, the club would be protected but you would be on your own in case you were named in a suit. Third, our policy also provides up to $10,000 per person per accident medical coverage. This takes effect after other insurance such as your personal health insurance. Fourth, the policy currently only covers road riding but no racing. Mountain biking, or riding on unpaved surfaces, is specifically excluded. By early next year the club will have an additional policy to cover dirt riding but until then we can’t officialy host mountain bike rides without exposure.

If you have been a ride leader or thinking of leading a club ride in the future, you should know about the Incident Report Form. Our insurance requires us to submit an Incident Report Form for accidents involving either bodily injury or property damage (there is a slightly different form for each type). These are currently available at the DSSF Yahoo! group in the Files area in the folder “Incident Report Forms for Insurance”. Ride leaders should download a copy and fill it out in case of an incident, and of course you should notify the Ride Coordinator or other club officer as soon as possible. If you lead a ride that has either a death or major injury, you must report that immediately to the carrier by their toll-free number, which is on the forms. I recommend that ride leaders carry a print copy of forms so that you can fill out the information on the spot rather than trying to remember details later on. At the very least you should access the electronic versions through your mobile phone. In the near future we should have copies up on the club website.

Humbled [Updated 10/10, 10/16]

October 9th, 2017 by tony

The View of The South Bay From Mt. Umunhum

Staring at the cube on top of Mt. Umunhum as a teenager I wondered what it would take to be able to cycle all the way to the top. In the 1970s Mt. Umunhum was under the aegis of the US Air Force and the road to the summit was strictly off-limits. In those days I thought Mt. Um was the tallest peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but it turns out that was incorrect and it’s only the fourth tallest peak. Nonetheless it’s 3,486 feet making it not that much less than the summit of Mt. Diablo. When the Air Force gave up operations at Mt. Umunhum in 1980 many of us thought that it would not be long before the area was returned to civilian use. Boy, was that wrong! Finally just four weeks ago it opened for public use under the auspices of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District after many improvements including the removal of a significant quantity of hazardous waste, repaving of the road, and the creation of parking, bathrooms, and informational kiosks.

Naturally I would have gone up the first day it opened but I had a sense it would have been an utter mosh pit—all that pent up desire fueled by years of delay. In fact, I hear that turned out to be the case and the rangers had to do car control on Mt. Umunhum Road because there was so much traffic. In any case, I posted the ride and led it this past Sunday. I would have thought the ride would have brought a number of Spokers out of the woodwork due to the challenge and mystique of ascending Hicks Road just to get to the start of Mt. Umunhum Road. Five years ago David Gaus led a foray up Hicks Road and it was brutal. Being a warm day with full sun we baked up the climb and after the descent to the valley I got some of the worst leg cramps I’ve ever had. Hicks had also just been freshly chip sealed making traction a pain and I kept getting stones stuck between my front tire and fork. I don’t remember everyone who was on that ride but I do remember racing Peter Graney and Tim Offensend up Hicks. I also remember poor David Gaus, exhausted, arriving at the summit and recounting that he had to walk. Hey, Hicks is no walk in the park (pun intended): it’s a sustained 14% grade for well over a mile with absolutely no relief. This year I didn’t get much interest from the animals in the club. Everyone who had RSVPed eventually backed out for one reason or another. Well, we know there was really only one reason they all backed out, don’t we?

In the meantime my hubby decided he wanted to go up Mt. Umunhum too even though I thought it wouldn’t interest him in the slightest because, let’s face it, only the foolishly ignorant and testosterone addled would do this climb without a gun being held to their heads. Thinking that no one else was ballsy enough to tackle Mt. Um, we left the house in a leisurely fashion only to get a phone call from Bill Knudsen, “Hey, where are you guys? I don’t see anyone here at the start!” Oops. Bill, Wanderson, and Joseph showed up and now we were late. We arrived and apologies and excuses were exchanged along with the requisite whining and sandbagging. Then Bill indulged me with a request: “Hey, I’ve only ridden 20 miles since August. Is there some way I could do Mt. Umunhum without the climbing in between?” Like the sound of one hand clapping, my third eye pondered this request. “Um no, there isn’t. But you can start off with us and see how you feel, and you can bail at the next Starbucks in 17 miles.” Like a herd of bison to the cliff’s edge, off we went.

For those of you contemplating going up Mt. Umumhum, let me ‘splain it to you: this is a dead-fucking serious climb. Hicks is just the taste of what is to come. I had mistakenly read somewhere online that Hicks had a section that was almost two miles of 14%. The last time I rode it I was so focused on reaching the top first I didn’t give a shit how long it was, so I didn’t pay any attention to my Garmin except for the heart rate numbers that indicated it was ready to explode and spew oxygen-deprived blood all over the road. This time I measured it and it is “only” about 1.2 miles of unrelenting 14% grade. If you’re now breathing a sigh of relief, don’t because even if it is “shorter” it is nonetheless hellaciously lung destroying. In yet another mistake—the first being letting time rose-color my memory of climbing Hicks overwhelm the bare facts in front of my face—I had blithely glanced at the elevation profile of Mt. Umunhum and thought, “Oh, it’s flatter than Hicks so it’s all cake to the summit.” If I had spent just two minutes studying the elevation profile I would have noticed that it’s pecked with steep sections worse than Hicks. After arriving at the top of Hicks and thinking it would then be easier, I was subsequently devastated at each of those fucking 15%+ sections. Man, talk about soul destroying.

At The Top of Redwood Gulch

But I’m jumping a bit ahead of the narrative. The route I had planned had a little amuse-bouche: rather than starting such a serious ride sensibly close to Hicks, which is outside of Los Gatos, we started waaay over in Sunnyvale so that we would enjoy the climb up Stevens Canyon Road and Redwood Gulch to Highway 9 first. Stevens Canyon is a delightful romp in the redwoods up a deserted forest road with hardly any traffic. The quiet and cool humidity from the forest just make it a great ride especially in hot weather. Unfortunately after you make an abrupt left turn onto Redwood Gulch the road practically leaps up from underneath your wheels. There are two 15% ramps on Redwood Gulch that you think must be visual illusions until the reality of pedaling four miles an hour and grunting tells you they’re not. Suddenly time turns to molasses and the beauty of the surrounding redwoods disappears. The ramps are not overly long but just long enough to make it impossible to gut it out in an explosive effort. It’s kind of like donating blood: it’s going to hurt for quite a while and then you get a cookie at the end. At the top where it meets Highway 9 Bill and Wanderson were already looking, shall we say, a bit piqued. We eventually rolled into the Starbucks on Blossom Hill Road, Bill and company called it quits and decided to take the flat route back to the car, saving Mt. Umunhum for another day (if ever). Well, at least they tried. But a lesson lurks here: do not underestimate doing Mt. Um and don’t do anything else except Mt. Um if you hope to enjoy the experience (or not).

After refreshment and a steeling of nerves Roger and I took our leave and headed to Hicks Road. On the way I got a phone call from the Den Daddy, Derek Liecty, “Hey, where are you guys?” “We’re on Shannon.” “Oh baby, you have a looong way to go!” he chortled. Derek was interested in seeing Mt. Umunhum but under four wheels and a turbocharged engine rather than two wheels and no-charged, broke-ass engines. So he and his friend Denise had zoomed up Mt. Um and were waiting for us. Well, he was in for a long wait.

Hicks starts off in a leisurely fashion. It’s a narrow two-lane road heading into the mountains with a moderate amount of weekend car traffic no doubt heading to the same place we were, and it gives no indication that it has a brutal kick at the end. You soon leave the few suburban homes behind and are riding on the border of Almaden Quicksilver County Park. There is a leap up to the spillway of Guadalupe Reservoir and then it deceptively seems to settle down. At the hairpin just above the reservoir the road shows its full anger: it’s like staring at a wall. Oh. My. God. If you’re young, strong, and well-trained you can make it up Hicks in what has become standard road gearing, a 34×28 or about 32 gear-inches. But you’ll be standing much if not all of the way to the top or you’ll be forced to weave back and forth to lessen the grade. Since the road is narrow and there is occasional fast downhill traffic that does not respect the center line, I would be careful weaving. Oh, and there is no shade so don’t do this on a hot, sunny day unless you relish tasting the river of sweat that will soon be running down your face. But if you’re less inclined to suffer, I suggest even lower gearing. On this day I used a 30×30, a one-to-one ratio, which works out to about 26 gear-inches, and I was “comfortable”, i.e. I could sit and grind up the climb and occasionally shift up and stand with ease.

The summit of Hicks couldn’t have come any sooner, and instead of locked gates we were greeted by an all-new entrance to Mt. Um! After a brief respite we took off only to discover as I mentioned above that Mt. Um Road doesn’t seem to be any less steep than Hicks! And it was over five miles to the summit. Like Mt. Hamilton and its observatories, you can tantalizingly see the Cube above you yet it is literally thousands of feet above. [The top of Hicks is only about 1,400 ft elevation.] However MROSD did a splendid job of improving the road. Mt. Um Road is a stellar strip of two-lane blacktop all the way to the summit. There are sections with little shoulder but we found the drivers to be very respectful. And the speed limit on the road is 20 mph! On this day there was only moderate car traffic and hardly any bicycles perhaps because we had started so late all the intelligent cyclists had come up and gone down already; but perhaps it was because the climb is so daunting. No matter the condition of the road or the amenities there is no mistaking that Mt. Um Road is even more deadly than Hicks. There were a couple of sections where the grade eased to 5% and many sections that were an “easy” 9-10%. But it was just plain draining. Keep in mind that before we had even started up Hicks we had over 2,000 feet of climbing in our legs at equally brutal percentages.

The Cube on Mt. Umunhum

Roger and I have done many long ascents in the Alps and the Pyrenees and there often came a point when all we could do is tick off the tenths of a mile and exercise mind over body. Mt. Um Road was no different this day. It seemed like an eternity of pedaling, only to look down and see we had not even done a quarter-mile! In the midst of this sufferfest I see a red Supra rolling down the hill: the Den Daddy! He yelled, “You’re not far from the top!” By my Garmin it was still a mile and a half to go. But Derek was right; at around a mile and a half from the summit the road flattens—hallelujah! Derek turned around and passed us on the way back to the top.

A quarter-mile from the top there is a day parking lot—this is where cars have to stop. They actually are able to continue all the way up to the Cube but there is no parking there except for rangers and those with disability placards and only passenger drop-offs are allowed. Derek and Denise greeted us with cool drinks and congratulated us on our ascent. All told it was 34 miles and about 6,100 feet of climbing. We had a nice long chat with one of the rangers and took in the spectacular views of the South Bay. Today it was hazy from smog and we thus could not see Mt. Diablo. But it was easy to spot Mt. Hamilton with its observatories on the other side of the valley. From the lookout, which is immediately adjacent to the Cube, it feels like you could launch into space above the South Bay such is the steep height to which you ascend. There were a few other cyclists although I bet none of them had started as far away as we had nor had climbed as much. They all certainly looked much fresher than we did! And the mountain bikes we saw? I bet they had ridden up the road just as we had but were able to take full advantage of the low gearing.

There are no shops, stands, or restaurants once you leave Los Gatos and there are no amenities in the park except for pit toilets. You have to bring all your own food and water. I imagine any drinking water to be found in the area would be highly suspect anyway as the area is littered with abandoned mercury mines. Fish caught in the nearby reservoirs are strictly catch-and-release due to the danger of mercury poisoning. We each brought two full large water bottles and consumed it all since Los Gatos, and it wasn’t even a hot day.

The ride isn’t over once surmounting Mt. Um. Now you have to return to the valley! As you might imagine Mt. Um and Hicks are not the kinds of roads with “payback” descents. With such steep gradients you will pick up speed in a flash, and with the road being relatively narrow and curvy you have to have your wits about you. On the positive side Mt. Um Road has a perfect surface (at least for now). Unfortunately Hicks is not is as good a shape and you will encounter divots, bumps, and incongruities which will threaten to upend you. Make sure your brakes are in perfect working order because you will be using them a lot on the way down. Roger had the fortune of having disc brakes but I had rim brakes. We were both braking a lot in order not to splatter. Halfway down Mt. Um Road we pulled off into a small parking lot with a pit toilet in order to let the brakes cool down. My rims were so hot I could touch them just briefly before flinching. When we turned onto Hicks, that 14% section was like going down a water slide—down and down we went with only a vague sense that we were in control. Past the spillway Hicks finally settles down to a “normal” descent.

The rest of the return was essentially mundane, making your way across the flat sections of Santa Clara Valley back to the car. When we got back to the car, I was grateful for surviving the climb AND the descent, both. I had underestimated how difficult Mt. Um would be. I mean, how hard could it be? I had done all the other major climbs in the Bay Area (except one: Mix and Gates—stay tuned!) and Mt. Um couldn’t be any worse than Centennial, Marin, Zayante, etc. right? Wrong. Hicks and Mt. Um are a double-whammy with not just ridiculous gradients but ones that are also long, persistent, and unrelenting.

My advice if you decide to go up Mt. Um:

1. Just do Hicks/Mt. Um—don’t add on any other climbing like Mt. Eden or Redwood Gulch. Mt. Um is plenty and steep.

2. Start in Los Gatos—don’t add any mileage that you don’t need before the climb. The ride up Shannon and the lower section of Hicks is good enough of a warm up.

3. Take lots of water because there isn’t any on the hill. And food too!

4. Use the lowest gearing you have. If you’ve got gearing higher than 34×28, may God have mercy on your soul. Or plan on going seriously slow uphill!

5. Make sure your brakes and tires are in excellent condition; the descent is not to be taken lightly.

6. Go on a clear day so you can fully enjoy the spectacular view!

Jerome has the right idea and here’s his route. Note it is just up and down—no frills & functional—and starts and ends in Los Gatos.

 

UPDATE 10/10: If you are interested in the convoluted recent history of Mt. Umunhum and why it took over 30 years before MROSD was able to open the former Air Force base to the public, here is a great read by Ray Hosler.

UPDATE 10/16: Former Spoker Bill Bushnell also went up Mt. Umunhum shortly after it was publicly opened. You can read his account and see his photographs here. He also has interesting comments about the history of the fight for public access to Mt. Umunhum as well as the “backdoor” cyclists used to use to get to Mt. Um, Loma Prieta Road, which is an eminently rideable dirt road . The ranger we spoke to on top of Mt. Um the day we rode up mentioned that if we were caught on Loma Prieta Road we’d get a $400 fine. Ouch! It pays to skulk carefully.

East Bay Road Closure Update: Palomares Now Open!

September 22nd, 2017 by tony

As we approach the next rainy season some of the road destruction due to this past winter’s rains has finally been repaired and roads are reopening. As mentioned in a couple of weeks ago we got a nice present when Calaveras Road reopened rather unexpectedly. I thought that one was slated for the “might never be open again” category. After a series of delays Palomares Road has finally been reopened as of today! For the animals in the club, we now have the elements for some killer rides back: from an East Bay BART station over Palomares and out Calaveras to points beyond, either Milpitas BART or Mt. Hamilton. Stay tuned… [UPDATE: Well, I guess I am mistaken. Calaveras is NOT fully open. The City of Milpitas opened the section of Calaveras that is within their jurisdiction a few weeks ago. However San Francisco Water & Power still has a section shut down north of the reservoir that prevents any through traffic.]

By the way since Palomares is now open, next week’s BART To the Niles Canyon Roll ‘N Stroll has tangential possibilities for those so inclined. This ride is a flat B-pace ride to Dublin/Pleasanton and Walnut Creek BART stations. But this doesn’t prevent others from joining us and diverging up Palomares since we’ll be passing it on the way to Sunol. You guys can race us up Palomares and 580 to Walnut Creek BART. We shall see who gets there first! (You guys will because we’re not going to race. Oh, and we’re stopping for some comestibles in Danville.)

The estimated completion date for Alhambra Valley Road also keeps sliding. For a while it looked like it might be open for the Fall Social. Then it was a week later. Now it’s October 12. When it does reopen you can bet it’s going to be a cycling parade because the Three Bears is such a popular training route. All that pent up desire. No Three Bears for nine months. Why, it makes me want to come…as soon as it opens. By the way Alhambra Valley Road also happens to be one of the three most popular places over here for miscreants to dump their large trash items because it’s so isolated and rural. So expect it be be spickety-span clean for about one week after it reopens and then we shall see the mysterious Monuments to Garbage reappear with startling rapidity. We’ll have a big club party too when it’s open.

Morgan Territory Road is another one that keeps sliding (pun intended). Unexpected conditions during the repair–more rock encountered during pile drilling and the need for additional rain runoff drainage–now has the County seeing the completion in mid-November. That doesn’t seem to stop the racing Freds from heading out that way as we witnessed last week on Derek’s Clayton ride. The temporary diversion road  around the repair is supposed to be for local residents only since it’s on private land, but isn’t “I don’t give a fuck” cycling’s middle name? The good news is that when it reopens for real it will be well into autumn and the riding up there should be awesome. Sounds like another invitation for a club ride, doesn’t it?

And we finally got an estimate on Redwood Road’s reopening. All summer it was quiet and we thought CalTrans was doing the repair when in fact they were still studying it and only have begun to work on it. Now CalTrans is estimating January 2018 for completion. Yeah, right. Well, Marciel and Brandon Trail are pretty cool in the meantime.

And over on the Midpeninsula, Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) is still closed near Castle Rock State Park. On its website CalTrans continues to say the closure will end on midnight September 30. That’s just a week away.

Fall Social: Ride, Dish & Dine on Sunday, October 1!

September 20th, 2017 by tony

Ride and Chow Down!

Well into its second decade the annual Fall Social at former President Phil Bokovoy’s Berkeley digs is our second longest Club tradition/ride/event. The only regular club event that is older in origin is the Club Picnic although it has changed venue multiple times whereas the Fall Social has always been at Phil’s. Long gone are the Guerneville Weekend, the Lake Tahoe Spectacular, and many others. This year the Fall Social is taking place earlier, on Sunday, October 1, rather than at the end of October. This means we will have more daylight, less likelihood of inclement riding weather, and more likelihood of being able to hang out al fresco for a relaxing afternoon feast.

The Fall Social is always a potluck afternoon lunch with at least one ride, sometimes two or three. The idea was to close the main riding season—yeah, like we have “seasons” in Northern California!—with an all-club get-together for sharing a ride, delicious food, and of course lots of idle conversation.

It’s a welcome place for members as well as “fellow travelers”, old timers and new timers alike. If you’re a club regular, you’ll see your familiar clubmates; if you’re a club irregular, here’s your chance to meet some other members that you don’t meet on the occasional club ride you do; if you’re a newcomer, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the club and find out whether you like hanging out with a bunch of LGBT cycling nerds.

Besides opening up his house and his beautiful backyard, Phil’s tour de force contribution is his barbecued butterflied turkey. This ain’t no Thanksgiving bird, folks. It’s split in half and cooked on his Weber and always comes out juicy, flavorful, and delicious. The quality of the rest of the meal depends upon you: everyone contributes something whether it be your latest attempt at Julia Child or a big bag of chips from Costco. If you show up empty-handed, be prepared to be asked to turn right around and head to the nearest market to pick up something to share. This is strictly “pay to play”—after all, the club is what YOU make of it!

And what about the rides? Back in the day there were as many as three separate rides, usually a longer, harder route; a shorter route; and a dirt ride. But since mountain biking has become a covert activity within the club, it’s been just two road rides, with the easy route being a 24-mile flattish roll out to the Rosie the Riveter Memorial along the Bay Trail and back. The traditional longer route was over the Three Bears and back along Wildcat. But this year the closure of Alhambra Valley Road due to winter storm damage has meant that we will be trying a mysterious one-off route, which will be unveiled imminently! Alhambra Valley Road is estimated to be open in October but that’s too late for this year’s early Fall Social. No matter which route you decide to take, everyone ends up back at the manor for a fine meal. And if that isn’t enough, Phil even allows you to shower and freshen up, change into something more fashionable, and reapply that make-up and moisturizer before you make your entrance onto the patio. (Just bring your own towel and cosmetics bag!)

Be sure to watch the Different Spokes Ride Calendar for more details and if you plan to attend, please RSVP to Phil.

Ride Recap: Contra Costa Ramble to Clayton

September 17th, 2017 by tony

Those incessant East Bay heat waves took a break this week and we got a nice breather on Derek Liecty’s ride to Clayton. It was temperate and got only into the low-80s by early afternoon. That allowed the eight of us to enjoy a pleasant, slow ramble along the Iron Horse and the Contra Costa Canal Trails. Two newcomers attended—Lindsay, who recently moved to San Francisco from South Africa, and Jim, who didn’t recently move from South Africa and is a local boy from Pleasant Hill. When I asked Jim what got him interested in cycling, he said, “I wanted to eat more.” Jim, I think you’ll fit right in! Also in attendance were Lamberto and Joe, from literally just down the street; Roger and I; and Laura, a former Spoker, who is getting back into cycling after a long hiatus.

Derek, although not a founding mother of Different Spokes, was certainly one of the very first members. Derek’s connection with Different Spokes goes back to the original Gay Games in 1982, which was the impetus for our club’s formation. Derek being a soccer ref, was asked to help out with Gay Games and through it came in contact with the original Ur-Spokers who went on to plan and set up Different Spokes. He’s been riding with Different Spokes ever since and although considerably slower than he was at 50 he’s still able to turn the pedals at a goodly pace. And, with the help of his new e-bike he’s now able to put the club animals back in their place! Although he was a prolific ride leader back in the day he’s literally retired to Rossmoor and rides mostly with his age peers and infrequently deigns to lead a Different Spokes jaunt. Lucky us!

Both the Iron Horse and the CCC Trails are well used by cyclists and pedestrians and more so on weekends. We had plenty of company throughout the day, everyone from racing bros, beach cruisers, tandems, weekend warriors, and the endlessly fabulous. Eventually we left the trails and meandered through neighborhood streets in Concord and Clayton, including a short, dirt foray through a local park. In the meantime there was a lot of chattering going on that only a slower ride allows. Poor Lamberto, who was on call, had to field a work related emergency and then promptly got a flat. He ended up abandoning and heading home, conveniently allowing him to spend more time with his dog.

Clayton proved to be a busy burg with several large groups of racing bros heading towards Morgan Territory. We stopped at the Center Street Deli for a midday meal. We had the pleasure of encountering Mr. NRA in the ordering line. Wow, he was into Glocks like I’m into Masis. Don’t you just love this country? After lunch we took a faster route back but it meant riding on Contra Costa’s wide boulevards rather than trails. We were back at Walnut Creek BART in no time. Everyone seemed to have a good time, no one was worn out, and folks are looking forward to the Niles Canyon closure ride in two weeks!