Tag Archives: Bicycle rides

Wilder Ranch Bike Path

Once again we get an early start. Our route is over the Santa Cruz mountains on Highway 17.Wilder Ranch along the San Mateo coast Today it is overcast but as we climb it looks clearer ahead. Maybe there will be no fog on the coast.

We are trying out a new cycle path. When we participated in the Strawberry Fields Forever event a few weeks ago, one of the unicyclists recommended the path from Santa Cruz to the Wilder Ranch. Yesterday I went online to look for information but it took me quite a while to find out exactly where the route started in Santa Cruz.

On 17, as we crested the summit, the sun was out but we could see a lot of low fog down in the valley. It looked as though we were looking down on an immense lake with woody islands dotted around. The fog became thicker as we went downhill towards Scotts Valley.

After stopping for breakfast in Santa Cruz, we set out to find Chestnut Street. We found it before too long. Now we have to find Mission Street. It’s here we became confused. According to the map I printed yesterday, Mission Street runs parallel to Highway 1 but Highway 1 is Mission Street! We took a left turn and saw signs pointing to a bike path. Ah, that looks promising. Then we came to a cross street which said Mission Street. Maybe somewhere along the way Highway 1 veers away from Mission Street. Who cares, at least we are back on track. We drive to the end of Mission Street to where the bike path begins.

It is cold and foggy and the seats on our bikes are damp. Tom wanted to borrow my leggings. Fat chance of that!

The bike path runs by the side of Highway 1. How many times have we driven along this stretch of road and we never knew there was a bike path there.

From here we cannot see the ocean. To the left are cultivated fields but we know they run down to the ocean. The path is reasonable. Along the way we see are clumps of California Poppies, refusing to open just yet as the day is not warm enough.

Before long we reach Wilder Ranch. It opens at 8 and the time is now 7.55 but we are able to ride round the gate.

The history of the ranch is fascinating. Roundabout 1841 the original adobe house was built by Don Jose Antonio Bolcoff and it was named the Rancho Rufugio. Balcoff was also responsible for starting the dairy.  In 1854 Moses A Melder foreclosed on loans and acquired the property. He built a house, now called Meder House, and several barns. In 1871 Delos D Wilder and L K Baldwin formed a partnership and acquired the land.  They had the reputation of ‘making the finest butter’.  The partnership was dissolved in 1185 and D.D Wilder secured the lower half of the land of roughly 2,330 acres which became the Wilder Ranch.  He built a large addition to the ranch house in 1990.  Five generations of the Wilder family lived and worked the ranch and in December 1975 the property became a State Park.

Wilder Ranch windowTom stops to take photos of some of the buildings and four horses in a field.  All is quiet except for bursts of bird song.  Thre is nobody else around.  A ranger turns up in a truck and starts checking and opening buildings and we spot two other visitors. This is a haven for mountain bikers because of the bike paths radiating from Wilder Ranch.  To the ocean side there are the easy ones on the buff top but there is a tunnel under Highway 1 which leads to a multitude of trails up to the mountains.  All bikers have to dismount and walk through the ranch.

I stand and watch the chickens who are safely caged up.  Maybe later in the day they will be allowed to wander free. The ranger parks nerarby and I ask her about the different bike trails.  She very kindly gave me a map.  We chat for a bit and she recounted a story about the chickens.  Early one morning she was nearby when she heard the chickens get excited.  She assumed it was because they saw her and thought they were going to be fed, so she ignored them.  Later she was devastated to find out that a bobcat had got into the hen house and outside run and had killed all the chickens bar one rooster.  The bobcat came back the next night and killed him too.

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The Embarcadero, San Francisco

At 6 we hit the road. It is light already but also cloudy and the rising sun is not visible. I don’tFerry Building, San Francisco know what makes this time of the morning so magical. The flowers look bright and fresh; the trees green and even the grass looks golden and not brown. Then we hit Highway 101 and nothing can make that freeway beautiful. Rank weeds and litter decorate the edges; numerous pylons tower within view; power lines are draped everywhere and idiot drivers abound. The state of the pavement is pretty good now, especially between Sunnyvale and San Mateo. There is always something interesting to catch the eye, like a new construction or the solar panels near Palo Alto. At Moffet Field the police stop the traffic for five minutes. When we eventually pass there was no sign of a wreck, just two vehicles pulled over and several police cars. At Millbrae there were flares laid down as they were cleaning the left shoulder.

As we approach the city, it is shrouded in fog. Parking in San Francisco is always a problem. With the bikes we could not park in a multi story and there are parking meters along all the main streets. In the end we found some street parking without parking meters at Brannan and Delancey. It is cold and there is a slight drizzle and here Tom is with his cycle shorts on. After our last cycle ride I took the precaution of wearing leggings on top of my cycle shorts. Ah well, here we go again!

Our ride starts on the The Embarcadero just to the south of the Bay Bridge. I asked Tom whether we could ride over the bridge but there is no bike lane on the section between the city and Yerba Buena Island although there will be one on the new section between the island and Oakland.

The Embarcadero sidewalk is wide and we are able to ride on it. Along the way there is much to be seen. We meander along, stopping frequently to gaze at something different – the fire boats moored at the end of a short peer; a small rowing boat tied up but barely afloat; the Bow and Arrow sculpture which is half shrouded while maintenance work is carried out and the Crouching Spider sculpture which replaced the two enormous females made out of scrap metal (we much prefered the latter).

We are both in need of a hot drink but the Java Coffee House is closed and padlocked. I hope it is because it is too early and not permanent. Two women and a boy walk towards us holding cups of coffee so we stop and ask where they’d got it from (the Ferry Building) and had an interesting chat. They were interested to know where we came from when they heard my accent.

Soon we hit the Ferry Building where it is a hive of activity with storeholders setting up for the farmers market which is held in the Ferry Plaza from 8 am to 2 pm every Saturday. Even though is it only 7.30 a lot of people are already busy buying the fresh produce. I guard the bikes while Tom goes into Peets and spent my time people watching.

Old pier along The EmbarcaderoWe sat on a bench looking out over the bay and the ferry terminal while we drank our coffee. Then we were on our way again, exploring each pier along the way.

Not so long ago the Ferry Building and the buildings on the piers were abandoned and dilapidated but a lot of work has been done to restore them. As we cycled past, we peered into windows. In one we spotted a series of color photos hung on a wall showing views of the old buildings.

A lot of fishermen were about and it appears to be a good day for fishing. We saw a recently caught, good sized, striped bass panting on the ground. The angler told us it would make a decent meal but I’m not so sure I would want to eat anything caught in the Bay, especially so soon after the recent oil spill.

Pier 3 is where the Hornblower Cruise ships are moored -the California Hornblower, the San Francisco Belle (a paddle boat) and the Santa Rosa – all huge but very different. The Santa Rose was sporting a big advert advertising three Dinner Wine Cruises, which look exciting.

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Strawberry Fields Forever

When I read about this cycle ride a few months ago, I was keen to take part. Now, at 6 am on the day, I am not so sure.

Strawberry Fields Forever is run by Cyclists for Cultural Exchange, a non profit organizationStrawberry field outside Watsonville whose ‘express purpose is to further peace and international understanding through exchanges between people with a common interest in cycling’ (straight quote taken from their website). It is centered around Watsonville which, as everybody knows, is the strawberry capital of the world. There are three routes being held – 25 miles, 100 kilometers and 100 miles. As we are comparatively novice rides, we plumped for the shortest route. It is described as ‘A nice loop through some beautiful coastal redwoods and apple orchards. Two short climbs. This is one for those just venturing forth on their first organized ride, or those with children in tow.’

The weather should be hot. Afterall we have endured three days of temperatures in excess of 100 degrees and today we are promised slightly cooler weather but we didn’t expect ‘slightly cooler’ to be below 50 degrees and extremely foggy to boot. We were not dressed for these cool conditions but we thought ‘what the heck’. Well that’s what I thought. Tom might have a different version.

A cold Margaret and foggy strawberry fields.The start was between 7 and 9 am from the Pajaro Valley High School and there we duly presented ourselves at 6.30 am. We came to the conclusion pretty quickly that we were seriously outclassed and that maybe the 25 milers didn’t start until later because all the other early arrivals had far superior equipment from their riding gear, go faster helmets and super duper bikes.

I expected a mass start but contrary to belief everybody could set off as soon as they had registered. Each route was marked by colored arrows on the pavement.

Soon after we set out, we were passed by a team of identically dressed riders and the leader asked if we were taking part in the 100 mile ride. I just laughed and replied ‘What, dressed like this?’ Before long we were on our own following the blue arrows. The red and yellow arrows were pointing a different way.

It was freezing and my hands were really cold because I have no gloves. Tom, bless his heart, gave me his to wear and instantly I was warmer.

The complete route was over roads. Now Tom and I have only ridden on cycle paths so getting used to cars and traffic lights was a novel and sometimes scary experience. Very soon though we were out in the country and both cars and signals were few and far apart.

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Upper Guadalupe River Trail and Los Alamitos Creek Trail

California PoppyThis must be the closest bike trail to home but we have never been on it. Today we will try it out.

We park the car on Blossom River Drive. The weather is a bit overcast but the sun does make a few appearances. There is a bit of a wind but it is not too bad.

The entrance to the Upper Guadalupe River Trail is on Blossom Hill Road and Blossom River Drive. We decided to go right first of all towards San Jose. The trail is fairly flat, paved and well marked but hardly used or at least we did not see too many people. It’s not as though we had our usual early start as it is now 10.15.

We follow a creek for a couple of hundred yards and then it widens out to a small lake. We take a sharp curve to the right and go round the lake and under Highway 85. There are a few water birds on the water and we even spotted a turtle.

Soon we passed the light rail station at the back of the Oakridge Mall but the trail petered out soon after that. There was a sign pointing down a residential street to the Highway 87 bike trail but we did not fancy riding along beside the freeway.

So we turned and headed back the way we came. I knew to the south it goes to Almaden Lake but was not sure if we can go further or whether that is a dead end as well. We will see.

It is a pleasant path with the view of the Santa Teresa Hills in front of us. The Guadalupe River is to our right and we see three anglers just setting up for a hard days fishing.

It was not too long before we came to Almaden Lake. I’ve driven past here on a sunny day when the place has been packed and it makes a convenient alternative to the ocean. Swimming is allowed in a small section at certain times of the year and there is plenty of sand around the edges to play in. There are other forms of amusement; paddle boats, horseshoe pits, children’s playgrounds, bocce ball courts and I’m sure there are more features as well. We passed several picnic areas. In one there was some activity so I guess there is going to be a private picnic here later on.

At one point we came to a gate across the path with construction on the other side but there isAlmaden Lake a detour through the car park. The trail rounded a bend and we found ourselves on the Alamitos Creek Trail and I must say we were very pleasantly surprised. We didn’t realize there was such a jewel so close to home.

The first part is a walking, biking and fitness trail and there were lots of walkers on it. It was nice to see so many families out for a Sunday walk.

What made the biggest impression on us was the beauty of the trail. The gently babbling creek to the side, the Santa Teresa Hills in the distance and the masses of wildflowers were all charming. The trail meanders close to houses but it still feels very rural. To help matters, the wind has dropped and the sun is shining. What a beautiful day. We passed Leland Senior High School and crossed Queenswood Way and as we weren’t sure how far the trail goes but we turned round opposite Swanswood Court. I have since learned that this trail finishes a bit further along but it joins the Calero Creek Trail.

Coyote Creek Parkway

Old farm tractor along Coyote Creek Parkway Last weekend we went to Woodland for our family Easter reunion, so no post.

Yesterday we decided it was time to overhaul the bikes and today is our first bike ride of the year.

Coyote Creek Parkway is almost on our doorstep and it is 15 miles long. As we did not have far to go, we had breakfast at home, hence no post to the breakfast log.

The weather was a bit overcast first thing but the sun peeked out on our short drive to our starting point at Parkway Lakes. We intended to start from Riverside Drive off Monterey Road but we couldn’t find it. We decided to start in the middle of the cycle path instead of attempting the whole round trip of 30 miles. At 9.15 we pointed our bikes to the south and set off. Although there were a few cars and trailers around, we saw no boats on the water. Maybe it is too early in the day for the water skiers.

Soon we were passing the gently humming pylons at the PG&E substation. On the right is an ugly power generating station which is quite a blot on the landscape,

The cycle path is well marked and there are warnings and stop signs when the path crosses several minor roads. There are quite a few fellow cyclists around, mostly our age but there were some dedicated cyclists with all the proper gear and one or two family groups. After crossing a wooden bridge and a road we ride along Coyote Ranch Road for a short distance and pass a field where there were several horses. This is the edge of Coyote Ranch where they hold corporate picnics and employee days out.

We came to a sign which warned to look out for flooding. As we have not had much rain recently I was not expecting to see any water but we had to ride through a shallow ford across the path. I bet it’s much deeper after rain.

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Alviso, California

If you want to be far from the maddening crowd, head for Alviso. This small town, at the south end of San Francisco Bay, used to be a bustling port until the San Franciso to San Jose railroad opened in 1865. Now the marinas are silted up and all that remains are the entrances to the docks and lots of weeds.

Alviso itself is a sleepy little town with the railroad running through it and several good Mexican restaurants. A lot of the new houses are built on stilts because this place has flooded several times. The last major flood was in 1958. Since then the sloughs and creeks have been improved so hopefully it won’t happen again.

The Marina car park has had a face lift recently and it is much improved. More footpaths, information boards and seats. This is an important wetlenad area with several large salt ponds. There are always a lot of marsh birds to be seen – American Avocets, Black-necked Sandpipers and Plovers. (Once Tom and I saw a Black Skimmer here but that was very unusual.) They nest on the levees and in the sedges, salt grass, rushes and cordgrass. Around the salt ponds are levees which are ideal for walking and cycling. You can go for miles and miles and see very few people.

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