November 27, 2009

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Co-Op Ride Friday: The LONG Mt Hamilton Loop

Mines Rd, after it becomes 2 lanes again.

Comments: Barring the short jaunt John and I made, mentioned in last week’s Ride Friday, this was the first time we’ve gotten to go on a real ride together. It was certainly a learning experience for the both of us. Google Maps say the section between Livermore and San Jose is 65+ miles and about 1 hr 45mn. I figured we’d probably take 2 to 2.5 hours since we’d take our sweet time and stop for the occasional photo op. Since we were riding in from elsewhere in the Bay, we stopped at Point A for food (In-N-Out is tasty) and fuel. By about 12:30 PM, we were off and running. Once you make the turn onto Mines Rd from Mines Rd (be careful not to stay on Del Valle Rd), it gets into the twisties fairly quickly which is just fine with me. I realized quickly that it might be a slightly longer ride for me than I expected because of John’s cruiser. My BMW might not be a sport bike, but it has the lineage so it can eat the corners fairly well. The cruiser on the other hand was made for cruising, not peg scraping. I led the entire time, but it was good to have John along because it forced me to slow down and wait from time to time, rather than doing the “Bat out of hell” thing I’m apt to do.

John’s cruiser.

Shortly into the ride, Mines Rd becomes one lane, though fairly wide in most parts. There wasn’t much traffic for us, barring one large group of old Porche/Mini things, so it was just fine with me. It was also at this point I realized something else was wrong with our ride. The speed limit in this section was 45 MPH, and that just wasn’t possible with all the turns. The only way you could maintain the speed limit would be to have the road closed for you and be driving a Lambo. At least getting a ticket wasn’t a concern (not that I saw any cops).

  • Please do not actually lick the observatory.

After many miles, Route 130 joins in and the road officially becomes Route 130/San Antonio Valley Rd. The first portion of it is very cool. You’re out in this random valley (San Antonio Valley) that has a bunch of farms and a nice gentle country road. Eventually, it starts to get windy again and you start to climb the foot of Mt Hamilton. In general it isn’t too bad, but right close to the top it becomes a series of hair pin turns. The top of the mountain isn’t much to write home about in my book. There are several observatories up there, and it probably has a very good view of the area, unfortunately smog mucks up most of the view. If you were to go up there on a very clear day, I’m sure the view would be stunning.

Hazy view off of Mt Hamilton

Then, heading down the hill, this is where I got cranky. The first 5 miles (I think) were miserable. The roads are tiny narrow (much of the 1 lane road section of Mines Rd was wider), there is a fair amount of traffic (for a mountain road) and there is dirt, rocks, and gravel EVERYWHERE. This is when John really enjoyed being behind me, as I found all the god damn gravel for him. Taking a hair pin turn, downhill (my least favorite), through gravel… is my definition of NOT FUN. Needless to say, I was very excited when we got out of that and the road returned to a winding country road. We got into San Jose, and I was never so happy to see a freeway. Oh, it was also after 4:30 PM. Yes, our “1 hour 45 minute” ride according to Google was OVER FOUR HOURS. OMFG IT WAS SOOOOO LONG. Yes, we stopped, but total stopped time is safely less than 30 minutes.

In conclusion, the ride is enjoyable (for the most part) and I’m very glad we did it, but I felt zero urge to take the motorcycle out the next day (or the several days after that). I’d much prefer spending 4 hours on a bike and traveling 250 miles, at least that way I feel like I’ve accomplished something. So if you too want to make this ride, allot the entire afternoon. If you’re going solo and on a sports bike, you’ll make much better time than us, I’m sure.

Though if you make this ride, or have done so previously, leave a note. I’m curious what others think of it.