Bay Area

East Bay Fun

Inertia is a very powerful thing. Because I am used to the Santa Cruz Mountains and love the ocean, I very rarely ride out in the East Bay. On top of that, I’ve never really been particularly fond of Mount Hamilton nor Sierra Road. Mount Hamilton is a slow technical ride. The road quality isn’t that great and there’s tons of idiots on the road there. Sierra Road I rode a very long time ago. The weather was cruddy at the time and I just remember not having fond memories of it. After a number of group rides on the west side, I figured it was time to go over to the East Bay. I took a pass on Mount Hamilton, and decided to track north towards Mount Diablo.

We started fairly far south in San Jose at none other than Sierra Road. What a difference weather, experience, and a day makes. The pavement was great and Sierra road has wonderful views of San Jose as you climb the hills. There’s a fairly short stretch around the back where the pavement gets really tight. It’s only a lane wide and there’s no room for error. Fortunately there were no cars around and was an easy ride north. Sierra road turns into Felter Road and it’s an equally good ride on the backside of the mountains. The turn for Calaveras is easy to miss and we did. Even though there was this rather large sign saying it was closed.
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We all agreed we would ride Calaveras as far as we could and if it was closed we would U-turn and come back down to Felter Road for plan B.

I was having my new found luck with Sierra and Felter road and hoped that luck would have turned into Calaveras, but I still didn’t like it. There’s tons of bicycles, its very narrow for an extended length, and they’re crud on the road.
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After hitting a nice patch of gravel on Felter Road, I felt the bike jump from under me and my confidence was shaken. Calaveras was a slow ride to the north. Fortunately the closure was only Monday through Friday. I didn’t want to ride it twice. It was smooth sailing up to Interstate 580. The reservoir looks to be in good shape despite the little rain we had this year.
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Once crossing over 580 the heat was getting to us. Although it was mid to late April the temperature was already over 90. I drank a quarter water flat. The other guys were equally thirsty as well.

Currently I was thinking we could get sandwiches rather than stop at Pete’s, but I found out we had one additional rider who is going to meet us at the restaurant. So, we took Palomares to continue the journey north. Palomares is one road I really do enjoy. It’s fun and technical but not mischievous. Palomares rolls into Redwood which then turns in to Pinehurst Road. The GPS got us lost not by its error, but we keyed in one of the waypoints incorrectly. The stop was on a side street and not the main road. A quick correction brought us to the north of Walnut Creek and a short jaunt down 680 brought us to Pete’s Brass Rail and Car Wash.
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I have always enjoyed Pete’s Brass Rail and try to frequent the restaurant when I’m in town. They have a number of beers on tap and the food is pretty good!. We got a spot on the patio and it was fun to enjoy the afternoon with the sun in the breeze.

Pete’s Brass Rail and Car Wash (C is average. No grade inflation here):

Category Score Comments
Seating B I’m always a sucker for a nice patio. The seating was a bit tight, but comfortable.
Atmosphere B+ With the amount of beers on tap it’s easy to think pub, but it feels more like a microbrewery to me.
Wait Staff A+ The place was packed, but the host got us a nice spot for us (and gear) on the patio. The waitress was super cool too.
Food A They rocked sweet potato fries (and curly fries). We all had chicken sandwiches and were not disappointed.
Value C The prices were comparable to market.
Overall A- A clear winner here. A great spot to eat when in the north east bay.

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I had to do a little bit of coaxing to the others as the Park service is really raising their fees. When I moved here it was only two dollars to get into the park now it’s ten. That is a 500% increase in 10 years. That feels little steep to me. Nonetheless we all went in the Park service got its $50 out of us. The trick to enjoying Mount Diablo State Park is hitting it when the rest of the world’s not there. Given that it was a nice Sunday afternoon I was hoping for the best and was actually pleasantly surprised. There were a fair number of cars out, but passing was pretty easy. The road is also in good condition and provides enough technical challenge to be interesting.

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Once we got to the top, I was disappointed to find out that the observation deck was closed. “They” say you can see more of Northern California from Mount Diablo than any other place. So, we walked around the gift shop got some water, look at the view to the west, and took some pictures. I wanted to find a way to see the view to the east but it looks like I would have to do some hiking. Nobody in the group was headed back to San Jose so I took the opportunity to say good bye to them and start hiking.

The number of bugs around the park was truly astounding. Climbing and descending the mountain on the motorcycle there was one section where literally you were covered in bugs. Fortunately, the hike was below that altitude. I can’t remember the name of the trail but it goes around the circumference of the mountain just below the tower. The views to the east were spectacular!
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Spring was in full color! These flowers were beautiful.
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The hills were deep green is well.
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Being so high you can see cities tucked in the rolling hills.
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Also, there is this one section of forest a trail that looks very cool!
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Riding down the mountain was interesting because I wanted to take photos of the road.
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However, there weren’t very many places to pull off and those that were were quite soft.
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I need to burn some time because I wanted to see the sunset over San Jose. The Easter ride was really fun seeing the sun rise. This morning when coming out over Sierra road I figured it would be pretty to see the sun set there. It was about 6 o’clock and I needed to burn an hour or so before getting down to San Jose. I remember the Sunol Jazz Café as a tucked away treasure. I decided to stop there for dinner. A mixed experience, but glad I did.

Sunol Jazz Cafe (C is average. No grade inflation here):

Category Score Comments
Seating C+ Funky… some chairs, some sofas, a bean bag or two.
Atmosphere C Nothing really spelled charm here. The place seemed more functional than anything else.
Wait Staff C- The staff wasn’t really all that welcoming. The two dogs that were in the cafe seemed happy to welcome the lonely stranger.
Food A+ The pizza was amazing. The ingredients were fresh and the taste was out of this world. The fresh Parmesan cheese on the top was an extra perk.
Value C $16 for a personal pizza and a can of coke seems high to me. That being said the food was awesome. Well worth it.
Overall B- I’d go back based on food and location, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

 

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It was so warm that day even the the dogs were passed out or looking for some easy food!
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After dinner, I found my way back to Calaveras, then Felter, then Sierra. I always love riding through the golden hours: the hour surrounding sunrise and sunset. The yellow in the sunlight really brings out colors in the surrounding area.
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One of the things I really like about Sierra Road was the stark contrast between the rural and the urban settings.
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Sitting atop the mountain you can see grasslands and then just over the hill urban sprawl. I found a little spot where couple others were gathered to see the sunset. I’m not as pretty as the sunrise, it was pretty darn close.

As the sun sets:

7:44:42 pm
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7:46:55 pm
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7:47:38 pm
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7:47:48 pm
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7:47:56 pm
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7:48:03 pm
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7:48:10 pm
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7:49:01 pm
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Categories: Bay Area

1 reply »

  1. Brilliant, Dan! Sierra is right in my backyard and I really love taking people up ther for the first time. Glad you got to experience a little of the magic! 🙂

    Like

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