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Arnold To Palo Alto

July 25, 2005

Start Time 04:05
End Time 17:28
Total Time: 13 hours 23 minutes
Pedaling Time: 11 hours 13 min
Distance:  174 Miles
Avg Speed: 15.47 mph

Trip High Temperatures:  Stockton 99 F, Tracy 99 F, Livermore 94 F

Trip Notes

Arnold 4:05 am:
A good effort was made to avoid the heat of the central valley.  Two days prior temperatures reached a high of 105 F.  It would be preferable to have sun light on the descent of the western slope and in particular Parrots Ferry Road, but it was more critical to be through the valley as soon as possible.  Fortunately there was a near full moon and a clear sky.  I reached Columbia at daybreak and had only to contend with a few semi trucks on the climbing portion of Parrots Ferry Road.  Jamestown road proved a very good ride with no traffic at all this early in the morning.  I stopped very briefly for the second time at Jamestown to fill my water bottle.  (For future reference just one bottle till Jamestown unless it is really hot - then fill up there!).  Highway 108 was busy, but mostly had a good shoulder and mostly downhill.

Knights Ferry is a very pretty spot, and it had a caffe open with espresso and drinks.  Do stop here momentarily at least as the next spot to stop French Camp is hours away.  I understand that they have a couple of bed and breakfasts.  Apparently they do a fair amount of tourism, weddings, and host bicyclists for such a small town.  Old Sonora road is a fantastic ride. No cars, no trucks, but somehow the few times I have been on this road I have seen people hiking it or jogging or riding horses in one of the adjacent fields.  Old Sonora road ends at Eugene, a town with a general store and a school house both undoubtedly in operation no less than 50 years ago.  Unfortunately, old Sonora road does not go on to Farmington as it once did.  There is a reservoir now crossing its path and although you can still see the road from the Farmington side there is no evidence of it at Eugene.  As this reservoir apparently is only used for flooding, so I don't see why a bike path couldn't be constructed in its place.  It would probably be usable 8 plus months of the year.  As it is Dobbs road is your only year around alternative, but that is a terribly busy road with little shoulder.  Highway 4 is worse.  As I mentioned Highway 108 is very busy (and has variable shoulder) at this spot as well. So a short bike path through or around  the Farmington Reservoir or flood wall or whatever it is supposed to be would be an ideal bridge to bike or hike all over this country.  Fortunately, Carter road, with a 2 mile dirt stretch near Eugene is pretty good.  Just at the Farmington end there are a couple of tricky (as in slippery) hills to climb.  Going primarily West with a couple of  zigzags South I got to French Camp Road just at Jack Tone.  (Jack Tone is last navigatable North/South road so as long as you go primarily West and don't get on 'to Stockton' roads such as Miraposa Road you will get to French Camp Road in an optimal route).

On French Camp within spitting distance of highway 99, I got my first and only flat.  Otherwise I was making good time with a riding average of nearly 20 mph and had thus far accrued less than 20 minutes of resting time.  This was important as it was heating up pretty fast by now.  It was also where the always present headwind started to become quite noticeable. French camp could almost be a nice little old historically significant outpost, but it is not.  They have no water, its a little too rundown, and barred over.  What is it that they cook their food in if their water is non-potable?  Never mind.  They will succumb soon anyways to the urban sprawl that is the new San Joaquin Valley.  From French Camp it was easy to find Mathews Blvd ( and it changes names but bearing slightly left Howard it is easy to keep a good westward track).  It started to get hot and my feet began to get really tired.  After a left on Tracy Blvd and essentially very little traffic cross a couple of rivers, then West on Lammers Road and it will eventually drop you off at Grant Line road without actually entering Tracy.  Grant line jogs a little bit North at Byron to reveal the only tree lined little road in this whole valley.  Or at least it did because I drove by the wreaking crew taking out the last of the old oak trees.  Did I mention recently that it was very hot and I was very tired.  I stopped at Mountain House the last establishment (besides a soon to be open golf course) before the Altimont Pass.  This was also not pretty.  This place also does not have potable tap, no coffee,  I almost felt bad asking for ice to go with my drink and bottled water!  I new of the limited offerings of the Mountain House Bar having stopped there once before, but I believe that it had a new owner now and a new attitude.  While I stopped I was the only one there and yet I felt as though I was taxing the hospitality.  Boy it was nice to get out of the heat for a few minutes at least, but next time I may just wait till I get to the new golf course.

Climbing Altimont was tough.  I was glad to see the rail road tracks near the summit and ever more glad to discover a small slightly shaded park on the frontage road just before Vasco Avenue.  I could barely stomach half the French Camp burrito the most solid of my food so far at this point, but I did have a most wonderful brainstorm of an idea.  The sprinklers were on so I got myself plenty wet.  The most wonderful thing about bike clothes is that they really don't feel much less comfortable when damp so I could just skip the middle step of having to sweat a lot and every couple of miles dribble a few milliliters of water on myself from my bottle.  The evaporation worked wonders especially with the dry heat and the headwinds that had picked up quite a bit by then.  Livermore and Pleasanton went by fairly quickly for the temperature being mid nineties.  I don't know why I didn't start doing this much earlier.  It didn't take any more than a couple of mini-mart and another water stop to get home.  Notable was how quite and pretty Foothill Road and the Bike path next to the city of Niles were and how terrible Niles Canyon Road is due to the heavy traffic and marginal at times shoulders.  It did not help that I was pretty tired by this time and I hit it near the heavy commute period.  One trailer truck trailer came way to close, I moved way over for the truck to pass, then nothing, nothing, nothing...  Finally, the driver started to pass just as the road narrowed and the oncoming traffic got heavier.  Had I my wits about me I would have taken the center of the lane again (or had I known there was a wandering trailer behind this big truck ) and kept it from passing right then.  Also, had I been cooler and more rested I could have avoided Niles Canyon altogether at that time of day and climbed the back side of Calaveras Road to get into the Bay Area.  As I mentioned the bike path along the creek at Niles to the San Francisco Bay was great but deserted

It was a wonderful trip, and I got back in time to join my friends in our Monday pickup soccer and then a trip to the pub afterwards.  I sincerely wish that small critical sections of bike path could be constructed, like on old Sonora Road and Niles Canyon.  It would make this ride and thousands of others much safer.

Pre Trip Notes

The following information was taken from various map sources and personal observations and odometer readings on my bicycle and in an automobile.  Perhaps its just that I have ridden these little roads many times, but the level of detail below did not seem was not very useful.  In the end I did the trip map less and without taking these notes with me.

Mountain House is a roadside bar situated at the bottom of Altimont Pass Road.  It has drinks, no coffee, no tap water.

Arnold to Mountain House

0          Cabin at Arnold alt. 4250 ft, hwy 4 (alternative Sheep Ranch Road Avery-Murphys is both long and I would worry about the automobile traffic )
9.5       Murphys, 2000 ft ( steep downgrade)
13.2    Parrots Ferry Rd
18.5    New Melonies Res. Bridge (very steep and straight downgrade)
23.4    Columbia ( difficult climb and most dangerous section of road (no better alternatives) )
29.0   (mi - 2-4) Sonora, once you reach hwy 49 its bad in sections, but fortunately short.  Look for a side road, Columbia road, I think to mitigate a little bit of it.
52.6   Knights Ferry, Hwy 108, easiest miles a gentle downward slope, good road shoulder, hopefully not too much traffic.  Last services!
55.1    Sonora Rd turns out of town.  Very quiet road here.  Expect to encounter negligible amount of traffic.
65.6    Eugene, Sonora road turns into 26 Mile road, passed some miles back a dirt road by this name !?
68        Carter Road (best direction to go but dirt and impassible, perhaps ok in summer)
70        Dodds Road is industrial and without a shoulder but may be best alternative
76.5    Escellon-Belato Road (can skip at least 3 mi of Dodds Rd adding at most 2 more with a notch up S Henry Road to Carter (paved here))
80        Skiff Road (left from Carter, right from Dodds, guess on the millage a bit).
85        Maripossa Rd (busy but good  road)alternative, save a mile and better road  take S Jack Tone Road to French Camp Road (also Collage Town might have mini market!)
92        Austin Road  (loop over tracks)
97        French Camp Road
103     French Camp City,  Finally Services!
104     Howard Ave (then fork left)
114     Tracy Blvd
119     Lammers Road
123     Grant Line Road (must turn left to stay on this road)
131     Mountain House

Sunol to Mountain House

        NE    Railroad Ave               .16
s       N       Foothill Road              .22
r       ENE Castlewood Dr           3.53
l       ENE Pleasonton Sunol       3.8
r       NNE Sunol Blvd                   3.9
r       NE    1st                       5.12           pleasonton
r       E       Vineyard             5.81
l       N       Isabel Ave          9.74
r       E       Alden Ln             10
...     ENE
l       N       Arryo Ave           12.4
r       E       7th                       13.4           downtown livermore
        E       East Ave            14
l       N       S Vasco Rd                16.4
r       E       CR2063 Paterson Pass Rd 17.1
l       NNW          North Midway              27.3                    outside tracy

Avoiding Tracy and hwy 205
Grant line Road is accessible by both Patterson and Old Altimont passes.  Altimont is easier, but busy with truck traffic due to a dump.  Patterson is the highest of the three passes including 580, but a spectacular view and low traffic.  

Grant line at

0 mi Big Mountain (1 bar town, new housing development no other services?)  turns east and going to Tracy. 
8 mi brings you into west tracy, cut around by taking Lammer north, at
12.5 mi you run into Tracy Blvd in the farm country, taking a left you avoid the city
17.5 mi Howard Road permits you to travel due east 
27.5 mi Howard is now W Mathew road and you have avoided Tracy entirely.  Enter the small town and now suburb of Stockton French Camp

French Camp Road SE will bring you to Jack Tone road, a slight shortcut would be to N, NE on South Austin Road and Mariposa,
Another Shortcut would be to  stay on Mariposa until you fork onto East Gawane, until it ends at Escalon Bellota, jog right to Carter, Left on East Sonora (twenty six mile road), right at approximately 1 mi brings you to Eugene and keeps you on Sonora road.  I wonder how many of these are gravel?

 [The following comes entirely from maps and has proved quite unreliable, both in road names and road status.  The Army Core of Engineers has built an empty reservoir (perhaps for flood prevention?) at Farmington breaking Sonora Road.  Carter would be a good detour except it is dirt and flooded in the winter.   Dobbs has to be it, but it does not appear to be that good of a road, narrow with traffic.]

East San Joaquin to the Sierra's 

The closest foothill town is Jamestown, but it only is only 36 mi from Arnold.   A nice place to stop but perhaps two far for day one and too close for day two.  
Sierra climb section
0 mi Farmington, little hwy 4 town with general store. Sonora road visible sign just east of town, mapquest puts this road half way to Esselon 5 mi south.
13 mi Eugene (the middle of nowhere?), have no idea about road conditions or services, probably none
23 mi Knights Ferry (the middle of nowhere @ hwy 108), there are a couple of occasionally open bars or restaurants on 108, perhaps this is one of them
41 mi Jamestown, foothill town and relatively big city, butts up to Sonora
approximately lake level
53 mi Columbia, upper foothill and relatively big town, but may not have cheap hotel
down to the lake and back up 
65 mi Murphy, relatively big upper foothill town
77 mi Arnold

End of Pre Trip Notes

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