Check out this short video of Joe Shami during one of his weekly rides up Mt. Diablo.. Joe Shami on Mt. Diablo
By Joseph C. (Joe) Shami
I’m still an avid cyclist, even though I’m 81 years old. To cope with my addiction, I cycle once a week from home in Lafayette to the summit of Mt Diablo, the highest peak in the San Francisco Bay Area at 3849 feet. The total distance varies from a low of 38 miles, round trip, to a high of 44 miles, depending on whether I go up Northgate in Walnut Creek or Southgate in Danville, and which one I choose to descend. The total climbing is over 4200’.
On SuperBowl Sunday, February 7. 2016, I left home at 7 a.m. to attempt Consecutive Week 399, which would make 7 years and 35 weeks without a missed week. It would be a routine day, I thought, and afterwards, I would have the pleasure of watching the much-hyped match between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers in my exhausted state. (In case you didn’t know, Denver won.)
According to all the weather forecasts, it would be a near-record 72 degrees in Levi Stadium, Santa Clara, at game time at 3:30 pm with a wind of only 10 mph. There would be similar weather and records throughout the Bay Area.
I rose at 5 a.m. and immediately checked the weather at the mountain’s summit by accessing the website:
http://mesowest.utah.edu/cgi-bin/droman/meso_base.cgi?stn=SJS02&unit=0&time=LOCAL&product=&year1=&month1=&day1=00&hour1=00&hours=&graph=0&past=0 . The current reading said that the wind was gusting to 63 mph!
Until recently, the weather station seemed to get knocked out of action if the wind gusted over 60 mph. In fact, the station was “broken” for several weeks during the recent Xmas/New Year period because a storm had interrupted the Internet connection and the software didn’t know how to recover.
I wondered if the measurement at 5 a.m. was accurate. I kept checking till I left at 7 am; the warning was consistent and dire.
I hadn’t cycled since the previous Tuesday. Furthermore, I had pulled an arm muscle last Thursday while hiking with the Sierra Club and slipping on a very muddy Selby Trail in Tilden Park. So I had been totally inactive for three days while trying to heal and was restive to get back on my bike.
It was a chilly 40 degrees when I left home, dropping to 39 at the base of Northgate. I was warmly dressed in layers and expected to feel better when the sun poked through the clouds. But although I had a cell phone, I no longer had access to the website to find out what was happening on the mountain.
When the bright, low sun finally appeared a half-hour later, it was blinding, but the temperature remained at 39 for what seemed like the longest time until after I had entered the State Park and begun my routine climb. Cyclists were passing me, as they always do – I’m the slowest climber – and I told them of the 63-mph gusts at the summit at 5 a.m. No-one changed his or her plan with that new information. Many automobiles were passing me, heading for the hike that would start at 8:30 or 9 a.m. somewhere on the mountain.
I had a thermometer on my handlebars. Suddenly, it moved from 39 to 41 and shortly thereafter to 43; then it jumped to 47 and quickly to 57. As I heated up, I stopping frequently to remove clothing – first the balaclava, then a wind breaker, then winter gloves, etc. (I was carrying a knapsack which was filling rapidly.)
Getting started again was painful each time because of my incompletely healed, left arm muscle. Cyclists and cars were passing me. It was going to be a busy day on the mountain because everyone seemed to think that the Santa Clara weather applied to Mt. Diablo too.
Then I noticed something unusual. There was a larger than normal number of cyclists and cars coming downhill to exit the mountain. It was unusual to see that at such an early time, 8:45 a.m. I attributed the cause to the SuperBowl, i.e., people had obligations for later in the day so had to finish early.
As I reached 2-1/2 road miles inside the State Park and had climbed about 700 feet, the wind became noticeably stronger on exposed turns. I had tackled gusts of up to 37 mph near the summit, so I was hoping that with the warm sun, the wind would subside to a manageable level.
It didn’t! The higher I climbed, the fiercer the wind blew! My wheels have bladed spokes, i.e., flat spokes that are wider than ordinary circular spokes. While this helps speed and cornering, it’s a liability in crosswinds, because the blades act like sails. My wheels were being buffeted; my handlebars were fighting me; I could be pushed off the side of the road. I began to cycle in the center for safety and would move over only when a car or bike wanted to pass.
I reached a familiar landmark, Diablo Ranch, at 4.65 road miles from the Northgate entrance. This private ranch is built at a protected location where the fog is usually either above or below it. Today, I had to pause there because the entrance was so exposed to the gusts.
I got a little bit further by cycling between gusts but it was getting very scary because I didn’t have control of my handlebars. Also, the stopping and starting was painful for my injured arm. I began to think that I might turn around at the Ranger Station at the Junction of Northgate and Southgate roads at 6.4 miles from the Northgate entrance. (It’s another 4.5 steeper miles from there to the summit on Summit Rd.)
I now recognized that some of the cars and cyclists who were descending were those who had passed me not too long ago.
When I reached an exposed 5.3 miles, with an altitude that I guessed to be about 1800 feet, I conceded defeat and decided to turn around. I had never done that before in the previous 398 attempts!
But descending wasn’t going to be easy either. With a huge tailwind pushing me downhill, I was moving faster than my brakes could slow me on those sharp, steep curves. Occasionally, I would have to put a foot down and pause.
While pausing, I was passed by a cyclist in an Eagle Cycling Club jersey. Earlier, I had seen him stopped uphill while I was descending. So he too had given up. He was descending slower than I would like, but I decided to follow him down at his speed. I really appreciated having human company in my tussle with nature.
We descended all the way together. The lower the altitude, the gentler the wind. Near the exit from the State Park, we chatted briefly. Then he went to retrieve his car, which was parked near the bottom of the mountain, while I continued on to my favorite sandwich shop in Walnut Creek, A Sweet Affair Bakery, where I could pause and regain my strength for the ride home. Surprisingly, the wind was not a factor in Walnut Creek or Lafayette. At most, it was 10 mph. One would never know what was happening above.
Soon after arriving home, I checked the Mt. Diablo weather website. I was genuinely surprised to learn that the wind at the summit at the time I gave up – about 9 to 9:15 a.m. – was 61 or 62 mph, gusting to as high as 73 mph. While it may have been lower at an altitude of 1800’, it was still too much for an old man on a bicycle. I wasn’t too upset with myself for not trying to continue. I live to try another day.
I have six more days in the week to try again to complete Consecutive Week 399. Despite all the effort and challenge, this ride doesn’t enter into my count. But after a night’s sleep, I had to document my unusual experience.
Our Wednesday ride often splits into two or more groups, depending on destination and pace, and usually this occurs after a regroup at the top of Redwood Rd. This past Wednesday, the group was split by a much more dramatic event, a falling tree! The cycling gods were smiling on us, because riders descended Redwood Rd in two groups, rather than the usual one long string. I was in the second group, and about half way down we encountered a large oak tree that had fallen across the road.
Actually, most of the tree was along side the road, but a LARGE branch was blocking both lanes. The good news was that the branch was broken, and several of the VeloRaptors were able to pull one end of the branch toward the opposite side of the road, creating a space where a car could get through.
While clearing the road, some of us started to wonder about the riders in the earlier group. They weren’t that far in front of us, maybe a minute. We encountered Dennis in Moraga, and asked if he had trouble getting past the tree. He replied ‘What tree?’ A bit later we encountered Bill, Russ and Geoff in Orinda, just as they were leaving, and again mentioned the tree. They responded ‘Tree?’ Well, at least this explained why we were so far behind!
Joan Gallagher here (I’m a relatively new VR member and know many of you from the Wednesday rides). I’m writing to give you information about the Bike East Bay Hazard Reporting service. Sally Goodman asked that I serve as a liaison between the VeloRaptors and Bike East Bay to improve our ability to get our road hazards fixed. I will work with Tom Willging who is on the Bike East Bay board and who is the official VeloRaptor liaison to Bike East Bay.
I realize that many of you are already familiar with Bike East Bay, but may not be familiar with the hazard reporting process. For those of you who aren’t, please review the information below:
Bike East Bay volunteers report road hazards to the responsible jurisdictions in Alameda & Contra Costa Counties, including any hazards reported via BikeEastBay.org. They also liaise with local cycling groups – Grizzly Peak Cyclists, Oakland Yellow Jackets, Bike Walnut Creek, Albany Strollers & Rollers, Cherry City Cyclists etc–and now the VeloRaptors–as they often have local contact knowledge that helps them gain access to the right Public Works or city staff.
In the case of Oakland, a monthly report of the Top Ten potholes (most hazardous to bicyclists) is submitted. Several years ago, after lobbying Oakland Public Works for more action resulting from their hazard reports, they were able to get OPW to commit to fixing ten per month. The volunteers are very vigilant to making sure that OPW follows up on their commitments. They don’t see that many Oakland potholes reported each month on their hazards site, so SeeClickFix (more info below) is checked to fill their allotment.
Hazards include more than just potholes, though we all probably experience the most frustration from them. Other hazards include traffic signals that don’t sense bicyclists (older intersections with “loops” are the worst); debris in the bike lane or shoulder (think Grizzly Peak Blvd) overgrowth blocking travel or line of sight (Bay Trail in Albany is a constant problem) and a myriad of other hazards such as regular double-parking, drain grates, poor bike lane striping, hazardous railroad crossings, etc.
If you see a hazard, please feel free to contact me directly at VeloRaptors@gmail.com and I will submit it to the Committee and keep you apprised of its status. You can also submit your complaint directly to this link: https://bikeeastbay.org/node/add/hazard
Other helpful links:
For an example, check out that link for the report on Debra Dryden’s South Park crash last September.
SeeClickFix This is also a good app for reporting road hazards. The limitation is that it is designed to address a wider range of concerns (including, but not limited to homeless issues, graffiti, etc). Bike-related complaints may not necessarily be their highest priority.
Don’t hesitate to contact me or report something because you think it might have already been reported. And it’s often useful to take a picture to document the exact location.
Once again, the VeloRaptors kicked-off our support of the BORP Revolution ride with our annual BikeWash and Barbeque in June. The event was held at Randy’s and Christina’s home and put on by your team chefs of Randy, Steve Blair, and Steve Goldenberg. The bike wash team included Dennis Cathey, Kevin McTighe, Greg Thomas, and Randy. Once again, the side dishes and desserts everyone brought made the event a smorgasbord enjoyed by all.
On Saturday September 26th, the VeloRaptors were well represented in the BORP (Bay Area Outreach Recreation Program) 2015 Revolution ride. Members of our team participated in the 65, 45, and 25 mile rides. Our riders included: Steve Goldenberg, Steve Blair, Randy Mellin, Fred Morse, Barbara and Larry DiCostanzo Charlie Klinedinst, Tom Willging, Kathy Tate, and three VeloRaptors BORP Adaptive cyclists: Jorge Alvarado, Beth Smith, and Kate Woodford.
The ride explores the scenic Sonoma wine country around Healdsburg.
Through your generosity, and the family/friends of our riders, we raised a record $14,874. Overall, the BORP Revolution ride raised just over $200,000 this year, which makes this annual Revolution ride the largest BORP fund raising activity by far. These funds are greatly needed for BORP to continue providing their many worthwhile programs for disabled children and adults. To read a short summary of the BORP ride and see a few pictures, please visit www.borp.org.
I am also sharing the link of the video I produced with my friend Ryan last year showcasing the BORP 2014 Ride.
So, from your BORP 2015 VeloRaptors team, a hearty thanks for your support and for your contributions to BORP. Everyone’s SUPPORT is important!
R4R Ride for a Reason – Oakland to Sacramento (110 mi)
Oakland to Mt. Diablo – Out and Back (70 mi)
San Raphael – Tomales – Pt Reyes loop
Livermore Valley loop
San Jose – Mt. Hamilton
Fearless Post-Ride Lament:
Fearless: Got time for ‘recovery drink’ ? I’m waiting by YMCA entry rd.
Ride Leader: Sorry, just got your message. Couldn’t make it today – maybe next time
Fearless: No recovery drink for 3rd Sat Rides ! No bad food, alcohol and social opportunities ? Shocked !
Shocked I am !
(Now smooth Motown sounds)
Please Ride Leader, Plan for me
Bad food, alcohol, Social opportunity
Please look and see, Been waiting so patiently
Bad food, alcohol, Social opportunity
Please, Please, Please