Thursday, April 23, 2015

My First Century

It was 1989, my thoughts were short, my hair was long; caught somewhere between a boy and man. Oh wait, that’s not right. But I was headed for northern Michigan.
Map of Michigan
It was 1986; I was just graduating from college in the slowly dying city of Flint, Michigan. My girlfriend at the time suggested the idea of riding the DALMAC bicycle ride from Lansing to the Mackinac Bridge. I said “sure, why not”. DALMAC stands for Dick Allen, the congressman who created the ride, Lansing and the Mackinac bridge. Growing up, it was simply “the bridge” to me although it’s alternately called “Big Mac” or “Mighty Mac” and is the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Michigan, take your right hand with your palm facing you – that’s a map of Michigan. Approximately in the lower-middle of your hand is where Lansing is, the state capitol, and the home of Michigan State University. On top of your middle finger is the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced “Mackinaw” trust me). If you take your left hand, palm facing you again, with your thumb up and the tip of your pinky finger almost touching the middle finger of your right hand, now you've also got a map of the upper peninsula (“yupers” live there, or “U.P.-ers” …if you’re a yuper, then us “down-state” people are trolls because we live below the bridge). The bridge connects to the two peninsulas. Generally speaking, the fingers on your right hand is the area called "northern Michigan" because the "upper peninsula" is the Upper Peninsula.

As a recent graduate, I was 22 years old - a legal adult but not yet possessing a fully-developed frontal lobe. As such, I was still prone to questionable choices and failure to consider reasonable consequences. Unlike most recent college graduates, I had money. That is thanks to the nature of the college I went to and the full-time co-op requirement that gave me a salary all the way through. But basically, I was still a college kid and this was going to be another road trip.

Back to the story. I bought a used Raleigh 10-speed (see Further Research) with a Reynolds 531 frame since I didn't have a bike and didn't want to spend real money on a brand new bike. This was springtime and the ride was over Labor Day weekend, so I had some time to get in shape. I found the occasional 50-mile, organized bike tour in the rolling countryside well outside of Detroit. Apparently, they offered centuries (100 mile rides) but I never even considered them - just too far out of reach, or so I felt. They had names like the Assenmacher 100, Firecracker 100, River Raisin Tour, and "Slow Spokes" Peach of a Ride. They gave patches and sometimes a T-shirt. I still have a few of the patches; never figured out what to do with them. During the week, there was a deserted county part and I’d haul my bike there in my pickup truck and ride for an hour after work. The 50-mile rides were a struggle against monotony and headwinds. The hills were rolling and not too steep. Nonetheless, my legs ached after each ride.
To set the stage, you need to know that I wore tennis shoes because the pedals had toe straps. I didn't own any Lycra; I wore gym shorts and T-shirts – or sweat pants and sweatshirts if it was cold. Eventually I got some touring-style bike shorts (with chamois, but cargo pockets, tan color so they didn't look like bike shorts). I had the tan leather gloves with crochet backing that gave me a really odd-looking tan. Well, “tan” may be an exaggeration for me, but slight discoloration at least. White calf-length gym socks with stripes. I wish this were someone else’s story, but regrettably that was me in my prime.
By the end of that summer it was time for the big ride. My girlfriend had backed out of the ride. And incidentally the relationship was over by that time next year. But a few other college buddies had signed up spontaneously, and a couple others unbeknownst to me. They were going – hadn't trained, but they were going. At that age you could just put down your beer and go ride 300 miles without training.
The deal with the ride was great for college kids, families, as well as adventurous old folks. There was a SAG wagon. There was a U-Haul truck to carry your street clothes and camping gear. They would haul your stuff to the next stop and, when you got there, you’d put up your tent, roll out your sleeping bag and do it again the next day. There were designated lunch stops. The stops at the end of each day were at schools, so we had showers and a big football field to camp on. The organizers provided the meals, group-camp style. All we needed on the bike was a water bottle and a banana – no caffeinated gel packs back then.
There were three route options in 1986, although I have no recollection of the decision process. There’s a theme here. There was a 5-day route and two 4-day routes (east and west). All three departed from the capitol in Lansing and went to Mount Pleasant on the first day, home of Central Michigan University. The last day went through Petoskey for all three, as well. We took the 4-day “east” route: Lansing to Mt. Pleasant, …to West Branch, …to Gaylord, …through Petoskey, and finally over the bridge. There was an optional century route which we originally had no intention of riding. But I wouldn't be writing this if we hadn't changed our minds.
Then, as I'm sure now, the DALMAC ride draws a full spectrum of cyclists: complete novices, people so out of shape that completing it is not assured, semi-athletic occasional riders, touring types, wannabe amateur racer types, serious cyclists. I’m sure today there are hipsters on fixies, tandems galore, recumbents, pink tutus, kids on mountain bikes and ill-advised time-trial bikers with aero gear. Back then, pretty much everyone was on a “10-speed” steel bike. We were college kids and looked like it ...and acted like it.

My Buddies

Me: 23-year-old, newly minted college graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I probably weighed 155 pounds. I had been the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity president. I had a nice, stable job at the General Motors truck plant in Pontiac, Michigan – of which I was going to quit by end of the year (although I didn't know it at the time, but that’s another story).
Ken Hill: Ken was still in school, two years behind me, tall, lanky, a reasonable athlete. He was from the thumb (refer to your map of Michigan). He was smart, and up for adventure. I didn't know he had a bike. But here he was. He had ridden a few rides close to 25 miles in preparation, that's it.
Steve Harvey: He was in Ken’s class, about my size but had the body of a wrestler. I remember one day someone taught him to do a standing back-flip – took him two tries to perfect it. And Steve had a perpetual grin, a solid chiseled cheekbone grin. And he was smart, too, but then almost everyone at that school was off-the-charts smart. I remember talking to him once about how he gave up playing college football to come to General Motors Institute (we had no intercollegiate sports). I suggested he go to Harvard graduate school and use his eligibility to play there – play in the Harvard-Yale game. I think he seriously considered it.
Ken, Me and Steve

Day 0

I had a shiny new GMC 4x4 pickup and agreed to haul our bikes to Lansing. We didn't have a place to stay but assumed we could spend the night at the Michigan State University chapter of our fraternity. Unfortunately, no one was there that holiday weekend (school probably wasn't in session yet), so we let ourselves in and likely had a beer or two. See comment above about frontal lobe development; henceforth to be referred to as "youth".

Day 1

It was fairly cold the day we started on the capitol steps in Lansing with hundreds of other people. All the bikes had their requisite orange flags sticking six feet up in the air off the rear hub. Just in the right spot so you couldn't swing your leg over the seat, you had to tilt the bike and step into it like a stiff pair of hip waders. We had a big, massive roll-out through town and out into the countryside. We barely arrived in time. Frankly, I don’t remember much else from the first day.  Ken reminded me that the other cyclists were amused at the six-pack of Coor's beer that Steve had strapped over his rear tire. Hey, it's a road trip, right?

After a late, youthful start, we worked our way through the pack to finish among the earliest riders. We arrived in Mount Pleasant, on the campus of Central Michigan University, picked out our gear and positioned our tent on the grassy knoll away from the others - so as not to disturb them with our youthfulness. I met an old guy who rolled in with a ton of gear attached to his bike. He had a two-burner Coleman stove. He was riding across the country, more or less along Interstate 80 and 90 from Washington state. He said in Montana they’d let cyclists ride right on the Interstate, but once he got into the Midwest he had to take side roads. I tried to imagine how he got through Chicago. Whenever possible, he hooked up with organized rides like this for the extra support. It made this ride seem small. After showering, we waited for the others and for the barbecued dinner. (In California, “barbecue” as a noun more than a verb, but in Michigan it’s not - it's an adjective or a verb.) Then we wandered into town. In no time, Steve found a college house party. Somehow, much later, I found Ken but not Steve and we went back to camp. Without Steve.
Apparently, helmets were optional

Day 2

The next morning there was still no Steve in the tent. We watched the entire group of cyclists leave. We waited. There were no cell phones back then. We packed up our stuff, left Steve’s bike sitting there and rode off to chase down the others. The SAG wagon followed at a prescribed pace to collect people who were going too slowly to make it to the finish. Partway through the morning, the SAG wagon pulled up alongside Ken and me to ask if we wanted to throw our bikes in the back. Otherwise, we’d be unsupported. Nah, we’ll be fine. We were. We caught most of the others and actually finished before most. At the final stop, we eventually saw Steve riding in – wearing the same jeans and dress shoes from the night before. Ah youth.
Not learning our lesson, we wandered into downtown West Branch. We stopped at a party store (Michigan for “liquor store” or “convenience store”) for beer. Surprisingly, we ran into two more friends from college: Gail Bartman and Laura Maxwell. We never actually rode with them, but having studied together in Flint it was no surprise to see them on this particular corner.

Laura later told me that Gail talked her in to riding, saying that if she got too tired the SAG wagon could take her to the next stop. With minimal training, she strapped her bike onto her Chevette to drive to Lansing. The plan changed when the alternator literally fell off her car. So she flew instead and rode "the crappiest borrowed bike you can imagine." Ah youth.

Day 3

Laura and Gail (possibly)
The morning of the third day was quite cold. We were further north, of course, and Labor Day Weekend in Michigan signals the coming of fall. I like the word “crisp” for this type of morning. We could see our breath. The pain of two long days of riding was immediate. I was so sore that I could barely sit on the saddle. But my legs were so sore I could barely stand up to relieve the saddle pain. This was going to be a tough day. Nothing in particular stands out in my memory. The destination was Gaylord on I-75 (that’s what we called it, “I-75”, not “Interstate 75”, not “75” and certainly not “the 75”) which was the main highway north. I’d been on it countless times as a kid. My only association with Gaylord is the Call of the Wild museum. As a very young kid, the place was terrifying. It was full of taxidermied animals, many in attack poses with plaster rocks and plaster trees behind them. It was also full of tacky kids’ toys like plastic bows and arrows, rubber-band guns, politically incorrect tomahawks and other sorts of things with which you could put your eye out. The toys provided my dad with a couple hours with no whining from the back seat – by the way, no seatbelts. But Gaylord represented a marker that you were getting close to the bridge. It meant you were way up north. It meant progress for the interminable “are we there yet” ride that kids endured. For this bike ride, it meant we had crossed over the point of pain and suffering and started to become one with the bike.
On the shores of Lake Michigan, probably Grand Traverse Bay

Day 4

By now we felt strong. The pain on the saddle was tolerable. At breakfast we were reminded of the optional century route that went along the shore. We opted in because that’s the way you make decisions when you’re 20-something and 300 miles from home. Not only did we feel good enough to survive 100 miles, we felt good enough to ride like maniacs – because that’s what you do when you've capriciously decided to ride farther than you've ever ridden in your life. We were hunched over, pedaling like mad, drafting each other – orange flag poles arching back. We’d sail by unsuspecting touring cyclists at break-neck speed. None of us had bike computers or speedometers, so it was “really fast”. With much pride and a certain amount of arrogance, we flew by the guys in their matching team jerseys. Ha! Take that.
In retrospect, I’m sure my 50-mile training rides over the summer did some good. Base miles are always good. But the infrequent nature and lack of intensity in my training meant that the first day or two of this ride were a shock to my system. Not the satisfying weight and warmth of slightly over-exerting well-trained muscles, but the sharp pain as if rusty knives were involved. I rode myself into shape on the first two days. I have no idea how much training my buddies did, but I’ll assume it was close to nothing. By Day 4, however, we were all in good form. We were all addicted to the endorphins.
Petoskey is a town named after the state stone of Michigan; the stone is named after Chief Ignatius Petosega, from the Ottawa tribe and founder of the community. I looked up the second part to write this, but I knew the first part. I also knew that the state motto, “si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice,” translates to “if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you” from my Michigan history class. The last word is pronounced sur-KOOM-spi-kay, not SUR-kum-spice. But I digress. We had time and energy to stop at Pirate’s Cove to play miniature golf; at least I have the score card. Many years later, I brought my young son to visit his grandparents in Traverse City and we played putt-putt at the other Pirate’s Cove. An epic battle of toddler chasing the ball through the man-made mountain waterfall. But that’s another story. From Petoskey, we rode along the Lake Michigan shoreline to Mackinaw City. (No, I did not just misspell “Mackinac”. The city at the southern end of the bridge is spelled differently than everything else around there …phonetically. It adds confusion and helps separate residents from tourists.) On to the bridge.
A modern photo, courtesy of DALMAC
Mackinac Bridge is normally closed to bicycles. The DALMAC ride and the Mackinaw City “Scenic Bike Tour” are the only exceptions. The bridge has an element of danger. As a kid, I was scared to drive over it. The road surface was expanded-metal grating, so you could see through it. It’s about 200 feet above the water in the middle. It’s a little steep to climb on a bike, 5%, and an equal descent going into St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula side. The Straits of Mackinac can generate some fierce crosswinds. So the authorities are a bit careful with bikes crossing. They grouped up the cyclists and platooned them over. While I’m sure we would have preferred to sprint to the finish and pass a few more people, it was definitely the most climactic end to a ride that I can recall. My maniac buddies and I were subdued for the crossing, but hardly tired.
And that was my first century.

The obligatory patch, and my first (and only) century pin.

Still Riding?

I moved to California and stopped riding for several years. The Raleigh is gone. I'm back. I've since done 15 other centuries. Lately, one a month. No one seems to give pins for centuries anymore.

Further Research:

I'm trying to determine the exact year and model of my old bike. I definitely remember the Reynolds 531 sticker (which makes it older than 1985). The photos provide a small amount of help in that it was red, and thin double stripes on the seat tube and that's what's proving hard to match. I recall it had stem-mounted shifters and foam, cushioned handlebars (not tape). The seat was molded and somewhat ergonomic (making it newer than 1983, I think), but I added a gel seat cover anyway. It came with toe straps on the pedals. Right now I think it was a Raleigh Super Course, but the stickers were different.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lean Legs & Ham – by the Numbers

I’m fond of saying “there’s always somebody crazier.” By pedestrian standards, I ride a lot of miles on my bike. By randonneur standards, I don’t ride very long distances. I've gained a fondness for 200km rides (about 125 miles) because I can complete it in the daylight hours. Randonneurs knock out 200km rides on the ladder up to 1200km rides which span four days. I’m not that crazy yet.
Saturday, I rode a specific 200km route called “Lean Legs and Ham”. The route owner is a woman named Kitty. She plotted it out years ago and submitted the details to the national randonneur organization (RUSA) and is responsible for verifying that I actually did it. There is some importance to this, but I won’t bore you with it.
The first time I saw the route online, I thought that I would never do this particular one. Too much climbing. Roughly 11,000 feet. It’s hard enough for me to do 125 miles and climb 5,000 feet total. This seemed ridiculous. But as with mountain climbers, I’ll do it because it’s there. Game on!


I ride far enough and often enough that I felt prepared for this massive undertaking. The actual training plan involved riding slightly less distance and with less intensity than normal for the few days prior to that particular Saturday. I planned out my wardrobe so that I had my favorite cycling kit to survive a 12-hour day in the saddle, if you know what I mean. I went to bed at a reasonable time the night before. And, I made sure I had appropriate cycling foods to carry.
More effort was spent working out the logistics with my friends who intended to join part or all of the ride.

The Route

The route includes most of the challenging hills in the East Bay where I usually ride. I’ve ridden them all before. They all have an easy side and a difficult side. It happens that if you do the loop clockwise, you hit almost all of the difficult sides. I opted to go counter-clockwise. Maybe some other day. So this was considered “the easy way” to do Lean Legs and Ham. There’s always someone crazier.

The Verdict

Since I had done all of these climbs before, separately, I had a certain comfort level with them. It helps to remember the climb so you know how much effort is involved under normal situations. So metering out the effort evenly was important, and for me, successful. I had good energy throughout. I had my time in front of my buddies, my time in the draft and no major suffering. I had no intention of setting a quick pace, merely surviving without pain.
Oh sure, there were times when I thought I had burned too many matches and would be dragging the last twenty miles. But frankly, the biggest risk assessment involved a pint of beer at the Junction. It was definitely worth it in the moment. It dehydrated me, but I recovered well. Heretic Shallow Grave - sounded appropriate.
Events such as these fall in the delayed gratification category. You do it so you can say you did it, not because it’s 12 hours of laugh riot. There are a few moments of macho endorphin rush during a climb, or the thrill of descending through hairpin turns. But there are too many more monotonous hours on flat roads into a headwind. I was plenty stiff and sore that evening and the next day, but overall I felt really proud of the accomplishment.

The Numbers

  • 142.2 miles overall, which includes home to/from the start; 125.6 miles for the ride itself.
  • 11,946 feet of elevation (my Garmin), which includes the negligible amount to/from home. The average from a sampling of my riding buddies: 11,865 feet. Ride with GPS: 10,851 feet.
  • Moving Time: 9:40:04, total elapsed time 12:49:20.
  • Watts per kilogram:
  • Calories expended: 5,312
  • Calories consumed: 2,270 (and probably something in excess of 5,500 afterwards - pizza; thank you!), gained two pounds. Two untapped (100 each), one Clif shot (100), two Clif bars (250 each), one fig bar (150), one peanut butter sandwich (300), veggie burger (500), sweet potato fries (150), Shallow Grave (210), two Skratch Labs (80 each).
  • Strava “Epic” suffer score of 271, with 55 points in the red.
  • Strava silliness: 33 kudos, 102 achievements including one suspect “2015 KOM”

The Surprises

  • That I estimated our arrival time at the first stop at the Sunol train station within 70 seconds.
  • That I missed my estimated arrival time at the second stop at the base of Mount Hamilton Road by two hours.
  • That I spotted, recognized and had the chance to talk to Kitty on top of Mount Hamilton.
  • That the core group didn't finish together. (I feel bad about leaving those to finished behind me; we soft-pedaled but were too cold and tired to stop and wait.)


  • I've had a few, but then again too few to mention.

The Conclusion

It's better to ride with a group of friends, which I did. The day was perfect, weather-wise. It was early enough in the year for everything to still be green - just beautiful. It was late enough in the year for sufficient daylight and reasonably warm temperatures - but not hot. Even though it was more distance than I had ever ridden in one day, and more climbing than I had ever done in one day, it wasn't too much. It was tough, tough enough to feel like it was hard work. I'll do it clockwise at some point. I'd say it was just right for today.  
Someday I'll be crazier.

Lean Legs & Ham 200k Permanent – Through the Eyes of History

On Saturday, 10 of my friends met me at Safeway to ride up Mount Hamilton. This particular route is a “Permanent” in Randonneur terms – meaning that it is a specified and approved route with certain checkpoints and time limits. The receipt for my cup of Americano from the Starbucks inside Safeway served as my initial check-in at 0700 hours.
Strava Map of My Ride
Dublin Boulevard runs east and west through Dublin, right along Interstate 580. Long before 580 was built, this was the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway was effectively “The Main Street Across America.” It was built in 1922 and actually pre-dates the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. – making it the first memorial to President Lincoln. Ironically for the eleven of us dodging traffic, it was the result of “The Good Roads Movement” which was initiated by cyclists in the early 1900s to promote pavement (instead of dirt roads, which automobiles seemed to tolerate). Back when most people rode bikes and only the wealthy owned automobiles. Some of the landmarks to the old highway are the F. H. Duarte “Highway Garage” on Portola Avenue in Livermore, the Summit Garage on Altamont Pass Road and the Mountain House Café.

The old highway follows Dublin Boulevard, then swings over to Dublin Canyon Road while we stay on Dublin Boulevard up to Schaefer Ranch, then we rejoin it on a fast descent to Palo Verde Road where an innocent sign marks its place in history. If you are curious, see the interactive map.
If the twentieth century seems rather recent for you, consider Castro Valley as the route heads up Palomares Canyon. Castro Valley is named after Don Guillermo Castro (not Donald, but “Don” as in the Amador Valley Dons, the University of San Francisco Dons, or the Godfather himself, Don Corleone). Castro was a soldier in the Mexican army and a rancher. The area was initially inhabited by the Ohlone Native Americans, then part of Mission San Jose and then granted to Castro (Rancho San Lorenzo). According to Wikipedia, Castro had a gambling habit and had to sell of portions of his land to pay gambling debts. On this cold morning, no one discusses this as we climb up the steep side and then sail down the other side to Niles Canyon.
Niles Canyon, of course, is a narrow little road with barely any shoulder for cyclists. In certain sections, train tracks run on either side. The popular rails are used by freight trains and the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) train that many of us use to commute to work in Silicon Valley. The lesser used rail belongs to the ages. This was an extension of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Yes history buffs, this was connected to the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit in Utah where the Union and Central Pacific Railroads met shortly after the Civil War. It did for train travel what the Lincoln Highway did for automobile travel after it. But it does nothing for this band of cyclists. However, it does give us a little train station and a porta-potty where we stop and then pick up a few more riders.
After a short break, 14 of us roll past the town’s statue of its most famous mayor, Bosco the dog, and then the Corinthian-style Sunol Water Temple. For many of us, the next segment is familiar as our twice-weekly commute (when we are not on ACE), and hence the pace quickens to the surprise of the newcomers. Consciously slowing, conserving for the hundred miles and 10,000 feet of climbing remaining, we head past Ohlone Regional Park and up the hill. Down below us to the south is Calaveras Reservoir, an earthen dam. At its completion in 1925, it was the largest earth-filled dam in the world. Right now, the water is low to facilitate repair (technically, I think it is actually a full replacement). Signs warn of construction. The end date on the sign has a different font, reflecting the numerous extensions to completion date – currently slated for 2018. Local cyclists refer to this section as “the rollers” which end at “the wall”. Along the way, we join even more of our friends who had left Sunol slightly before us. Disconnected from the transcontinental history beneath our wheels, we talk of our friends and loved ones currently on a transcontinental ride called Heart Across America.
Atop the wall, some of our party turn back, some turn right and the rest proceed left - up the steep section of Felter Road, around to the backside of Sierra Road. Thanks to the Tour of California, Sierra Road is world famous. And we've all climbed it. But today, we are taking the easy way. Descending. Not to say that such a descent is easy, it certainly has risks and tight corners and distractingly breathtaking views of Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay. The speed is forgotten at the bottom as we wait in vain for an interminable left turn light. Talk turns to those devices that are designed to help cyclists trigger the inductive sensor controlling the lights.
Soon enough we reach the title track of this ride, Mount Hamilton Road. The Spanish name for Mt. Hamilton was the Sierra de Santa Isabel and the highest point was originally known as Mount Isabel instead of Mount Hamilton. But on a surveying expedition for Josiah Whitney (of Mount Whitney fame), William Brewer invited his friend, Laurentine Hamilton to join. Near the summit, Hamilton - as a joke - ran ahead and pretended to lay claim to the summit. Brewer suggested the mountain be named after Hamilton only after Whitney declined to have the mountain named after him. But we are getting ahead of ourselves - and of our fellow riders.
First, we need to climb. The road was built in 1875–76 at a steady grade of less than 6.5%, sufficient to allow horse-drawn wagons to carry materials and equipment up the mountain for the observatory. The road rises over 4,000 feet in three long climbs. According to Wikipedia, the road has 365 curves, one for each day of the year. This may be true, depending on your definition of the term "curve." We didn't count them.

Lick Observatory is visible from most anywhere in Silicon Valley and is named for James Lick. Lick was not an astronomer; he was a carpenter and a piano maker. Apparently, in the years before California’s statehood, you could make a lot of money as a piano maker. Lick moved to California in 1848 and bought property in San Francisco. He convinced his friend from Peru to move also, Domingo Ghirardelli, who started a little chocolate factory that you may have heard of. The following year gold was discovered in them thar hills. Timing is everything. In 1874 he suffered a massive stroke. At the time he was the wealthiest man in California and he set about dispersing his wealth before he died in 1876. He had an interest in science and bequeathed the money for the observatory that we were slowly climbing toward. One stipulation was that Santa Clara County build a first-class road for it, and we are thankful. Somewhere at the base of one of the telescopes is a brass tablet stating: Here lies the body of James Lick.
After taking in the sweeping views, refilling our water bottles and snacking from the vending machines, we head down the back side of the mountain. SR130 becomes San Antonio Valley Road and is a white-knuckle ride downhill. It’s important to have plenty of water because there is precious little civilization out there. There is a community called San Antonio Valley (also San Antonio or San Antone) but I've never seen it. The 1956 Thomas Brothers map spells it San Antone – the way it is pronounced by locals, apparently (assuming they exist). In 1776, Anza and his explorers called the area El Cañada de San Vicente. The U.S. Postal Service established a Deforest Post Office in the area during 1892. It closed in 1909. Another 1924 map calls a group of buildings along San Antonio Creek, Deforest. The name comes from Ransford S. Deforest, the first Postmaster in the community.
In recent times, there has been talk of running a freeway through the area. The main proponent was former United States Representative Richard Pombo, the committee chairman and owner of extensive Central Valley property near the proposed freeway's path. The freeway plan has been quietly abandoned after Congressman Pombo failed in his reelection bid in 2006.
Blissfully unaware, we arrived at The Junction for a late lunch. I’m sure it has a rich history. But I am blissfully unaware.
With full bellies and low motivation, we start climbing again on Mines Road, heading toward Livermore. Large numbers are painted on the road, counting down the miles. As you might expect, this area had been a popular mining area. There are 87 mines listed online. Mineral deposits in the Red Mountain area of the San Antone Valley had been known since the 1870s and 1880s. Prospectors had located cinnabar (mercury), chrome and magnesite deposits. But it was not until the 1890s with the development of the steel industry that the magnesite deposits could be made to pay. The 1890s were heady times, trust me.

Local mines were opened approximately 14 miles south of Livermore off Mines Road, near a roadhouse aptly called the Fourteen Mile House. I think about this as we pass the number 14 painted on Mines Road, but I don’t mention it. Today, you can imagine that it would be difficult to transport minerals along this road. Imagine what it was like back then! The undeveloped nature of Mines Road up the Mocho meant that ore could only be brought down by pack mule. By this point, we are descending so the attractiveness of a pack mule has faded from my mind. Drafting at 30mph will do that to you.
During the 1920s and 1930s, mines were closed and then reopened. There was an upswing in activity during World War II with the need for domestic magnesite in the war industry (the Germans were the primary source beforehand), but after the war production dropped. By 1954 the mines were closed.
We spent some time on Tesla Road. I would love to devote many pages to Nikola Tesla, but this post is already too long. And I've always wanted to say that this is left as an exercise for the reader.
The city of Livermore is named for Robert Livermore, the rancher who was granted the Rancho Las Positas land. He was a Mexican citizen who converted to Catholicism in 1823 as required for citizenship. But he did not live there or found the city. He died in 1858 and is buried at Mission San Jose. Livermore was founded in 1869 by William Mendenhall. Cyclists and teenagers know of Mendenhall Road on top of the hill near Del Valle.
1896 Cycler's Map
In the 1890s, the roads through Livermore were some of the best roads between San Francisco and the Central Valley. And cycling was one of the main modes of transportation as it seems to be on Mines Road on this afternoon. See the 1896 Cycler’s Map and its key.
For a brief time, the east end of Livermore was not Livermore on the map. In 1864, a squatter appeared near what is now Junction Avenue. Alphonso Ladd planned to start a community called Laddsville. But fire destroyed most of it in 1871 and it was never rebuilt, the townspeople moving a half-mile down the road to Livermore. But the band of cyclists now reduced to a couple groups of three or four do not turn onto Junction Ave. We also do not venture down East Avenue, where bicycle races were held in the 1890s on the so-called “Lizzie Street course” (S. Livermore Ave.). Of note, the 1895 world record for the “paced” mile was set by Wilbur Edwards on this course with a time of 1:34⅟₂ minutes (38.5mph) on the hard-pack dirt roads. We coast down 4th street at a much slower speed. Then Stanley, Valley and Hopyard on our way back to the Lincoln Highway – I mean Dublin Boulevard.