“Stop! Stop! Stop!”

On January 22, 2011, I needed to go to San Carlos to try on a rain jacket. It was a nice day. Thus, Gail and I decided to take the tandem along and ride Old La Honda Road. During this ride, we had a surprise.

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I don’t really want to spend much time discussing the rain jacket. Randonneurs USA offered to sell its members an RUSA-branded Shower Pass rain jacket at a good discount. There had been some differences of opinion about the sizing of these jackets. The local REI didn’t have one and the San Carlos store did. Ergo, I needed to go to San Carlos (about 50 miles from home) to try on a rain jacket. I tried on both options from RUSA and ordered one (the Elite 2.0). It should arrive any day now. I sure wish that I had had it on the Worker’s ride prior to the San Francisco Randonneurs‘ Russian River 300k. Enough of that…

Since I had to drive over to San Carlos, Gail and I decided to bring along the tandem and get in a ride. Gail is coming off of surgery to repair a torn meniscus, so she is taking things easy. Thus, we decided to do some climbing from Palo Alto, up Old La Honda Road to Skyline Blvd. and then back down. A quick 20 miles. Piece of cake.

Since the roads in the South Bay are a bit of a mystery to me, I suggested parking at Stanford Shopping Center and riding from there. This would be great: we could ride straight up to Old La Honda Road, get done with the climbing, return to the car, and then have a fine meal.

Of course, there was a bit of a problem. I had managed to forget that we need several feet of open space on the starboard side of the Forester to get the tandem off the top of the car. Why? To get the tandem off of the car, the entire quick release mechanism that holds the front fork to the Yakima Sidewinder rack pivots (along with the tandem), which allows one person to take the tandem off the roof. Brilliant design. However, since the tandem swings to the side as the quick release mechanism pivots, you need about 1.5 parking spaces to get the tandem off the roof. So, we had to circle around the lot a bit to find just the right parking spot. This took longer than expected since the place was mobbed with shoppers.

After a bruising December, which was filled with massive rain storms and cold weather, January was unseasonably warm. Today was no exception:  it was in the 70s. However, having lived in the SF Bay Area for most of my life, I knew that warm weather on the east side of the Coastal Range was no guarantee that it would be warm on Skyline Blvd.  Thus, even though almost all other riders were wearing short sleeves, we dutifully packed our jackets and arm warmers into the rack bag.

We headed toward the hills up Sand Hill Road. The ride to Old La Honda Road goes over a couple of hills and has some extended gradual climbs. We puttered along, getting used to riding the tandem again and enjoying the beautiful weather. There were a ton of other riders out that day, doing the same. Life was good.

I had ridden Old La Honda Road earlier in the year as part of the Santa Cruz Randonneurs’ Central Coast 1000k brevet. Thus, I sort of knew what we were in for. The hill isn’t killer steep but it is a good climb to Skyline Blvd. When we finally turned the corner onto Old La Honda Road, the temperature seemed to drop by about 10 degrees and the road kicked up. We thought about donning our jackets but decided to climb a bit and then decide. A good choice.

Old La Honda Road is just plain beautiful. It winds its way up the eastern slope of the Coastal Range through the redwoods. The road surface was perfect until near the top. There was very little traffic. We were in no hurry. Thus, even though neither Gail nor I had been riding much, the climb was a joy. Slow, to be sure, but still great fun.

When we finally reached Skyline Blvd., we made a right and headed down to Sky Londa for a break. I had floated the idea of eating at Alice’s Restaurant in Sky Londa. However, when we finally arrived, it was about 4 pm, sunset was in about an hour, and we didn’t have any lights, so we grabbed a bite to eat from the market and headed down Highway 84.

This was the first time I had ridden eastbound down Highway 84, so I asked an experienced-looking rider about what to expect. “As long as you can keep up with traffic, it is no problem.” In other words, we would likely be flying down the hill.

Off we went. The descent was fine. The traffic was generally well-behaved, the road surface was acceptable, the curves in general were reasonable, and I was able to keep our speed at a reasonable level, so there was no crying or begging from the stoker to slow down. We whipped a hard right onto Portola Road and continued the descent back toward Sand Hill Road.

All of the sudden, I hear Gail screaming “Stop! Stop! Stop!” It didn’t seem like she had fallen off of the bike and was being dragged down the road by her foot. Had the rack bag flown off? Expecting the worst, I jammed on the brakes and yelled “What the hell is going on?” Gail said “Look! Look! A Historic Marker!”

Sure enough, as I looked in my Take-a-Look, there it was: an official California Historical Marker. It hadn’t even crossed our minds that we might see one of these things on this ride. But, there it was: Historical Marker # 478: Site of San Mateo County’s First Sawmill. We made a totally illegal and dangerous U-turn and headed back up the hill to the Marker to check it out.

According to the Historical Marker, about 300 feet south of the monument, on the banks of the Alambique Creek, stood San Mateo County’s first sawmill, built by Charles Brown in 1847. About the same time, Dennis Martin was building a second mill, also run by waterpower, on San Francisquito Creek. These mills were similar to the famous Sutter’s Mill at Coloma, site of James Marshall’s 1848 gold discovery.

I had to hand it to Gail: she really did have a good eye for these things, since we were riding pretty fast when we passed the Historical Landmark. After some photos, we continued on our way back to Stanford Shopping Center.

Once we got home, we realized that there were a bunch of Historical Landmarks near our route. Looks like we will be heading back over there soon.


One response to ““Stop! Stop! Stop!”

  1. My son and I are also trying to find all of the CHL’s, and that’s how I linked to your blog.

    I don’t like to leave a link to people I don’t know, but I saw that you had as hard a time as I did finding the CHL Plaque 946 at Cal. Here’s a link to a google map that shows its exact location.


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