Patterson Pass

The last time I rode more than 100 miles in one day was in April 2009.  Before we dwell too much on this horrifying thought, I have one thing to say:


But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I had three goals today:  fall colors, windmills, and to ride over 100 miles.  Let’s see how I did, shall we?

Fall colors.

Off to the East Bay again with me! It was a bit hazy, but sunny and (relatively) warm; nearly a perfect day for autumn riding.  Sadly I didn’t have all day, so I hopped on the interstate and hightailed it for Livermore, traditionally considered the easternmost city in the Bay Area.

One of Livermore’s greatest claims to fame is its 40+ wineries, which bring fall color all by themselves.  I love the look of vineyards in the fall.

As I hopped onto Patterson Pass Road, heading east, there was much more fall color lining the road.  Nowhere really to stop and photograph — and besides, how interesting is a divided highway — but you get the gist.

So, for fall colors, I say I did adequately.  Nothing too spectacular but at least there are some reds and oranges.  I won’t beat myself up too badly. 😉


OK, now we’re talking.  Patterson Pass runs east-west from Livermore to Tracy and passes through the Altamont Wind Farm.   It’s the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world, comprising the turbines along Patterson Pass Road, Vasco Road, and Altamont Pass Road.

The western part of Patterson Pass Road is your typical nice jaunt through Central Valley foothill scenery.   Brown (this time of year), barren, deserted.

And then you crest the pass at 1602′, come around a tight 15mph corner, and the whole world opens up.

Nothing but twisty road, silence, and windmill turbines as far as the eye can see.

The wind farm is currently being updated by NextEra Energy with new Siemens turbines, which is supposed to significantly reduce the number of golden eagles and red-tailed hawks being killed each year by the current turbines.   As far as I can tell, the plan is to simply reduce the number of turbines (“for every new turbine installed, 23 of the old ones will be removed”, says the San Jose Mercury News. More info here.).  Each new turbine will produce 2.3 megawatts of electricity.

The project is expected to continue through 2015; the sections I rode through today are still the old turbines.

Setting aside the amazing scenery for a second — which is a crime, but still — Patterson Pass Road is a really fun motorcycling road.  Twisty enough to be interesting yet open enough so that you’re not crawling along in fear of winding up on the grill of an oncoming pickup.

Blah blah amazing road blah blah great scenery blah.

Not terribly surprisingly, the base of Patterson Pass Road is home to a power station: the Tesla Substation, to be exact.  I didn’t stick around as, despite its many advantages, the Teiz suit is not flame resistant.

The intersection of Midway and Grants Line Roads gives a nice view of the California Aqueduct, a common sight in the Central Valley.  It transports water from the Sierra Nevada mountains through the Central Valley and down to Southern California.

Here, we’re about 8 miles south of the Clifton Court Forebay, the Aqueduct’s Mile Zero intake point.

From the Aqueduct, I took Altamont Pass Road west, which has the primary advantage of not being I-580.   It’s like the big brother of Patterson Pass Road; same winding roads through wind farms (though not as spectacular, in my opinion) but the road is wider and there’s a bit more traffic.

There’s a nice view of I-580, elevated above Altamont Pass Road.

Altamont Pass is likely most famous for the Altamont Speedway, which closed in 2008.  You can still see the land alongside the road, though.  The Speedway itself is best known for, oh, some little event that went on there in 1969.  One murder, three accidental deaths, and four births…a bit more eventful than my trip along the pass today.

And with that little bit of history out of the way, I hopped onto the interstate and headed home.

Ride over 100 miles.

I’m so happy about that that you get to see the photo again.  One hundred fourteen miles, no ill effects.  Well, actually, the pinched nerve in my shoulder is acting up, which really irritates me because the damn thing had two years to heal, thankyouverymuch.  But my back is doing great and had no issues at all.

And on that happy note, the Ninjette will be put into storage, winterized if you will, for a few months.  But that’s a topic for another day.  🙂


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