Monday, 28 Apr 2003

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Day 2 of the ride was, in fact, a wet one. We left Los Gatos uncertain about the dark clouds looming overhead. Everyone packed some sort of rain gear, which we all had on for most of the first part of the day as the sky went from blue to gray to wet every 30 minutes. There were many variations of bike rain gear amongst the group; my favorite was the pink and blue polka-dotted shower cap that served as a helmet cover. Mary Jane and Chris and I were the “yellow jackets,” with our lightweight protective rain gear.

The Go Greenbelt! riders getting ready.

Photo: Mike Kahn.

Amazingly, no one was discouraged by the weather, which turned dry by afternoon, allowing us all to finish the day’s ride tired but in good spirits.

After leaving the hills above Los Gatos, dotted with multi-million-dollar mansions, we traveled through the Almaden Valley in Santa Clara. The green rolling hills are a strange contrast to more of the gated mansions built above weathered barns and grazing land. Uva Rd. eventually intersects Watsonville Rd., which inevitably collides with Monterey Rd. This is a very heavily trafficked road, which takes us to the “lunch zone” in downtown Morgan Hill, strangely quiet at noontime. This feel of an abandoned town doesn’t make any sense until you travel another couple of miles down the road and discover Morgan Hills Ranch. An interesting name for a mall, don’t you agree? The parking lot of the mall was packed. Every store and restaurant I saw was a chain business. Now let’s return just for a moment to our downtown scene. Here are numerous local businesses that both support and return monies back into the community and they are virtually empty. The mall, on the other hand, inhabited by out-of-town corporations that return their money to corporate headquarters, is full and thriving.

Morgan Hill Ranch? Perhaps a reminder of things past when farmland surrounded the outskirts of Gilroy and Morgan Hill. The new mall and the new housing developments with clever names like “Coyote Creek Estates” and “Ponderosa Homes” have paved over acres of farmland, now lost, never to be recovered. Whoever heard of a mall being torn down to put in a farm?

There was sun enough for a long afternoon climb.

Photo: Mike Kahn.

Part of the Greenbelt Alliance’s agenda is the protection and preservation of farmland — of ever increasing importance in a landscape where farms are disappearing at an alarming rate. Concrete continues to swallow the earth.

Tonight, we are somewhere in the eastern part of San Jose, where I’m not exactly sure. I really don’t recognize anything here. The Evergreen Valley Church has been hosting our group for 14 years. Nine years ago when I did this ride for the first time, there was an empty field across the intersection from this church. Now, there is a strip mall with a Starbucks, a McDonald’s, and a Longs Drugs. We had to search, but Steve helped us find an alternative to the Pasta Pomodoro chain. It was a locally run Italian restaurant where the owner himself came to the table to thank us for coming in. After a little bit of conversation with him, he agreed to let us take over the restaurant next year for the ride and have our entire group at his place. Now I will remember something about this out-of-the-way corner of San Jose.

We are preparing to settle down for the night, uncertain again about tomorrow’s weather. We are scheduled to climb to the summit of Mt. Hamilton, but it snowed up there today — yes, snowed. So, we’ll wait until morning and make our decision.