Franklin Hills Loop-Carquinez Scenic Dr

Saturday, November 10, 2012

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I love to ride; it doesn’t matter if the route is short or long and flat or hilly. Today is no exception; this loop around the Franklin Hills is fantastic-it even includes a coffee stop at Starbuck’s and a short detour to a local collector of all things vintage and nostalgic. Come join me!

We navigate our way through the city streets of Martinez to Franklin Canyon Rd; it runs adjacent to Franklin Ridge and the Franklin Hills area. It’s a very quiet stretch of road with decent pavement and minimal traffic. The section of road between Alhambra Ave to McEwen Rd is false flats with gentle grades of 2-3%.

There’s a lot to see here-all you have to do is look around. I noticed a couple of new murals highlighting John Muir, a small vineyard, a few horse ranches and farms, the Mini Hacienda Ranch which breeds and sells miniature horses, the Cottage Garden Plant Nursery and some homes hidden from the main road. One home in particular has a miniature outdoor train display and what looked like a tug boat in the back yard! The BNSF freight trains also run along Muir Trestle into the canyon which parallels CA SR 4.

We head up the south side of McEwen Rd for the short gentle mile climb up to the summit.

This quiet back road runs through the grassy hillsides dotted with grazing cattle and a few old barns and ranches.

The descent on the steeper side of McEwen drops us onto Carquinez Scenic Dr. From here, you can take a detour into Port Costa and check out the vintage buildings from a bygone era and stop to have a cup of Joe at the local cafe. But for today, we’re heading SE towards the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline along Carquinez Scenic Dr.

The next 5 flattish winding miles on Carquinez Scenic Dr is pretty much deserted. We saw a few runners and some folks out walking their dogs, that’s it! There are spectacular water views of Carquinez Strait, the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, the Martinez marshes and the waterfront homes of Benicia.

You will come to the section of road that is gated and closed to through traffic due to a slide back in the 80’s-it never got repaired and the road conditions continue to get worse as the years go by. Watch out as there are huge parallel cracks and severe road deterioration for the next mile or so.

The pavement will eventually end and lead to a short narrow 25-30 foot section of dirt road. Proceed with caution, there are some huge rocks jutting out from underneath the dirt; if you’re uncomfortable riding through, just get off the bike and walk. The colorful road art continues on the other side and leads you to the other end of the gated road.

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The views will continue to astound you at every turn; the sight and sounds of the trains, barges and tugs will remind you that the waterfront is a working waterfront! On this gorgeous clear day, I saw several sailboats and kayakers out on the water-what a great way to spend the day!

I noticed that every person we encountered on this road were all friendly and full of smiles; from the runners to dog walkers and hikers. Even the dogs were having fun! There’s something to be said about getting outdoors and keeping active-it’s good for you! For hikers, I’m sure the panoramic views from atop Franklin Ridge are even more spectacular!

Nejedly Staging Area is located at the east end of Carquinez Scenic Drive, there’s parking, a few picnic tables and a restroom here. It’s a great place for a short stop if you should need it.

There is one short steep’ish climb up towards the Alhambra & Catholic Cemeteries before heading to Starbuck’s in Martinez. The Starbuck’s on Main St is located in the Old City Hall building right next to the creek. The open patio area is a great place to sit outside and enjoy some sun-it’s one of the best laid back locations they have!

We head south through downtown Martinez on Berrellessa St to Alhambra Ave. The John Muir National Historic Site is located right off Alhambra Ave. I’ll have to explore that on another outing.

Before heading back home, I wanted to go by and check out an old place with vintage neon signs on Pleasant Hill Rd. I had seen it before but neglected to stop because I was afraid of trespassing on private property. This time, I made a point to stop and take some pictures.

The building use to be a neighborhood grocery store back in the day. Now, it’s filled with old vintage nostalgic items from the past. I got to meet Dan, the owner of these fine collectibles. He’s living his dream of always wanting to surround himself with all the things and treasures he’s loved-he’s a happy man! The neon Jimmy Britt’s lounge sign is classic as well as the old red Coke vending machine, you can literally spend all day here looking at all this stuff-it’s amazing!

Not every ride you go out on has to be epic or long; it’s sometimes the shorter ones that keeps you smiling all day, especially when you’re riding with friends! Enjoy life!

VDO Stats:
21 miles with 1613′ of elevation gain
Average grade: 3%
Max grade: 10%

Weather: GREAT! Sunny clear blue skies with temps in the mid 50’s

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Just know that smiling will brighten your face, laughter will brighten your day, and good people will make your life great!
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Follow this route for today’s ride:
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