Alice’s Restaurant is about 20 miles outside of Santa Clara in Woodside California. It’s at the intersection of Skyline Blvd. and Lahonda Rd. (Hwy 84). Both of these roads are very rural and made up of back-to-back hairpin turns and switchbacks, bordered by redwoods that seem to brush the sky and snag the occassional wayward cloud in their branches.

So the first time you come to this intersection it can be a shock – not because the little collection of buildings and one-pump gas station seem to appear out of nowhere but because this is a favorite meeting spot for groups of bicyclists, motor bikers and exotic car enthusiasts. There is often 50 bikes parked outside and groups of people waiting for seats congregate outside, it makes for a sight to behold.

Driver's Log: Alice's Restaurant

B – Intersection of Skyline Blvd. and Lahonda Rd.


We decided to get up early and finally make a visit to this famous Bay area landmark – we got there at 8:15 and were just about the first customers! But as you can see it didn’t take long for the parking lot to fill up.

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Even though Alice’s has cornered the market on dining at this elevation they don’t take that as an excuse to let the quality slip: breakfast was excellent! I had some of the most delicious blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had. And the atmosphere is authentic, right down to the cow hide upholstery.

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Driver's Log: Alice's Restaurant

C – Pomponio SB


Then we took Lahonda Rd. to the coast and went to Pomponio State Beach. My wife and daughter enjoyed the beach while I checked the oil in the e30. The CEL has been coming on lately while driving (usually in 5th) and giving me a 1222 code so I’m being extra careful with the maintenance and fluids. After the Christmas break I’ll see what I can do to diagnose the issue – going to look into the fuel pump, cap and rotor and injectors I think.

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Mina loves the beach so much, even when it’s cold. We let her play for about 45 minutes before stripping off her wet and sandy clothes, snuggling her in a blanket and taking ourselves back over the mountain and home.

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December 16, 2012 driver's log

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A – Page Mill Road To Skyline Blvd


I didn’t intend to take this stretch but I missed the turn for Foothill Rd. This area is mostly residential and Page Mill Road is a gauntlet of driveways, picket fences and parked cars. I would not recommend this as a fun drive:

  • the maximum speed limit is 35, most corner are rated for 20
  • corners and center line are not marked, probably only an issue at night
  • there are unmarked rock slide areas with rocks on the road
  • there’s too many houses (I went through at 5AM and felt pretty conspicious in my loud car) 
  • wildlife, thankfully mostly small foxes

It may have been caused by ice but I took a tire squeelling skid around one corner going only 25 mph — not sure if my car significantly lost rear traction but when tires yelp and you’re not on a race track it’s generally bad. If you drive this road that turn near Foothills Open Space Preserve is one to watch out for.

See photos for a close up of the area in question. Though the elevation change isn’t well illustrated in the Google Maps images that is the factor that complicates the corner.

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B – Skyline Blvd


Well known and popular road, pretty easy drive with gentle sweepers and well marked turns. Few cars out at 5:30AM. Most weekends this road is congested with bikers and slower drivers. Speed is good on this highway becuase it’s relatively straight but that also makes it boring. During the day it’s a pretty drive but at night it’s a bit dull — I suppose I can’t have it all to myself and have scenery at the same time.

C – Highway 9


New road for me, I’ve never travelled it before – some great corners, few residences and turns are well marked with chevrons and speed ratings. It actually connects up with Saratoga Ave. eventually. Hwy 9’s other end is near Santa Cruz so I expect to revisit this stretch as a Hwy 17 bypass.

December 14, 2012 driver's log

Driver's Log: Sierra Road
Driver's Log: Sierra Road

A – (via Calaveras Blvd.) Calaveras Rd. to Felter Rd.


To get to the start of the route drive through downtown Milpitas, past Town Hall and through the residential fringe of town. Suburban tract homes give way to large estates and then ranches. Watch out for wild life especially at dusk and dawn. This stretch has gentle turns but some dramatic elevation changes that create blind corners (i.e. you are turning right and going up but before you are finished the turn the elevation peaks and you’re going down again). Definitely a road to be familiar with before attempting any speed.

B – Sierra Rd.


This is the most dramatic stretch of the route: twisty roads cling to the edge of the mountain and weave back through rolling hills dotted with cows. The road fluctuates between 1 and 2 lanes constantly so take care. There are breath taking views of rolling hills with the city of Milpitas 2 miles below which is especially gorgeous at night. This morning I found a layer of clouds below me which added to the surrealism.

I recorded the drive and time lapsed it, if you don’t watch the video at least check out some of the photo captures to get a sense of how dramatic this stretch of road is. It’s definitely one of this areas hidden gems (much like McKean Rd).

The video starts out dark but the sun starts to rise after the first minute. The last minute of the video is me driving downhill.

Update:

I drove this route once more but at night on January 3rd, 2013 and saw three Milpitas Sheriff cars on Sierra Rd. Might have been a coincidence but watch out for cops up there!

December 9, 2012 driver's log, video

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A – Santa Clara to Pacifica via Hwy 280


This drive happened last Saturday. I missed the Half Moon Bay exit so we took 280 north and doubled back a little to get to Pacifica. We went to Nick’s on Rockaway Beach for lunch. The parking lot is right on the ocean and if you don’t park carefully your car will catch a lot of ocean spray! The food at Nick’s was o.k. – I had the fried oysters. Not sure it was 4 stars, but it was good enough. If we went back to Pacifica for lunch we’d probably go back.

If you want a dramatic place to take photos of your car, this is the place to go: if you get there early you could get a good spot right next to the water.

As we continued down Hwy 1 I was worried that I was holding up the cars behind me but we quickly caught up to other traffic on the road and the courteous concern left my mind. As long as I’m driving safely and not being the slowest car on the road then I’m happy.

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B – San Gregorio State Beach


This was not exactly a planned rest stop but it wouldn’t be a real trip in the e30 without a little drama. After we left Pacifica the car started misfiring. We pulled over and after a quick check in with fellow e30 drivers via Facebook I decided to pull my #5 spark plug (known to burn oil in my car) without waiting for the engine to cool completely. I was careful with my breaker bar not to put undue stress on the plugs and the engine was not red hot. I also could have burned my fingers so I was being extra careful.

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The plug wasn’t too bad but I swapped it with a spare anyways. However I found the #1 HT wire gave a little “click” when I pushed on it at the distributor cap. My mechanic buddy doesn’t think that would cause a misfire (as we discussed the last time I had a misfire) but after I did that the car ran fine.

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We hung out on the beach for an hour before heading home via La Honda, which is one of the area’s really good roads for driving. This time there were no slow pokes so I had a relaxing drive over the mountain and home.

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December 4, 2012 driver's log, repairs

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Drove to Rio Del Mar SB again. We started heading out on Hwy 17 but traffic forced us to turn back and take the back roads – my favorite back road, actually. I finally got to drive McKean road in daylight with little traffic (or a marathon) to interfere and it was the enjoyable drive I knew it would be! Great sweepers, majestic views, great visibility and lots of turns and little elevation change.

The clouds on an otherwise sunny day were thanks to CDPR who removed the fire rings sometime in the last two weeks, effectively cancelling our cook out. For future reference, beach fire season ends just before Thanksgiving.

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November 25, 2012 driver's log

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The e30 has been acting so strangely lately but today it was running great so I decided to put my trust in it to get us to Rio Del Mar SB and back. It’s amazing how much this little car will hold: I got all my emergency car parts, automotive fluids and tools in the trunk as well as 2 bundles of wood and all of our day’s supplies – a tent, sand toys and food.

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A – Santa Clara to Aptos CA via Hwy 17


Driven this route enough to be comfortable with it. I didn’t like some of the hills in Aptos though – there is almost nothing more nerve racking for me than encountering a stop sign on a 45˚ incline.

B – Rio Del Mar SB


A great beach with fire pits that officially closes at 10:00PM and is regularily patrolled so drunken rowdies are kept to a minimum. Lots of local families and the one group of teenagers seemed well behaved and played music we liked (Boney M and dubstep). We pitched a tent, lit a camp fire and cooked our dinner over it. Definitely doing this again!

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November 11, 2012 driver's log

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I got up at 5AM and drove to Santa Cruz. That’s a strange town… lots of 24 hour restuarants and sketchy people out early in the morning. Of course, I look sketchy with this car and my hipster king moustache. I felt conspicuous driving around in the dark but the cops didn’t seem to even look in my direction. Hwy 17 is getting fun now that I know it better. Here’s some photos with lots of lense flare:

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November 4, 2012 driver's log, photos

When you own an older car there’s more to it than the pride of ownership. It’s about stewardship, and taking something and making it better. It’s about giving a car the life it deserves and letting it make your life better by taking you places, down the road and on an adventure.

Long story short, the e30 survived it’s longest single journey to date but didn’t quite make it home without incident. We drove from Santa Clara, over McKean Rd. and Hecker Pass to Capitola. Then up Hwy. 1 to Half Moon Bay then over La Honda and home. But on the final leg it started acting funny and appears to have a misfire. We made it home, but the e30 has been sitting waiting for me to either figure out what’s wrong or send it to my buddy Ramon for professional help.

I hate it when I can’t drive the car, but this is all part of that stewardship thing. And we had a great weekend together with lots of spirited driving around switchbacks and twisty mountain hops.

I’m sure it will be back on the road again soon. And we had a great weekend together.

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October 30, 2012 driver's log, photos

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Took the e30 on it’s longest single journey to date, this time with the family!

A – Start: Santa Clara


Packed the sand toys, beach blanket, ukelele and other stuff into the e30 and departed shortly before 8AM. Hit a Starbucks then left town.

B – McKean Road


Definitely one of the valley’s hidden driving gems. Driven this stretch once before but today the opposing lane was marked off with traffic cones for a marathon. We saw deer and the occassional runner in our lane so I had to take it slow. The scenery was pretty and I found drive mellow when the sun is out, would have been more enjoyable without the marathon. I’m sure the runners felt the same about me.

C – Capitola


The drive over Hecker Pass to Hwy 1 and onward to Capitola was great. Hecker Pass and it’s hair pin turns are familiar to me now and in the revealing light of day everything felt fun and safe. Visibility around corners is great and the changes in elevation are fun. Had breakfast at Zelda’s, played on the beach, then around noon we grabbed coffee and headed north to Half Moon Bay.
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E – Half Moon Bay


Taking Hwy 1 out of Capitola sucks, since the first 7-10 miles are through city streets. After that it was easy driving. Half Moon Bay is terrible for traffic though, practically gridlock.

F – La Honda Rd.


Because Hwy 92 was bumper-to-bumper we took La Honda Rd. instead. And this is where things started suck. We got stuck behind a slow, cautious driver who insisted on driving 10 mph under the speed limit, then another driver who – I kid you not – drove between 5 mph and a top speed of 25 mph down the mountain. I could not drive slow enough and rode the brakes the whol way. This is where the car developed a misfire, but we did get home o.k. As for the road, La Honda is a beautiful road, great curves, elevation changes and visibility around corners. This is a popular drive for a reason.

October 29, 2012 driver's log

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Woke up at 4AM and decided to drive. I didn’t realize it had been raining until I got to my car. And I didn’t realize that the roads were terrible until I turned onto the highway and skidded when accellerating out of my turn and simultaneously being an idiot. I remembered the CCC from Saturday and caught the primary skid easily, and also the small secondary skid. After that I took the corners a little slower. Here’s the route I took, more or less.

A – Start, Santa Clara:

    Took a round-about way to the highway to avoid as many red lights as possible, then go on 280 and took it to 101. In the future I’ll try to get on Almaden Expressway instead of taking the 101.

    B – McKean Road:

      Beautiful road that eventually becomes Uvas Road. Lots of gently arcing turns, little elevation changes and the speed limit gets as high as 50 mph. Center line is well marked as are all the turns. This is probably a beautiful Sunday drive. Locked up my tires when a fox darted out in front of my car.

      C – Watsonville Road (Hecker Pass):


      Starts out flat and gentle but soon the road becomes hairpin turns with exhilarating elevation changes and beautiful 1 lane bridges. There are some amazing views, which I only saw hints of because it was pitch black. This road would have been more enjoyable if I was familiar with it, it was not night and it was not raining.

      D – Highway 1 to 17 North:


      Driven this stretch before. It was raining, people either drive too fast or too slow. Wish I’d turned around and taken the scenic route back home. Some great roads that I will definitely revisit another time (preferably when the sun is out).

      October 22, 2012 driver's log, video

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