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More than a Trace
By Martha Kendall
"Where y'all from?" For two hundred years, people have asked that question along the Natchez Trace. It's a road that President Jefferson created to link the U.S. capital with the country's southwestern border, then the city of Natchez, Mississippi. From 1800-1820, "Caintucks" from the Ohio River Valley floated their goods down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to sell in Natchez or New Orleans. Then they walked home via the Trace, sharing the road with mail carriers who also braved mosquitoes, illness, injuries, robbers, and hostile Native Americans.
The modern 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway runs from Natchez to Nashville. It is the premiere cycling route in the Southeast.
There's grades in them thar hills! Biking the heights
By Bo Crane
Los Altos in Spanish means The Hills but most of the town itself is very flat, fine for bicycle-touring quiet neighborhoods. For a more challenging bicycling experience, Los Altos Hills, which translates to The Hills Hills, has plenty as the redundant name suggests. LAH is just across Foothill Expressway from LA. Within the zone between Foothill, a former railroad line converted into an expressway in 1963 and I-280, exist some of the shortest and steepest climbs around with several about 1/4 mile long with average grades between 9-11%. Per Strava postings, the maximum grades are as follows: Alta Tierra 26%, Anacapa 25.5%, Viscaino west 25% and east 22.6%, Westwind west 17.5% and east 15.5%. La Barranca goes under I-280 with a 17.9% max grade up to Elena. A few blocks from El Monte is Quinnhill, 23.5% at one point but looks impossibly uphill starting from University Ave. (still officially within Los Altos).
Pedal Power at the Los Altos Library
If you're off to road bike the area, you have until October 5 to visit the bicycling exhibit at the history museum behind the Los Altos library, on San Antonio Rd. The exhibit, Pedal Power, opened in April. I visited it recently, viewing among other things: Greg Lemond's training bike for 1981, a Ritchey bike built by Tom Ritchey, a bamboo bicycle, a Swiss Army bicycle and a time-line history of the bicycle, beginning in 1790. All the exhibits have wonderful videos attached, including interviews. Unlike LAH, Los Altos has plenty of commerce including three bike shops from State Street to Homestead Road, each with not-surprisingly close-by coffee shops.