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  • Saturday Drive: Mines Rd. to Patterson

    Posted on February 21st, 2009 tcorzett No comments

    There has been no rain for the past few days, but I was unfortunately stuck at work (how come ‘I want to go for a drive’ is not an excuse for a day-off?). Forecasters put the rain returning at 30% by 2pm and 100% my early evening. I wanted to get the G8 GT out into some dry curves before it got wet again.

    Last night I sat down with Google Maps and planned out several routes around my area. The routes that I planned-out both were designed to avoid freeways and maximize two-lane roads.

    Total Distance: 179 miles
    Driving Time: 6 hours 23 min

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    I woke-up early (for me) this morning, had a quick breakfast, and hit the road by 8:30am. I wanted to be well into my trip before the rains started. I stopped at the corner gas station and topped-off the tires to 35psi (OnStar had reminded me that the left side tires were at 33psi the other day). After making sure everything was ship-shape (whatever that means) I was off!

    A few weeks back I did the drive from Dublin to Sunol on Foothill Blvd. (something I will do again now that I have the G8 GT), so this time I wanted something a little different. I was happy to find Pleasanton-Sunol Rd. which parallels I-680S. It’s a nice wide two-lane road that runs along a set of railroad tracks. There were a few bikers out, but with a nice shoulder on the road it wasn’t a problem. When I reached Sunol I headed toward Hwy-84 E, which has been turned into an expressway compared to the windy road it was just a year ago. Pulling on to Hwy-84 I found myself stuck behind a slow motorist… I’m talking barely 40mph in a 50mph zone (which should be at 55mph)… I sat back and waited. When the road straightened-out a little the double-yellow broke into a passing opportunity. I put the foot the floor and pulled-out for the pass, the ‘alter-ego’ of the G8 GT woke-up and off I went! I’m sure I could have made the pass in my Grand Prix, but it wouldn’t have been done with nearly as much style. At this point I figured that I’d head out towards Mines Rd.

    I have been wanting to drive out Mines Rd. all week. I have driven a few miles that direction several times before, but I recently learned of a route that continues all the way to Pattterson (or San Jose via Mt. Hamilton). This was one of the routes that I had mapped-out last night.

    My biggest concern with this route was the long sections of one-lane roads, but it turned-out to not be a problem. The first part of Mines Rd. is a nice two-lane stretch that runs on the wall of a canyon. There are a nice mix of sweeping and wide turns, and the traffic (both on-coming and bicycle) was very light today. I found myself behind a pick-up at one point, but he quickly pulled over and let me pass. After about 10 miles the road turns into one lane with several blind corners (the area I was concerned about).

    The one-lane section was a lot of fun to drive, but you really do have to be careful in making the blind corners. There is often room to move over and have two cars on the road, but it could get ugly if both cars were trying to be in the same place at the same time. After a little while the road moves from being on the wall of the canyon to the bottom, including two ‘river’ crossings. This time of the year there was lots of green and even some flowers. About 28 miles up Mines Rd. you reach ‘The Junction’ to Hwy-130… Right takes you to San Jose and Left takes you on Del Puerto Canyon Rd. towards Patterson.

    I really enjoyed the drive up Mines Rd. and kept thinking to myself, “if this was only a one-way road”. I think there should be a rally type event here…. call it “One-Way for a Day” and have cars set-off 10 minutes apart. The speed limit on the road is 45mph, more than fast enough through most parts, so people wouldn’t even be speeding while driving ‘spirited’. Knowing that you could take a corner at a safe speed (for the corner) and not worry about finding yourself face-to-face with another vehicle, would make the drive very enjoyable (not that it wasn’t anyhow… just more so).

    The G8 GT really handled the corners well. I have the 19″ wheels and summer-only performance tires that came with the Sport package… but I was still impressed for a 4-Door car weighing over 4300lbs. Despite some dirt/gravel on the road I never had any slippy moments. Coming from the front wheel drive Grand Prix, the lack of overstear (especially under heavy acceleration) was a joy! I had the G8 in ‘Sport Mode’ the whole time, and while there were a few places that I wish it had not down/up shifted, it did a great job overall. I was also really impressed with the seats as, despite hard left/right turns, I never found myself moving around.

    A quick note: I had been planning on stopping at ‘The Juntion‘ for a quick break, but was ‘in-the-groove’ of driving so kept going. But it is nice to know that you can be out in the middle of no where and still grab something to eat/drink mid-drive.

    Del Puerto Canyon Rd. starts out as a very nice two-lane road and continues 24 miles to Patterson. The start of the road is generally well maintained, but there were a few pine cones or other debris in the road to watch for. About 8 miles in there is a off-road park, so you may need to watch out for trucks hauling dirt bikes. Going East I didn’t have anyone in my way (they all appeared to be coming from Patterson to get to the park), but you never know what you’ll find. While I’m talking about people on the roads, I came across quite a few bicyclists once I got on Del Puerto Canyon Rd. Everyone was friendly, but something to be thinking about.

    I stopped a few places along the road and took some photographs of the G8 GT in an environment other than a parking garage. I’m sure I got a few strange looks from the passing motorists as I went climbing-up a hill to get a different angle. After I finished with the photos I set back out on the drive.

    Somewhere in the middle of Del Puerto Canyon Rd. things got a little narrow and the road was quite dirty (orange-ish colored dirt on the roads from the rains). Again, nothing the G8 couldn’t handle, but I did take it a little slower just in case. One of the really nice things about the end of this road is the canyon opens up and you get into more open grassy hills (compared to the dirty/rocky ones higher-up). It makes for a lovely spring drive. I’m sure in the summer this route would have less dirt/water on the roads, but the brown wouldn’t be as scenic.

    I stopped in Patterson to get some lunch then headed back up I-5 towards Tracy. The second route I had planned called for me to go out Corall Hollow Rd., but I decided that Mines Rd. would be more fun. Well, Corall Hollow Rd. is only a few miles up I-5 from Patterson… and goes directly back to Livermore. PERFECT… Two great curvy roads in one day!

    While Corall Hollow Rd. had some great curves, it also has more traffic. There is another off-road park here and there were many trucks heading that way. The speed limit is also a bit low for ‘spirited’ driving. I took this opportunity to relax a little and just drive along. Oh yeah, this is a good time to point out that the XM Radio didn’t loose connection on this entire drive! There were a few places where it spotted in/out for a second, but I was surprised it didn’t go out completely for long periods of time.

    At this point I was really happy to see that the rain had not arrived. I decided to take a spin around the hills to the east of Livermore. These are all two-lane and have some nice curves/elevation changes. Not many cars, but quite a few bicycles. I did the reverse direction of the road my Father test drove my car on and it was fun. Once I hit Altamont Pass Rd. I figured I’d take it out towards Byron and check-out the windmills. This is a very driver friendly road with unique views here and there. Not really long enough, but something nice other than I-580E.

    I turned off of Altamont Pass Rd. (which turned into Grant Line Rd.) on to Mountain House Rd. This is a straight shot towards Byron and what use to be a really cool photo location. At the end of Mountain House Rd. there is a set of train tracks that has had old train cargo containers just sitting there (it’s even in the Google Street View). When I arrived there I was shocked to see that the train cars had all been removed! Ug, so much for those photos.

    After the disappointment of not seeing the train cars I decided that I would head towards home. Rather than just taking Altamont Pass Rd. back, as I had planned the night before, I decided to head North a little farther to Vasco Rd. Vasco Rd., like Hwy-84, is one of those roads that use to have great curves but was changed to an expressway for safety. It does make for a relaxing drive, if you are after that sort of thing, but is quite bland compared to what it use to be. Wow… I sound like an old fart talking about the ‘good ole days’.

    The sky had started getting darker, so I figured the rain would be arriving soon. I still felt like driving so when I reached the roads towards the North side of Livermore I decided to take the ‘long way’ back home (rather than just jumping on I-508W). I looked these roads up the other day at work (dreaming of driving the G8 at lunch has become a common thing). On my way home I came across a Turkey Vulture in the middle of the road feeding on a fresh squirrel. I so wish I had my long lens with me, the shots would have been great… then again, as I was driving around the curves all day it would have been getting thrown around my trunk, so probably it for the best that I didn’t have it with me.

    I stopped by my parent’s house to share the tales of my trip (and pick-up some literature my Father printed out about the Active Fuel Management system on the G8 GT). When I reached their house I took a moment to review my fuel economy for the day, and I was shocked… 21.2mpg! I was seriously impressed that a full day of driving up and down hills with the car in sport mode and I was still able to manage over 20mpg! Way to go G8 GT!

    After a long, 6 and 1/2 hour drive (heck, I could have made it to LA!), I felt really good. I’m very impressed with the overall feel of the G8 GT. Even after many hours of being thrown around curves neither I, or the car, were tired! I can’t wait until the next weekend without rain. Nor can I wait until the summer when some of the coastal roads are less hazardous.

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