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  1. #1
    Trip the Bike Fantastic
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    Skywalker's Building a Tunnel [o]

    I've been hearing that there's a new tunnel underway beneath Lucas Valley Road being built by Lucasfilm to connect Loma Alta and Big Rock Ridge, so I set out to investigate as my Sunday two-wheeled adventure.

    The $900,000 project is mostly being paid for by George Lucas, as some kind of penance for coming up with that Jar Jar Binks character. It's been under debate since at least 2002, but has hit a number of roadblocks (so to speak) because the tunnel would impact the Marin Western Flax and the Mt. Tam Jewelflower. Apparently, they've been able to stormtroop their way through the issue, as the tunnel's nearing completion. It's a cool structure - I'm not sure of any other tunnel in Marin built solely to allow for uninterrupted trail access along the Bay Area Ridge Trail, so that's got to be something of a first.

    Anyway, onto the ride.

    I started out as dawn broke over Fairfax, slowly making my way up Repack to enjoy some early morning light over the valleys. Didn't quite make the vista at that perfect moment when the light's "just so," but got some great color off the trail.



    It was pretty quiet up on the ridge, and made some good time down White Hill FR and Porcupine/White's Hill trails.



    After cranking my way up Gunsight, the top of Loma Alta became a perfect spot to chill, shed a few layers and ate a bit o'grub. The old moon looking down on me from above.



    From up there, I got a good vantage of my next target, Big Rock Ridge.



    Here's the tunnel: hard to believe they're doing all this work for maybe 10 trail users/day. But so long as one of them's me, it's cool



    Where's the Rancor?



    This is the roadway the tunnel will bypass. It's a little bit sketchy up at the crest, as eastbound traffic can really sneak up on you if you're not paying attention. Hardly what I'd call a dangerous intersection... but will the tunnel make things safer? Absolutely!



    Trail riding continued on singletrack (albeit a wide one) along the Big Rock Ridge Trail, sometimes called "Lutallica" since it straddles the Lucas property and the Hetfield Ranch (that's thrashman James Hetfield, btw).

    Here's an aside: I always make it a point to pick up trash on the trail. Lo! There's a balloon on the trail. Should I pop it and throw it in the bag? No, I think I'll tie it to my bag and bring it home for my daughter, letting it bounce merrily behind a la "The Red Balloon" for the rest of the ride.


    Then the damn thing catches on a cattle gate and escapes. Little balloon, you're free now! Free to suffocate some small animal to death! To Live is to Die, Nothing Else Matters, Kill 'em All BABY!


    Hark! Skywalker Ranch approaches. Check out that artificial pond they've got! Can you see the Ewoks?


    Further on, a sign warns that trespassers will be power-chorded to oblivion.



    Up at the tower, I swear I started getting a headache about 100 yards from the dishes. Am I imagining this? I've gotten the exact same feeling the last time I was up there, and also once next to the towers on top of Mt. Barnabe. I decided to take my lunch a ways from the waves.



    I retread my route back home - Big Rock trail is so nice, especially on the downhill. There are always some hikers or horses out, especially on the weekends, but never so much that it causes a problem. It can be quite fast on the descent. Also, the trail is open enough that you can open things up a bit and still be conscientious of other users. Like the little old couple I snuck up on who were grabbing a$$ on their hike - totally embarrassed, but totally cute, too.



    Just read this post backwards to see what the return trip was like.

    Happy trails!

  2. #2
    CHOCOLATE NASTIES Baker
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    Not your imagination

    Quote Originally Posted by Cycledelic
    Up at the tower, I swear I started getting a headache about 100 yards from the dishes. Am I imagining this? I've gotten the exact same feeling the last time I was up there, and also once next to the towers on top of Mt. Barnabe. I decided to take my lunch a ways from the waves.

    Here is a website devoted to people who feel those same effects from microwave towers.
    http://www.mast-victims.org/
    I myself used to work at a paging company in a copper screen room testing pagers all day and if the signal was up too high I would get weird headaches also.
    Master of the unintentional track stand.

  3. #3
    Sweat is just fat crying.
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    Wow, great post! I love reading sh!t like this that's a little out of the ordinary on a board filled with "ordinary" mountain bike ride stories.

    Thanks for taking the time to post about it.

    fp
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  4. #4
    NedwannaB
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    Cool little epic!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cycledelic
    I've been hearing that there's a new tunnel underway beneath Lucas Valley Road being built by Lucasfilm to connect Loma Alta and Big Rock Ridge, so I set out to investigate as my Sunday two-wheeled adventure. Happy trails!
    Thanks for the story & pix. Haven't been on that route in awhile. Need to get up & over to BR Ridge from the Ignacio BK and check out the tunnel construction. That will be great to use when it's done, as you said, timing is key when xing that road.

  5. #5
    (slight return)
    Reputation: slide mon's Avatar
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    Hey Senor Cycledelic

    I passed that construction a little while ago and wondered what was up. Didn't realize they're building a tunnel. Funny place for a tunnel, at the top of a pass. Looks like a good ride,

    -slide

  6. #6
    Old School
    Reputation: Joe Steel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cycledelic
    Up at the tower, I swear I started getting a headache about 100 yards from the dishes. Am I imagining this?
    This is absolutely true. I read in a scientific journal recently about radiowaves exciting THC molecules in the brains of laboratory animals, causing severe headaches and strange activity -- rats were seeking refuge in tubes or tunnels.....hmmm

    Great story -- love that area (observed primarily from the saddle of a road bike though).

  7. #7
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    I haven't read or heard anything about it, but I was riding up there and checked it out. Pretty impressive piece of engineering and concrete work! The entrance to the tunnel is 30 to 45 degrees in slope. Way too steep for a ramp so I assume it's going to be a set of stairs. Inside the tunnel there are stenciled in signs that seem to indicate that it will be a cattle crossing. No kidding! I'm serious! Go figure.

  8. #8
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    Here's a couple of pictures I took.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #9
    Trip the Bike Fantastic
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    I got to thinking about what exactly is up there at the tower last night, and spent far too long researching the microwave installations, radiation levels, permit applications and environmental impact reports. There's not too much published on safety limits at this particular site, and while the facility probably does conform to FCC regulations, I can't argue with my own experience. Not like it'll stop me from riding there, but basking in microwaves at ground zero can't be good for you.

    For anyone curious enough (from the permit renewal form):

    The C&C Equipment Company operates an existing telecommunications site on Big Rock Ridge within an approximately 6,630 square foot leased area from Hill Ranch Properties. The facility is developed with two freestanding microwave antenna support towers (measuring 100 feet and 25 feet in height, respectively), and three equipment buildings. Two emergency generators are located outside Building 2 and the site is enclosed by a chain link fence. As described in the Marin County Telecommunications Facility Policy Plan, existing telecommunication services operated from this site include public utility paging, point-to-point microwave, and land mobile services. Access to the site is provided by existing private ranch and fire roads through the Hill Ranch, with connections to Wilson Avenue and Novato Boulevard, north of Big Rock Ridge. The Big Rock Ridge site has been in use as a telecommunications facility since the early 1960ís. It is host to approximately 23 service providers including private companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and Nextel, and public safety agencies such as the Marin Emergency Radio Authority (MERA) and the State of California.


    Trailseeker, I didn't even think about that steep ramp heading eastbound into the tunnel, and that it could possibly be a cattleway. Will they get Clo-strophobic in there? And I guess the cows will have to get good at scaling stairs. Can cows climb stairs?

  10. #10
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    I saw the tunnel recently and wondered.... How much singletrack would $900,000.00 build? Too bad someone felt it was necessary to fund an almost useless tunnel instead of funding more trails.

  11. #11
    Captain Underpants
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    Quote Originally Posted by fat.tires
    I saw the tunnel recently and wondered.... How much singletrack would $900,000.00 build? Too bad someone felt it was necessary to fund an almost useless tunnel instead of funding more trails.
    I don't consider it usless, as it is in my back yard and I ride it frequently. Now if George will just let me ride across his property in another certain location I can link up a cool ride that starts about a mile from my place. perhaps if I send a batch of homemade brownies to Skywalker he'll oblige.

    I've never felt anything near the towers, but I wear an aluminum foil deflector beanie under my helmet.

    Cycle, I don't think those buildings are considered Skwalker proper, but Big Rock Ranch. Not that it really matters, since George owns it all anyway.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cycledelic
    Hark! Skywalker Ranch approaches. Check out that artificial pond they've got! Can you see the Ewoks?
    That's not the Skywalker Ranch. Lake Ewok and the Skywalker property is further west.
    This might be Hetfield's home.

  13. #13
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    You're correct, Skywalker is further west. But, this is G. Lucas's property and buildings. I believe it's where a lot of the archives are kept. Hetfield's property is located at 3001 Lucas Valley Road. They've been doing construction up there forever, but it looks like a house stil isn't built. I give that ****er a good 30 second honk on the horn everytime I drive by his property. I understand it's his property and he can prevent public access if he wants. one of his major gripes is that he wanted privacy. When you look at the trail that left Sleep Hollow Open Space to connect to Loma Alta, it goes nowhere near where he wants to put his proposed heavy metal mansion. Anyways, I encourage the rest of you to join in the honking chorus for Mr Metallica.

  14. #14
    Trip the Bike Fantastic
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    Wow, blast from the past. It's been just about a year since I've been able to ride a bike. This brings back good memories. Well, not the Hetfield part. You know.

  15. #15
    Like a boss.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haus Boss
    You're correct, Skywalker is further west. But, this is G. Lucas's property and buildings. I believe it's where a lot of the archives are kept. Hetfield's property is located at 3001 Lucas Valley Road. They've been doing construction up there forever, but it looks like a house stil isn't built. I give that ****er a good 30 second honk on the horn everytime I drive by his property. I understand it's his property and he can prevent public access if he wants. one of his major gripes is that he wanted privacy. When you look at the trail that left Sleep Hollow Open Space to connect to Loma Alta, it goes nowhere near where he wants to put his proposed heavy metal mansion. Anyways, I encourage the rest of you to join in the honking chorus for Mr Metallica.
    The property you guys are talking about is called Big Rock Ranch and it's where Lucasfilm does a lot of its graphic design/animation/computer stuff. My friend Dave is an animator there and sometimes we'll drive over to Skywalker Ranch for lunch. If you're an employee or guest of an employee, you can get a gourmet, locallly-sourced, organic, blah blah blah lunch there for less than $10. They have an awesome selection of artisan sodas, it's really cool. Lucas may be weird, but his facilities are GORGEOUS. All the parking's underground, and there's original art everywhere - Norman Rockwell paintings, Tiffany lamps, etc. Skywalker Ranch looks like an enormous Victorian mansion with the most perfectly manicured grounds... neat stuff.

    Back on topic, the tunnel is also used for moving cattle safely between the north and south sides of Lucas Valley Road. The north entrance gets pretty gross during the winter. Mmm muddy cow sh*t!!
    Quote Originally Posted by jbt56
    Are you a whiny Marin liberal, or a hand-wringing Berkeley liberal?

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