Davenport Run - Saturday July 13, 2024

Join the Norcal Minis club for an epic drive from San Jose through the scenic Santa Cruz Mountains! Enjoy stunning vistas and wine tasting a...

Recap - East Bay Run to the Hills - January 22, 2023

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Your Host For This Event:

Eddie Vergara

Our first drive of 2023 through the East Bay hills almost didn’t happen. After years of extreme drought, the skies opened up with one wet storm after another in quick succession for almost a full month.  Rains had come down so hard that roads through all of the Northern California hills suffered damage, some severely.  The road we originally planned to start our East Bay Hills run on, Redwood Road north of Castro Valley, collapsed and washed out in one large section from the prolonged torrential rain storms.  CalTrans posted numerous traffic advisories for fallen tree debris, flooding, and rock and mudslides throughout our planned route.  Given the conditions and weather, the club leadership and run host discussed possibly rescheduling the run when road and weather conditions would permit.

This run host was determined not to let that happen though, if at all possible.  My MINI had been garaged since October while I was doing some major upgrades, and this run was going to be its inaugural club run.  After all of that wrenching, I was really itching for a nice drive!  I mapped out a potential alternate route, and along with our 2023 club president, Pat Lewis, we went on a pre-run to verify that the new route was passable, safe, and up to NorCal MINIs’ standards for fun monthly runs.  

Fortunately, we were successful, and we relocated the meetup location to east Oakland and began our run for the hills on Skyline Boulevard instead of Redwood Road.  Luckily, the weatherman accurately forecasted a break in the rains the weekend of the run, so we declared the run a “Go!” for February 22.

And what a successful run we had.  We had 90 souls riding in 37 MINIs, including some new members making their first club run with us.

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Early on the morning of the 22nd, five cars from the San Jose area met up at Almaden Ranch Shopping Center and convoyed with the run host up to the run’s revised meetup location at the Foothill Square Shopping Center in Oakland.  The shopping center parking had plenty of room for us to park together, greet old friends, and meet new friends before we held the drivers’ briefing and started the run.

"The Tildesley Collection"

The run meetup featured a special reunion of sorts, starring the “Tildesley Collection of MINIs.”  Three MINIs that used to be owned by Simon (past president), Nikki, and Alex Tildesley are now owned by other NorCal MINIs members, and they all parked next to Simon and Nikki’s Paddy Hopkirk Edition in the first row of cars.  This run also marked Simon’s first club run in many years without any official duties other than to enjoy the drive.  Thank you for your years of service, Simon!  

2023 President, Pat Lewis, at the drivers' briefing

Our new club president, Pat, kicked off our drivers’ briefing with club business and announcements, before turning the floor over to our host, Eddie, to walk us through the day’s route plan.  After discussing the route and safety precautions, we started our engines and tuned our 2-way radios to Channel 7-21 for the scenic drive ahead of us. 

Run host, Eddie Vergara, at the drivers' briefing

To keep the drive manageable with nearly 40 cars on tight, winding backroads, we broke the group into two. The first group was led by Eddie, and the second was led by Pat.  Group #1 drove off with a 10- or 15-minute head start to minimize radio crosstalk between the two groups.  After cutting through the local neighborhood and passing under the freeway, we headed up the hill to Skyline Boulevard.  

Heading north on Skyline Blvd., we climbed up near the top of the east hill’s ridgeline. From this lofty vantage point, our drivers and especially their passengers were treated to stunning views of the Bay on an absolutely clear and pristine day with blue skies and fluffy white clouds.  The Peninsula, Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, San Francisco, and even the Golden Gate Bridge, could all be seen easily from many spots along this first segment of our route.

Following the 40-min drive on Skyline Blvd., we reached our first stop at a picnic rest area among the trees of Tilden Park.  Drivers and passengers took a bio-break and stretched their legs before we picked up our second half of the run deeper through the east hills.  

At the rest stop, Group #1 was pleasantly surprised to meet a fellow MINI owner who had seen our group on Skyline, followed us to Tilden Park in his Rebel Green JCW, and inquired about our group.  Club directors shared a NorCal MINIs business card with him and explained what we were all about.  We were glad to learn that the driver joined the club within just a day or two of the run.  Welcome to NorCal MINIs,  Jim M.!

Tilden Park rest stop

The second segment of the run featured more of Tilden Park's forests and the wonderful sight of seeing San Pablo Reservoir full of water.  We drove past the reservoir and into the lush green hills and farms of the Alhambra Valley before passing through the town of Martinez as we headed to our final stop at the Martinez Marina.  Road conditions along the run were surprisingly good, so we must give a tip of the hat to Alameda County Public Works for clearing the roads of debris so well, so soon!  However, as we made our way through the marina’s very large parking lot, drivers had to choose a safe path for their MINIs through some flooded areas. These big puddles seemed like lagoons in comparison to our small cars!  Our host posted a video of Group #2’s brave souls wading through the “deep” waters. It is on our group FB page in case you want to check it out.

Group #1 initially decided to park as close to the north end of the lot and the shoreline as possible, so we could get clear views of the Carquinez Strait and Benicia-Martinez bridge.  But within minutes of parking, members noticed that the tide was rising, and the lot was quickly starting to flood with the brackish water from the strait!  We rushed to our cars seeking higher ground further from the shoreline. In doing so, we proved that Californians really don’t know how to handle a little water! LOL

That puddle keeps getting closer!

The second group joined us shortly after we moved our cars from the rising tide.  

Group #2 navigates the flooded driveway

Duane Caldwell, our 2023 Social Media Director, run photographer, and the club’s honorary “Cliff Clavin” (for you fans of the old TV show, Cheers!)  shared with us some wonderful trivia about Martinez, including bits about martinis, Joe Dimaggio, and John Muir.  We wrapped up the run with a club photo before everyone headed into downtown Martinez for a well-deserved lunch with club friends.  Most of us even got home in time to watch the Niners' playoff victory over the Cowboys.

Group shot at the Martinez Marina

Following the drive, I posted the message below on Norcal MINI’s Facebook page, and with it, I wrap up my recap for this run.  Please make sure you register and join us for Gordon and Alison Lee’s February 25th run “Marin to Bodega Bay”

“I'm thankful for many a thing at the start of this new year, but right near the top of the list, is being part of this club.

Had a wonderful drive with 30+ members and their partners in crime.  Lots of smiles, laughs, jokes and even trivia about Martinez!  Top that with some great food with friends, and it just can't get any better.

I was very honored to be your run host today.  Glad you all enjoyed it!  Thank you all for your feedback and hope to see you all in the next runs!”

Thanks for a great day of MINIs, and the hilly backroads of the East Bay!

Eddie Vergara

For more great pictures from Duane, check out this link to the Google Drive folder for the run pics

Old Priest Grade/Groveland Run - Sun. Mar. 19, 2023

This historic Oakdale building was originally a bank.


Your Host For The Event:

Mary Wolgamot

Run Details:

We'll start our day by meeting in Oakdale, self-proclaimed as the "Cowboy Capital of the World," behind the Arco AM/PM store at 1505 East F Street (former Kmart parking lot).

Please have a radio tuned to Channel 7-21 CTCSS to hear alerts during the run! The Club has loaners if you don’t have your own. Leaders will use the club radios to alert drivers to hazards, so please have your radios or borrow the club radios to listen in.

Due to the winter storms, many backroads in the Northern California hills have been closed due to slides and washouts. Our original plan was to visit the "Graffiti Bridge" (aka, Wards Ferry Bridge) across the Tuolumne River, but the hilly roads on both sides of the bridge were closed due to storm damage in early January. We don't know when the damage will be repaired, so for now, we will plan to bypass Graffiti Bridge and end our run at Columbia State Historic Park.

If the Wards Ferry Road is fully repaired and reopened in time to pre-run the route before March 19, we may change our run to include the bridge. Stay tuned to this website and check your NorCal MINIs emails from MotorSport Registry to confirm the route before the run. Our March run's meeting spot is in the parking lot of the former Oakdale Kmart. The Arco AM/PM minimart bathroom is not the best, so we strongly recommend it as a gas/snack stop only. There are several fast food spots nearby, and the Starbucks (325 E F St D, Oakdale, CA 95361) by the Bank Of America is easy to get in and out of. There is another Starbucks closer to the meet-up location, but it is a smaller store focused on drive-thru business. You might have a tougher time getting in/out to use their restroom.

Google Street View of the Arco AM/PM in Oakdale

After the driver's meeting, we'll head east out of Oakdale on CA Hwy. 120/108. You might be interested to know we will pass a spot on this leg of the run that was used as an old west film set in the movie "Back to the Future III." Also be sure to obey the CalTrans sign that warns drivers not to pick up hitchhikers, as there is a minimum security prison nearby and occasionally the inmates attempt an early release! We don't want to get hijacked by any modern Black Barts.

No Black Barts, please!

A few miles down the road at the highway 120/108 split, we'll take CA 120 towards Yosemite. We will pass by Chinese Camp, established in 1849 as a home for Chinese miners and as a stop for stage lines, it is also noted as the site of the first Tong War in California (between the Sam Yap and Yan Woo Tongs). The Chinese Camp population is less than 150 today. The original US Post Office built in 1854 is still in use.

A building in Chinese Camp.

Next up (and "UP" is the key word!) is Old Priest Grade Road! This section of road is listed on the Dangerous Roads website due to its twists and turns at up to a 20% grade! This stretch of road is legendary, and it is listed as one of the toughest bicycle climbs in the USA. Be sure to turn off your air conditioners as many cars have been known to overheat on this climb! We will need to watch out for cyclists, and we will safely pace ourselves to avoid adding to the "dangerous road" reputation.

After climbing this incredible grade, we will continue on CA 120 to Groveland. On the far side of this cute Gold Country town, is our halfway rest stop and bio break spot. Plan to pause 20 minutes at Mary Laveroni Park.

Halfway break spot in Groveland

Following the rest stop in Groveland, we'll head back down Old Priest Grade (downshifting to keep those brake pads from overheating), and drive along CA 120/49 briefly before taking a right turn onto northbound Jacksonville Rd towards Jamestown. We'll cross over the Don Pedro Reservoir Bridge and drive through Jamestown, where we will hop on northbound CA 108/49 for a very short distance, making a quick left at the light onto 5th Avenue.

Don't get used to 5th Avenue because it quickly ends at Jamestown Road, our route north towards Columbia State Historic Park. This last leg of the run is a pretty clear route but is complicated a bit by the changing names of the road. Jamestown Road becomes Shaws Flat Road which later becomes Springfield Road. As always, bring your radios and listen to the run leaders to ease us through these changing street names. Along this stretch of the run, we will pass the home of Ellie Nesler. Nesler was the vigilante mom who entered the local Jamestown courthouse where she shot and killed the man who molested her six-year-old son, leading to the installation of metal detectors in county courthouses across the country and serving as the story for a made-for-TV movie. We will turn left onto northbound Parrots Ferry Road, and then Columbia State Historical Park will be on the right in a mile or so. There is plentiful parking!

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We will have a quick post-run debrief at the parking lot, and then we all break for lunch on our own and return home. We hope you take advantage of the many dining and sweet treat options in historic Columbia, especially if you join up with some NorCal MINI club members to share stories of how your MINIs conquered Old Priest Grade, one of the toughest road climbs in the country!

Horse-drawn stagecoach in Columbia

Meet-Up Time/Departure Time:

10:00am/ 10:30am

Meet-Up Location:

Former Kmart parking lot behind Arco AM/PM
1505 East F Street Oakdale, CA 95361

Additional Run Details:

*Please bring your radio*, fully charged, turned on, and tuned to Channel 7, Subchannel 21 CTCSS before you arrive at the start. If you don’t have a radio, ask for a loaner at the driver’s meeting. For radio recommendations, please see https://www.facebook.com/legacy/notes/728353274556164/.

Be sure to turn the “VOX” voice-activated setting OFF, or we will hear the wind from your AC, your conversations, and any noise in your car broadcasting to everyone.

Make a pit stop before the drivers' briefing. We will be driving for a while through twisty hills before our rest stop up in Groveland, so plan ahead.

Hilly California backroads can be rough, especially after winter storms spawn new and bigger potholes. There are no major hazards that would take out a car, but some of the backroad sections are definitely bumpier than others.

There are stretches where local wildlife may be seen on each side of the road. At some point, these animals may decide to cross the road, so please watch out for deer, wild turkeys, etc. trying to get from one side to the other right in front of your car.



The streets of Columbia State Historic Park

Pre-Run Coffee Stop in Oakdale:

Starbucks 325 E F St D Oakdale, CA 95361

Columbia State Historical Park:

11259 Jackson St
Columbia, CA 95310

Columbia State Park Lunch & Treat Spots:

Check the links for restaurants, coffee/sweet shop, and ice cream parlor.

Register Via MotorSport Reg:

Check out 2023 Run Calendar for complete list of events for the remainder of this year.

The following guidelines are our best attempt to secure your safety given what is known at this time. They are by no means comprehensive, and we cannot predict every circumstance. Therefore, we are counting on you to exercise your best judgment throughout the event. Please have an awareness and understanding of the following COVID-19 safety protocols:
• NorCal MINIS asks that anyone who is at higher risk for severe illness, feeling unwell, or who has been in contact with anyone that is sick in the last two weeks to STAY HOME
• In line with State guidelines – people who are fully vaccinated may attend without a face mask. If you are not fully vaccinated – we kindly request that you maintain a face covering.
• NorCal MINIs will encourage everyone to maintain personal hygiene in regards to washing hands
• Club loaner radios will be available at the run. These will be sanitized prior to be handed and out will be sanitized again upon return.
• Any PPE you wish to use must be supplied by yourself. This includes any face coverings or hand sanitizing products
• Participants will be required to Sign Waivers Electronically
• Please be courteous with people who wish to maintain PPE and social distancing. It is their choice to do this and we cannot question their vaccine status
Anyone who continually or willfully violates these guidelines will be asked to leave by a club officer or director.
• Any participant that falls ill within 2 weeks after the event MUST contact NorCal MINIs and share a description of their symptoms, related test results and movements during the event
• NorCal MINIs will make every effort to alert affected participants privately of the situation
Ultimately, it is your responsibility to assess the risk to you and make a responsible decision on whether or not to participate. You assume all risks and agree the Club holds no liability if you or anyone in your party should develop any Covid-19 symptoms afterwards by attending a NorCal MINIs event. Participants are required to follow these guidelines; any participant may be asked to leave the event for non-compliance.

Join Today! Create your MotorSportReg Account to become a Registered Club Member, use the link below:
NorCal MINIs Membership

Instructions for joining MotorSportReg and joining NorCal MINIs can be found in the following document:  Instructions