2.4.2 – 29 September 2012 – Mountain Biking Around Moffett Federal Airfield in Sunnyvale / Mountain View California


Circling Moffett Federal Airfield

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Read about our ride on Old Haul Road
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Marian and I did an easy ride with our Mountain Bikes this weekend.  Looking for an easy ride, since this is a training rest week, I harkened back to my working days, when I used to ride after work, often on the levies behind Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale.

Moffett Field and Lockheed Martin have coexisted, side-by-side since the dawn of the “space age”, just south of the lower end of San Francisco Bay.

With the addition of new trails in late 2010, it became possible to ride along the Bay behind Moffett Field, and with it, a complete circuit of the Base and Lockheed Martin.  We started at Baylands Park, rode the dirt levies until we were opposite Shoreline Amphitheater, and then paved trails until we were on the south side of US-101.  From there, it was various streets back to the park.

I occasionally used this circuit when I still worked at Lockheed Martin. With a little judicious management of the lights, I could ride two Thresholds (20 minutes in Zone 4 followed by 10 minutes of Zone 2).

This morning, the air was not good.  With the forest fires in Oregon and Northern California generating huge amounts of smoke, and the winds blowing it south, the air was judged unfit for people who are sensitive to smoke and such.  I was a little surprised at the lack of vision.  Normally, on this ride, we should have been able to clearly see Mount Hamilton.  We decided to go ahead a ride, rather than try to find another place which had better air, wherever that might have been.

Marian riding along the Bay, just outside the Lockheed Martin gate onto the trail. The gate kiosk allows entry / exit from the Sunnyvale campus. Unfortunately, I was not able to use it when I worked, as it was impossible to get a bike through it.

The trail along the Bay is extremely flat, with only minor rises and drops.  At the end of the dirt track, in which we had gone about seven miles, my Garmin reported a 16 foot cumulative change in elevation.

The trail required the cooperation, voluntary or otherwise, of a number of companies and government entities, including City, County and Federal. The last part of the trail, behind Moffett Field, was completed in late 2010.

The early part of the ride presented us with an opportunity to view a diverse bird population.  We saw a number of photographers out, with cameras seemingly the size of small automobiles.  This is the time for the migration from north to south.  We saw several species of water fowl.  Earlier, before I transitioned from the role of cyclist to tourist, I saw a large number of pelicans come in and land in a canal on the other side of the road I took this picture from.  I am still learning to record what I see, instead of just watching it like a dummy.

Marian quipped that “birds of a feather flock together”, and that is a perfect caption for this, with the species seeming to prefer their own.  At the far left, a pelican had just landed, and immediately made his way to his fellows.

The tide was out, and the bird were busy fishing.  Two separate thoughts struck me.  First, the writers who romanticize about the clean smell of the ocean must mean the deep ocean, because the shoreline smells of decay and leftovers, and is hardly clean.  The second is that scientists think they understand how migratory birds can navigate over long distances, even over oceans – that they may be sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field  (internal compasses), and I wondered what would happen to them when the magnetic field weakens enough that we have four, and then eight, and then sixteen, and then who knows how many poles, until the field strengthens again?

Fishing for lunch at low tide on San Francisco Bay.

After passing the ball fields, the water treatment plant, and the land fill, the buildings of the Yahoo Headquarters campus come into view.  At the height of the DOT COM madness, Lockheed Martin sold off about a third of its campus, with Yahoo buying a part of it.  This revenue proved to be critical to the survival of Lockheed Martin.  I am not sure if the land values have ever regained those lofty heights, and I am sure Yahoo cannot afford to sell their land as they fight for survival.

The Bayside of Yahoo, seen through the smoke of the Northern fires.

From January 1984 through January 2012, I worked for Lockheed Martin, at the Sunnyvale campus.  For much of that period, starting in 1990, I worked in Building 158.  The bike path runs past Lockheed Martin, with the office and manufacturing buildings at a safe distance from prying eyes.

Lockheed Martin Building 158 as seen from San Francisco Bay – I worked there in support of Milstar, AEHF, and other Communications programs.

Immediately adjacent to Lockheed Martin is Moffett Field.  There are a number of gates which facilitate the movement of cargoes to and from the Lockheed Martin campus.  The Airfield once hosted the US Navy, flying, first dirigibles, and then later P3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft.  The Navy is gone now, but NASA Ames allows the government to keep the airfield open.

One of the three hangers built by Admiral Moffett, when he unsuccessfully pioneered lighter than air craft for the US Navy.  The outer skin of this hanger has been stripped away.  Presumably, the government intends to demolish the hanger.  Real estate people continue to cast greedy eyes to the Moffett Field property.

Moffett Field is now owned and operated by NASA Ames.  From time to time, strange looking aircraft can be seen landing or taking off.  During the post-911 period, F16s were temporarily based at Moffett, to ensure that no repeat of 911 would be possible again.

The NASA Ames Research Center shared Moffett Field with the US Navy, until the Navy pulled out in one of the rounds of budget cuts. This complex of buildings includes a very large wind tunnel on the right end of the picture.

The smoke from fires in Oregon and Northern California made it impossible to clearly see Moffett.

Moffett Federal Airfield, as seen from San Francisco Bay. On the left, almost hidden by the smoke, are the hangers. On the right is the NASA Ames facility.

From the levies, we rode a paved trail, crossing under US-101, and out onto streets.  We then recrossed under US-101 and paralleled Highway 237 back to our starting point.  We went by the south end of Moffett and Lockheed Martin.  As we got to Matilda Avenue, we passed the Blue Cube.  The Blue Cube, so named for its shape and color, was the facility from which all US Government Satellites were flown until the 1990s.  The Blue Cube was determined to be too vulnerable for the missions it supported, and the functions were moved to New Mexico and Colorado, along with the 1000 jobs.

The Blue Cube, once the control center for all US Satellites, stands vacant, with only one giant dish still in place, reminding us of the end of this critical mission.

As we rode through high tech campuses, we saw a reminder that, perhaps, original thinking has not completely fled Silicon Valley.  While it is true that much of the original formula for Silicon Valley has slipped away, there is still room for original thinking.  Having never used a Conference Bike, I have no way of knowing if the idea works, or if it is just an excuse to get out on a bike.  I wonder if it would fit on a bike path?

We saw a “Conference Bike” standing idle, on the weekend. When I first saw it, I did not understand what I was looking at. After I finally understood what I was looking at, I also understood why I was looking.

The new and improved Conference Bike Manual – notice all the smiling people, who are all wearing workout suits and seem to be in pretty good shape. I wonder where they hook up the VTC and run the slide display?

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Read about our ride at Quicksilver
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Let us know what you thought, we'd love to know. Thanks - Pat and Marian

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