American Heritage Museum (Collings Foundation)

Back around 2000 I heard whispers, on the internet, of a collection of military tanks in nearby Portola Valley at the “Pony Tracks Ranch”. It was not open to the public, but some groups were getting private tours. I tracked down a few crumbs of information on the internet, and left a telephone message to ask if the Studebaker Club could have a tour. (Yes, I own a 1963 Studebaker convertible that my grandfather bought new. I rode in it when I was a baby!)

Jacques Littlefield, the billionaire with one of the best collections of “toys” in the world, promptly called me back, and we were in! We had an amazing tour, led by Jacques himself, of his huge collection of about 200 tanks. It also included his restoration shop with Russian-language manuals, a (very serious) hoist to lift the turret off a tank, and other such exotic tools to restore these beasts to full operating condition.

Fast forward a few years, Jacques passes-away at a relatively young ago of cancer, and his wife wants the stuff outta there! His “Military Vehicle Technology Foundation”, with a group of loyal members, is disbanded and the collection went to auction.

A quick overview of the former collection: and one of many longer YouTube videos of the former collection:

Fortunately, the same awesome Collings Foundation, which has a WW2 warplane tour every year, stepped up and bought the best parts of the collection. It was all trucked to the Boston suburbs, and beautifully presented in this new building!


Just inside the front door, it honors Jacques:


Below is the address and website, should you wish to plan a visit! (Note they are in a “pre-opening” phase right now in late 2018, with very limited hours.)


Jacques’ space in Portola Valley, was a massive garage, in the hills above Silicon Valley. Below is what you see upon entering the new space:

(A few items are not from Jacques’ collection, including 2 airplanes and the amphibious landing craft at lower-right below (PA45-18). It was purchased from a fisherman in Normandy who had still been using it since the Americans left it behind in 1945…)


Some really rare stuff, sorted by military campaign or theater.


Heavy on German and American armor, there is a little bit of Soviet hardware, too! (The signs explaining what each item is have not been added yet. “Coming soon”!)


Below is one of two SCUD Missile Launchers that Jacques owned. This one has Iraqi markings. (Jacques told me a great story of how his first one was hung-up in Customs at the Port of San Francisco for a very long time. He had to document that it was not capable of operating if it was going to be in private hands. The second one he bought went right through!)


The exhibits do not discuss winners and losers, and right versus wrong. The goal is to preserve the lethal hardware, and present it in a historical context.


My favorite quote of Jacques’, which explains his fascination of these machines, I saved from the defunct website of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation:

“For me, the important part of the tanks is understanding the industrial know-how that allowed them to be built, and then document those findings. There may not be much appreciation for them now, but hopefully after I’m gone people will look back and say, ‘Thank God he saved these historical vehicles instead of just letting them rust away and disappear forever.”


The large camouflaged tank, below, to the right of the Soviet tank, was Jacques’ prized German “Panther”. It spent 70 years at the bottom of a river in Poland. Jacques acquired it, and restored it to operating condition! (Here is the restored Maybach V-12, being fired-up for the first time. Jacques is the bald guy, to the rear )


All of the tanks have had their barrels cut and reattached so as to make them incapable of firing properly. Jacques used to hold an Open House every year for his neighbors and law enforcement. He knew his hobby was unusual, and he knew his neighbors did a double-take every time there was a new “toy” being trucked thru the neighborhood. Opening the gates and letting them look around was a really good idea!


Where did he get these? Well, just like old warplanes, they are sold to collectors by small countries who often use them for many years after the original countries have moved on to newer stuff. Some the items are a bit trickier. The first SCUD Missile launcher was from, I think, the Czech Republic when the Soviets pulled-out. The second one was left when the Iraqis were pushed out of Kuwait.


One of his other stories that I recall, was hearing of a vintage WW2 American tank that was owned by a warlord in Bosnia, back in the 1990s. He sent someone there, with a big wad of cash and said “buy it”! Due to the fragmented war in the former Yugoslavia, it was quite a task. It included paying-off other warlords to allow the tank to pass thru their territories, on the way to the port.


The below German tracked troop carrier is huge! The top of the grille is about 7 feet off the ground.

IMG_2935Many of my pictures are from the elevated walkway. You’re also able to walk to within a few feet of each tank, on the lower level, and look at it closely. They have plans to keep at least some of them operational and take them outside for public events.

Should you decide to visit, be sure to check their hours and days at I believe they are now closed until April 2019, when they will have their formal Grand Opening.

Here is a link to the Collings Foundation’s annual magazine, with discussion of both the tanks and their aircraft: The aircraft collection is quickly expanding, as well. New additions include an iconic twin-tailed P-38 Lightning, an F-4 Phantom, and a 1914 Curtiss.

Enjoy your visit, and tip your hat to the memory of Jacques, who did indeed create a collection that is like nothing else.

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Ugh! Let’s do it again! Mount Sizer (Henry W. Coe State Park)

Back in August, I saw a post on the Henry W. Coe State Park Facebook page, asking about doing Mt Sizer. The first bit of advice was NOT IN AUGUST. After answering some questions, we decided to do gather a few friends and do it in October! So it began…three of my friends, and two new ones I hadn’t met yet, arriving at the Henry Coe HQ parking lot at 8AM in mid-October. (I also planned to do this hike before the end of 2018, to qualify for the “SixPack of Peaks” challenge so setting a date was a helpful motivator!)


It was my 10th time doing Mt Sizer (once with a loaded 60 pound bicycle My three friends had all done it before. It’s a challenge every time…especially since we were experiencing a heatwave that day. It was forecast to be 85F in Morgan Hill, and likely a little more on the ridges of the park. One friend bailed-out due to the weather, and one woke up with a headache (really…?)

First stop: Frog Lake! (Yes, somebody drained the swamp.)


After peering over the edge, down into the valley, where the “Shortcut” is, we went down…to the bottom. We spent a few minutes discussing how dry it was. I looked a few feet downstream, where I had seen hundreds of hibernating ladybugs in the past. That spot was empty, but we did see a few random ones flying around.


OK, check your clocks, and record your uphill “creek-to-bench” (C2B) time. It’s about 1500 vertical feet, over ~1.2 miles. (A Geocacher started measuring his C2B time, so others now do too. I also use it to record my 9 prior visits: )

The picture below, unlike most, really does show how steep the road is.


Finally…THE BENCH! My time was “acceptable”, being 3rd out of 6 in the group, and because my “hiking mojo” has been low for the past year, or so. My lungs were not complaining, like they usually do…it was my legs this time!


I actually didn’t take a picture of “the summit”, as it’s not much more than a bump on Blue Ridge. The scattered pine trees on the ridge provided a little shade!


Looking down a side road, to the east, from near the summit: (That’s me, on the road, looking like part of the tree trunk!)


After awhile, we turned right onto the Jackass Trail, and headed downhill to Poverty Flats, where we would experience our second big climb of the day.


The fall foliage was in full color! (This being the dreaded Poison Oak!)


We paused for a bit at Poverty Flats, but not long…we calculated that we’d be running out of daylight. Up we go!


Below is a park sign, at a trail intersection. We’re still about a mile from park HQ and our cars.


That’s it! About 18 miles and 4000 vertical feet, over the course of 11 hours.

Strava GPS track:

Aerial flyover:

Facebook link, with photos:

Additional info from a friend, who hiked it awhile back:

I didn’t take many pictures myself. Many of these photos were used, with permission, from and Sam D. Thanks!



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Alleghany, CA – Jeeping to a Gold Mine!

A few weeks back, I again visited the heart of the northern Mother Lode, including Alleghany. With a posted population of 58, I was told it’s more like 20 year-round residents. 18 miles up a lonely ridge from Highway 49, I visited a retired Silicon Valley engineer who first started coming here on weekends about 50 years ago!


The town includes this building, below, which has a part-time Post Office on the right, and the Underground Gold Miner’s Museum on the left (open occasionally…)


There’s also Casey’s Place, which is a circa-1890 bar and restaurant. That, too, is pretty quiet.


Last, but not least, there’s the Volunteer Fire Department, with my friend’s Jeep in front. He’s also the “radio guy” for the Fire Department, being from Silicon Valley, and all that…


There are several historical and/or operational mines in the area. The “Sixteen to One Mine” is the oldest hard rock mine in America, founded in 1896.


There’s also the Ruby Mine, (currently For Sale ) which is still producing, and the Plumbago mine, which we’re going to see, as we hop in the Jeep, and descend 2000 feet to the bottom of the canyon!


Below, is the bottom of the first canyon, at Kanaka Creek, near the Ophir Mine.


Those red roofs, below, are buildings at the lower Plumbago Mine. I was told that a few years back, the place was cleaned-up reeaaallll nice, just before they helicoptered some deep-pocketed investors to look around. (Painted the buildings, told some stories, and caught some naive investors and mined their wallets!)

My friend was also part of the first crew to use metal detectors in the old Plumbago tunnels. They found $1 million in two days, though the mine owners got almost all of that!


Down we go, even more…it’s a shelf road, built for mules! I only took photos on the easy parts. I was not holding a camera on the more exciting parts of the road!


Finally…we reach the bottom of the canyon, where Wolf Creek joins the Middle Fork of the Yuba River. The cabin, below, was built in ~1925, using wood strips from an abandoned redwood flume from the 1880’s. (Flumes carried water downhill, often for many miles, to be used in large-scale sluicing operations.)


Below, is the roof of the cabin. My friend stabilized the old structure, about 20 years ago, and lived in it for awhile.


I should have taken more pictures, but I didn’t…the river and creek are quite scenic and peaceful. It’s not recommended to go into the canyon alone, though. The road is rough, and there bears and a few odd characters that live in the canyon, at their claims.. If you go to the town of Alleghany, call ahead and see when Casey’s and/or the Museum are open.

Also consider a small side-trip to Forest City. They took $200 Million in gold out of the ground in about 10 years. The town had 1000 people at one time, and the mine tunnel included an underground steam locomotive (cough! cough!) Today, it’s a crumbling historic Dance Hall, plus a few homes. It’s also a Registered Historic District.

The End!

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Peter’s Creek Grove @ Portola Redwoods State Park


Entry sign, before the Visitor’s Center

I haven’t organized a group hike in awhile. Partly due to other things going on, and partly because I’m running out of good ideas. It was forecast to be over 95F, and I had some friends interested in Peter’s Creek Grove, so…let’s go to the redwoods, where it should be cooler!

We made the deceptively long drive, west from I-280 on Page Mill Road, over Skyline, then the long descent into park HQ. We planned on it being a bit cooler, and it was! (Park website: Park brochure and small map:


Image from the sign at HQ

It was warming quickly, which reminded me of a prior hike closeby, on a warm day. It was to the natural crude oil seep in “Tarwater Creek”. On a warm day, it was evaporating and giving off a smell. An easy hike for another time!


A bit of a warning, at Slate Creek Trail Camp, when turning north

A bit after the left turn at Slate Creek Trail Camp, your next interesting stop is at a 1941 Buick Super Sport Coupe! It’s a few feet off the trail, to the right, at N 37° 16.033 W 122° 11.382 (If you’re a Geocacher, the details are here:



A burned-out shell, leaning against a younger tree

7 of us eventually made it down into the Grove, and near the water, the temperature dropped considerably! And yes, we saw trees!


“lookee that big tree”

These trees are some of the only virgin redwoods in the area. They did not meet their fate at the nearby “Page Mill”. Page Mill was a shingle cutting operation, owned by “Mr. Page”. The more famous Page Mill Road was his route from the mill to the port, on San Francisco Bay, from where he shipped his shingles.


Crossing Peter’s Creek, with a huge tree and root ball behind us

Heading out of the grove, one of our group noticed this very active wasp nest. I went the closest, for a picture, but I moved very slowly and carefully!


Yes, a real wasp nest, with alot of activity on the right side

A very thoughtful friend brought a 22oz beer to share, but we had to improvise for cups!


Water bottles + pocket knife = drinking cups!

That’s it! Have fun…oh, there was alot of poison oak! Here’s our Strava track:

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Big Sur, Indians Road, South Coast Ridge Road

This past weekend I got my new Subaru dirty for the third time! I was interested in both the South Coast Ridge Road, which I could not do with my previous 2WD sedan, and Indians Road, which connects from Fort Hunter Liggett to Arroyo Seco. (I was here a year ago, when there were 3 closures on Highway 1  and 3 years ago, when I did a chilly winter hike to Cone Peak

Michael joined me on our 3 day, 2 night adventure. We headed down Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway), through Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur to our first planned stop in Gorda. (Did I mention the large numbers of tourists along the Big Sur coast? Some of them are amateur motorhome renters, and some of them walk into the roadway while thinking only about their next selfie.)

Gorda is as far south as you can go, before the “Big Slide”, where Highway 1 washed out last year, between there and San Simeon. We had lunch at the Treebones Resort, out on the deck, overlooking the water.



We made a quick gas stop, as we were about to go off-road for awhile, and the next gas stop would be 2 days later. (Yes, $6.59 a gallon. I bought 4 gallons! I’m happy they were there, and happy I was only “topping off”, just in case…)


From Gorda, we headed uphill on Los Burros Road, then to the South Coast Ridge Road. About 3000 feet of climbing and 15 miles total on dirt Forest Service roads. (Los Burros Road was likely originally created to access the small mines and claims in a “mini Gold Rush” in this area. A few statistics: …and an interesting story about the area, with many sequential links at left

Below, we reach the top of Los Burros Road and turn left and start the rollercoaster ridge road:



Most of the crud washed off the car…there are a few permanent scratches on the right side, but that’s what I bought it for!


Below, is the sign describing where we had just come from, after we hit pavement at the top of Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. Prewitt Ridge was a place we considered for our first night’s camp, but it was fairly full and still early in the day. We kept moving! (We averaged 8 mpg on the dirt road.)


We drove through Fort Hunter Liggett, to Memorial Campground, and found a nice site. The next morning we drove a few miles further, through a seasonal gate, to Escondido Campground. From there we continued a mile or two on Indians Road, to the permanent gate that only allows hikers and cyclists for the next ~15 miles to Arroyo Seco. (The road was closed awhile back, after some landslides and a decision not to maintain it any more.)

Below is part of our hike, beyond the permanent gate on Indians Road.


It was hot and dry, but there were quite a few flowers on the hillsides and shady areas, where a bit more water might be in the soil.


We climbed about 600 feet, very gradually, while seeing this lonely mountaintop pinetree get closer.


Following that hike, where we failed to find 2 geocaches that were not logged in over 10 years, we did another short hike from the Escondido Camground.


Two short hikes accomplished by late morning, as the temperatures headed towards 100F. We drove to the historic 1771 Mission San Antonio de Padua, which included an air conditioned Visitor’s Center!



Inside, there was a museum, telling the history and displaying artifacts. This mission is particularly isolated, with the building and the grounds being well preserved. The grounds include a cemetery, a millrace and old millhouse.


The Mission’s web page. They still have weekly Sunday masses! …and more detailed history


200+year old wine vat, in a lower level of the Visitor’s Center area. They had their priorities in order…



The inner courtyard, of a sizeable place!


The interior of the chapel was restored by William Randolph Hearst in 1949. He owned the vast Army property, prior to WW2, including the Mission and his nearby large Hacienda. He sold it to the Army, during WW2, as a training ground for tanks. (The smallest road bridges, over the creeks, have a posted weight limit of 80 tons!)




From there, we headed to Lake Nacimiento, about 25 miles south. It’s a boating and swimming lake, quite close to Paso Robles. We had an early dinner there, then camped back not far from the previous night, at the Nacimiento Campground. The third morning we headed down Nacimiento-Ferguson Road, into the coastal fog bank, and headed back up the coast.


About 1/2 mile from the Mission, within the barbed wire center of the Army Base, is Hearst’s historic Hacienda. It’s possible to book one of the ~10 rooms, but securing a reservation is really difficult! Maybe some day… Reservations for the general public:

That’s it! Remember to fill your tank before Gorda and have fun.!


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My New-to-Me 1978/79 Guerciotti


When I first moved to the Bay Area in 1990, I shared a condo with an old family friend. She introduced me to one of her friend’s boyfriend (are you following me so far?) who became a very good friend of many years. Well…he passed away recently. Way to soon!

He made an “adult cyclist” out of me. That means I got into cycling as something more than short-distance transportation, like at college. He helped me buy a “real bike” and make a healthy hobby out of exploring the hills of Silicon Valley. (He was very patient in waiting for me at the top of iconic local climbs, like Old La Honda Road.)

His wife (widow) contacted me recently to ask if I wanted his old racing bicycle “because he’d want you to have it”. I choked-up a bit, and shed a tear, and picked it up at her house. With a hug, I told her I’d take good care of it.

He bought it new, around 1978 or 1979, and raced it until sometime in the 1990s, when he replaced it with a Colnago. The Guerciotti was put in the garage, with the tires and brake pads getting hard and dry with age.



It’s an interesting combination of Campagnolo, Dura-Ace and 600 components. He had made some swaps and upgrades over the years. I tinkered with it a bit, then decided it really should be disassembled and completely lubed. I didn’t want to damage any of the long-dormant components, and I didn’t have the tools and expertise to do it all myself.



The local shop did a great job. New chain, brake pads, and cables. Everything else was completely cleaned and polished. The yellow seat cover and two color handlebar tape was left as it was. It rides very nicely!



Yes, my friend, your memory is alive. I will take good care of it!

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Montara Mtn @ Pacifica, CA (Helicopter Crash Site)

27 years ago, a Navy helicopter crashed on rugged Montara Mountain, just south of San Francisco. A memorial plaque was placed and a redwood seedling was planted. The location was then largely forgotten.

It was recently rediscovered, by a hiking friend, with the help of some local people, who had been looking off-and-on for 15 years! It took several trips, into steep terrain. The plaque was found buried under 6 inches of mud, and the redwood seedling is now 30 feet tall. 

The finder is in communication with the Navy squadron from Alameda, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and a few friends and family of the flight crew. They are grateful for the rediscovery, clean-up, and adding to the memorial site!

The site is very steep, off-trail, and has large amounts of Poison Oak! The general public is not encouraged to visit at this time. It would be great if the GGNRA were to make an official trail to this area, and officially recognize the site!

Below: The beginning of our climb out of San Pedro County Park, which was a long one-way hike, past the crash site, to Moss Beach.


Below: A scarce plant, nicknamed “Footsteps of Spring”


Nearing the top of Montara Mountain (North Peak, I think!)


A great view towards Pacifica / Linda Mar.


Yup…San Francisco Water District owns big chunks of land around here. They take trespassing very seriously.


Leaving San Pedro County Park, and entering GGNRA lands.


Pointing at the World Famous “Maverick’s” surf break. The waves can be 60 feet (18 meters) during winter storms,_California


Recently added to the crash site:


The 30 year old redwood seedling, on the left, at the crash site. It has apparently spawned 2 babies, in an area that doesn’t have any other redwoods.


The original plaque, which was buried in mud. A little hard to read.


Near the end of our hike, looking towards the Half Moon Bay Airport, with the military radar dome and Maverick’s surf break to the rear.


That’s it! It’s a great area to hike. Check the weather and brings lotsa water!

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