California Road Trip: Highway 130

California State Highway 130 is a route going from northeast San Jose (Alum Rock area) to Mount Hamilton where Lick Observatory is located. Originally, the highway was supposed to go from San Jose to Patterson and create a link between the bay area and the central valley. However, this would create increased light pollution for the observatory, which has been there for over a hundred years. The project was abandoned, but the road is still there: one way, each way. 

As you drive up to Mount Hamilton, you pass by Joseph D. Grant County Park, which I have been to but don't really recall. There are some homes, but not many. The road is narrow, steep, and full of switchbacks. Around each of these switchbacks lies a danger: a cyclist. Okay, so cyclists are not dangerous in and of themselves, but it can be dangerous driving around them. It can get a little annoying, but I am so impressed with these people's ability to get up that steep mountain in the summer heat that I just stuff my annoyance down. 



Once you arrive at Mount Hamilton, definitely check out the observatory and the telescopes. They're really cool. The views of San Jose are spectacular, especially in the summer when it is clear. Driving back down the other side of the mountain, the environment changes. Gone are the golden hills and are replaced by green, golden, and reddish shrubs and ponderosa pines. 

There are no houses out here. Maybe once every five miles or so we would see a mailbox or a cattle guard. It was not until about thirty minutes into our drive that we saw any signs of civilization other than a mailbox. Water once ran through here; you can see the creek. And for how hot it was, there is still green in the riverbeds, so there must be ground water. 

Eventually, you reach a valley, and you are no longer hugging the sides of the Diablo Mountains. You are surrounded by them, encompassed. At about forty-five minutes to an hour into the drive, you reach a fork. One way goes to Patterson, which is on the I-5, and other is Mines Road, which will take you to Livermore. We took Mines Road to Livermore because we really didn't need to go to the central valley. 

Once you are on Mines Road, there are many more houses, mailboxes, and cattle. The road begins to hug one side of the mountains and a dry creek bed runs on the other. On the west side, on the other side of the hills, is Del Valle Reservoir. Mines Road brings you to the surface streets of Livermore, which we then took to 84 and finally back home to the San Jose area. 

If you are looking for an isolated, hilly highway with great hugging turns and few other drives, Highway 130 is a great choice. I would probably go in the winter because it was scorchingly hot (I even got a sunburn just sitting in the truck.)