Cooperstown Loop—A Tale of Two Bridges

This ride explores the lower foothills in Stanislaus County, just southwest of the County line. The southern leg of the loop skirts Turlock Lake State Recreation Area (on the State park closure list) on Lake Road. There are multiple opportunities to park along the road, at the lake, or at the various access points to the Tuolumne River which snakes between Lake Road and SR 132.

Traveling counter-clockwise around the loop from Lake Road, turn right onto a two-mile section on SR 132 that is a bit hairy. The road is narrow with very little shoulder and cliff along the right. Visibility is poor, and there is nowhere to go but the travel lane. Be prepared to take the lane and pedal hard if needed. Because of this short segment, this is not a good bike ride for novices or busy summer weekends. Do this ride during the cool seasons. Turn left onto La Grange Road (J59) and travel north to Cooperstown Road. Most of J59 is no fun for bikes, but this short section has a good shoulder. Turning left on Cooperstown leads to 16 miles of open rolling ranch land including nine miles of dirt/gravel on Cooperstown Road and seven miles of pavement on Crabtree Road. Crabtree Road emerges onto SR132; turn right and ride a short stretch before turning left at Roberts Ferry Road. Continue south to turn left at Lake Road to complete the loop.

When I planned this loop I made note of the covered bridge at Roberts Ferry, and I figured I could feature it in the blog. It is a very nice reconstruction and a cool place to take a break. But when I got out on Cooperstown Road I found the real gem of the trip, the Rydberg Creek bridge.Rydberg Creek Bridge on Cooperstown Road

This bridge is real, old, and a real piece of folk art. I don’t generally want to be in the pictures, but the black and orange had to be captured, and no, I didn’t dress for the occasion. The last time I was out here, the Giants hadn’t won the World Series since 1954. If you want to make a pilgrimage, the photo is linked on the Google Earth map of the loop. The bridge is in Stanislaus County, but most of the background is in Tuolumne.

There is, no doubt, an interesting story behind this bridge, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that this happened on Cooperstown Road. Even the arches in the railings are painted black inside. I did some Googling to see what I might find. Unfortunately “orange San Francisco Giants bridge” brings up stuff about some other orange bridge in San Francisco. Go figure. Maybe someone should go stencil 2010 World Champs on that bridge. Searching on “Rydberg Creek Bridge” brings up the sad fact that Stanislaus County intends to replace the bridge. So if you care about such oddities, go see it while it lasts and maybe epoxy your favorite bobble-head or souvenir bat to it.

Edit 2/15/2013: I rode this loop with a friend last weekend out of Knights Ferry via Willms Road. It adds about 14 miles to make about 45 miles total. We rode it clockwise, and I think that’s an improvement on the SR 132 segment near La Grange Road. It’s just as narrow–all the advisories above still apply–but there are better opportunities to bail off the road if needed. No 2012 World Series bridge yet.

Download file to view the loop on the Google Earth bike map
Download or update Google Earth for free: http://www.google.com/earth/download/ge/
Get help with using Google Earth to view the map file
Download the .gpx file for the loop if you want to upload it to a GPS

Downside—Short but difficult section on SR 132, stinky dairy at Roberts Ferry.
Upside—Long stretches of gently rolling countryside with very little traffic, cool bridges.

  • 31 miles, as mapped
  • about 1,500 feet total climb
  • roads: paved, gravel and dirt
  • terrain: rolling hills to flat
  • tires: touring or wider
  • seasons: all, with precautions for summer heat and summer/weekend traffic
  • current weather
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