- Stanley Blvd. Cycle Path
A few weeks ago, we rode the Stanley Blvd. Trail from Livermore into Pleasanton with our son and our grandson. We parked the cars on the street near Leasure Island Park in Livermore since the Isabel Ave. Trail, which starts near our usual preferred parking, was closed. The Stanley Blvd. Trail is now well-paved and attractively landscaped, but on the day that we rode, the litter scattered along the trail did detract from its looks. This ride is a safe one except for the outskirts of Pleasanton on First St., where one must ride in a fair amount of traffic and watch in every direction. We parked the bikes in one of the handy bike racks on Main Street.
After shopping at the farmers’ market, we had a leisurely , delicious lunch at our favorite Pleasanton restaurant, Forno Vecchio on Main Street. Following our meal, we visited the Pleasanton History Museum where we spent some time talking with the docents about the history of this area and the early settlers. As I grow older, it seems to satisfy something inside me to investigate local history and read about the lives of our ancestors. My husband and I, our children, and our grandchildren are all native Californians, and on my side of the family many generations have been born in California. It seems that native Californians are becoming relatively rare in the Bay area, and I believe that it is important to keep the history, both colorful and quotidian, of our state alive.
THE MAN WHO CYCLED THE WORLD
Mark Beaumont’s The Man Who Cycled the World is an engrossing book for anyone who is a cyclist or who likes to travel. He includes just the right amount of detail to keep the reader present in the moment whether Beaumont is enjoying a good meal, enduring bodily or emotional discomfort, or happily interacting with someone who appears on his route.
The book is divided into seven parts, each covering a leg of his journey around the world to set a racing record for the Guiness Book of World Records. Beaumont, a young man from the Scottish Highlands, starts and finishes his journey in Paris. He has a large support crew, the most active of which is his mother, “Mum.” She works tirelessly to coordinate meetings with people, check out his routes, and enable him to find any needed services. He has his share of flats, necessary bike repairs, and other emergencies, but I thought the number of these was surprisingly few for such a difficult journey, and the help that he receives from total strangers is truly heartwarming. Of course, there are always the unscrupulous few who are out there to take advantage of the unwary. He runs into some of these in Louisiana.
I admire Beaumont’s perseverance and grit in completing this difficult undertaking, and I remember his determination when I start to flag on my own rides.
Today, Wednesday, February 13th, at 11:00 am, there was a group of 15 to 20 cyclists on Iron Horse Trail just north of San Ramon Valley Blvd. It was a mixed gender group with some people showing gray hair under their helmets, so they were old enough to behave more courteously. These are the type of people who give cyclists a bad name.
They were stopped on this section of Iron Horse Trail as my husband and I approached on our bikes. They made an opening through the middle for us, but one guy who was not paying attention pulled across that opening despite some of his companions yelling, “Bikes, bikes.” He finally got out of the way, but then he shouted at us that we should have rung our bells and he made a big noise with his bell. Thinking that a voice warning is less alarming and more exact than ringing a bell, we do not have bells. Besides this person was clearly in the wrong and instead of apologizing, he tried to blame us.
A short time later, my husband had to pull over to adjust his bike seat, and this group sailed past us, shouting at us for stopping even though we were well over to the right on the path. These people were such a hazard because they were commandeering the entire trail. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to ride single file. not in twos or even threes. We were relieved when they turned off of the path.
It was a beautiful morning, and our ride started with the pleasant smiles and greetings of a couple who parked next to us at the San Ramon Transit Center. But this group of Yahoos later on the ride injected a sour note into an otherwise perfect morning.
Last week to my horror, I pulled up to Pegasus next to Peet’s in Danville to find an empty storefront. Thankfully, I was wise enough to ask in Peet’s about my favorite bicycle shop. The girl at the counter directed me to their new site in downtown Danville, across the parking lot from Starbuck’s. The store is now housed in a historic building facing Prospect Avenue but near to Hartz.
Pegasus’ new quarters are a bit smaller than their old ones and a bit further from Iron Horse Trail, but the customer is greeted with the same friendly service and invaluable expertise about everything connected with cycling. Do drop in to see Brian and Chris at their new location.
Pegasus Bicycle Works
We recently made a trip to the cold Pacific Northwest, as usual hauling our Dahon bicycles with us. Our first stop was in Eugene OR where we stayed at the new Inn at the 5th, the 5th being a reference to the 5th St. market. The room that we had the first night at this great hotel was perfect for us; there were bicycle decorations all over. The rooms are large with fireplaces and commodious bathrooms.
Our room at the Inn at the 5th
A bicycle decoration
That night we ate dinner at Marché, a wonderful French restaurant with an assortment of small plates as well as entreé-sized plates. My husband had a salad while I had a warming fall soup, and then we split a charcuterie plate.
The next morning, we headed first thing for the cycling trail even though rain was threatening. We parked at the parking lot at the Owen Rose Garden, where we headed south. Lots of walkers and other cyclists were out in the drizzly weather, and we enjoyed riding along the river on the leaf-strewn path. We turned around after about a half an hour, making it back to the car just as it was starting to rain.
A week later heading back toward our California home, we again stayed at the same hotel and ate at the same restaurant. This time we did a late afternoon ride heading in the opposite direction from our previous ride, and finishing up as dusk was falling and the lights along the path and all over Eugene were coming on. This ride was one of the prettiest that we have ever taken.
Dusk along the Willamette River
San Francisco Bay
We had so much fun riding on the SF Bay Trail in Foster City and San Mateo that we returned a couple of weeks later to ride from San Mateo to SFO (the San Francisco Airport). As before, the day was clear and balmy, and as we circled around Coyote Point, we were telling each other how lucky we are to live where we do. The Coyote Point area is a tree-studded recreation area that feels a long way from the urban life that is actually quite close by. This area is bordered by a golf course on one side and a large recreation complex on the other. The path through this part is well marked and smooth.
Further along, the trail is rough in some spots, and it disappears completely twice on this ride, once in Burlingame and another time near the airport. Each time we managed to find our way back to the path by asking passers-by and keeping our eyes open. However, it would help tremendously if there were trail signs posted in prominent places. I don’t remember exactly where but toward the end of this trail, there is a bridge with a sawed-off post, leaving a very dangerous protuberance sticking up that is not visible until one is practically on top of it. My husband swerved to avoid this hazard and took a slight tumble. Fortunately, he was not hurt at all.
We stopped at Starbuck’s at the Marriott Hotel for coffee, where we sat outside to look at the bay and to watch airplanes taking off from and landing at the San Francisco Airport. This is the best view that I have ever seen from a Starbuck’s.
Coming back, we stopped at the Poplar Creek Grill, which I had noticed on Open Table. We did not feel that this restaurant was of the same quality as most places on Open Table. The salads that we had were acceptable, but the service was uneven at best, most of the time just plain slow. However, this restaurant is just off the path, but there are some large hotels handy to the path also where one could find food. This is a civilized area in which to ride.
To see our video of this ride, please click here.
San Mateo Bridge
This was a trip on a segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail. After we drove across the San Mateo Bridge, we turned right on the first street, Foster City Blvd. This leads to 3rd Ave, which turns into J. Hart Clinton Drive, where there are free parking lots with ample space. After mounting our bikes, we headed south toward Foster City, crossing under the San Mateo Bridge and eventually riding past some of the residential areas of Foster City, a city built on landfill in the 1960s. I can remember when a certain member of my family assured me that Foster City would eventually sink into the bay. But I can attest to the fact that today the area is attractive and fairly upscale.
San Francisco Bay Trail
We turned around after riding south for about a half hour and headed back north in the direction of San Francisco. We rode around Seal Point Park and then exited the trail to ride into the city of San Mateo, where there are several good restaurants. Although we found the bike bridge across Hwy. 101 by following the directions that we had in a book and by asking a couple of people, we soon found ourselves riding on 3rd Ave., which is not a safe street for cyclists. There is no bike lane, and traffic is heavy. We had a good lunch at Acqua Pazza, a friendly Italian restaurant. We returned on 2nd Ave., which is somewhat safer for cyclists.
Please click here to see a video of some scenes from this ride.
Adam Ruck’s new book France on Two Wheels is a delight for someone like me who loves both cycling and traveling in France. Ruck introduces each ride with a rough map of the route that he and his friend Galaxy followed. They spent a week or a bit more on each trip and completed about 60 miles per day. They really crisscross the country and so introduce the reader to varied aspects of French culture, scenery, and accommodations. I was impressed with the number of places that they took in all the while doing a hard cycling trip each day. Although they treated themselves well eating gourmet food as often as possible, they were faced with the obstacles all cyclists face–steep hills, wind, unclear routes, unexpected traffic, etc.
The book follows each trip in chronological order with an occasional insertion describing a sight, tradition, or famous person set off in its own box. At the end of each chapter, Ruck lists hotels, restaurants, and sources of information with phone numbers and web sites. My one quibble is that the photos do not add as much as they could if they were in color. Of course, I also know that printing color photos adds a great amount to the cost of book production.
I especially enjoyed some of his little vignettes such as the one where they pull up to the door of a restaurant at noon to be greeted by a waitress who condescendingly informs them, “We have a Michelin star, you know”(34). Unwillingly, she admits them and points them toward the lavatory. And remembering my own efforts at doing laundry on the road, I am always amused by the contrivances that Galaxy uses to dry his laundry.
Ruck ‘s self-deprecating humor and his clear factual writing make this book a source of amusement for the reader and also a possible source of information for the would-be cycling tourist.
On the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, we decided to load our trusty Dahons into the car and escape to one of our favorite destinations. When I looked at the Napa Valley map, I thought that we might ride south from Yountville instead of north as we generally do . It looked possible to ride out Oakville Cross Road to the Silverado Trail, and then head back on Oak Knoll Ave. , returning by the road that runs along the west side of Hwy. 29. Thank goodness, we opted to check Oak Knoll Ave. in the car on the way to Yountville. It is a pretty country road, but there is no shoulder at all, and there is a lot of traffic. So we scrubbed that option and did our usual trip: Yountville to Oakville, across on Oakville Cross Road, down the Silverado trail, and return on Yountville Cross Road.
It was a day with perfect weather, a touch of autumn in the early morning air, but neither too hot nor too cold. The grape vines were heavy with clusters of grapes ready for the harvest. And it was a pleasure to sit in the garden at Oakville Grocery to drink coffee. As we pedaled out Oakville Cross Road past the vineyards and wineries with beautiful stone walls and the clear blue sky and hills in the background, we could almost imagine that we were somewhere in France.
Using my OpenTable app on my phone, I made lunch reservations for us at Lucy at Bardessano. The feeling of being in France continued there because we were served wonderful food with a French flair and good professional service. I had a croque madame surrounded with garden fresh lightly seasoned greens, and my husband had sweet corn soup followed by a latter-day shrimp cocktail. For dessert, we split a butterscotch pot de crème. This meal was not inexpensive, but it was memorable, I would highly recommend this restaurant for a special meal. The following picture shows the outdoor area when it was relatively empty, but it filled up fairly rapidly.
The outdoor dining area at Lucy at Bardessano
AS my husband and I often say to each other, we get much more exercise with our Dahons than we ever did before, and their portability has helped us explore areas in a far more intimate way than we could by any means other than cycling.
The Near Miss
On Saturday, as we rode toward the San Ramon Farmers’ Market, we were stopped by the red light where Iron Horse Trail crosses Crow Canyon Road. The light changed and the walk signal came on, but just as my husband started across I saw that a car was about to run the light and shouted at him. Fortunately, he stopped in time, and the car swerved around him. A similar incident occurred on Danville Blvd. a couple of years ago. On Crow Canyon, motorists can clearly see the people waiting to cross, and in any case, it is against the law to drive through a red light. However, the lesson for us as cyclists is that we cannot trust motorists at all; we must ride defensively. One important tactic is not riding out too quickly when a light changes.
As per our usual custom after our Saturday ride, we treated ourselves to a nice lunch. On this particular day, we chose Martini Sky, a restaurant in Danville’s Livery and Mercantile that has been open about three months. Our son met us there to check out their small plates that we had read about the previous week in the newspaper. We sat outside in the shade of the trees where the temperature was probably in the low 80s. Between the three of us, we split two salads, two main courses, and two desserts. We agreed later that we should have ordered only one dessert. We had goat cheese raviolis, beef sliders with parmesan truffle fries, a beet salad, and a Brentwood salad with greens and peaches in a light raspberry dressing. These were all excellent as were the chocolate cake and vanilla panna cotta. The service was friendly and efficient, and we all hope that this restaurant will thrive. There is a large selection of various kinds of martinis, thus the name. Although we have no interest in the martinis, we feel that Martini Sky is a good addition to Danville’s dining options.
Inviting Setting at Martini Sky