A Hint of Spring

 

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Looking back along the section of Iron Horse south of Stoneridge Drive

Parking our car in the parking lot by Walmart on Alcosta Blvd., we head  south on the Iron Horse Trail. Since the temperature was in the 40s when we left home, we wore our usual winter gear, but we soon wish that we had listened more closely to Punxsutawney Phil, who early last week predicted an early spring,  as we begin shedding layers. This route takes us along some pretty green sections and some rather unsightly portions of the trail, such as old Camp Parks, a World War II military base, now used for reserved forces training. Soon after Camp Parks the trail passes through the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, where yesterday masses of people were waiting in line to catch BART to Super Bowl activities in San Francisco. I am glad to be gliding peacefully along on my bike rather than trying to breath in such a crowd.

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Center of Pleasanton

 

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Farmers’ Market

Leaving Iron Horse Trail at Valley Ave., we  turn right and follow Stanley Blvd. into downtown Pleasanton, one of my favorite little towns around here, one with lots of bike racks as well as interesting stores and good restaurants. After stopping for coffee at a quaint little place called Juice and Java, we stroll through the market to buy our produce for this week. We decide to eat at Stacey’s, a cheerful café with lots of outdoor seating and good food  but sometimes slow service. It is pleasant to sit in the front area of the restaurant on this warm day and watch the constant parade of people passing by.

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Front Seating Area at Stacey’s

To vary our  trip, we take a different way  back to our car using a bike lane on St. Mary St., which becomes Division St, ultimately turning into Hopyard Rd. The lanes along these roads are generous enough, but this route is not for the faint of heart because the traffic can be heavy. At Stoneridge, we turn left to follow that street to Johnson and thus to the Alamo Canal Trail which leads back to the Ironhorse Trail, a round trip of a little over 15 miles.

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Alamo Channel

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Laid Plans . . . Gang Aft Agley (Burns)

20151231_114310[1]The last couple of years, we have done a morning ride on New Year’s Eve  day, followed by lunch at an elegant restaurant. Usually four of the eight of us ride, and the other four shop,  drink coffee, or just mosey around. This year we decided on a ride from Yountville to Rutherford and back along the  Silverado Trail. Way before Christmas, I made a reservation for our family at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, and the evening of  December 30th we loaded our three folding bikes into the car along with helmets and other equipment.

To my dismay the next morning, just as I was getting ready to go out the door for our excursion, my husband came in saying that one bike had a flat tire. Now we are not mechanics, so we do not deal with flats ourselves, and at 8:30 in the morning bike shops are not open. So I called one son to tell him what had happened and say that I would join the shopping  contingent. However, the other son came up with the brilliant idea that he would ride to Oakville Grocery, where we always stop for coffee and I would be dropped off there by the shoppers. Then he would give me his bike, and he would walk back to Yountville, while I finished the ride with my husband and grandson. It was the flexibility of our Dahon bikes that made this exchange of bikes possible because if it were not for the easily adjustable seat height, my son and I could never ride the same bike. And actually this crazy plan worked out quite well with everyone showing up back at the parking lot at Vintage 1870 about five minutes before our 12:30 reservation.

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After our brisk ride in the cold December morning, it felt good to enter the cozy environment of Bistro Jeanty and enjoy such tasty tidbits as duck foie gras mousse with brioche and daube de bouef. We all savored our sumptuous meal and then headed home for a relaxing New Year’s Eve in our own homes.

 

 

A Halloween Jaunt

Diablo Valley Farmers' Market

Diablo Valley Farmers’ Market

Yesterday, a warm October day, we chose to ride to the Walnut Creek Farmers’ Market at North Wiget Lane and Mitchell Drive, where the action included a Halloween parade plus other activities for the children. The parking lot was as full as we have ever seen it, and the stalls were doing a thriving business. We were thankful to be on our bikes because of the parking situation, but of course we are always thankful to be on our bikes. We found some good produce, and I even got some cooking advice from a young woman waiting in line in front of us about roasting turnips and watermelon radishes. Tonight we will find out if her advice was good.

View of Walnut Creek

View of Walnut Creek

We had ridden from downtown Walnut Creek along Ironhorse Trail to the east Contra Costa Canal Trail. After we left the market, we continued along the canal trail to the base of Lime Ridge where the trail climbs up to give one a beautiful view over Walnut Creek. The trail then meanders past the Boundary Oak Golf Course and along the Ygnacio Canal Trail. We have ridden this trail many times, and while it is picturesque, it does cross a lot of streets and some of the crossings are not well designed. They have always required some sharp turns, but yesterday we discovered a new obstacle. Green gates have been installed to take the place of the posts that were formerly on the trail. These gates in some cases take up more than half of the entries to the path and make riding more dangerous, especially if one were to meet someone going the opposite direction. These gates are definitely  a liability for cyclists on this trail, and I regret that I did not take a picture of one of them.

Coming off the Ygnacio Trail, we cut through Heather Farms Park and cycled back to downtown Walnut Creek, where we enjoyed some of the marvelous small plates at Va de Vi Restaurant. Eating there, I usually come home with ideas to incorporate into my own cooking.

The Spectacular Row River Trail

20150919_150106Looking for a place to stay and cycle on our way back from the Portland area, I came upon the Row River Trail in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Cottage Grove is an old-fashioned place that looks as though it could stand a bit of sprucing up, but it has an atmosphere that the Germans would call gemütlichkeitThe Village Green Resort, where we stayed also had this mix of being a bit frayed around the edges but of being homey and comfortable. Many  aspects of this resort had been fixed up, but it is very much a work in progress. However, the people who run it are efficient and obliging, and the restaurant is very good. We had both dinner and breakfast there.

Lake Dorena

Lake Dorena

There are several places to park along the Row River Trail, but the best access is from the Mosby Creek Trailhead, reached by taking exit 174 from I-5 and turning east on Row River Road. After a right turn on Currin Conn Road, turn left on Mosby Creek Road and then left again on Layng Road, where the trailhead is immediately on the left. The trail is well paved and an easy ride with a fair uphill a couple of miles from the trailhead, followed by an easy uphill grade. Once the lake is reached, the trail levels off and the ride becomes easy with wonderful views of the lake. The trail wends through the forest but opens out at spots for lake views. We saw lots of families out on the trail, almost all cyclists. There were few hikers and no dogs, strollers, or tots on training wheels. There are rest areas with facilities along the route, but there is no food. We started out late morning and then had to go back into town for lunch. In the future, we would bring a picnic with us. The trail is good, the views are sparkling, and the people are friendly, making this ride a memorable experience.

Another View of Lake Dorena

Another View of Lake Dorena

Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway

I was really looking forward to this ride, but when we found our way to  Rood Bridge Park, west of Portland, Oregon, where the bikeway was supposed to start, we looked for a path in vain. Finally, I convinced my husband that it was on the road, but when we started on the road, the shoulder soon disappeared. Returning to the parking lot, we spoke with an older lady who told us that the only separate pathway was between Banks and Vernonia. We followed some of the scenic bikeway in the car, and it was indeed beautiful, but it did not have any shoulder in most places, and the shoulder was exceedingly narrow in the rest. Also we did not see many cyclists, maybe two, a sign that it is not used the way the roads and paths are in our own San Ramon Valley. In addition, although the roads are quiet in some places, they are heavily traveled in others, a perilous situation.

Banks Vernonia Trail

Banks Vernonia Trail

We decided to drive to Banks to do that part of the bikeway, a decision that turned out to be a good one and helped redeem the day for us. We ate a satisfying lunch at the quaint but busy little Banks Cafe and then set out on the trail. The trail head was easy to find and had good parking. The path is good with forested views and views that open up to fields and farms at times. We rode up the trail about six miles until it really began to climb and then retraced our way to the beginning.This was a pleasant ride but one that I would not go out of my way to do.

Countryside Viewed from Trail

Countryside Viewed from Trail

Rides in the Victoria BC Area

Victoria's Inner Harbour

Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Having checked into our favorite Victoria Hotel, the Grand Pacific on Belleville St., we had a quick lunch and set out to ride along the harbor front and on Dallas Road with its beautiful waterfront views. Although the traffic is fairly heavy, there is a decent bike lane  and we always ride with flashing red lights on the back of our bikes when we are riding on streets. We rode for a few miles and then retraced our route back to Cook St. from which we zigzagged through a number of streets to return to the hotel. Some of these streets were choked with traffic, so the ride back was a bit dangerous, but I do love riding down pretty residential streets.

Near Sidney BC

Near Sidney BC

The next morning, we set out to ride on the Lochside Trail from a few miles south of Sidney to Schwartz Bay. Although we have not done it all at once, we have covered most of the  Lochside Trail at one time or another, except for the part to Schwartz Bay. On this bright sunny day, it was a pleasure to pedal along the Sidney Channel. Reaching Sidney, we stopped for coffee at the Toast Cafe on Fifth St. As we left the cafe, we asked an elderly gentleman cyclist how to wend our way through the streets of Sidney to reach the route to Schwartz Bay. He patiently outlined two different routes that it is possible to take. He even told us where to go for lunch in Schwartz Bay, although the location of that place proved more elusive than his very clear explanation of the routes. We reached Schwartz Bay in good time and then set out up and down several fairly formidable hills to find the Stonehouse Pub. in Canoe Cove. One thing that didn’t help is that we were hearing Canoe Cove as Conoco, reminiscent of the service stations that we remembered from when we were children. Finally a young woman with a stroller told us to make three right turns to reach the pub, and this worked out. We had a satisfying pub lunch and an enjoyable conversation with a couple of fellow cyclists about our age, who asked us if we had a death wish because we were not wearing the recommended bright yellow jackets. The ride back proved easier than we had expected, and we stopped again at the Toast Cafe where I had a delicious concoction called a Nanaimo bar. Our whole trip added up to about eighteen miles.

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Our third ride in Victoria was a disappointment. We wanted to ride a segment of the Galloping Goose Trail that we had not ridden before, so we picked an area where parking was indicated on a map that we had, the Atkins Ave. parking lot. Turning right out of the lot we found some challenging hills, but we went on until we reached a part of the trail that was gravel. Our bikes were not doing well on this, so we turned around and went the other direction. There were lots of hills that way too and nothing too interesting, so after about ten miles we gave up. We drove across to Hwy. 17 where we had lunch at  Bill Mattick’s Restaurant at the Cordova Bay Golf Course, a spot where we have eaten several times. After lunch we did a few miles on the Lochside Trail. However, we will tackle the Galloping Goose again next time we are in Victoria. Once before we did a pleasant ride on this trail, but it is confusing to pick out a section to ride.

Victoria is high on my list of favorite cities, and I hated to leave it. When we visited Munro’s bookstore on Government St., I discovered a book of rides around Victoria that I will try to buy before we visit there again.

Parliament Buildings at Night

Parliament Buildings at Night

Biking on Lopez Island

From Fisherman Bay Road

From Fisherman Bay Road

Lopez Island in Washington State’s San Juan group of islands is a delightful place to cycle, eat, stay, and just be. It is a return to a gentler America where there are no crowds or traffic, and everyone waves at you whether you are on a bicycle or even in a car. It has water, forests, and a well-groomed small village with good shops. Catching a ferry with one minute to spare, an experience I don’t want to repeat, we reached the Edenwild Inn about eight o’clock in the evening and were warmly welcomed by the innkeeper, Anthony. He immediately set a table for us in their wonderful farm to table restaurant.

The next morning Anthony gave us advice on cycling routes that worked out well for us. We followed Fisherman Road, turned off at the sign for Otis Perkins Park, and then rode along the peninsula on a flat road that gave us breathtaking views of the bay and the channel. Most of the hills on the island were of the type that one can easily pedal up having a head start from the previous downhill.

View from Peninsula

View from Peninsula

The next day again following Anthony’s instructions, we followed Fisherman Bay Road to Airport Road and then to Shark Reef Road, where we parked the bikes and did a short hike to the bay.

Shark Bay

Shark Bay

Riding on the island is great fun, but the roads are narrow without much shoulder so it is necessary to stay well to the right, and it is important to add to one’s visibility with a good light on the back of the bike.

After three days, it was difficult to leave the island, its beauty, and the generous hospitality of innkeepers, Anthony and his wife Crystal.