Diablo Valley Farmers’ Market & the Walnut Creek Canal Ride

 Diablo Valley Farmers' Market

Diablo Valley Farmers’ Market

Although like everyone else in our area we bemoan and fear our ongoing drought, we could not help but appreciate the gorgeous warm weather last Saturday. So we decided to ride to the Diablo Valley Farmers’ Market and do the pretty ride along the canals, which passes through a tunnel under Ygnacio Valley Road on the slopes of Lime Ridge. Leaving downtown Walnut Creek on the Iron Horse Trail, we turned right onto to the Contra Costa Canal Trail just past Walden Park. About two miles on, there is a bridge across the canal that leads to Wiget Lane and the farmers’ market, a lively market with lots of healthy choices and good prices.

view of Diablo view over WC

Shortly after leaving the market, we turned right on to the Ygnacio Canal Trail, which leads up to the top of the ridge at the beginning. From there, the views are spectacular, especially with all the shades of green present now. The ride from the ridge is mostly downhill through established Walnut Creek neighborhoods and back across Heather Farms Park to the Contra Costa Trail, the Iron Horse Trail and downtown Walnut Creek with the only slightly difficult part an uphill climb just before the bridge over Ygnacio Valley Road. This round trip of about 15 miles is scenic, relaxing, and fun.

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A Ride Around Sonoma



Route Map

Route Map

Last Monday, since both our son and our grandson were free, we took our Dahons to Sonoma where we parked behind the plaza in the large parking lot. It was a pleasant day for January, so we weren’t burdened by too many layers of clothing. The day before this expedition, my husband and I spent some time on Google laying out the route. The street view on Google is wonderful for determining how wide a road is and whether it has a bike lane or generous shoulder. Although you cannot tell how much traffic there is, you can make an educated guess based on the how the neighborhood looks.

We started in the park behind the plaza where there is a bicycle path that eventually turns into Lovall Valley Rd. At the end of Lovall Valley Road, we turned right on E. 7th St. which we followed through an area of lovely homes until we turned right on Denmark St., a narrow road with no real shoulders but very little traffic. Denmark St. ends at a path by Sonoma High School which we took to the right until we hit W. MacArthur St., a slightly busy street with a bike lane. Crossing over Hwy. 12, we followed MacArthur until we turned right on 5th St. W. ;  then it was left at Curtin St. and right on W. 7th St. until we turned left on Oregon St. From Oregon, we turned left on Sonoma Creek Path and then left on Riverside Dr., with an immediate left on Petaluma Ave. Petaluma was the only street that really alarmed me. The shoulder was narrow, and the traffic was heavy and fast moving. Fortunately we were only on this street for a short time, but I was relieved to exit to the right onto Arnold Dr., not the most scenic but possessed of a nice bike lane. Turning right on Verano, we reached Maxwell Park located across the street from the Sonoma City Trail, which led through a meadow, past General Vallejo’s historic home, and back to our starting point. This circular trip is a little over nine miles, not a challenging ride but a level interesting one around a most attractive town that still retains a small town atmosphere with some rural areas and lot of lovely greenery.

To cap our day off, we ate lunch at The Girl and the Fig on the plaza, a real restaurant for foodies. Their menu is appealing and original with many French inspired dishes. The service is friendly without being overwhelming, and the atmosphere though noisy is pleasant. Don’t go without making a reservation.

After a brief visit to a couple of stores, which in our family always includes any available bookstore, we headed back to the busy SF Bay Area.

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Bike Racks–A Christmas Greeting

bike racksWe have had a wonderful year of cycling, and having the good fortune to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are able to continue cycling throughout the winter. Of course since we are enjoying a much needed rainy winter, we are having to dodge the storms a bit, but we don’t mind getting a little wet once in a while. On a recent ride in the Napa Valley with our grandson we all got soaked, but we had brought extra clothes with us, so after the ride we were able to change and look almost elegant for a wonderful lunch at Bottega in Yountville.

Happy Holidays to all cyclists and cyclist supporters!

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A Bike Tour of UC Davis

UC Davis Water Tower

UC Davis Water Tower

Last Saturday, we took our Dahon bikes to UC Davis to explore the campus with our grandson who is a junior in high school. Since I replaced my original Dahon a few years ago, we have one extra that our grandson sometimes rides. One of the advantages of these bikes is that the seat is easily adjustable so people of different heights may ride them. We can get three bikes plus three people in our little Toyota Matrix. But on Saturday there were four of us, so we took two cars.

We parked without difficulty in one of the many lots that are free on Saturday. After unfolding our bikes, we pedaled to the Welcome Center where a helpful young woman gave us a campus map and pointed out some places to us. Davis is a very bicycle friendly campus, and we visited most of it on this warm early November day. The block-like architecture of the buildings leaves something to be desired, but the many trees give the campus a woodsy, appealing look. We stopped often to check our campus map and just before lunchtime we rode along Putah Creek in the arboretum area of the campus. This part of the ride was challenging because of the many pedestrians and the poor condition of the trails, including one which was closed, causing some backtracking.

California natives garden UC Davis Arboretum

California natives garden
UC Davis Arboretum

Since lunch is always an important part of our expeditions, I had looked up some restaurants in downtown Davis before we left. Everyone liked the sound of Bistro 33, located in the old city hall, so we set off down Old Davis Rd., turning right on 1st Street. Although 1st St. is one of those streets where cars are supposed to share the lane with cyclists, this street is a narrow dangerous street to ride on. However, we made it safely to F St. and found the restaurant easily. The food was delicious and the waiter was accommodating, but the kitchen was unable to handle the large number of orders that was flowing in on this busy day. We waited nearly an hour for our lunch to arrive after we had placed our orders.

To return to the campus, we chose to ride along 3rd St., a pleasant leafy street lined with all sorts of establishments catering to students. After browsing through the campus bookstore and having coffee in the student union, we headed back home. Our grandson liked the campus and assured us it would be on his application list next year.

I have warm memories of going by school bus to Davis picnic days when I was in high school. However, I did not consider it when I went off to college. My father had attended UC Berkeley, and I was told that was where I was to go. I have never regretted this decision, but I have always thought that Davis would be a good school to attend. I recommended Davis to each of our sons, but they too chose Berkeley. And our younger son, once told me if I wanted to have one of my kids attend Davis, I should adopt a Davis student.


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Three Books for Cyclists


 Patti Kagawa’s book From Sea to Shining Sea is the story of a woman’s ride across Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland, sometimes cycling with friends and/or family but often traveling alone. A professional forester and an athlete, Kagawa is obviously in better shape for this trip than many who opt to try a long cycling tour.

This is a well-planned journey, and Kagawa offers a lot of practical information in her book. Two resources that turn up often in the book are the TIC (Tourist Information Center) and Timmy’s as she calls it (Tim Hortons–a restaurant chain that originated in Canada). She makes many stops at various Timmy’s to refuel on her long journey.

Encountering  varied landscapes, Kagawa travels mostly along Trans-Canada One for a distance of 6,302.62  kilometers.  She comments that Quebec is “far and away the most bike-friendly province in the country.” My husband and I enjoyed some wonderful long rides when we visited Quebec and Montreal a few years ago, especially one along the Lachine Canal that I will always remember.

Kagawa’s book is a good travelogue that can be enjoyed by cyclists and non-cyclists alike. Her warm personality and optimistic outlook infuse the narration of her epic journey.

Taking the Long Way Home: Adventures of a Retired Couple Biking Across America by G. Frank Miller is probably my favorite of the three books, mainly because the people are close to our age, and I really admire their bravery. I have always wanted to do a long distance bike tour, but in Europe, not in this country. However, we have never managed to do it. We had one planned once when we were fairly young, in our forties, to Scandinavia, but several incidents interfered. Anyway the Millers are retired educators who planned their trip carefully and managed to pull it off despite some problems with busy highways, dogs, and headwinds, problems that all cyclists contend with at one time or another.

Miller has a folksy writing manner that puts the reader right there along with him. I loved the incident where his wife Helen speaks to  threatening dogs as if they are children and calms them down, much to Miller’s amazement. And the serious fall that Helen suffers when Miller swerves and she swipes his rear wheel is a good object lesson to all cyclists. Moreover, anyone who has traveled a lot can identify with the one horrible motel that they get stuck in, one by which they measure all future questionable motels.

This trip from San Diego to their home in Florida is an epic journey, sustained by determination and faith, that will absorb the reader as he or she rides along.

The third book, The Valley of Heaven and Hell: In the Shadow of Marie Antoinette, by Susie Kelly is an amusing read, if a little  weighted by the history of Marie Antoinette. Any cyclist will be entranced by Kelly’s hair-raising description of their whirlwind ride through Paris led by her husband Terry who believes in advancing no matter what obstacles are encountered. I shuddered at the picture of their  riding through a forbidden tunnel and through an area where the terrain is nothing but ruts, an area in which both of them tumble off their bikes. But Kelly and her husband are a resilient pair who achieve their goals despite rain, heat, traffic, and disorientation.

 Having ridden in France last September, I know that French drivers come much closer to cyclists on the road than do drivers here in California where most drivers who are not also cyclists regard cyclists as somewhat lacking in mental acuity and therefore to be treated warily and granted more than the legal three foot margin. The exception of course is the American driver who despises cyclists and would like to see them “shuffle off this mortal coil” as soon as possible. In France, as in most of Europe where roads are narrower than in the US, cyclists are part of the landscape, and they are expected to proceed carefully and skillfully.

As some of the people commented on Amazon, I would have preferred a little less about Marie Antoinette and a bit more about cycling, but I did like her tributes to those who suffered through World War I and her description of this north-eastern part of France, which does not enjoy the same touristic enthusiasm as some other parts of France.

Kelly’s self-effacing sense of humor along with her energetic descriptions make this a bright, humorous travelogue that gives information on camping areas, hotels, and restaurants as well as attractive towns (and some not so attractive) and places of historic interest.

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Pedaling in the Tahoe Area

Garden of the Black Bear Inn

Garden of the Black Bear Inn

We started our visit to Tahoe staying at the Black Bear Inn, an elegant bed and breakfast on Ski Run Blvd. where we had stayed once before. Our room, the Seneca, overlooked this lovely garden. The hosts here are helpful, the inn is well located, and the parking is free and convenient for accessing our bicycles.

Our first whole day at Tahoe we rode the Pope Baldwin Path which one can reach off of Hwy. 89. We have found it most convenient to park at about 13th St., and then the path can be accessed by heading to the left. The ride goes through Camp Richardson and by the Tallac historic site, which is well worth a visit to see how the wealthy Californians vacationed in the early part of the 20th century. Also it is pleasant to walk out on the dock there and gaze down into the clear waters of Lake Tahoe. After the Tallac site, the ride is a peaceful one through the forest, usually. However, on this particular ride near the end of the path we noticed a  lot of commotion and orange cones blocking the path. Looking ahead, we could see a cement truck that had turned over from Hwy. 89 onto the bike path. There were CHP cars present and three tow trucks. From the looks of the cab of the truck we thought the driver had been killed, but we found out later he only had minor injuries.

Returning to the Black Bear Inn, we rode our bikes out from there to eat lunch and to go to the bank and a bicycle shop to look at locks. Leaving the shopping center, we maneuvered our way from Heavenly Village Parkway to Pioneer Trail where there is a rough but adequate bike lane. We followed this road to Al Tahoe Blvd. where there is a good bike path with ups and downs that are fun to ride. Reaching the end of this trail, we took backstreets to return to the inn. This route took us past some interesting houses, parks, and the local community college.

The next day we drove to Carson City, the capital of Nevada, where we pulled our bikes out of the car to follow the historic trail through the center of the city. This trail goes past interesting houses, the governor’s mansion, and finally the capitol building, where we were permitted to wander at will in a much more relaxed atmosphere than one usually finds in public buildings these days. I was fascinated to discover that any citizen can check a book out of the state library.  It was a lovely relaxing day.


The Governor's Mansion

The Governor’s Mansion

The next day we headed for Squaw Valley where we had reservations at PlumpJack Inn for a one night stay. On the way we stopped at Tahoe City where we parked near the transportation center just south of the city. Things were complicated here because they were treating breaks in the trail with some kind of hot asphalt. We managed to lift our bikes over these areas and finally get on the path to the northeast. This route took us through a small attractive farmers’ market and a marina to finally come out on a path with some rather challenging climbs (at least challenging for me). We turned around after a while to come back to eat at one of the marina restaurants, which was eminently forgettable.

We had a pleasant stay at the PlumpJack Inn, another place with good parking for cyclists plus a bar with good food. The next day we rode the path from Squaw Valley down to the Truckee River Trail, which has some pretty scenery. We found it easier to take the road rather than the trail back up into Squaw Valley. After a short initial climb, the riding is quite easy.  On a trip like this, I always feel that I get in touch with my California roots, a feeling that sometimes gets a bit frayed living in the busy (but always interesting) San Francisco Bay Area.

Along the Truckee  River Trail

Along the Truckee River Trail

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley

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New Segment of Iron Horse Trail


Parking by the Walmart on Alcosta Blvd., we set off to ride to Pleasanton to check out Window-ology because we need new shutters and to visit our favorite farmers’ market in the area. We had read that a new section of the trail from the Dublin BART station to Santa Rita Road was recently opened, so we decided to check that out, following Iron Horse Trail all the way to Pleasanton and then returning by Hopyard to Stoneridge to the Alamo Canal Regional Trail with a short final run on Iron Horse Trail.

While this all looked good on paper, I knew that there was room for error. Sure enough in the Dublin BART station where it says to walk bikes, we exited to the road, a move that led us astray. We ended up following the temporary southern connector to Iron Horse Trail, a pleasant enough ride on generous road shoulders along shady streets. However, we eventually came upon the new section of the trail. To see what it was like we turned back toward the Dublin BART station, a pleasant run past a couple of attractive parks on a concrete path. We then re-traced this segment to continue on to Pleasanton. My advice to riders is to go straight through the Dublin BART station. That way you will not miss the path as we did.

At Santa Rita Road, going south you must turn right to cross a bridge and then cross Stoneridge and Santa Rita to pick up the trail about a hundred yards south of Stoneridge Dr. on the east side of Santa Rita Road. Naturally going north this maneuver would be reversed. This latest addition to our wonderful local trail is a welcome one.



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