Garden behind Brix Restaurant
Last Saturday, we packed our bikes in the car and headed for Yountville with our son and his girlfriend. We parked in our usual spot at Vintage 1870 and did our ride out Yount Mill Rd. to Hwy. 29 to Rutherford to Conn Creek Rd. to the Silverado Trail, and back down Yountville Crossroad to where we had parked the car, about 16 miles. Meanwhile our son and his girlfriend had driven into St. Helena and back to the spot where our son’s accident had occurred to suss out a place to park so that we could all take a look at it later.
We did our ride in record time because we had a 12:45 reservation at Brix, a restaurant just north of Yountville. Our lunch here turned out to be a delightful experience with a wonderful view over the lawns and gardens and outstanding food and service. My husband and I started with an asparagus prosciutto salad followed by a crab fondue, both of which we split. Our son had a steak tartare followed by an enhanced form of fish and chips while his girlfriend had a mixed salad followed by salmon on a bed of vegetables. We each had our own dessert, chocolate concoctions that were delicious, but we would have been much better off splitting a couple of these as we were all stuffed after this.
Driving to the scene of the accident, we parked and looked at the layout of the tracks; it is a complicated layout that runs over the road for a long way and at an odd angle. Although there is a warning sign, advising the walking of bikes, our son said that he thinks he missed the sign because of the heavy traffic and the construction going on, and because of the car that came close to him. However, looking at the scene of the accident, we could see why his arm was so badly injured.
We felt like it was important for us all to assess how the accident had occurred since we are enthusiastic cyclists and need to know what to watch out for. And best of all, we discovered a great new place to eat.
About a week ago our son was riding on Hwy. 29 south of St Helena right where the railroad tracks cross the highway diagonally when a car swerved close to him. He swerved on his bike and speeded up to get away from the car. The tire of his bike caught in the track causing him to take a nasty fall. Landing on his right arm, he broke his wrist so severely that he had a bone sticking out. The car did not stop or even hesitate. Fortunately, our son was able to phone his girlfriend to pick him up and take him to the hospital emergency room in St. Helena. That night he had one surgery on his arm to stabilize it.
Early the next week an orthopedic surgeon here (central Contra Costa County) put a metal plate, screws, and pins in his arm to connect the broken bones. Needless to say he has suffered from pain and the temporary loss of use of his right arm, and he will permanently have an arm full of metal. The moral of this story is avoid roads with narrow shoulders and walk your bike over railroad tracks. Do not take risks on your bicycle!
Danville at the Corner of Hartz and Prospect
We ride from north of Alamo to Danville more than we do any other ride, mostly to run errands and to go to the farmers’ market on Saturdays. Although we live in Walnut Creek on the Alamo line, I grew up in Danville and it still seems like home to me. It is easier to shop there than it is in Walnut Creek, and although it has grown unbelievably, there is still a small-town feeling about Danville. Most of the people who work in the stores are friendly and accommodating, such as the guys at Pegasus Bicycle Works and the people at the little candy store on Prospect Avenue. When I took these pictures, we were sitting in front of Starbucks, which is located where the Bank of America used to be. Across the street from where we were sitting there was a grocery store called Acree’s, which disappeared a long time ago. But the Veteran’s Hall that once housed the library where I fed my reading habit when I was a kid is still there, and even with the new hotel construction there is one building that has been retained from the old Danville Hotel. After our Saturday rides, we often enjoy lunch at Blue Line Pizza where I can gaze out at the buildings that were homes to real families at one time. While we don’t run into people we know as much as we once did, we still often see friends and acquaintances as we mosey around enjoying a sense of community.
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.
Center of Pleasanton
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Looking 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 gemütlichkeit. The 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.
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