A Ride to Old Downtown Pleasanton

Today we turned off of Hwy. 680 at Stoneridge Dr. and parked on a frontage road. There we accessed the Alamo Canal Trail, where we rode for a couple of miles till we crossed over a bridge and turned left on a paved path that leads to Hopyard Rd.

Path Leading to Hopyard Rd.

From there we rode on the shoulder of Hopyard to downtown Pleasanton. There is a lot of traffic on this street, but it is wide. And coming back there is a fairly good bike lane most of the way. As one approaches the main part of Pleasanton, Hopyard becomes Division St. and then St. Mary’s Street. Close to the center of town there are some gorgeous older homes that have been well maintained. Some of the beauty lies in the individuality of design in this area where most of the houses are unoriginal tract houses.

On Main St. in Pleasanton, there are inverted u-shaped bike racks all along the street. We parked at one of these and true to our Saturday custom visited the farmers’ market, a rather large one with good variety. After making our purchases, we wandered around town looking in a couple of bicycle shops and admiring the neat, attractive streets. One of my favorite sights is the milk depot, a relic of the mid-twentieth century.

The Milk Depot

Another Reminder of an Earlier Time

Pleasanton has kept its arching sign over the main street, a fact which adds to the feeling of entering an earlier era.

We chose to eat lunch at Forno Vecchio, a wise choice. My husband loved his house-made pasta with shrimp, and I enjoyed every bite of my artichoke soup. And the carrot cake, with which I finished was also outstanding.

A pleasant ride back to our car, despite the rather unsettled weather, completed our Saturday outing.

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San Ramon Farmers Market

San Ramon Farmers Market

Yesterday was the opening day for the new farmers market in San Ramon. It is across the road from Whole Foods Market and easily accessible from Iron Horse Trail. It will be there every Saturday from now on. There is a nice assortment of stalls (many offer organic produce), and yesterday there was a large cheerful crowd in attendance.

People at the San Ramon Farmers Market

Some attractive stalls

In addition, there is to be a new artisan food market on Thursdays from 11:00 to 3:00 starting June 2nd and continuing until October 27th. This one is located at Bishop Ranch 3, which is even closer to Iron Horse Trail.

We love to ride to these markets on Saturdays to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. This new one in San Ramon lacks some of the ambiance of the former market at Forest Home Farms, which is a special place in the valley, both historically and aesthetically. But I am sure that this new one will be a real asset to local residents.

However, I would like to see some bike racks installed, especially since a market so close to the trail is sure to draw lots of cyclists. The markets in downtown Walnut Creek, Danville, and Pleasant Hill all have bike racks. But most of the others do not, and sometimes it is hard to find a place to chain up one’s bike.

Ride through History in Benicia

Yesterday we decided to ride to an artist friend’s studio on Open Studio day in Benicia. Benicia looks like a small California town should look  with its mixture of contemporary buildings and buildings dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. The old capitol building on West G Street   served as California’s third capital, and it is a lovely building inside and out. It is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

Old State Capitol

Also Benicia has a prime location on the Carquinez Straits. We parked on West K Street and rode as far as the nineteenth century military Arsenal, where many artists’ studios are now located. The ride across town is  rolling, with hills that allow one to gather speed on the down slope of one hill that carries one partially up the ascent of the next. The streets are generally fairly quiet. Although there is traffic, we did not feel threatened.

After an enjoyable  visit with our friend, we followed the Bay Trail back to the center of the old town. Much of this trail is along the beautiful waterfront, and it is a sheer pleasure to ride.

Benicia Harbor

We stopped in the downtown to eat lunch at a pleasant place named Lucca’s Bar and Grill. The old downtown is attractive, but it suffers from the same malady as many of our US downtowns now. It is composed mostly of tourist attractions such as gift shops, eateries, and artists’ studios. It does not have stores that cater to the practical needs of the town’s inhabitants such as grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, etc.  These now seem to be universally located in strip malls away from the downtown.

Garden in raised beds

However, Benicia does have a garden set up on a vacant lot that drew my interest.  Unusual sights like this one make roaming around on bicycles such a joy. They add to the exhilaration of covering the miles under one’s own power.