Coffee in Port Costa — May 5, 2012

Eric & Danimal listed the coolest ride, and i was going to do it one way or another.
as it happened, Dan was injured, so when Eric solicited for a co-leader yesterday (day before?), i jumped at the chance. what could be better, a ride i could cycle to from home w/in a shortish distance with many opportunities for “bonus miles” both at the front and back ends of the official ride, pre-riding part of our fabulous GPC Century route the day before the big day (this being even more important for those of us working the event tomorrow), spending time w/ good riding pals at a chill “T” pace both on the bike and at our regroups, and riding in and about my favorite little coastal towns so replete with 100-150 years of history (and that’s only counting the “Western” influence part!!)

I left home around 8:15 forgetting how close Pinole really is, also making my own “decide-and-ride” route to get there… my choices being 1) San Pablo Ave all the way from home to Pinole Valley Road where the start/finish lies at PVR and Simas; 2) Spruce/Wildcat to SPDR to Castro Ranch Rd to PVR; 3) “stop sign route” (Key/Clinton/Amador/SPDR) to Appian Way, then short cut down Sarah to PVR; 4) “stop sign route” to SPDR, Castro Ranch Rd to Pinole Valley Rd…. plus a few other variations of all of these. I was hearing coach Ben’s advice to me from earlier in the week that i was supposed to work on fast-twitch muscles, so flattish,high-rep intervals were in order… plus my knee had been hurting the past few days… so i decided i’d go door number 4 (opting to not deal with that icky section of Appian Way to Sarah). My decision was perfect, although the timing was a bit EARLY… the whole thing done in less than 50 minutes from home in Albany. Better than the alternative, as i was able to enjoy the little-league game and use the brick & mortar restroom at leisure. Eventually the others showed up and our group formed a nice little pod of 6: Eric, Adrian, Simon (generally those three in the front), and Dolores, Mike and myself more toward the rear.

It was grand to have the wonderful GPC route markings and hazard markings to cycle along, both on the Castro Ranch Rd and Pinole sections before the ride, and then again on PVR and San Pablo Ave to Crockett.
Somehow we all missed the turn on Wanda (this turns out to be right near the freeway over crossings just before the entrance to town, so we decided (once at the far end of town in Crockett, to just take that last sharp-downhill right back into town, rode through the neighborhoods and down to in front of the old C&H Sugar factory. On past rides (Bay Trail to Richmond, for instance), it’s come up that Eric and I both share this feel-good penchant for old-town, industrial sections of a town, the looks and smells of history, shipping ports, creosote, algae, rust… and in this regard the route does not disappoint, plenty to admire in the older downtown sections of Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, Crockett, Port Costa and Martinez. We had numerous regroups (the lookout point right before the Dead Fish just prior to the entrance to Crockett), in front of the sugar factory (downtown Crockett), the Bull Valley staging area, and then our first “destination”, the Beekeepers Coffee Cafe at the far end of Port Costa in the old Burlington Hotel. What a delight. Individually-dripped made to order (choice of three roasts. today it was French, Ethiopian and Peruvian), and glass pitchers of milk and cream (and also a pitcher of ice water with slices of fresh lime & lemon), plus sugar and honey. The owners spent a lot of time/energy in conversation with some locals, who were also very interesting to talk with, one wearing a Tour for the Cure T-Shirt, and her friend/partner who is a practioner of laser-treatment for foot ailments and maker of custom shoes & orthotics…. she had apparently cured her dog with the laser techniques after the poor animal had been hit/run over by a train last July and given up for lame (“get her a cart to pull around in”)… and was now prancing about like a puppy! When we arrived in Port Costa, there was a large contingent of motorcyclists, mostly festooned in various styles of blue-jeans and/or leather, some with California Hells Angels vests… and as we enjoyed our coffees below raging revving of engines and unmuffled tail-pipes. I was reminded of last year’s Workers’ Century, when the whole group was zooming us as we climbed McEwen… unnerving! (but i also recall some really great times on a progression of old Honda Aspencades… 11 CC, 12 CC and ultimately a 15-CC, 6 cylinder machine back in a former version of my life before Ben) doing both local and longer road trips… hmmm, on second thought, i was also a cyclist then, and definitely do not recall attempting to get any thrills from passing too closely or too loudly near cyclists on a grueling uphill or tricky downhill).

anyway, that was Port Costa… and yes, we did get to do that cruel-joke, post-break climb out of town along Reservoir road that our Century riders will do tomorrow (and we will also do next week on the Workers’ Century). So pastoral, one almost forgets how steep it feels after resting the legs for a bit off the bike.

There was a hiking or perhaps birding group at the intersection of Reservoir Rd and Carquinez Scenic Drive… our route took us to the sharp left onto Carquinez Scenic Drive and the hikers seemed to enjoy our zeal at pushing the pace to get around that corner onto another uphill. So lovely, every time i ride it. We stopped at Bull Valley staging area, the girls took our version of the nature break in the porta potty while the guys hung around by the entrance, then we were on our way to Martinez. I got to admire the container ships being guided up the Carquinez Strait, as I had done for so many years from the windows of my old Benicia home on the hill, and the characteristically silty tidal flat waters of the Strait leading to Martinez. As usual, a nice mix of other cyclists on various types of bikes, walkers, hikers, families, lovers, all along the rest of the road. I think that section, even with it’s somewhat dicey pavement, is so wonderful.. to me it defines one of the reasons i love to ride my bike… pure independence and freedom on wheels, with long stretches of either no motor vehicles (on the bits between the barricades) or very few and always pretty respectful of the other modes of traffic.

Downtown Martinez has a really nice Starbucks location, right next to the town square patio where the creek runs underneath. We enjoyed some more off-bike time with conversation and coffee treats or sodas and pastries. Then back on the road to Alhambra Ave and then the final climb on Alhambra Valley Road up Pig Farm Hill (where Eric and Adrian made a repeat climb after going back down to about where Milagro lies (or beyond), sweeping Dolores and Mike (while Simon and I thought better of it and communed with nature along with the small herd of Angus or some other Holstein, even a few younger babies in the group). A nice, quick descent down the other side and our final regroup/good-byes at the finish. Our guests had all driven, Eric and I pursued our individual versions of bonus miles, Eric choosing to ride back and finish out with clockwise Bears & Wildcat… I was intending to just take the flat, stop-sign route back home after Pinole Valley Road to Castro Ranch (in the interest of my coach Ben’s instructions for keeping flat), but my mind and heart lead me instead to a left turn onto SPDR from Castro Ranch Rd, firstly having realized that the long stretches of slightly rolling flat to would not only be available but longer and better than the commercial section of SPDR through El Sobrante… plus, there’s that part of my internal hard-wiring that wills me to end all of my east bay hills rides with that joyful climb up Wildcat and the stupendous views over toward the reservoirs (San Pablo Dam and Briones), the dappled sunlight amidst the oaks and pines, smell of dirt. Just a little slice of heaven for me! Not to mention that glassy smooth, silky pavement on the descent along Spruce.

On the ride (top of Pig Farm, i recall), there was some discussion of probability theory, and how the teachers in the group (Eric and Dolores) were challenged with conveying the concept to their middle-school students. Well, one of the other reasons for me deciding to go SPDR to Wildcat instead of the boring flat way home, was a vaguely academic curiosity about how long it would take for Eric (stronger and faster than I, and not hemmed down by the posted “T” pace of the official ride) to catch me on Wildcat. I figured it would be somewhere around Island. But i was wrong… I had forgotten about those grand stretches on SPDR just past Kennedy Grove where you just can’t help but sing along sweetly, always hovering between about 18-25 mph… realizing YES, THIS is why i love cycling! So anyway, I got to Inspiration Point, still no Eric… got to Island, no Eric, got past the big curve in the road that leads to Lake Anza, and stopped for a few minutes to chat with my next door neighbor who recognized me going the opposite direction…. then on my way, homeward bound, pacing out the rest of Wildcat thinking Eric would come along any second…. down Spruce, no Eric, crossing Marin, still no Eric… and then suddenly, just as I was braking and signaling for my right turn at Spruce/Los Angeles I hear the serendipitous “hey Sherie!” and there he was. Probability theory in action. GPC, the thinking-man/woman’s bicycle club!! Gotta love that….

Thanks for a great ride, buddy! List that one again, any time! Official posted ride: 31 miles. My miles, about 65. Just right!
It was a perfect day, fine company, ideal group size, perfect weather (just cool enough to justify a light pair of compression tights over my shorts and some unlined lycra arm warmers til Port Costa; a fine opportunity to wear my ultra light-weight 25th Anniversary Maratona dles Dolomites jersey i’d earned on last year’s Italian holiday)… an excellent Spring day, all around.

Now let’s have a fantastic Century!


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