if you weren’t on Eric R’s ride today, you missed a good one!
all of my favorite, small historic coastal towns (Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Port Costa, Crockett, Vallejo, Benicia, Martinez redux and Pleasant Hill).
Sun Jun 3 3.5/TM/49 Pleasant Hill, Two Bridges, Three Refinery Towns Loop
This not-too-hilly tour of the Carquinez Straits will take us over Carquinez Scenic Dr. (some sections unpaved), to Martinez, Crockett (with a detour through the old industrial waterfront), over the Zampa Bridge into Vallejo, Lake Herman Road, then the Benicia Bridge back to Martinez and PH. We’ll stop at mi. 15 for coffee at the charming Burlington Hotel in Port Costa (long: they brew coffee to order), and at mi. 25 at Starbucks in Benicia (short) and finally Martinez (mi. 40, short). With all these stops, T paced riders are welcome! Route: http://ridewithgps.com /routes/1188152 Meet at Pleasant Hill BART by fountains at 9:45 a.m. for a 10:00 a.m. roll out. Eric Rydman
2 bridges, 3 refinery towns. seems i’ve lived all over this SF Bay area, from Lake Merritt northward and stints of varying length in Corte Madera, Walnut Creek, Concord and Martinez before buying my house in Benicia (16 years) and then settling in with Ben in our current home in Albany (2003). Much of that time has been spent on the roads and trails bicycling, recreationally and commuting to work (Benicia to Concord, then Benicia to Walnut Creek BART-Berkeley hills, and then Benicia-Vallejo-Berkeley hills), so i take a certain amount of pride/ownership in knowing how to get around these parts. Today’s ride was no exception. I wanted to put in more miles today than the posted 48 miles, so decided to leave the house a bit earlier than otherwise necessary and ride over from Albany to the start at PH BART.
Characteristically a bit disorganized and time-challenged (no unfrozen bread, so hadn’t prepared my PB&J & banana sandwich last night ahead of time), then the usual decisions about the day’s “costume”, and my two hair ties for side braids in different locations in the house, left me up to the “go” deadline without breakfast, but took the time to make two mini-sandwiches of my friend Marla’s delicious home-grown ollalieberry/flax cornbread (leftover from Wednesday evening’s Bollywood film fest) and plenty of PB layered in between, grabbed a ripe but firm plum from the fridge, a banana from the fruit basket, and a few GUs and a mini Clif bar, and i was good to go. Out to garage, bottles in hand, about to roll out and realized i’d donned my long-finger liner gloves, but left the bike gloves inside….
So, off with the cleat covers, wheel the bike to the “safe” spot between the houses, back up the stairs, and retrieve the gloves…. OK now i’m ready! into the street, oops, i guess it helps to remove cleat covers!! And off I go….
“stop sign route” (faster/shorter than Spruce/Wildcat option, cleaner to Castro Ranch that way and i was starting to run late)….. SDPR, repeat of yesterday’s ride Valley View/Olinda/Castro Ranch, Alhambra Valley Road at the split from Castro Ranch Road and then up and over Pig Farm hill… one stop to remove long finger gloves, skull cap and drop my jersey down to waist still covered with new favorite shirt, long-sleeved light-weight SmartWool “Pippi Longstocking” look, very comfortable and highly recommended! (and soft!).
Reliez Valley Road to Grayson w/out stopping at Golf Course, and I could tell then I was well within my time allotment for a timely arrival at PH BART. Waiting for the light to change at Oak Road and Buskirk, here comes Eric, stopping at the light from the other direction… I called out and glancing at my bike computer, knew I was still about 20 minutes early, so knew i wasn’t missing the start, turned out he was just scoping out the first part of the route….. couldn’t hear my reassurances that “Coggins becomes Oak Park here, we’ll just go straight”….
Arrived at PH BART, nice crowd assembling, some folks joining Jeff Avruch’s posted 30-miler T paced Pig Farm/Happy Valley loop (which btw was also a very appealing offering, had I not just did it the day before!), and Eric’s listed 2 bridges, 3 refinery towns loop. So upon meeting the gang, i had 24.79 miles, 14.0 mph.
Motor vehicle traffic on a weekday morning in PH is wonderfully sparse. A pleasure riding my old commute route (reversed, actually) from Pleasant Hill area to Martinez, and I must say it has been quite a few years since my 2-3 times monthly outing from Benicia to Crockett for lunch along the Carquinez Scenic Drive and “backwards” up and over Talbart past the cemetery to get to that road. A few years ago, the joint police jurisdictions removed the barriers for the day on the “car-free” portion of the Carquinez Scenic Drive for the “Bike the Bridges” fundraiser ride for Special Olympics, and ever since that ride, I’ve thankfully noticed that the middle barrier in the “car-free” section has never been put back up… makes the ride so much more pleasant! a continuous jaunt between the two barriers at the ends of the bike-ped stretch.
Eric’s route took us down Reservoir Rd to the end of Port Costa to the newly opened coffee house in the old Burlington Hotel. Individually-brewed drip coffees, and as the chalk-board sign reads “STRONG COFFEE” (you make up for it with lots of fresh cream and/or milk and sugar and/or (my choice and recommendation) local, organic honey! Of course, i was one of the last to order my coffee, and also then after much socializing, remembered to use the “facilities” in the back of the hotel building, and then got an idea that i’d ask about the rooms at the hotel (never know when you might want to go on a little local “honeymoon” in one of our small, historic water towns), and the gentleman behind the coffee counter said “oh yes, i’ll just go grab you a rate sheet”… at which point he stepped into the back office behind a door and returned a full 5 minutes later….
I caught back up with the group just as the last two were coming off of the bike path after the Zampa bridge, where Jim O’M, Ann L and I were stuck together behind the red light as the rest of the posse was doing a rolling regroup on the other side of Sonoma Blvd. Traffic again beautifully light on Sonoma, Lemon Street and Benicia Road… again, what fun to be on another of my “commute” routes (and again, in reverse). Eric had planned in a Starbuck’s stop at the small mall right before the Rose Street intersection off Columbus Parkway, and I think with our large group, that establishment did a good business, as we also took advantage of the brick & mortar restrooms. I guess the long-wait left-turn out of there back onto Columbus Parkway is worth it, just for that! And for many, I think the refreshments were welcome before the longish slog up Columbus Parkway out to Lake Herman Road.
Lake Herman so fast and sweet as usual, and i certainly appreciate the newer pavement these days compared with the scary stuff I used to ride on over that stretch in my Benicia days. Passed Jim Scott changing a tire on Lake Herman road right before the fun downhill part, looked like he had things under control and also had company (Jim O’M) so I blew by once getting the affirmative “yeah, we’re good, but could be better…”. Then all the way to E. 2nd Street, a nice change from my usual detour onto Reservoir Road… which makes sense somewhat from the standpoint of a “shortcut”, but only if you’re going to go up and over 2nd all the way into town… i say this only because it’s a steepish downhill with an abrupt stop / stop sign up against 2nd Street at the other end of Reservoir Rd, so the alternative route taking E.2nd the entire way from Lake Herman to the next turn at Park Blvd was a nice change for me, and good way to keep the momentum going…. except I decided to be
the human “course-marker” at Park, since the sign designating that road was well hidden behind shrubbery, and we had several folks in the caboose of the ride who I knew were not at all familiar with any of these roads….
Up and over Park, which leads through the refinery tanks all the way to the left-hand turn/entrance to the newish Benicia Bridge bike-ped lane (you know you’re there because the freeway is right over your head just before you make the turn), the then whiz whiz whoosh, flying with the wind on your back all the way across and then down to the end at Mococo Road….. Through the refinery frontage road to downtown, pointing out yet another of my old residences on the way (last house in the cul-de-sac off Miller Rd just above the third refinery tank…. lived there for 2 months just prior to buying the Benicia house in 1988)… and a final regroup/rest stop at Starbuck’s in downtown Martinez. The main group had been assembled for a while, enjoying treats from home and/or baked goods and coffee/tea drinks from Starbuck’s while being serenaded by the live music going on for the downtown Martinez weekly Sunday Farmers’ Market. Very wonderful, nice balance of sun & shade under the green “market” umbrellas in the outdoor courtyard beside the creek adjacent to the Starbucks and open market.
Jim O’M & I were some of the last to leave, so were jammin’ on the home stretch along Alhambra Ave just in time to see what looked to be Sean and some others having taken the “century route” turn onto Alhambra Way instead of staying straight onto Pleasant Hill Road (well, i can’t say where it exactly changes names, but it does somewhere along there), so I hope they figured out they needed to turn “LEFT” at the intersection of Alhambra Way and Reliez Valley Road to have a hope of rejoining the route back to PH BART… or maybe they were just anxious for bonus miles up and over Pig Farm hill? Hmmmmm, only their own reports will tell. Hope everything worked out….
For us, Jim exclaimed just after the intersection of Devon (the road before Taylor along PH Blvd) that he had gotten a flat… but then corrected himself a minute later after I’d stopped to say he was ok… but then wait a minute, his wheel wasn’t turning at all…. so we check brake cables, not caught up on anything…. and discover rear wheel rubbing inside of fender… at which point he discovers broken spoke. By this time we’d moved from the bike lane up to the sidewalk under a nice shade tree (cool and welcome in comparison to poor Jim Scott’s earlier situation, changing a tire in full sun on Lake Herman Rd), and I got to witness expert spoke tie-up and then careful re-adjusting by Jim of all the spokes on the wheel to get the right tension to allow the wheel to move freely between the interior surfaces of the fender… and then we were back to BART in no time at all…..
Eric & Co. had caught one (maybe two??) trains earlier, but I had a pleasant wait up on the platform for my train to Rockridge, enough time to finish the exquisitely delicious and refreshing mocha coconut frappaccino remaining in my water bottle from our Martinez Starbuck’s stop. A fast-paced jaunt down Alcatraz & Sacramento streets to Hopkins/Gilman/Masonic and I was home with the bike up on the rack, feeling energized and pumped, and ready for a nice shower.
the whole day was nicely tempered with cool winds, and my SmartWool jersey (which came off at Starbuck’s Benicia) was a treat to wear the first 1/2 of the ride. I guess I was feeling my oats wearing my Maratona dles Dolomites colors this day, too… in celebratory preparation of my upcoming Alta Alpina adventure at the end of June.
A few more rides between now and then await. Hope to see some of you at my final local training opportunity (Rapunzel & the 3 bears, southeast bay hills style – Sierra, Calaveras, Palomares – on June 17th).
Meanwhile, there’s a steak with my name on it waiting to be cooked and “ett”.
ciao for now, no pics today, but it would have been a good one to have brought the camera…. so incredibly clear and beautiful!
Thanks to Eric for posting and leading. It was a clear winner for the TM crowd!
stats for the day (leaving house at about 8:10 a.m., returning just before 4:30 p.m., a few long stops and waits along the way):
14.1 mph avg
5:59:10 saddle time