We did this ride in June, familiar with all the roads but not necessarily with the logistics, so decided to offer it again, but on the right day of the week:
Sat Jul 6 2/LT/28 Orinda to Pinole – Bear Claw Cafe for Coffee
Well, last month we learned “closed Sundays,” so let’s try again! Join Sherie and me on a relaxed (10mph average) ride out to Pinole, along San Pablo Dam Road and Pinole Valley Road, from Orinda BART parking lot (NW corner, where Second Saturday Ride meets). Our goal is to get some riders who may cringe at riding the hilly ‘bears route’; but who would like to do about 30 miles to maybe get back into riding again. Planned destination is the Bear Claw Cafe, a quaint, old-timey family bakery in downtown Pinole, with a visual historical treat in the alcove next to the building. Faster riders are welcome, too…just save me a Bear Claw! Bring a friend. Meet 9:45 a.m. for 10:00 a.m. rollout. Optional lunch at Orinda Square (Greek Cafe, Nation’s burgers, Subway). Leaders: Sherie Reineman; Jim O’Melia.
I’d retweaked the cue/map and printed out 15 copies. There had been some question during the week whether BART would be an option for riders getting to/from Orinda, so I knew i might be riding up and over Wildcat (12 mi), around the long way via El Sobrante (16.7 mi) or driving (ugh!). but by Friday afternoon BART service was back online, so door #4 was also available to me.
Drank a few glasses of water before bed Friday night, another large one, plus an espresso followed by green tea on Saturday morning with breakfast, messed around til 8:30 so the El Sobrante option was no longer feasible, but then was out the door. Heading up Solano Ave it seemed clear that the extra climbing up Wildcat and subsequent descent to Camino Diablo wasn’t going to do any favors for my neck which was feeling stressed and stiff… but still wanted to take advantage of the cool temperatures and quiet traffic of an earlish Saturday morning in Albany/Berkeley, so rode past the turnoff that heads uphill, and continued instead on The Alameda-MLK and savored a nice 5.6 mile flat ride to Rockridge BART. Somewhere near MLK & Russell (Derby?) saw Jane M crossing eastbound. I called out to see if she was coming on my ride, and she confirmed, adding she was on her way to meet Eddie first. Cool, a couple definite participants.
Arriving at Rockridge BART, i recognize the Marks (A & H) and a few other M-paced folks gathering for their Berkeley/Oakland TMM adventure. Mark A asks if i’m coming on his ride (i think he was still looking for a TM co-leader at that point?) and as i hoisted my bike to mount the stairs, i shouted out that i was heading to Orinda to lead my own ride (short & slow).
BART’s running, but the electronic gates at Rockridge are challenged, my Transit card registers 0 even after removing it from my wallet, so i use the free swing gate and climb the stairs to the platform.
15 minutes of pleasant conversation with a fella who is meeting his niece and her husband today for a climb up Mt. Diablo (good choice in the cooler temps), then we hop on the train eastward.
I’m the first one there. I use the elevator to descend (upward stairs carrying bike ok for my knee, downward stairs not so much), then cross over and use the restroom on the other side of the station.
The i clip in and head over to the meeting place in the northwest parking lot. I’m the first one there, but only barely, as I see a few cars arriving with bikes. A few minutes later, several more cars are arriving and i recognize some GPC kits, regular and century style, and in the mid-point parking section, i also recognize Nick, Jamie and Peter… i’m happy about that because we actually had them in mind listing the ride for LAST month already. Mia is one of the first to sign in, right after some newer riders (at least new to GPC rides) Mauri, Caroline, Gloria, Nancy and Corinne. Bill & Rose arrive on the tandem, noting Peter and Marlena are also a tandem team. Arlene & Ken have come in one of the other cars. Eddie & Jane arrive up the long entrance from Camino Diablo, so i know they’ve taken my preferred route up and over Wildcat. My co-leader Jim comes by BART (and i see we are twins today in our 2013 GPC Century jerseys, along with Bill and Peter G on the two tandems).
After a short briefing (“give a wide berth to the folks doing the ITT today along Dam Road and Castro Ranch” and introductions, we’re off, a nice group of 19 riders (15 single bikes, 2 tandems), most with cue sheets. Last thing i say, since we’ve posted the ride as LT and “faster riders welcome” is “if you want to go off the front, that’s fine, but if you want to stick to the posted pace, that’s good, too and don’t feel you need to chase down the faster people…. and we’re off.
Somewhere between Orinda Way and Miner, i hear a bit of conversation (Peter or Ken?) suggesting they pick up the pace a bit… and then bit by bit, about half of the riders, both the GPC regulars and the new faces, do just that. I stay in about mid-point, enjoying conversation with Caroline, who seems solid T-paced.
At Castro Ranch Road, we do a regroup and i announce there’s a park on the left along Pinole Valley Road with a nice restroom (collective caffeinated and non-caffeinated liquids in my system beginning to assert themselves!) and i learn that several riders have already taken advantage of the weeds next to the parking lot. I decide to be a good citizen and wait for the park. We are also waiting a short bit for Jim and his small pod of LT-riders bringing up the rear. They arrive and then after a short catch-breath moment for the last ones, start the climb up Castro Ranch Road.
A few good climbers in this group pass me (Mia and Nancy) and i’m happy as as i see on the descent that both can read cue sheets and have made the correct LEFT turn at the bottom onto Pinole Valley Road.
at the bottom i pull to the side to mark the turn for the rest of the group, and stay there until i see Jim and what i perceive to be the LT riders coming down from the top.
The distance from the beginning of Pinole Valley Road to the baseball park and restroom is seriously a lot longer than the “1/2-mile or so” i’ve lead the riders to believe! As i finally get there, several riders are just leaving it. That’s good for me, no waiting!
A few short miles further to the slightly icky traffic light and freeway section adjacent to and just after Pinole Valley shopping center and the I-80 crossings, then a pleasant jaunt into downtown Pinole where most of the riders have now arrived and are enjoying nor ordering various pastries, coffee drinks and other offerings at the Bear Claw. The cafe has ample seating in different sections within its small interior, and a nice selection of sweets. Cheese pinwheels look good, and so do the generously-filled fruit danishes, but i go for the fluffy (and large!) cinnamon swirl and a large cup of fresh fruit. Riders report that the coffee is good too! (a variety of regular and espresso-based cold and hot coffee drinks are on the menu as are fruit smoothies, sandwiches, soups and salads. Sadly, no bear claw in sight…i suppose they are popular and already sold out (it’s already about 11:30 a.m., after all).
I join Corinne, Nancy, Gloria and Mia at an inside table, and by the time i’m finishing my pastry and fruit, the natives are getting restless. Some are basking in the sunshine on the benches out front, some strolling amongst the murals in the side alcove. Jim arrives, but not yet the LT riders. But a short bit after that they are at the bakery. I am happy to learn that this was their first ride up Castro Ranch Road and/or Pinole Valley Road, and they plan to add it to their repertoire. Perfect, as this was exactly the idea of this ride, and it’s nice to be able to introduce riders to “new” roads in our beautiful area.
On the return (most riders have taken off already), I stay back with the LT contingent, making a concerted effort to keep everyone within sight in my rear view mirror. As we approach the turn onto Castro Ranch Road, Caroline and Mauri are in the center triangle median, Caroline checking out a leak in her rear wheel. We stop and Nick is Mr. Handy with an extendable tire lever (new trick for me!), Caroline also is well prepared with a spare tube, CO2 cylinder and injector and within a few minutes, the 6 of us are on the road again and starting the climb up Castro Ranch Road. I try to slow down my climb but my legs don’t want to go quite that slowly, so i just keep it at a gentle saunter pace (i think about circling back down and around but decide to keep going up), and decide to just wait at Dam Road instead.
A few minutes wait, here come Caroline and Mauri. I tell them to go ahead and wait a bit more for my LT family.
On the way out, we had a strongish headwind, so I know for the “uphill” direction back to Orinda we should be graced with a tailwind. San Pablo Dam Road this direction is one of my favorite roads for the mix of gentle, subtle up and down sections…. a lot of fun with very little risk (vs some of our also fun hills with actual descents!). Gets my “race” gene going! My legs soon announce they want to stretch out a bit (or is that just my mind talking?) and I also want to arrive in Orinda early enough to catch some riders who might be wanting some post-ride lunch. Waiting for the left turn light at Brookwood, Bill and Rose come the other direction, having just finished their lunch. There is nobody at Orinda Plaza, and just as I am about to leave, Bill & Rose return…they say they also haven’t seen any of the other riders at lunch, say thanks for the ride and then take off again. I decide to check out the BART parking lot, and that’s a good hunch, as Arlene & Ken are still there, as are Peter G and Marlene. Mauri and Caroline (whom I’d passed on the fun, fast stretch of Dam Road) have also arrived and are packing up bikes into car. And Jim is here. Right about then Nick, Jamie and Peter also roll up. I learn that Eddie and Jane had made the uphill turn at Wildcat (as I’d expected), most riders have already gone home, but Arlene, Ken and Jim are making noises about having lunch, so I head back over to Orinda Plaza with Jim on our bikes, and meet Arlene and Ken at the Europa Cafe for a quick bite. The Rueben “best in the Bay area” again does not disappoint, meat so tender and juicy and the saltiness is perfect after a summer ride! (although Arlene and I seem to agree that extra mustard and horseradish from the water & condiment counter is what puts the jewel on the crown!)
It’s been a successful day, just one quickly-fixed flat, no accidents, no heat exhaustion, and at least three riders learning a new bike route. Life is good!
i decide to baby my neck and take BART all the way around back to El Cerrito Plaza BART. My stats (including the short one-way from home to Rockridge BART and the even shorter stretch from El Cerrito home):
44.63 miles (this is wrong, more like 37 mi…BART ride home messes w/ the cyclometer electronics)
12.5 mph (mostly from stretching my bones on the return stretch along Dam Road, otherwise a deliberately slowed down pace of about 10.5-11.0 mph)
3:33:01 saddle time
32.6 mph max (ok this is more or less from memory….the return BART ride messed with this figure, the odometer reads “115.2 mph” HAH!!)
Thanks again to my co-leader Jim for suggesting the ride…. and to ALL the riders who joined us today. It was a really fun group!
We look forward to the leading this as an addition to the Novice Series this summer (note: yes, those are held on Sundays, but Fernandez Park in downtown Pinole directly adjacent to the rear parking area behind Bear Claw Cafe will be a perfect picnic destination, complete with shade trees, colorful play structures, lush grassy lawns, drinking fountains and public restrooms!)