shannon_a: (Default)
Some years ago, I biked up to Point Pinole for the first time. Following my Bay Trail maps, I biked down Atlas Road and hit a dead-end. My map clearly showed a bike bridge over the railroad tracks at the end of road, but it was nowhere to be found. I walked up and down along the tracks, sure it must just be non-obvious, but there was nothing. A bit of online research indicated it was supposed to have been constructed two or three years earlier.

But it was not to be found.

I ended up riding down Giant Road to find the main entrance. It was always the least pleasant part of visiting Point Pinole because it's a narrow two-lane road without good protection for bikes that goes right by the local jail on the north and is ugly and surrounded by gravel and roads to the south.

In any case, that experience was my first indication that (1) bicycling and pedestrian projects in the Bay Area are delayed for years and years; and (2) the governmental organizations don't bother updating their web pages for us plebeians.

The Atlas Bridge finally went in last week, somewhere around a decade after it was supposed to open, so this week I went to explore it.

I was very amused when I got down to the end of Atlas Road and saw the bridge, because it's a huge concrete monstrosity: two lanes for vehicle traffic, plus a wide protected pedestrian and bicycle lane set off to the side, plus two different massive cement ramps to get up to the walkway: one for bikes and one for wheel chairs.

I contrasted that to my search for a tiny little wooden bridge some years ago. It's funny when our preconceptions of reality are proven wrong.

The joy of the bridge is that (1) it provides easy access from the east, which means easy access from Hilltop Mall; and (2) it opens about halfway into the park. Before, the only access was from the south side, and Point Pinole is quite a large park.

I spent a few hours out at Point Pinole, writing in my "outdoor office". I'd forgotten how beautiful that park is. And I got a nice bit of writing and reading done. It was really a great day.

But wait, that's not all. Last week also saw the opening of yet another way into Point Pinole, a 1.7 mile path that leads south through the Dotson Family Marsh. And that was how I exited the park after my afternoon of reading and writing.

I can't say I found the muddy marsh very attractive, but you do get the Bay off to the side. Oh, and you get to exit via an attractive rifle range, to the constant drumbeat of gunfire. Still, a wonderful alternative to Giant Road.

And once you're off of rifle road, you're on the Richmond Parkway, or more precisely the part of Richmond Parkway that has a protected bike and pedestrian path off to the side. Which means there's now protected Bay Trail all the from Atlas Road down to the Richmond Greenway. Even more impressively, you can now ride from north Berkeley to Point Pinole and hardly ever touch the street. (There's one nasty discontinuity in the middle of the Richmond Greenway, and a minor but annoying discontinuity in the Ohlone-Richmond Greenway connection, but other than that and a couple of blocks here and there of riding on quiet streets, it's a wonderful biking journey.)

There's also plans to run trail past the Atlas Bridge, along the rail line there. In fact, they've got the first 100 feet or so of it done, for what that's worth. That will provide continued Bay Trail access along San Pablo Bay, though they've got a long way to go there. I've ridden up there through Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, and into Vallejo, and the Bay Trail is very disconnected.

South of Point Pinole, the next two big (but comparatively minor) Bay Trail parks are at the West Contra Costa County Landfill and the Wildcat Marsh. They're just west of Richmond Parkway, and there's long been a plan to use Bay Trail to connect the two of those. I'd seen word that it was finally finished some time ago, though there wasn't a big opening celebration like with the two new Point Pinole areas.

In any case, I veered over there on my way home today to see.

Sadly, this part of the Bay Trail just isn't getting very good attention. I suspect it's because the city of Richmond is responsible for it, and they've done an impressively half-assed job on lots of different trails in the city.

So the trail between those two areas is all loose rocks, which is horrible to bike on. And there are plants overgrowing everywhere, often in the middle of the trail. It mostly runs between high chain link fences, and it keeps jogging right and left. A few times I was certain the trail was blocked, and didn't actually go through (which was the case last time I tried to ride this trail, after it was supposed to have been done), but no I eventually got to the back end of Wildcat Marsh.

It would have been better to ride the off-road trail right next to the busy Parkway though.

Wildcat Marsh is sadly another badly neglected Richmond park. I've been there before, and it was in the same sad state it was today. There's hardly ever anyone there, and there's not much to see.

The main trail is supposed to go under Richmond Parkway and lead you to the Wildcat Creek Trail on the other side. But, the underpass has either been filled with water or mud every time I've been there. It was clearly built wrong. There was something new this time: a permanent sign that talks about the temporary detour if you want to get over to Wildcat Creek Trail.

Not that there's much point, because Wildcat Creek Trail is one of Richmond's many incomplete trails. It's supposed to connect the Bay Trail to Alvarado Park, which would be amazing. But, it's a mess. You can't get to the Trail from the west because of that washed-out underpass, there's a discontinuity in the middle of the western trail, and they've never finished the eastern trail. And, it's been so long since they worked on it that much of the path is now overgrown (and not that well used, but better used than the Marsh).

I opted to BART back from Richmond BART because the eastern section of the Richmond Greenway is currently blocked off. The city is finally working on that connection between the Richmond Greenway and the Ohlone Greenway that is now also a decade overdue. Sadly, it's not going to be the pedestrian bridge originally promised, which would have whisked you from the Ohlone Greenway to the Richmond Greenway in seconds, but at least it'll redirect the end of the trail to one of the stop lights there.

Despite bitching about the sad state of pedestrian and bike work in some parts of Richmond, today was a terrific day being out. Great biking, great new access to Point Pinole, great writing in a beautiful environment.
shannon_a: (Default)
I've been wanting to do a long, new bike ride for weeks, but have been constantly thwarted. I finally got my opportunity yesterday.

I hopped on BART up to El Cerrito North (basically, as far north as I could go, which isn't very) and from there rode through El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, Tormey, Selby, and Crockett. I then went across the Carquinez Bridge into Vallejo. At that point, I noted that I'd ridden 20 miles and was now a long way from home, so I should start finding my way back to a BART station. I biked through Crockett Hills Regional Park up to the Cummings Skyway and from there biked down, down, down until I got to Pleasant Hill BART. And I went home. Very tired. Total ride was about 38 miles. I was out from about noon to 6pm.

This was of course in service to my continued attempt to ride the whole Bay Trail. Unfortunately, it's gotten a lot harder the further I've gotten from home. With this stretch I've now covered the East Bay from Fremont to Crockett. Mind you, there really wasn't any Bay Trail along my new stretch (from Hercules to Crockett), just highways marked as Bay Trail. But there was occasional nice view of the Bay (well, of San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait). I even stopped at two scenic lookouts, one above Crockett and one across the Bridge in Vallejo. There was actually one little park along the way in Selby that was "real" Bay Trail but it had a narrow little entrance that you couldn't get a bike through and the "path" was a heavily rutted dirt path that seemed to go straight down. I opted out.

In general, I was surprised to find the East Bay Regional Parks along that coast to be in horrible condition. That Bay Trail park in Selby and Lone Tree Point in Rodeo were both badly upkept. I stopped at the latter for a snack and rest and it was accessible by a heavily rutted (actual) road; instead the park, there were barely visible trails leading out to some grafittied tables. The Crockett Hills park was a bit better, but the further you got up the path, the worse it got. I suspect in all three cases the parks might have been nice once, but have fallen into disrepair, which is a pity. Oh, the best part of Crockett Hills Park was when I got to the end of the ~2.5 mile trail that I'd been (painfully) climbing through the Park. I then discovered that the exit, out onto the actual road (which Google Maps had led me to), was a gate that was chained shut. Fortunately this fence was just 3 or 4 feet tall. I lifted my bike over, lifted my bags over, then with some trepidation hefted myself over. I apparently still heft better than I'd feared I might.

I was also struck by the varying conditions of the towns in that area. Pinole is just beautiful. I love its creekside trail and I love the Historic Downtown. But then you hit Rodeo and it's clearly much lower income and at points was sketchy enough that I worried for my safety. Then, there's almost nothing until you hit Crockett. Tormey is all refineries on the main road, and if there's any Selby left, I blinked and missed it. Then once you get to Crockett it looks like a bug tourist destination and there are nice looking houses on the hills all around.

Overall, a nice but exhausting ride, and pretty near my limit for going in that direction. I've decided that if I want to add on the areas around Vallejo, I probably need to take the ferry there.
shannon_a: (Default)
Looking back at my journal, it looks like it's been almost three years since I broke any major new ground on my ride-the-bay-trail plan. Wow! I'd thought it was all the work on Designers & Dragons ... but really I slowed down a few years ago when I'd finished all the easy (e.g., accessible) stuff!

Today, since I'm on "spring break" from my Designers & Dragons work, I decided to head out and do something new. My plan was to cover some of the Trail along San Pablo Bay, expanding the riding I'd previously done up to Point Pinole.

For the early part of my journey I BARTed to Richmond (under the theory that I'd minimize the work to get to these distant locations), then biked up to Hilltop Mall for lunch. I always forget how much of a hill Hilltop is on! Of course I made things even hillier by going up to Fairmead Park, a kind of poorly upkept, poorly used park in Richmond that's way up on a hill. But I like to see parks when I'm out and about.

From there it was to Hilltop Mall which was a fun and nostalgic trip because I went to malls a lot when I was growing up. Eastridge and Valley Fair and others. They were my prime source of books and RPGs. Hilltop sadly is a shadow of its former self. Karate studios and barber shops have moved in, presumably because higher rent stores have moved out. But there were bike racks outside (to my surprise) and lunch to be had and even Mrs. Fields' brownies to buy and take with me.

From there it was up San Pablo Ave, the prime bike route through the area (though not a particularly good one, except in Hercules, which did have nice bike lanes). From there I branched out to the next three Bay Trail bits, all northeast of Point Pinole.

My first stop was Pinole Shores Regional Park. It was the longest bit of Bay Trail at about a mile, and also perhaps the most attractive. The park was curiously isolated, accessible only from Pinole Shores Drive. From there it went two directions. To the west it overlooked San Pablo Bay and gave you a feeling of beachy seaside. Surprisingly, it was very different to the east. Though it stayed near the shore, it was heavily wooded, so that most of what you saw was green.

One of the biggest troubles with the Pinole-Hercules part of the Bay Trail is that it's all disconnected and also mutually inaccessible. Thus the Pinole Shores Regional Park had no outlets, except via that one Drive. It got worse as I headed further northeast, and entire neighborhoods had no outlets, except via San Pablo Ave, so you'd have to go all the way back out there, then along it, then back in to get to the next neighborhood (which might be just a short block further along).

I next came to Historic Downtown Pinole which was an attractive little town. The Pinole Creek Trail took me (back) toward the Bay from there. I love creek rails, because they remind me of ones that I rode as a kid. This one did not disappoint. At the end of the trail, the Bay Trail itself looped around Pinole Bayfront Park. It was nice enough, and I sat there for a while enjoying the Bay and my Mrs. Fields Brownie. Another arm of the Bay Trail then ran along the railroad. I road that for a while, then found it turn into an unofficial dirt road, which I continued on until I emerged into what were now Hercules neighborhoods.

I should note that the neighborhoods were on a generally increasing gradient from when I left Richmond BART (scary, scary neighborhoods!) until when I turned around in Hercules. The first Hercules neighborhoods that I met past the railroad Bay Trail were not my favorite because they looked a lot like Main Street USA in Disneyland. Very artificial looking and inauthentic. I also wandered around some bio company just past those houses which reminded me a lot of where I used to work in Mountain View, with the way that it was right on a Bay with little paths to wander toward it that the employees probably never use. Mind you, it also seemed to be one of the biggest culprits at keeping the nearby neighborhoods (and I suspect Bay Trail) separated.

I'd planned to turn around here, but I was still feeling good, so I looked up Bay Trail maps and found one more neighboring segment of trail out near Victoria Crescent on the north end of Hercules. It was basically just a trail fronting the fanciest homes I'd seen the whole trip (and very, very attractive ones with lots of balconies and other fun stuff, unlike that Main Street Street crap). The trail was nice, and it was a good end to the Bay Trailing.

I later learned that I'd come to just the edge of Rodeo. As far as I can tell from the maps, that's pretty much where the last Bay Trail segment ends. In fact, it looks like the next Bay Trail is the San Pablo Bay Regional Trail in Crockett. (Boo, Rodeo!)

(Except Rodeo does have some so called "Unimproved Bay Trail" on San Pablo northeast of Hercules, which is a fancy word for "road without bike lanes". I don't count it when I'm trying to ride the whole Bay Trail, because it's really not.)

In any case, From Victoria Crescent I headed back southwest on San Pablo, which is also called the I-80 Bikeway up there. And it's a pretty go Bikeway through Hercules, less so elsewhere. I made a brief stop in Village Park, because it's housing that's all colored green like it were a park. But, that's just BS and shame on Google for buying into someone's crap. It's an entirely soulless condo complex where the common grounds between houses are all entirely grass, but there's actually not a lot of it, and more notably no one uses it. Heck, there aren't even paths to walk around the grass. It's just pretty scenery for when you're driving to your soulless condo or away.

When I got back to the Pinole Creek Trail I took that into Pinole Valley, then over to the city of San Pablo where I rejoined the I-80 Bikeway, which took me here and there all the way back to El Cerrito del Norte.

I'd be planning to take BART home from there, but was still feeling pretty good, so decided to keep biking. That might have been a mistake, as the Ohlone Greenway is still a trainwreck in El Cerrito. I gave up about after about a mile and just took surface streets (which unfortunately required more hill riding, which did finally start to tire me out) until I got to El Cerrito Plaza. They're now claiming August 2013 for El Cerrito trail completion, for what little that's worth. Albany is now better, as their last two missing blocks are easily detoured around (though they still haven't relandscaped most of the path they upgraded). Berkeley is done. I was pretty tired when I got home, though mostly only when I tried to bike up a hill.

Total ride was 40 miles, which makes it one of my longest few rides. It was easier than I expected for the length, which suggests my hill riding of the last year is helping more than on hills. I later jumped my total for the day to 43.5 miles when I went out to pick up groceries about 1.5 hours after I got home.

My Bay Trail completion now runs from Fremont up through Hercules, where previously it'd stopped at Point Pinole. I've also ridden on the west side of the Bay from the Golden Gate Bridge to SFO. Maybe I'll expand a bit more sometime this summer ...
shannon_a: (Default)

Finally went for the big bike ride today that I'd been wanting to do since Saturday. After days of fatigue, sore throat, etc., yesterday was the first day I was feeling totally fine, so today I took advantage of the holiday to bike.

Generally: I went down to Oakland, visited Endgame, and then went out to Jack London Square. From there I went southeast down the coast across from Alameda, past Coast Guard Island, past the end Alameda, and around San Leandro Bay. From there I biked across the entrance to Bay Farm Island until I was past the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline, then went back through that park, cut back across the middle of Bay Farm Island, biked through the Shoreline Park to the north of the Island, then went out to Alameda, biked through many posh neighborhoods, and finally returned to the mainland. On the way home I varied my route  a bit by exploring some trails around Peralta College, stopping in Chinatown, then taking Broadway up to College so I could travel through Rockridge.

I was out for about 5 hours, but that included lunch, chatting at Endgame, and stopping here and there in attractive parks around the area to read and enjoy the shorelines. Total ride was 36 miles, which was more than I'd expected (though that's in part because my ride was longer than my original plan, as I both went out to Oyster Bay and didn't take BART home).

A few notes about various things:

The Fourth: I really love going out and biking on holidays, as many roads that would be otherwise busy aren't. That was indeed the case today, such as when I ghosted through a noontime Downtown Oakland that was largely free of cars. It was even neater than usual to be out today, because a lot of the parks were full of people barbecuing and otherwise enjoying the day. 

New Trail around Alameda: This was my main purpose for the ride: to check out new Bay Trail across from Alameda that's gone in since I started my (incomplete) bike-the-bay-trail project. The first segment was between the Park St. Bridge and the Fruitvale Bridge and the second was between the Fruitvale Bridge and the High St. Bridge. They were broadly similar: mostly smooth cement with benches and lamps, all out on the bayside of various buildings. Nice rides, though the neighborhood deteriorated very quickly. At the Park St. side there were very expensive condos, but soon you were into the decayed industrial zone that fronts so much of Alameda.

Disappointingly, neither of these trails actually reaches the adjoining major streets where the bridges are. So, they're essentially useless as part of the Bay Trail. You can ride all the way out to them, take them a couple of blocks, then you have to cut back to the street you started out to actually get past the major intersections. Even more disappointing is a business just short of High Street that's been allowed to fence off their part of the Bay Trail and only keep it open during business hours. Through their locked gates you can see signs that say "Public Shore".

Some Oakland politicians should get off their asses and deal with what looks to me like a de facto seizure of public land. Because if they did, it looks like that part of the Bay Trail would actually go all the way to High Street, resolving one of the four problems that those segments of the Trail have.

Oyster Bay: I think I've only been out to Oystery Bay just once before. It's a very pleasant if small shoreline park. It's also got a pretty neat design. There's basically one path through the park that raises you up to the ridgeline, then starts running you clockwise around the park. As you're carried around, you see grassy hill ahead of you, and then suddenly the whole Bay appears, splendid and blue, filling your entire view. Very nice.

I went all the way out to Oyster Bay because there was new Bay Trail connecting the park to Bay Farm Island. Before it'd been a real pain; you had to go all the way out around an inlet and back to make the transition. It was a mile or two detour. Now you get to the edge of the park and you find Some Politician Bridge. That crosses you over the inlet, then you ride through a HEAVILY fenced path and poof you're on Bay Farm Island halfway to the airport.

Peralta College: I'd long noted several paths running along another inlet (on the Oakland side of things) and up through Peralta College, so I travelled those on my way back. The trails were nice, with one of them even ducking you under a bridge to keep you off a busy road, which I really appreciated (and which is needed to make those new trails contra-Alameda work). But the whole area was just kinda sad. Run-down and relatively people free. Ah well, now I've seen it.

And anywho, a good ride overall. I should now be up-to-date on my Fremont to Point Pinole Bay Trail credentials once more. I just need to get to the edges of those and go on (which I've actually been thinking of doing lately).

This close to Oakland, I really don't know if those two particularly sharp retorts that went off while I was writing this were gunshots or firecrackers. Certainly sounded like the former. But I'm reminded of one other Fourth where I was out at Donald's former apartment, and we heard a lot of what sounded like gunshots. It made me feel kinda vulnerable, in that second floor apartment with its no doubt paperthin walls. Happy Fourth?

Yay -> Ugh

May. 30th, 2012 08:33 pm
shannon_a: (Default)

Haven't written about it yet, but I had a great Monday, the last day of our three-day weekend. Kimberly & I biked down to Emeryville for dinner.

We went to Pasta Pomodoro there, and whereas we both remembered them to have kind of mediocre Italian food (last time we went, probably a decade ago), we discovered that they now have fancy and very tasty food instead. The food was kind of at odds with the physical restaurant, which was much more cheapo diner, with booths and a big take-out sign and such. Weird. But weirdly delicious. Oh, and delicious deserts too!

(We had gift certificates from years ago when we refinanced the house last time, so we splurged.)

Afterward, we biked along the Bay from Emeryville to Berkeley, which was beautiful as ever, then headed over the pedestrian bridge and back home.

A great end to a great weekend.

And then there's been yesterday and today.

I woke up feeling fine yesterday, but within a couple of hours I was crashing with the flu (which Kimberly sadly had over the three-day weekend). I was totally non-functional by the time I was done with lunch, and I crashed for much of the day. (Fortunately, the flu was only lingering on a bit this morning, and I feel mostly better now. Didn't go to gaming tonight, though, nor am I going to chance hanging out with people tomorrow when I might have lingering contagions.)

Yesterday night, we sat down to watch our new (replacement) discs of The Amazing Race 4, which Kimberly had picked up during the day. And discovered that they wouldn't play either. At Amazon's suggestion, Kimberly re-ordered from a different seller last night, since Amazon is clearly pressing them wrong. Both bad discs (the 1-disc set and the 3-disc set) went back to Amazon today.

In the evening we heard back from our loan guy about the refinance we're trying to do now and it looks like we ran straight into the same problems we did last year, which is they want to get Kimberly to prove she'll still have income in three years. Our loan guy assured us that they want to give us a loan and had Kimberly write a letter explaining the situation. I hope he's right, because I was pretty furious when we had that thrown in our face.

And, beyond all of that Tai Chi, our Guest Cat, has been vomiting a lot since yesterday and has been off his feed today. I talked to Melody this evening, and we're going to take him to the vet tomorrow if he doesn't shape up by then.

Ah, nothing has stress like cat-sitting health issues while suffering from the flu. The bank and Amazon just added insult to injury.
shannon_a: (Default)

Went out for lunch today, as I often do when I'm free on Saturday. It was so nice out (surprisingly so, given predictions of cool and wind) that afterward I decided to keep on biking. Fortunately, I keep sunscreen in my backpack for such emergencies.

I headed straight north, up the Ohlone Greenway. I now know the best way to get around the construction in Albany. Sadly, I discovered that the trail in El Cerrito is under heavy construction too. And, it's not as easy to go around that. I ended up on either on busy streets or hilly streets, which was no good.

When I reached Richmond, I turned west onto the Richmond Greenway, and took that to its end. There's still a discontinuity in downtown Richmond, but I did see a map today that marked that area as "incomplete". So, hopefully, some day ...

At the end of the Richmond Greenway there's this intersection that always feel full of possibilities. To the east you have the Richmond Greenway. To the north you have continuous bike path up through the Wildcat Canyon intersection and beyond that to the landfill. To the west you have Point Richmond and Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline. To the south you have Richmond Inner Harbor.

It was another spur of the moment decision to head out to Point Richmond. I explored the (teeny) town for a bit and even found the Masquers Theatre that Chris & Marie have taken us to a couple of times. I also saw the recently reopened Richmond Plunge, a gigantic indoor pool (though sadly only the outside & the entrance). Then I biked through the tunnel to the Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline, which was my goal.

I love the Shoreline. It reminds me of Ed Levine park, near Milpitas, where I spent many summer days when I was young. There's lake and grass and brownish hills rising all around. But, bonus, unlike Ed Levine you have the Bay to the other side. I read out there for a while (Locke & Key, Volume 2) and biked around the Park. As in Point Richmond proper, I explored a couple of places I hadn't before. First, I went out to the old Ferry Launch, which is mainly falling down pier & railroad track, but still a neat view into the past. Then, past the yacht club, I biked out on a spit that cuts further into the Bay. It's got lots of fancy houses on stilts out over the Bay to either side. Very pretty.

Nice views of San Francisco all around, and a pretty unique view of just one tower of the Golden Gate, peaking out past Angel Island.

I'm pretty sure there's new Bay Trail just beyond the spit, but if so I didn't spot it. I was getting pretty tired, so I wasn't much for exploring any more by that point, in any case. So I biked back up over the hill that protects the area, then took surface roads to Richmond Harbor and from there through the salt marshes, past Point Isabel, and up more of the Bay Trail before cutting inland near Target and rejoining the Greenway past Gilman. It was a pretty standard ride home from there.

Total time out was about 3 and a half hours. Total mileage was 26. I was quite tuckered out from around the salt marshes, so it was a long ride for me.  

shannon_a: (Default)

Had a good, relaxing weekend. I kicked things off by taking off work a few hours early on Friday. It's amazing what a difference starting the weekend at 2pm can make. 

Kimberly and I wandered out in the rain to pick up some pizza Friday night. I've learned that if I take a few Lactaid, I can eat pizza without getting sick, and so I've had two totally wonderful pizzas in the last month or two from Papa John's. Not something that I really plan to eat often, because it's sooo rich and fatty after not really having it for years, but very tasty for a few times.

Other than that, I mostly bummed around Friday and Saturday. I did a lot of reading, but I've also been working on and off on my next article for the Designers & Dragons column, which is about D&D comics and (as is often the case) is going much longer than expected. I think it'll actually end up being two columns, as it was already 2000 words when I counted it, a few hours of work ago.

We did get groceries on Saturday night too, where I was thrilled that Safeway had Avocados marked down from $2.99 to $.77. And they looked good, if still pretty unripe. I picked up four, and it looks like they should start getting ripe for lunch tomorrow.

Ah, yes, my life is exciting.

Today, the sun came out and it was wonderfully bright and  warm, so I decided to go out for lunch, followed by a bike ride. I wandered through North Berkeley and Albany on streets that I wasn't familiar with and saw lots of beautiful houses and noted what a difference it makes to have a really beautiful window at the front of your house. I joined the Greenway at Gilman and rode it north for a while.

The Greenway is going to be under construction in various places for the next three years, which is a bit bleh, but at the moment there are only about four blocks that are unavailable, the northmost and southmost blocks in Albany. Those should be finished by February and September (!), with the middle ones going under construction some time in there. Then El Cerrito is going to be doing construction on their parts of the Greenway through 2014, but they say they'll never have two consecutive blocks out of commission at the same time.

This is all thanks to required seismic retrofitting for BART, but the good news is that El Cerrito has secured $500,000 to improve the Greenway as it's rebuilt. Right now El Cerrito has separate bike and pedestrian paths, but for some reason half the pedestrians insist on walking slowly down the bike path. Accepting that people are jerks, El Cerrito is redoing the path to reflect its usage, and so as the path gets redone it's going to be made into a 14-foot wide combined used path (hopefully marked off with separate pedestrian and bike lanes). Since the current bike path is maybe 8-foot wide and used by pedestrians anyway, this should be a big improvement.

I haven't seen any word that Albany is taking advantage of the retrofitting, alas.

From the Greenway, I slid down through Albany, out to Point Isabel, and then took a ride I hadn't take for a while: out across the saltmarshes, and then all the way around the long southern arm of the Richmond Inner Harbor. Beautiful ride, and much of the path around the southern arm of the harbor seemed to have been recently repaved, which made it even cooler.

When I got out to my furthest distance from home, I found a park bench and sat down. From there I could see the whole baylet lying south of the Harbor, past Point Isabel and the Albany Bulb and Cesar Chavez Park all the way to Emeryville. I enjoyed that for a while, read at the seaside for a while, then rode home, taking the Bay Trail all the way back to the Pedestrian Bridge in Berkeley.

Golden Gate Fields still hasn't done the Bay Trail extension they promised. And the Fields still stink.

The work being done rebricking the approach east of the Pedestrian Bridge still is incomplete.

Some things never change apparently.

Nice ride though. 

shannon_a: (Default)
It's been a long time since I went on a long bike ride, but I did today. About 35 miles total. I was quite tired when I was done (and, indeed, still am). My goal was the Wildcat Marsh & Landfill Loop Trail. The southern portion of the trail, surrounding Garbage Mountain, has been open for years, but the northern portion just opened this March.

So, I took the Ohlone Greenway to the Richmond Greenway. The Ohlone is always nice. The Richmond Greenway, unfortunately, is still beset by the same problems that troubled it last time I rode it, maybe a year ago: no overpass at San Pablo, dirt paths for the first few hundred yards, an ugly discontinuity in the middle of a trail, and a return to street riding at the end. I begin to wonder if those problems will ever be fixed (and it seems less likely as Republicans continue to steal money going to civic projects for Bush's millionaire tax cuts). From there, a number of mostly off-road (but right next to the road) trails took me north until I got to the part of the shoreline I was looking for. Those near-road trails are surprisingly nice. I love how they weave around sound walls and go through what must have once been parking lots at various times.

My first stop was WIldcat Creek, and more notably the Wildcat Creek Trail that goes east of the Richmond Parkway. I couldn't find it last time because what was once an underpass between the Trail and the Wildcat Marsh to the west was choked with mud. Two(?) years later, that underpass is still choked with mud, with signs at either side of the underpass warning that the trail is closed until it's safe for humans again. However, I was able to find the trail this time because I started on the east side of the (very busy) Richmond Parkway. I just had to heft my bike over a fence to get there.

So began the post-apocalyptic portion of my ride. The Wildcat Creek Trail is a regional trail, like those beautiful trails over the hills from us, such as the Iron Horse Trail and the Lafayette-Moraga Trail. But it's clearly very poorly maintained. Roots have cracked the trail everywhere and the rest of the foliage is pretty overgrown too. So, that kind of run-down look was part one of the post-apocalyptic feel. Part two was the fact that it was scarily empty of people. Actually, all of the trails I took north of the Richmond Greenway were empty of pedestrians or bicyclists, but at least on most of them I had the big cars rolling by. Here there was ... nothing ... as I passed schools and houses. Weird.

The trail actually wasn't very interesting. The whole area around the creek was so overgrown that I couldn't see it. So after I'd ridden out to its end (just a mile or so, though the trail is one day supposed to go all the way to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park), I looped back through neighborhoods to get back to the main road. I couldn't quite decide if the neighborhoods were scary or not, because some were a bit run-down and some had million dollar houses. Also weird.

In any case, after that I got across Richmond Parkway so I could actually go into Wildcat Marsh. Last time it was an entirely abandoned park with a trail going back into it not quite half a mile and ending. This time I was enthused because there might be be a cross trail that directly connected the end of Wildcat Marsh to the Landfill. Not so much. The "might be" originated from a contradiction: though the online maps clearly showed it, other sources said the cross trail wouldn't be done until Fall. So, no big deal. I feel no absolute need to see trail that exists mainly for connectivity, not for actual bay views.

I looped back out to Richmond Parkway and then up the (entirely crappy) main road to the West County Landfill. I got to the gate for the new portion of the trail (with the way it's gated off being one of the things that bugs me about this part of the Bay Trail, by the by) and found it locked.

After I got home, I discovered that some construction was to be done in May and June and they were going to close off their new trail during that time. Which seems some pretty stupid scheduling, if you ask me, given they just opened it. And I guess they must now be 50% over their schedule or something. However, while at the Landfill, faced with a stupid locked gate that wasn't supposed to be locked as far as I knew (there was no signage about it), I decided not to be deterred. Having already done some bicycle hefting, I wasn't afraid to do more. I hefted my bike around the fence, and biked the northern trail.

The trail is low quality: just (somewhat) firm dirt. But that wasn't a surprise, because it's how the southside trail was set up too. The bayside riding was great (and something that hadn't been available on the southside, which was more protected, mainly looking upon Wildcat Marsh and refineries beyond). The panoramic view was totally awesome. At one point you could see from Mount Tam (to the left), to Points San Pedro and San Pablo which mark the entrance to San Pablo Bay, all the way around to Point Pinole (to the right). Totally awesome, and worth the trip, even if there was bike hefting.

From there I rode home pretty much the way I came. I was pretty tuckered out by the time I hit the Richmond Greenway and considered hopping on BART when I got to El Cerrito del Norte, but finally decided to get all the way home. I figured I was well into the building-muscle part of the ride. I actually walked my bike on some of the uphills from North Berkeley BART to home, because I didn't want to totally exhaust myself.

Pretty tired though. Still, a good biking adventure.

Now I believe I need to hunt up some info on the Oakland Bay Trail that's gone in over the last few years, as there are a few new stretches there too.
shannon_a: (Default)
Went to Endgame today with the plans to board game. Unfortunately the auction last week had apparently already fulfilled everyone's going-to-Endgame quotient for the month, and so I was alone--even though in recent months the board gaming has apparently been quite well attended. A shame, as I only make it to about one board game Saturday a year, but ah well. Got to talk with Chris H. some and browsed a while to spend more auction credit.

I'd hoped to get some of the new HeroQuest supplements from Moon Design, but discovered that they're making it hard to buy their products again. They're back out of distribution and they set a $200 minimum or something on orders directs from retailers. I honestly don't know how Moon Design thinks they're going to stay in business. Companies that think they're going to survive on PDFs and direct sales are taking an incredibly short-sighted view that doesn't consider where their new customers are going to come from over the next ten years, but maybe that small horizon is enough for some. Still, when a big Glorantha fan like me isn't buying their products because I can't do so through my FLGS, there's a big problem. Honestly, the price points ($50-60) don't help either. (At least they're at RPGnow, which they were refusing to do a few years ago.)

So, instead I decided to give my money to people that actually want it. I picked up a few more things for Pathfinder, some battle maps, and a couple of indie games: Microscope and Diaspora. I'm reading Microscope right now and it looks like a really cool game, about basically detailing some historical era in some science-fiction, fantasy, or whatever world. Maybe I can get the Saturday crew to try a session some day.

Afterward I went out biking. I went down to Jack London Square, followed the shore line to the corner of Alameda, went out to Alameda briefly, then biked back to Lake Merritt through some so-so areas of Oakland. From there I came home via Grand to Piedmont, stopped briefly at Dr. Comics & Mr. Games, then managed to bike home with a short magazine box (for the office organization that's been ongoing for a month or two).

My copies of Galaxy Trucker, Vikings, and Macao got a very nice tour of the East Bay.

Unfortunately, I got a bit sunburned while out, mostly on my forearms. The neuropathic pain blocker I take makes me extra-sensitive to sun, and I'm usually religious about using sunscreen if I'm going to be out for more than an hour. Today, not so much due to the surprise nature of the trip. I was only out in the sun maybe two and a half hours total or something, but it was a really bright sunny day, and that was enough.

That's actually the first time I've gotten burned since I started taking these meds a few years ago, so I guess it just underlines that it really does make me sun sensitive.

Tomorrow: dogs and targets. Maybe.
shannon_a: (Default)
No gaming today, as we're still trying to get back into the swing of two Saturday games. Thus I decided to have lunch out, bike down to Oakland to check out the Main Library now that I have a card for that library system, then bike back.

Berkeley Bigness. Lunch was at good 'ole Oscar's in downtown Berkeley. They had a huge-screen TV, which I'd never seen before, and it was running, no surprise, football coverage. However, I was able to hide in the relatively-quiet other side of the place and eat and read in pleasant solitude. The Big Game was just getting started as I left. Thank goodness.

As I started heading south toward Oakland, I passed through a parking area that the city(?) always creates (from streets) during the football games. I was amazed that it was only half full, now 10 or so minutes after the Big Game was started. But then I'd also been impressed by the huge numbers of people that I saw streaming forth from BART on my way out to lunch. I guess we've got Bay Area people well trained to use public transit. Or at least the sports fans, as it's pretty convenient to get to most of the Bay Area sports events that way.

Riding the Bay. From Berkeley, I swung down into Emeryville, and after carefully biking through that town (as recent reports suggest that Emeryville police have taken a predatory stance toward bicyclists) headed into Oakland.

I'd decided that I wanted to ride the Bay Trail down Mandela Parkway. Now, that area of town makes me a little nervous because there's westish Oakland to the east of it and WEST Oakland to the west of it. However, most of Mandela is commercial/industrial, and the Bay Trail strip down the middle of the street is absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed it, as I have before, though I was really noticing the wind by this point, perhaps due to my proximity to the Bay.

From there I turned east on 3rd Street and rode into Uptown just north of the waterfront, skirting Jack London Square, then heading back north at Broadway. Rain had been threatening all day, with just a few drops here and there, but it started showering a fair amount just as I pulled into the Oakland Main Library, which is on 14th Street, right next to Lake Merritt.

The Library. I was relatively unimpressed by the Oakland Main Library. Mostly, it was smaller than I expected. I'm pretty sure it has less public-accessible area than the Berkeley Main Library. Surely the couple of book sections I looked at (comics, science-fiction) weren't quite as well stocked (though not bad either). Given that Berkeley has about a quarter the population of Oakland, I was expecting something bigger, but I suspect this is actually a reflection on what a great Main Library Berkeley has for its size (and I now smile at the fact that Wikipedia says the Oakland Main Library is one of the biggest in the Bay Area; I guess it's all about perspective).

The actual building is a big, unattractive block, built in the early 1950s. The main rooms are all huge because of high ceilings and few walls, but don't have a lot of character. All of the fiction is stuck into small cramped areas that I could truly call stacks: 10 foot ceilings, ceiling to floor metal bookshelves. You know, like the cool stacks at Cal.

On the second floor, which is mostly administrative, there was a marvelous set of black and white photos depicting Oakland in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I spent quite a while browsing through them all, seeing lots of familiar places looking totally unfamiliar. My favorite photo was the one showing a western arm of Lake Merritt that no longer exists.

Or maybe my favorite was a photo of the 1887 graduating class at Mills (about a dozen women). A somewhat cryptic caption read something like, "It would be difficult (and perhaps dangerous) to identify these women today." I finally figured out that some or all of the photos on exhibit had been put up in the early 1950s, possibly shortly after the library's construction. Thus the caption was noting that those women (or at least the survivors) were then in their 80s, and unlikely to look like the nubile young beauties seen in the photo.

Final Biking. I took an unusual route home too, since I was enjoying biking around despite the cold and wind. First I went around Lake Merritt the long way and stopped at the Lakeview library, to the North of the Lake. It's a very small library, probably about the same square footage as our house, but unlike the Main library it had a sense of beauty to it. I'd guessed it was built much earlier than the Main Library, but it turns out it went up in 1949 compared to the Main Library's 1951. Go figure.

From there I went up Grand, past Piedmont, over the hill, then back down to Broadway and over to College. I was pleased to discover that I can manage the whole hill from the Lake to Piedmont without getting worn out, though I still opted to walk the couple of blocks past Piedmont.

On College, I stopped at the Rockridge Library to pick up a book that was on hold for me (actually, my ridiculous fourth library visited while I was out, as I did the same at the Berkeley Main Library on my way in), then it was back home.

It was around 3.30pm by the time I pulled into Berkeley, and Ashby was just packed. I correctly guessed that it was people leaving the Big Game. I incorrectly guessed that the game was over. In actuality, Stanfurd had given Cal an even worse drubbing than usual, so people were getting out to avoid the crowd. (It looks like Cal got a few pity points in the last quarter, presumably when Stanfurd's third string got put in.)

So that's what I did while piles of people sat in a cold, occasionally wet stadium here in Berkeley. I didn't hear any cannons as a result, but as it turns out, I really wouldn't have anyway.

Total ride was a bit more than 16 miles. I was out for close to three hours, but that included quite a bit of time wandering Oakland Main and a little bit at other stops.
shannon_a: (Default)
Yesterday, Chris & I needed to do an iPhone swap, and we decided to do so at the AT&T Store in Emeryville. I took it as an excuse to have a nice, midday bike ride. Unfortunately, our supposedly nice weather turned chilly & humid. I did get to stretch my legs down to Emeryville, back to Downtown Berkeley via the Aquatic Park, then home, but I was too busy getting sweaty and cold to enjoy it a lot. Ah well.

Have replaced the 1st-gen iPhone--which was no longer useful at all for testing apps--with an iPhone4, though (which'll let me test our hi-res stuff).

In the evening, K. wanted to go to the Oakland library. I though it was a fool's errand, trying to go and get a book and a library card just as the Rockridge branch closed, but we went anyway. That was also a so-so ride because we mostly took the quick route trying to beat the clock.

And as it turned out, the Rockridge branch was closed for an EMERGENCY!!!! They were afraid that spontaneous rioting might break out in Rockridge because ... well, I guess because they were either idiots or else were looking for an excuse to close out early on Friday, because there was no chance that rioting was coming within miles of Rockridge, even if Ron's police had sat on their thumbs again, like they did earlier this year. So, no card, no book.

We decided to head over to Cactus Tacqueria in Rockridge for dinner, and that was a horrid experience. The acoustics of the new location are just shit, and the place was absolutely jammed with ill-behaved and screaming children, resulting in a deafening cacophony of screams. Besides that, the food was at best mediocre, not at all the fresh food and produce I was expecting. And for some reason, Cactus is no longer offering mild salsa (which is what I tend to eat nowadays because the alternative makes me sick). As I told K.: well, with only hot salsas, I understand why all the kids are screaming.

Never again.

I certainly wasn't planning to go riding today after so much riding yesterday and none of it much good. But, I did have the day free from gaming due to sad pet problems. I was just planning to get lunch but it was SO NICE that afterward my bike headed down toward the Bay practically on its own.

I ended up riding around the entire coastline of the Berkeley Marina, which I'm not sure I'd done before. I started with a new secret way in to the park, which K. and I had spotted on the 4th of July. It's toward the north of the Marina and runs from the Bay Trail straight out to Cesar Chavez Park. I wish they'd pave it, because it's a really nice back route, but as is the dirt path was quite well packed.

I was newly reminded of how very nice Cesar Chavez Park is, with its path circling around an extension that goes a ways out into the Bay. You can see lots of water and lots of the other local waterfronts. Once I got out to the northwest corner I settled down and read for a bit, where I had a nice panoramic view centered on the Golden Gate. It reminded me of why I've liked biking again these last couple of years.

Past Cesar Chavez Park, there was much biking around yachts and sail boats, which was OK, but once I got to the south end of the Marina, south of University Ave., it turned very nice again. There's a strip of green along much of that area that's separated from the road, and thus very pleasant. There was also a superbly cool-looking "Adventure Playground" or something like that, which was full of netting and all kinds of other neat-looking kids' play equipment.

And then finally I rode back up the gazillion miles from the Coast to Telegraph. After a stop at Moe's it was back home.

For Saturday afternoon napping. Mmmhm.
shannon_a: (Default)
Well, with gaming canceled this weekend, I was determined to go on a bike adventure ... and even more, a Bay Trail adventure, as I haven't covered any new ground since last summer. I got going a little slow this morning, as I was feeling ill when I woke up, then my dad called when I was finally thinking about going out. But, after an enjoyable talk with him, then a scarfed-down sandwich, I finally got going.

My goal was San Francisco, and I pulled into Embarcadero BART a bit before 1pm. I intended to head south as far as I could, then take BART back.

The first part of the ride took me along the Bay heading to China Basin. It was all city streets, which were very busy because there was a Giant's game, but there was a good bike lane, and the view was very attractive.

I was even more impressed when I got behind the ball park. If I've been there since it's been built, I didn't really pay attention. But you can see right into the park and view the thronging masses of humanity there. You can even see the Jumbotron pretty clearly. There were a number of people out there, picnicking and watching the game, and I totally understood why. What a beautiful, free way to spend a nice Sunday.

A half mile or mile south of China Basin things starting getting more industrial. There were two shoreline parks I stopped by in that area. One was Warm Water Cove Park which was a teeny little park that nonetheless had a nice view. There was also a group of four college-aged kids playing Rumis at the single picnic table (oddly, quite a bit back from the water). A ways past that was Heron's Head Park which was a very attractive peninsula which went maybe a half mile into the bay. I was struck by the lack of wildlife (pretty much anywhere today), but the views were beautiful.

South of the park was the most daunting part of today's ride: Hunters Point, one of the worse neighborhoods of San Francisco. There is no actual trail there, and I'm not sure I'd want to ride it if there were. Instead I took the more inland route suggested on my Bay Trail map, hoping to miss the worst of the areas (and specifically the areas where I know Hunters Points gangs are). Mind you, I couldn't avoid the area entirely, but I was able to skirt through much of it on bigger roads. I gave a sigh of relief, nonetheless, when I saw a roadsign pointing toward the next "real" Bay Trail:

I went by Candlestick Park first. I'm pretty amazed that the niners still play at that sort-of dilapidated stadium in the middle of nowhere. Right across from that was Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. It's a pretty large area of greenery. There were a considerable number of parties going on, mostly birthdays and barbecues. Much of it is attractive, but what I found particularly beautiful was when I rounded a corner and suddenly saw the bay south of Candlestick. The water looked the lightest blue of anywhere I saw today and the winds were just whipping it toward the Bay. It was a beautiful and surprising vista.

(I'd come to appreciate the winds less as the day went on. They really picked up toward San Bruno, and for my last couple of miles I was fighting them and just barely winning.)

Past Candlestick is a couple of miles of no-trail. There are fortunately some quiet roads there, so I wasn't concerned about the trek. I finally came upon the Brisbane Lagoon, a neat-looking inland waterway that looks like it gets tides in from the Bay, and beyond that was the best part of the ride.

From Brisbane to San Bruno is a very attractive shoreline, well-kept and full of great paths. There are no less than three marinas in the area, which speaks to where the money to keep things up comes from.

I often forget how much longer riding takes when you actually going in and out of a coastline. I must have spent at least two times as long riding that section of trail as I did riding the similar as-the-crow-flies distance from Candlestick to Brisbane. This section was also one of the few for the day where I saw many other bike riders (the others were up at Heron's Head Park, in San Francisco proper, then later, on the Centennial Trail).

The north-south trail ended at the north side of SFO. I made one last ride out toward the Bay to see the "SamTrans Peninsula" (like a tootsie-roll pop of public transport, with a trail along the outside and a special treat of bus yards in the middle). Then I fought the wind coming in from the northwest to get out, away from the coast.

I eventually made it past 101 and the Caltrain line into San Bruno proper. From there I headed north, with the idea of getting on BART at the nearby San Bruno stop. However, just when I got there I discovered the Centennial Way Trail, a newish off-road trail that went straight from San Bruno BART to South San Francisco BART.

I cannot resist a new bike trail, so I decided to follow it up. Perhaps I shouldn't, because I was really tired, and the wind just kept blowing against me the whole time. So, I may not have enjoyed the trail as much as I would have otherwise, but at least I did get to see it, and I may not be out there again to do so. It was all nicely off-street and there was even a dog park to gawk at for a bit.

[Edit: Apparently the Centennial Way just went in last May. It's nice to see someone actually doing new bike trail work. It seems to mostly have come to stop across the Bay Area in the last couple of years, since Arnie began cutting projects and stealing money from the cities. Like the Richmond Greenway: that was supposed to be done years ago, and would be a great connection between the Ohlone Greenway and the Bay Trail. And the extension of the Oholone Greenway south, past University. Alas.]

[Edit2: It looks like phase 2 of the Richmond Greenway got built late last year, after 2+ years of stalling! I think that's practically the whole thing as phase 3 I believe is just an overpass on San Pablo (which is important, but not a big obstacle at present). I think my next bike adventure trip is going to be up the Ohlone, over the Richmond (hopefully) and down into the George Miller Jr. Regional Shoreline, which I really found attractive when last I was there.]

Total miles traveled on the peninsula was 30.5. Including trips to and back from BART on my side of the bay, the grand total was about 34. Which more than made up for not going to EndGame yesterday. The one area that really struck me as somewhere I wouldn't mind seeing again was the Brisbane-San-Bruno shoreline, but it's far enough out and far enough from public transit on the north side, that I'll probably just go to closer areas when I have desire to see the bay.

My total Bay Trail coverage is now Golden-Gate-Bridge-to-SFO in the west and Point-Pinole-to-Fremont in the east.

And I think today's ride will cover my urge to explore for a month or two.

Next time I want to go out to the peninsula I should be able to go straight to the end of the BART line, at Millbrae and go south from there, as there is no trail from San Bruno (where I stopped today) to Millbrae. Beyond Millbrae, it looks like there's quite a bit of nice trail. An ideal ride would be from there, to the Dumbarton, then across, but that could be pushing it for a single day, especially given how windy I remember the Dumbarton being.

And tomorrow, I rest. Well, OK, I work, but I don't expect to leave the house. Which suits me just fine, as I want to sit down and get as much code as I can into an ad hoc of High Society for release tomorrow afternoon.
shannon_a: (Default)
Very busy day.

Went out to gaming this afternoon, where we had a number of small things planned. Spent about 1.5 hours finishing up the last little bit of the current Savage Tide run, then spent about an hour making up a character for Dave P. for the upcoming Traveller game.

I'm going to be running a first Traveller game in two weeks, so I need to start figuring out what it is. Lots of options, but I want to start off with something designed specifically for Mongoose Traveller as I get acquainted with the system.

After that I headed out, but I left the players with the opportunity to do a lot of shopping, which they took full advantage of after my departure. They want to buy a lot of powerful things, so I need to double-check what the power-levels should be and probably make lots of random rolls.

I headed out at about 3.30 and then took BART into San Francisco. I had plans there later in the evening, but I decided to head out a couple of hours early to do some bike riding. I ended up riding from Embarcadero, all the way around the northeast quarter of San Francisco to Fort Point, which is right under the Golden Gate.

Embarcadero was a nice ride, because there's a good bike lane going each way. (And I really appreciated it on the way back home, when traffic was just gridlocked and I whizzed by many, many cars.) After that there was a mess around Fishermen's Wharf (which I think is pretty much a blight on San Fracisco, other than the high-class seafood restaurants), and then it was into a bunch of park areas.

The nicest area of the ride was Chrissy Field, which is just beautiful, recovered seaside. It has a few trails you can take: a nice paved path a few hundred feet from the seashore and a sand path right on it. I took the paved path heading west and the sand heading east.

I'd been kind of hoping to ride the Golden Gate over to the Marin Headlands and back, but when I got toward Fort Point, I decided I had neither the energy to make the climb to the bridge nor the time to go to Marin and back. It turned out that I did have time because my plans ended up delayed by 30 minutes and I could have found the energy--but I don't particularly regret not making the ride today. I had a more relaxing day and there will be plenty of other days to bike the bridge.

One of the things that really amazed me while I was out was the huge number of bikes. I think there are a lot here in the East Bay, but SF was just jammed (and when I was sliding by gridlocked traffic at various times, I really see why). More surprising was that there are now at least two major bike-rental-to-tourist businesses in the Fishermen Wharf area. Probably half the bikes I saw from Fisherman's Wharf onward where their tourist bikes. I was actually surprised to see so many tourists comfortable biking and doing pretty good on the hill heading up to Fort Mason and on the road up to the Bridge. I just figured that they must not be Americans.

In any case, everything that I rode today was Bay Trail, which gave me my first chunk of SF peninsula riding. I may well do everything I did today again, when I do actually bike the bridge, but it was nice to get a feel for the area.

The point of the trip into SF was my brother Jason's bachelor party. He's getting married next month, so tonight was the proverbial last night of freedom.

I met him and my other brother Rob and some of their friends at Hooter's in San Francisco at 6.30. (I was pretty surprised to learn that there was a Hooter's in SF, but it was at Fisherman's Wharf, so I guess that's not as much of a surprise.)

I'd never been before. They had decently good food and lots of busty women, who I actually didn't think looked entirely attractive in their trademark hot pants and super tight shirts. Ah well, it was a fun time talking with everyone. The boys & friends headed off to bars afterward, but I decided to head home instead. Got in about 10. Was surprised to find Kimberly still awake.
shannon_a: (Default)
Went on a longer bike ride today, the first I'd done since I burned myself out around my birthday.

The goal was the segment of Bay Trail between the airport and Alameda, on the coast of Oakland. It's the only segment of East Bay Trail that I had not done, and I'm happy to say that it's now completed.

Since Kimberly was going with me, we plotted out a shorter ride, which involved taking BART down to Fruitvale, rather than biking down there. I think that ended up making for a more pleasant ride all around, as we were able to do a loop that started and ended at Fruitvale BART and only totaled 16 or so miles.

From Fruitvale BART we headed straight down to Alameda, over the Bridge on Fruitvale Ave, and then around the southeast corner of the island to their cool pedestrian/bike bridge that connects to Bay Farm Island. It was all land that I'd traveled over on my Election Day Bike Ride. It was nice to see it again, looking more familiar this time.

The downside of that Alameda trail is that it's on the street, away from the coast. Thus we didn't really get to see San Leandro Bay--which is what lies between Oakland, Alameda, and Bay Farm--until we got to the bridge. However from that point on, it was our companion through much of the afternoon, and a generally attractive and soothing companion at that. On Bay Farm Island we rode around the northeast corner, which is a beautiful paved path on a hillside, looking down at the bay.

Then there was street riding, and we took a detour up past the Metropolitan Golf Links toward the Airport itself. I wanted to take the route by the golf course because it was "official" Bay Trail; there was no Bay nearby, but it should eventually connect up to the Opal Bay Regional Shoreline. From the end of the Golf Links trail, we ended up cutting across Bay Farm Island on a clearly marked and constructed bike trail that seems to go nowhere from what I can see. We eventually turned around and headed back, past the Golf Links, toward our next segment of Bay Trail.

This was the longest continuous segment of Bay Trail that we rode today. It covered nearly the entire eastern side of San Leandro Bay, starting at the Airport Channel, which is where the Bay ends to the south, around to San Leandro Creek, then up through Oakland. It was all very nice trail, with good paved paths, beautiful views, lots of chipmunks (constantly running across the path!), and enough people that it didn't seem deserted but not enough to clog up the paths.

We came out on Tidewater Street, to the east of Alameda, which was all messed up for my Election Day ride, but has been refinished now so that you can actually go out to High Street, which we took up to San Leandro Street, then over to Fruitvale BART.

About 2 hours of riding today, for the aforementioned 16 miles. Kimberly says it's the longest ride she's done.

With the East Bay section of the Bay Trail now done, I need to start planning out how to conquer the more far-flung areas ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Had a good bike ride along the Bay Trail today, but it ended up being much more tiring than I planned, primarily because I didn't know about the quality of the trail in Hayward and because there was a fierce wind coming off the Bay the whole time. Together the gravely trails and the headwind conspired to cause everything to take much more energy than usual, and thus I'm a veritable zombie tonight.

The idea was to go down to Fremont, the end of the BART line, then head back up along some fairly continuous trail that ran from Fremont to Oakland. A pretty good theory, and entirely doable, if the conditions had been better.

After leaving the Fremont BART station, the goal was to get up to the Alameda Creek Regional Trail, which runs along the Alameda Country Flood Control Channel. This required threading some roads in Fremont, but none of it looked too bad. The downside was that one of the bike trails depicted in the area, which offered a pretty good shortcut up to the Creek, didn't exist, so I was on roads for longer than I would have liked. Kind of boring, suburban roads too. But, about 3.5 miles after leaving Fremont BART, I finally made it up to the Trail.

The Alameda Country Flood Control Channel is one of these ugly streams that's vastly wide, but mostly covered with grass and other native foliage. Though there was a stream running down the middle of it, that was pretty hard to see, and thus not that attractive.

The Trail runs along both sides of the Channel. Unfortunately, it's only paved on the south side, whereas the north side is a mixture of paved and gravel paths. Unfortunately I wanted to be up on the north side, so that I could access another trail that led off it northward, so I traveled on gravel paths more than I would have liked to.

For future reference, I could have stayed on the south side further, but there was no way to avoid the gravel entirely and still get to the trail that branched off north. Not a problem, as I doubt I'll do the northward swing from the Trail again, though I do plan to explore its southside more some time, include a few sidelines that head south into Coyote Regional Park.

Exiting the Alameda Creek Regional Trail I entered Union City, and following a very nice trail along Old Alameda Creek. It was continuous except for one short area where you had to skim through a quiet, suburban neighborhood. It was also very pretty, with a much smaller creek gurgling to the side (and under a few bridges).

Despite the pretty good attention to its actual trails, it looks like Union City does a pretty bad job of maintaining info about them online, which is a shame.

As I left the Old Alameda Creek Trail coming onto Hesperian Blvd, I came into Hayward ... and Hayward is the city that I don't plan biking again.

Past Hesperian, my sources disagreed about whether there was Bay Trail or not. I stayed mostly on quiet streets, and was finally able to pick up Bay Trail a mile or two further west (and saw that I'd indeed missed some on my way in).

The reason I missed it? It was all unpaved. Nonetheless, I started riding it northwesternly, heading for a bridge over Highway 92. On the other side of the bridge, I came into the Hayward Regional Shoreline, and the first "true" Bay Trail of the day (about 14 miles after leaving Fremont BART). It swung west to the shore, and then went straight north.

The area was very attractive. It was all intertidal salt marsh, with lots of nice-looking native vegetation around. I saw many birds of all sorts, really tiny squirrels(?) that looked about half the size they should be, and lots of rabbits too.

The problem was that this was all unpaved too. Though most of the trail was pretty obvious, there were places that I lost track of it: where "real" trail was sufficiently overgrown and "unofficial" trail was sufficiently worn done that I couldn't distinguish between the two. Once I even had to turn around and ride back because I'd unknowingly gone down an "unofficial" trail that dead-ended.

I should probably explain my problem with unpaved trails. If it was just packed dirt, I'd be fine. I was constantly riding that as a kid, as the area around my childhood house wasn't completely suburbanized until High School or so. However most of the unpaved trails in parks are covered with gravel.

Gravel sucks for two reasons. First, you spin it as you ride, which means that a lot of your kinetic energy gets wasted shuffling rocks around. Second, it's really unstable and you can go down if you turn too quickly. I'm usually very careful when I ride in gravel, but I did almost go down once when I had to go up a hill (onto what I think was an "unofficial" trail, though it didn't seem it at the time), and I lost most of my traction most of the way up.

In any case, the end result was that for 6 miles through the Hayward Regional Shoreline I was doing at best 8-10 mph, and I was probably expending energy like I was going 20-25 mph, counting the gravel and the stiff wind that had come up by that time.

Based on my experiences both before the Regional Shoreline and in the Regional Shoreline, I have to say, "Hayward hates paved trails" or maybe "Hayward hates bicyclists" or maybe "Hayward doesn't do crap to support its regional parks." Whichever it is, it isn't a good place to go and bike, though I was happy to visit once.

I was really tired by the time I hit San Lorenzo, about 20 miles past Fremont BART by now. It's unincorporated land between Hayward and San Leandro, and I'd never heard of it before, but now I'll sing its praises, because they take care of their trails.

There was a very nice paved trail that continued on north right along the Bay shore. I would have really enjoyed it, except I was pretty tired out by that point. So instead I kind of puttered along, running alongside a gold course at one point, and then eventually up to the San Leandro Marina.

Past the Marina I rode one other bit of the Bay Trail in San Leandro: the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline. This is a little semi-circle of trail that goes out over landfill. However, it's a marked contrast to the dump I rode along up in Richmond, because this has all been turned green and planted, and it's really nice. It shows what that other dump could become, someday down the road.

There was a nice paved trail all along the semi-circle, where I enjoyed watching both the Bay to one side and the green hill to the other.

By then I decided I'd had enough. I cut inland to San Leandro BART, which was a decent ride, with only one annoying bit (going over 880). And from there it was home.

Much of the trail was nice today; my only disappointment was in Hayward, where I think there's a lot of potential for a good, useful transport trail that's just not being considered right now. I probably wouldn't go back there, but surely would to the San Lorenzo and San Leandro trails (though they're far enough from my hosue that the opportunity may not arise).

Total riding was 33 miles, of which 30 miles was the arc from Fremont to San Leandro BART.

At this point I've almost completed my map of the East Bay Bay Trails. I've still got a chunk of trail to ride from inland of the southeast corner of Alameda down to just short of the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline Trail, but that was too much to do today; however, it's closer to home, so I could just ride down there and back if I wanted.


Red-faced too. Hoping that's wind-burn, not sun-burn.
shannon_a: (Default)
We've had an annoying weather pattern this weekend: overcast skies and the constant threat of showers, but very little water actually dropping down to the ground. We only got about .10 inches of rain overnight, but the skies were still gray this morning. I decided I wouldn't be deterred. So, after consulting the oracles of the internet, including RADAR and satellite maps, and after seeing bits of sunlight creeping out into the late morning, I decided to head out for a bike ride.

I got Kimberly to accompany me by plotting out a ride that gave her lots of opportunities to bail out, through a sequence of BART stations that ran along our path. She ended up riding about 13 miles and leaving at Richmond BART. I circled back around and ended up with a total of 26.

(It would have been more like 28 if I hadn't walked up from the Bay, talking to my folks in Hawaii as I did.)

The main goal was to ride out to Point Richmond and visit the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline, which is the only notable shoreline park that I hadn't visited between Point Pinole and Bay Farm Island and more importantly which contains the only notable stretch of Bay Trail that I hadn't ridden in that area.

The ride up was easy: through west Berkeley, over to the Ohlone Greenway, through El Cerrito, along the Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, along the Meeker Creek corridor, then around the Richmond Inner Harbor. I'd been to most of these places before, but it was nice to show them to Kimberly. As before, the dogs at Point Isabel were cute and the ride through the salt marshes on the other side was attractive.

I hadn't been along the Meeker Creek trail, but it was very nice. It's an inland short cut if you don't want to go along the whole Richmond Inner Bay shoreline, but it's very attractive, with a creek full of native vegetation off to one side.

Afterward we cut into the Inner Harbor (having avoided a long detour out on the peninsula that marks one side of the Inner Harbor), and Kimberly said that it reminded her of Sausalito, with all its attractive (and doubtless expensive) boats at anchor.

The Bay Trail comes to a somewhat abrupt end at the northwest side of the Inner Harbor, but Kimberly was tired anyway, so I ferried her up to Richmond BART, which isn't too far. I'm not fond of those neighborhoods: first some industrial ones surrounding the harbor, then some poorer neighborhoods surrounding BART, but we skirted through them pretty quickly (and would do so even moreso next time, now that I know where Richmond BART actually is).

I must say, I'm impressed by how great the Richmond BART is looking nowadays, with its connections to Amtrak and the Capital Corridor. It makes me want to find something to do up the Capital Corridor, seeing that it's so easy to get to, right from our house. I wonder if you can take bikes on it?

(Survey says: yes, they have bike racks, you just need to bring a bungee cord!)

And that horizontal rule marks me beginning biking on my own, as Kimberly whisked home.

It was a pretty easy trip down the Richmond Greenway and out into Point Richmond, where the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline is.

This is a 300-acre park that's neatly secluded behind a small range of hills. Apparently, the hills used to be an island out in the Bay, but the area is now all landfilled and thus a part of Richmond proper. In 1900s, a train line was built out to Ferry Point, which is at the backend of the Regional Shoreline, so that passengers could get all the way out to the Ferry to San Francisco, but that was abandoned by the 1970s when the Park started to come together.

(I'm pretty amazed that a major expansion like that from 100 years ago has already gone to seed.)

You cross over into the Park through a tunnel which has a nice, wide bikeway to one side. It's stunningly beautiful once you get through: verdant, green hills to the left and sharp decline to the right that leads to a shoreside lake and the Bay beyond it. I quickly dropped off the road onto the paths along the Lake, and quite enjoyed myself.

Afterward I went the rest of the way around the "Ferry Point Loop", which took me over the hill rather than through it. That wasn't too bad, but it's just as well Kimberly wasn't with me for the climb.

Heading back home, I took the Bay Trail the whole way. The paths back to Richmond Inner Bay were all roads, but there were nearly always either bike lanes or wide sidewalks marked as Bay Trail. I didn't go all the way down to the Richmond Harbor, but instead cut across to Meeker Creek.

Then it was back through the salt marshes, across Point Isabel, out to the Albany Bulb, over Golden Gate Fields (who I curse whenever I cut through their parking lot, as they accepted permits that were only given to them when they promised to build Bay Trail through their property and then they decided to ignore their promises and went right back to opposing a trail), across to the Berkeley Marina, then over the Pedestrian Bridge and back into Berkeley proper.

That's really a nice stretch of Bay Trail from Richmond Inner Harbor to the Berkeley Marina (and beyond it to the Emeryville Marina, for that matter), pretty continuous despite some in and out along the way.

As noted I called my dad and step-mom after I was over the Pedestrian Bridge, and ended up talking to them for the two miles or so up from the Bay, which was nice, as I hadn't gotten to since we got back from Hawaii in late January.

The extended outdoor conversation was partially because Sunday is when we usually talk, and I knew I'd been out and about and thus not available, and partially because it was a good excuse not to bike up the hill back to my house, after I was already tired from 26 miles of biking today.

So that completes my explorations of the Bay Trail from Point Pinole down to Bay Farm Island. I've hit not only all the shoreline trails, but I think I've also hit all the arterial trails that run up and down the parks of the area.

I think the Wildcat Canyon Trail is the only thing I'd really like to check out in the areas that I've ridden, but as I noted at the start of February, it was entirely covered in very deep mud the day I tried to look at it.

Of course there's other Trail that's supposed to be built in some of these areas (including, for example, a bike lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, which Cal Trash again shot down, despite the fact that there's an unused lane; and planned trails out in Point San Pablo), but in our current economy, I'm not holding my breath to see them.

Next up is going to be continued exploration south of Alameda; I want to try and get to the shoreline trail there that I couldn't get to in November. And then it'll be further south, and probably across the Bay to San Francisco.
shannon_a: (Default)
I'd been planning to have a pretty laid back day today, as I've been busy since I got back from Hawaii. However, when I got up this morning, I discovered a glorious sun-filled morning. Thus, I decided to go for a (long) bike ride after lunch.

My goal was to cover the corner of the Bay Trail that went up from Richmond and around the corner of San Pablo Bay. My plan to do so was to go up the Ohlone Greenway, then cut straight north through Richmond and San Pablo until I hit Point Pinole, which is at the northwest corner of the East Bay. Then I planned to head south until I was in familiar ground again.

Up through San Pablo, things went pretty well. I rode along San Pablo Ave., and found it to be a pretty good road for riding. There isn't any bike marking along most of its length, but it was a wide street that wasn't very busy (though that might have been because it was Superbowl Sunday). I was actually struck by its width, and how ugly it makes the city look, a topic I've seen discussed in other blogs before.

I've either never been in San Pablo before or I don't remember it. It's a tiny little city, largely surrounded by Richmond, though there's some unincorporated land abutting it as well. It strikes me as being a lot like Richmond but somewhat more upscale. There's definitely parts of the city that look like they were built in the 1950s and haven't been refurbished much since. However, there's also some clear attempts to improve the city with some nice, yuppy looking shopping centers.

I ran into my first problem as I biked out of San Pablo and back into Richmond. Here I found that San Pablo Ave. climbed a big hill. Now, I'm never a fan of hills at the best of times, but I especially don't like biking them while riding on a busy road (and the Avenue was getting increasingly busy by this point). iPhone to the rescue! I found an alternative route that would take me up by Hilltop Mall, and past two parks up there.

Hilltop Mall is, as you'd guess, up a hill. There was no avoiding it. I ended up pretty out-of-breath and hauled my bike up part of it, but fortunately that was the last climbing on the trip (or, at least, the last climbing without a downslope beforehand to give me some momentum). I'll curse my iPhone here for not yet picking up Google Map's new topographic features.

I vaguely considering stopping by the mall, but instead ended up circling it. I did briefly visit two parks in the area though.

Hilltop Park is a crappy little green space on the way to the mall. There was a playground and a bunch of fences and it was all empty (a recurring pattern today, as you'll see).

And then there was Hilltop Lake Park, which was on the far side of the mall. It's set in a little dell that you go down into. There's a large lake, but it's entirely blocked by trees, reeds, and other plants so that not only is the lake inaccessible, but it's often invisible as well. The area was also entirely deserted. Between the neglect and the lack of people, I got the heebie-jeebies, and was glad to emerge from the opposite side of the park after a quick ride through.

On my way in, I noted some luxury condos overlooking the Lake. They had ironwrought gates up to keep the undesirable population of Richmond out of their community ... and I bet they never actually walk down into that park.

From there I cut northwest to Point Pinole. Along the way I hit the first of the official "Bay Trail" of my trip. It was just off-street asphalt running alongside the road, but it was well-labeled, and provided for some more restful riding. Unfortunately, it ends just short of Point Pinole (though future trails are promised), so I had to circle around a bit to find the right route into the park (which went just past a correctional facility, hidden up there).

Point Pinole is a pretty nice park that's literally at the northwestern corner of the East Bay. Unlike most of the shoreside parks, it looks to be primarily a hiking park. There are a huge number of trails that wind this way and that (many of them apparently running along old tramway paths used by the explosive factory that used to be located in this area). The downside is that there's only one paved path, which runs from the entrance out to the northwestern corner of the park.

The most mysterious thing I saw in the park was a huge herd of goats in a large enclosure. I don't know if they were there to trim grass, make goat cheese, or what.

When I got up to the corner of the park I enjoyed some really nice views of San Pablo Bay to the north, northwest, and west. The water was all a beautiful cyan today, and the various hills and headlands across the waters made for attractive vistas.

From there, I was ready to turn around and start heading homeward. I took the Bayview Trail back to the parking lot. It let me see the Bay for quite a well (and is more "official" Bay Trail) but being unpaved, it was also a rocky experience; I had to concentrate on staying up more than I would have liked, which resulted in less enjoyment of the view. Nonetheless, it was the most attractive part of my trip.

By the by: lots of people at Point Pinole. I even saw a few bicyclists. Clearly all the deserted areas I hit (and was to hit) today were not just about the Superbowl, but about a bunch of parks without adequate care.

From there I headed out to Richmond Parkway. There was another road-parallel Bay Trail stretch (and like the path leading up to Point Pinole, it didn't actually overlook the Bay) which I took until I got back to familiar grounds, with two stops along the way.

The West County Landfill is, as you'd guess, a dump. They're working on Bay Trail to surround the entire dump, which runs from Wildcat Marsh in the South to San Pablo Marsh in the north. They plan a 3-phase construction, with phase 1 covering the south, phase 2 covering the west, and phase 3 covering the north. Though their literature claims that everything will be done by 2007 or 2008, at this point only the south is done. And it's a crappy rocky dirt path that at one point was totally overgrown with grass. Clearly, no one is maintaining it, and (no surprise) no one else was using it either.

The marshlands were pretty. I even saw a hare out there, something that I never see in the Bay Area. But at the same time, it's probably somewhere I won't bother to return to. There are other marshlands near Point Isabel which are much nicer.

My other stop along the Parkway was at the Wildcat Marsh This is a park area that runs alongside the Wildcat Creek. I took the official Bay Trail route west toward the marsh and was pretty unimpressed. The creek there is entirely invisible under weeds, and in the distance I could see some of the industries of Richmond quietly smoking away. Did I mention that the area was entirely deserted too?

Then I tried to head east along a trail that's supposed to run along the rest of the creek (and one day up into Wildcat Canyon Regional Park). Sadly, this was the most neglected of any of the park areas I hit today. The area had clearly been flooded at some time and the trail was entirely covered with mud. Two or three feet of mud hardened back into earth. The trail was pretty much impassable, and given that we haven't had any notable rain since December (and, really, not much notable rain all year) I'd have to guess it's been impassable for a while.

As I headed past Point Richmond, it was getting toward 5pm, and I decided to skip the last part of Bay Trail that I'd intended to hit today: a series of trails around the Miller / Knox Regional Shorelone and Keller Beach. I'll go back to them another day.

Instead I turned east when I got to the Richmond Greenway and rode its entirety. The trail is still incomplete. It doesn't quite get to the Bay Trail, nor does it extend all the way to the Ohlone Greenway. However, the section of it that exists is quite nice. It's entirely away from streets, it's got lights running along it for nighttime, and there are a few community gardens along its length. When it gets done it'll be a really nice addition to the web of bike trails in the area.

(The one thing about the Richmond Greenway that makes me laugh is the fact that every time it crosses a street there's a sign that says "Please dismount and walk bike." Which really shows that the people working on the Greenway don't understand bicyclists in the least.)

I eventually made it back to the Ohlone Greenway and from there home.

Total time out today was about 4.5 hours. Total mileage was about 40 miles. Point Pinole was nice (despite the rocky paths), but nothing else was very spectacular. I covered a lot of Bay Trail today without actual Bay.

It'd be nice to ride the Wildcat Creek Trail if it ever gets cleaned up (though it's so out-of-the-way from anything interesting, that I might well not). I definitely need to head back toward Point Richmond sometime to do that segment of trail that I missed there. When I've ridden that I'll have covered the Bay Trail from Point Pinole to Bay Farm Island, perhaps half of the East Bay routes.

I'm pretty tired now. I think this'll be my great biking adventure for February (though perhaps not, as DunDraCon weekend is coming up, which means my RPG group will be away, and thus I'll have the whole weekend free).
shannon_a: (Default)
Did another medium-length bike ride with Kimberly today.

Nothing terribly notable. My main goal was to hit used book stores, because I've been putting together an X-Men TPB collection (and I indeed found New Mutants Vol. 3 and X-Men: Decimation: The Day After at Pegasus on Solano), but I also thought that'd provide a nice opportunity to see some North Berkeley neighborhoods.

So, we rode up to Solano, then down to the Ohlone Greenway which we took up to El Cerrito Plaza. From there we took Central down to the Bay Trail which we rode up to Point Isabel.

Here, I got to see a bit of the Bay Trail I hadn't before. We rode straight out on Point Isabel (past all the cute puppies, for Point Isabel is a dog park), then followed the curve of the Bay back, until we returned to where we'd first joined the Bay Trail. It was a nice little stretch of Trail, with some actual views of the Bay (and it allowed me to see more of Point Isabel, which I'd largely bypassed before).

After that, it was just various Bay Trails, streets, Ohlone Greenways, and bike boulevards back home.

We probably rode 10 or 12 miles total, and it was a nice day to do so.

Tomorrow, I rest, then (sadly) it's back to work.
shannon_a: (Default)
Kimberly and I rode up to Albany today. We had two destinations in mind.

The first was the Northface Factory Outlet in North Berkeley. Kimberly wanted a nice, breathable raincoat, her last one having been a failure (due to its nonbreathability) while I was vaguely considering a breathable wind breaker (since I get too heated in all of my current jackets while riding). We were largely successful, picking up some nice jackets for relatively good prices.

I wore my jacket through part of the rest of the ride and it seemed to be better than the other stuff I'd been wearing on my bike, but Wednesday night (to Endgame) will be the real test.

Afterward we went to the Albany Bulb, one of the many parks along the East Bay coastline. I'd been out there once before, on one of my early Bay Trail rides, but I mostly ignored the park, because it was all dirt trails.

This time we left out bikes at the park entrance and trudged in. It's a weird place. As we walked we kept seeing broken apart cement and metal all around. We stayed on the beach trail, and finally we got to a Bayside path that was pretty much all broken up cement.

Further on we found even stranger stuff. Just off the beach there was some little shack made out of cement (maybe), all constructed of curved lines. There was a rooftop area and even a spiral staircase going down. It was all covered with murals and grafitti.

Circling the back of the Bulb we found more and more cast off junk, including numerous bike frames and bike wheels. There was one area where it looked like rubbish of all sorts had been formed together into a dam or something of the sort, where water might once have settled during the rainy season. There was no water there now, but the inside was so flat, that it had to be something of the sort.

I was mystified over this whole post-industrial wasteland/beach. It could have been something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. It looks like the cement and rebar is from when the area used to be a landfill. The City of Albany has started to take it down as a safety hazard (and to make a nicer park), while predictably locals are up in arms.

Though the Bulb was a nice place to visit, mystifying and strange, it could be a much nicer park, and I hope that the city's able to manage that without people going out there to sit on the cement walls in protest.

Anyway, we biked back via a trip over Golden Gate Fields (which was much easier than when I did that same thing a month or two ago) then through a bit of Bay Trail and up Berkeley's Bike Boulevards. A good day of biking and exploration.

Here's some info on the bulb, and in particular that strange little house:

On the south-west corner is a heart-shaped castle created by "Mad Mark," a mad genius, according to Tomas McCabe, filmmaker and creator of "Bum's Paradise," an award-winning documentary about the Bulb and its community. McCabe took me to the castle, which Mad Mark built by himself during the dark of night from busted up concrete reinforced with dismantled shopping carts. McCabe pointed out the spiral staircase and then outside on the platform, he showed me the concrete club and diamond and the gardener's spade stuck into the ground beside them. "Mad Mark said it's a monument for all the people of California," said McCabe, "He said, 'You have a heart of gold, live up to it.'"
shannon_a: (Default)
I was hoping to draw a nice map of my election day bike ride, but apparently Google has a limit on how many individual nodes you can enter.

In any case, the plan was a day off work and an all-day bike ride, to avoid obsessive election-day poll watching. I went from Berkeley, through Oakland, around Lake Merritt, out to Alameda, then on to Bay Farm Island, which I circled, then back to Alameda, which I circled, then back to Oakland, and finally home. It looks like the total was somewhere in the 30-35 mile range, and I was indeed tired afterward. It's surely the most biking I've ever done at once.

Lake Merritt. I haven't been out to Lake Merritt much, and I was surprised by how large it is. Also, that there's a garden, a kid's science place, and some other stuff near the center of the area. Quite nice. I had lunch out there, watching ducks and geese in a little wildlife preserve.

Looking at Wikipedia, I see that Merritt is indeed a real lake, or at least the remnant of a tidal estuary, which I'd wondered when I was out there. It apparently was the city's sewer in ye olden days. It also seems to have been the nation's first wildlife refuge, back in 1870.

The Bay Trail. The biggest goal of the day was to extend my Bay Trail ride southward, which I did. Theoretically, a lot of what I rode along the Oakland coast and all around both islands was Bay Trail, but there were only two parts which were of particular note.

Out on Bay Farm Island, there's a great section of Bay Trail which runs from its northeast corner (which looks inward at Oakland) out to somewhere along its western edge (which looks outward at the San Francisco peninsula). The northeastern portion is the coolest, because it's just a bike trail running through hilly wilderness. The western edge runs behind fancy-dancy affluent housing part of the whole time and along a seaside park (which is really just a place to fish) part of the time. They're both nice, but not as quiet and wild as the eastern part.

On Alameda, good Bay Trail runs along about two-thirds of the southwestern side of the island. Most of it runs alongside Crown Memorial Beach and/or Carlsbad State Beach. One of the signs in the area claims that Crown was the most popular beach in the Bay Area until WW2, which I find stunning if true; why would people go to a beach on the Bay rather than a beach on the ocean?

There was one teeny stretch of Bay Trail along the southwest side of the island which sucked. It was just dirt, and not even a good dirt trail. At places it there was just a foot or less of cleared space and you had to bump up and down some hills. Signage revealed that most or all of the good trail was thanks to regional park agencies. The sucky trail was thanks to the City of Alameda. Good going Alameda!

However, there is a great bike bridge in the area (near the sucky trail), which connects up the good bits of Bay Trail on both islands; more on that in a bit.

I've now ridden the Bay Trail from Richmond to Bay Farm Island, with the only notably missing area being a bit of Trail in Oakland proper, east of Alameda (on which, more momentarily).

Bay Farm Island. If you don't know what Bay Farm Island is, despite knowing the Bay Area, you're not alone. It's hidden behind Oakland Airport, and is apparently a part of Alameda. It's got piles of fancy houses and a golf course right in the middle. Yep, definitely a place for the little people. It's not actually an island.

Again, I turn to Wikipedia. Apparently it did used to be an island, but was connected to Oakland by landfill (which I find ironic given that the rest of Alameda used to be a part of Oakland before it was separated by digging a canal). Wikipedia doesn't say when the landfilling occurred. If I had to guess, I'd say in the 1920s, when the Oakland Airport was built.

Alameda. I've only been out to Alameda a few times, and this was the only time I've ever been out there alone, and thus had the opportunity to explore the island.

First, it's probably the most conservative place I've been in the East Bay. Though there's some middle class housing, it's of the upper middle class suburban type. There's also quite a bit of clear affluence, mainly on the Bay-facing side of the island. I saw the only McCain-Palin yard signs that I've ever seen while on Alameda; there was three that I passed, though they were great outnumbered by the (victorious!) Obama signs. I also saw one disgusting Yes On 8 sign, showing that bigots aren't afraid to show their faces in Alameda.

Beyond that, I'm surprised by how much of the island is still abandoned and/or in an otherwise in-between state. The closed Naval Base is up in the northwest, and the closer you get in that direction, the more the island turns into confusing, turned-around streets and roads that go nowhere. I even wandered around what must have been troop houses at one time, and they were eerie. Totally abandoned, yet not scary like abandoned houses would be in Oakland.

(They run a tight ship in Alameda.)

Bridges & Tunnels. If I count right, there are four bridges and one tunnel connecting Alameda to the mainland; I went through four of those yesterday.

Park Street was my first bridge, and not the one I intended to use, but I'd gotten confused by my maps (and my lack of an iPhone, since I left it at home yesterday). It's not labeled as being part of the Bay Trail. There is a pedestrian walkway on either side of the bridge, but you're asked to walk your bike, which I did. At least half the times I've been on Alameda, this draw bridge has gone up, stalling traffic for five to ten minutes. Such was the case yesterday, though fortunately only after I made it across. It's neat to watch from up close. Strangely, no boat ever went through.

I skipped the Fruitvale Bridge.

The High Street Bridge is pretty much identical to the Park Street Bridge, except you are allowed to ride your bike and they don't seem to be constantly raising it. It leads to a particularly nasty, industrial part of Oakland. There was Bay Trail that I wanted to get to there (the missing part that I mentioned earlier), but the area was filled with detours, barbed-wire fences, huge trucks, and road construction. I was able to see the Trail at one point, but I couldn't get there. A jogger ran happily along the trail, unknowingly taunting me. When I tried to circle around, road construction threatened to push me onto the highway. I eventually gave up.

The Bay Farm Bridge is great, because there's a pedestrian/bicycle bridge running to its side, showing what they should do on the Bay Bridge. It's been constructed quite well, with easy paths to get there from every direction. There's even an underpass that goes beneath the main bridge so that you can get to the pedestrian bridge from either side of the (very busy) road that crosses beween Alameda and Bay Farm Island. This is the nicest example of a bicycling friendly bridge that I've seen. As I said, it also connects up the best parts of the Bay Trail in the area.

And that brings us to Posey Tube. The northernmost entrance to Alameda isn't a bridge, but rather an underground tube. My maps clearly marked it as good Bay Trail, so I planned to take it back to the mainland. My problems started when I discovered it was very hard to find. Bicycling signage is crap in Alameda, and the tube is surprisingly several blocks back from the shore, and thus not intuitive to find. I thought for a while that I was going to be stuck on Alameda forever.

And the tube ... it was the most terrifying bicycling that I've ever done. The "trail" is a raised walkway that's right next to (and about two or three feet above) the main roadway. It's also about as wide as my handlebars. So there you are, riding underground, cars blaring as they scream past you. Your right elbow is brushing across the tile wall while you constantly try and keep your left handlebar off the railing. Just coasting down to the middle of the tunnel was exhausting, and I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to peddle when I got to the other side. When I saw a bicyclist coming at me from the other direction, I figured there was no way to get past each other, but somehow we managed, each dismounting and carefully lifting out bicycles around each other.

I don't exactly regret the trip through the Tube, but it was truly scary, and I don't expect to do that again.

Politics. I can't finish a discussion of a bike ride on election day without a brief mention of politics. I already talked about the conservative signage that I saw on Alameda. Over the course of the day I also passed either 6 or 7 polling stations: 2 in Berkeley, 1 in Oakland, and either 3 or 4 in Alameda. Only one had a line coming out the door, the second one in Berkeley (though maybe it was in Oakland now that I think of it; definitely on the border in any case). The first four all had No on 8 people demonstrating. I also saw a couple of other No on 8 people out throughout the day; sadly, we now know they failed, which was my expectation. They might have been able to put down 8 if the No on 8 opposition hadn't been so scattered, late, and, frankly, arrogant through a lot of the election. But, I'm not convinced. California is right now on the tipping point of bigotry toward homosexuals. In another couple of years, I think the balance will have shifted, but in 2008 it clearly still has not.

But now we have a White House and a Congress which might just start moving toward equal protections in this new Civil Rights arena.

Next Up. Not sure where my next major bike ride is going to be, but it's surely not going to be this coming weekend; I'm biked out.

September 2017

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