shannon_a: (Default)
Monday night, I decided to bike up to Lake Temescal after work.

It was a very regular destination for me a couple of years ago, some place that I'd often visit on the weekends and in evenings, but it fell off my itinerary early last year when my doctor (pointlessly) asked me not to bike for a while.

So, I think I only went there once in 2016, when I hiked through it, up to Sibley Volcanic Regional Park. And I don't think that I've ever ridden my "new" bike up there.

My purpose was to go and see some new biking infrastructure. There's now a "cycle track" where Broadway takes the turn toward Temescal at Keith. This is a two-way protected bike path off to right side of the road (as you go uphill). I have to admit, I was confused by the usefulness of a cycle track that's just a block long, but it gets you around a tight corner and it gets you past the area where cars are merging onto 24. So, it's actually a nice bit of safe riding that gets you past the hurly-burly. (You still have to deal with cars merging off of 24 on Keith, but I've never had any particular problem with them.)

Past that one cycle track block there are now marked bike lanes all the way up to Temescal (and if Google Maps is to be believed, all the way up to the North Oakland Regional Sports Center). This is nice too, as I'd ridden that road many a time and found it slightly uncomfortable with the cars whizzing by on the previously unmarked road.

It's all about a year and a half late if I remember correctly which year this was promised (2015?), but definitely a nice addition to the local infrastructure.

Now if we could just get the promised improvements done to Tunnel Road, on the other side of 24. That's coming up on eight years late, and I can't even get Berkeley to update their two-year-out-of-date Highway 13 Corridor Improvements Project page despite two different polite requests.

One of the things that shocked me about the bike lanes up Upper Broadway is that they've totally replaced all on-street parking. Mind you, the on-street parking was totally irrelevant. It's only use was up by Lake Temescal, for people who refused to pay the parking fee in the big lot at the park. But the City apparently decided that it was more important for bikes to have a safe route on the street than for cars to have unnecessary parking ... which is really a sea change. (And something that needs to occur more often: roads are primarily for transit, not for parking, and if the two come into contention, transit needs to win.)

Of course, we'll see how that actually works out on a warm summer day. I'm actually thinking about heading back in this direction on Saturday, which should offer a prime look at whether it's yet another place where Oakland talks a good talk, but then doesn't enforce it when cars block the bike lanes. (Their regularly blocked "protected" bike lanes on Telegraph are the best example currently of Oakland's lacsadasical attitude toward enforcement.)

I was also surprised that the ride up to Lake Temescal was pretty easy. That used to be a hard hill. But maybe I was so focused on keeping pressure off my wounded knee that I didn't notice the huffing and puffing.

I was really pleased when I got up to Temescal. It was like seeing an old friend again. I hiked halfway around the lake, tossed my computer done and wrote and edited for a while, then hiked back to retrieve my bike.

The lake seemed more crowded than I remembered in evenings. Quite a few people out at picnic tables talking and eating and hanging. Much more than the handful of fishermen, joggers, and dog walkers that I used to see. Dunno if it marks a change in the last year and a half or just a busy evening.
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)
On my free Saturdays (when I'm not gaming), I like to load up my computer on my bike (or in my backpack) and go out for a ride (or a hike), the idea being that while I'm out I can sit down for an hour or two in some beautiful place and do some of the writing that I've queued up while I tell passersby that No, they don't have wifi in the middle of this park. Unfortunately, this practice becomes a bit troublesome in the wee parts of the year because of the rain and the cold. More than once I've sat out bundled up to the max, wearing overshirt and jacket and my fingerless gloves so I can type, and still been shivering at the 40-something degree weather.

So Friday night I had a brainstorm. What if I took BART somewhere, doing one of those adventures I've been wanting to, and then I could write on (the less beautiful) BART, then keep in constant motion while I was out of the train, increasing my chances of being warm.

So that's what I did yesterday.

I've been wanting to visit Lake Chabot for years. It looked like it was a pretty easy bike ride from Castro Valley BART: just a few miles, and not too much uphill. So that was the plan, except I forgot that the Castro Valley line of BART is horribly inefficient. You get off at San Leandro, and then you wait 13 minutes for a "connecting" train. It's one of those things that makes it obvious that the people who schedule BART don't use BART.

At San Leandro, I pulled out my iPhone and it told me it was a 24 minute bike ride to Castro Valley, so I did that instead of waiting+BARTing for a similar length of time. (Wait, you think, you could have just sat and worked, which was the whole point of BART — except that the San Leandro station is raised, which means it's open to the air, which means that it's horribly cold.)

I enjoyed biking through San Leandro into Castro Valley. I discovered there's a bit of a ridge between them, but there was just one block that was super challenging, and then it was down into Castro Valley and lunch at Wendy's.

Mmmmm ... baked potatoes.

Warm baked potatoes.

Lake Chabot was even more beautiful than I'd guessed. It's just a few hundred feet above sea level, but it feels like a mountainside lake, with the hills dropping steeply down to the water. The first 1.5 miles are absolutely spectacular, with a paved trail allowing you to whiz around the Lake, usually 50 or so feet up.

Oh, and there was a little cafe, which is almost unknown in our East Bay parks, and which was well appreciated because I'd forgotten to pack a cookie. (The cookie I got there was sadly just adequate.) But here was the funny thing about the entrance to Lake Chabot: they steadfastly refuse to give out maps. Almost every East Bay Regional Park has a little kiosk near the entrance where you can grab a map of the area. Lake Chabot instead had very intricate map signs. It did repeat those at several points in the trail ... but eventually you got to a point where they weren't there any more, and then you cursed the penny pinchers who decided a profusion of permanent signs would ensure that printed maps weren't needed.

Because they still were.

Any who, past the end of the paved trail there was a stair and walkway across one of the marshy ends of the lake. I found it a very confusing design, because it was clearly marked at part of the bike path around Lake Chabot, but it was also so narrow that a person would have troubles getting around a bike coming from the other direction, let alone another bike. And, there were poles at very end that made it quite difficult to get a bike in and out. (I had to lift my handlebars about a foot to exit.)

On the other side, I continued the now-dirt path around the lake, and it was a little challenging because we had torrential rain on Thursday, and it was still muddy here and there. Eventually it got to a big climb, and I decided that if it were still pavement, I might try it (sure I would have!), but mud+gravity was too challenging to fight.

So I ended up walking my bike up 300 or 400 vertical feet, which was the most challenging part of the day.

And I said goodbye to the beautiful lake.

Anthony Chabot Park is above Lake Chabot Park. No, I don't understand why they split a single area into multiple parks there, when they're all run by the same people.

I'd been angsting for a bench for a few miles, so I could eat my cookie, and I finally found full picnic tables as I got to the top of the ridge (now about 700 or 800 feet up) in Anthony Chabot. So I ate my cookie, and I read Captain America, and I even did a bit of writing with my jacket off, because the walk up the hill with my bike had got me super-heated.

And, I was very pleased to find that here at Anthony Chabot Park, there were maps. So that's maybe the benefit of breaking the park up: map nazis are limited to smaller areas. (Which makes me think fondly of breaking up the United States.)

The East Bay Regional Park maps are usually quite good, and so I was able to pick out all the ridge lines and paths. To this point, I really hadn't decided where I was ending up for the day — whether I'd be circling the lake and exiting in Oakland, San Leandro, or Castro Valley, or whether I'd try to keep climbing higher. But, looking at the maps I decided that I was most of the way up the hill, and I might as well keep going.

So I set off for a ride through Anthony Chabot Park heading north. Because it was so cold and wintery I was able to ride the roads, with almost no interference from cars, which was nice due to the slight muddiness of the paths. The ride through the Park was overall quite nice. Some hills, yes, but nothing I couldn't deal with. And lots of beautiful scenery.

I eventually opted to exit at the Marciel Gate, which put me onto one of the main roads up in the hills, by now on the other side of the ridge line. On another day I might have ridden the trails that continued north, but ... mud. The benefit of riding Redwood Road was that I got to see out to the Upper San Leandro Reservoir, which becomes a very pleasant stream as you head further north.

Redwood Road eventually branches, going west toward Oakland as Redwood Road or east toward Moraga as Pinehurst Road. There were also some possibilities of heading into Redwood Regional Park — and I'd long thought what a nice trip it would be to walk through all those parks along the ridge, but not on a cold, muddy day.

I generally thought it would be much more pleasant to travel through Moraga (and Lafayette) than Oakland, so the decision on the route depended largely on what looked doable. Because I was quite tired by this point. I was pretty sure both routes were mostly downhill, but the route to Moraga clearly started with some up. It didn't look too steep, so I gave it a try anyway.

200 or 300 feet of vertical ascent later, I'd had about enough, but just as I passed the Pinehurst Staging Area for Redwood Regional Park I crested the hill and it was downhill from there.


In Moraga there was one unpleasant surprise: the southern end of the Lafayette-Moraga trail is closed. It looks like there might have been a landslide. The signs said it would be closed until East Bay Regional Parks could make it safe. Based on similar signs around one of the trails in Tilden for the last few years, that might mean "forever".

In southern Lafayette there was one pleasant surprise: a waterfall along the trail which I haven't seen falling for years was going. It was great. I took selfies.

In downtown Lafayette there was a final pleasant surprise: the BART train pulled up just I got to the platform. No sitting on another cold, elevated platform for me.

The total ride was about 29 miles with 2500 feet of total vertical ascent. By both criteria I think that was the most challenging bike ride I've done all year. Definitely the most in the last 9 or 10 months.

I thought I was going to be sore as heck today, as I have been the last few times I biked in the hill, but not so much. Yay.

Oh, and I got two articles mostly written, which is less than on a typical free Saturday, but not bad.
shannon_a: (Default)
Just before I left for New York City, my specialist told me that I could cautiously start biking again. Though I was still having (and am having) ongoing symptoms, the inflammation she had been seeing was gone. None of this particularly surprised me, as I never felt like my symptoms lined up with an inflammation-related diagnosis.

But, I was happy to be able to bike again.

(And I had a CT scan today to look for other organic issues as the annoying next step; I've now got a CD of my innards which my doc will look over next week.)

Despite the fact that I never particularly believed that biking had anything to do with anything, I've carefully followed my specialist's orders. Including being cautious about starting up again. So, I biked out to Endgame the weekend after I got back from New York, but I also continued to BART and bike some.

Then, this last Saturday, I went on a recreational bike ride.

I believe it's my first recreational bike ride since January(!), an impossibly long time ago. And, it was practically my only bike riding since March, when I stopped entirely except a few required trips to the optometrist.

I was also practically starting out from scratch with my new bike, which I just got in late December.

My destination on Saturday was the Wildcat Canyon Trail, a ride that I love dearly, but which I hadn't done since the rains started in November. (Ah, rain, I recall it fondly, and not just because I kept getting wet in New York.)

Still, I was careful. I BARTed up to El Cerrito Del Norte. But, from there I biked up to the Alvarado Park in Richmond, then turned around to ride the Wildcat Canyon Trail through Wildcat Canyon Park, into Tilden.

I'd been afraid that my hill-climbing muscles had atrophied in the last four or five months, and I think they somewhat have.

There are three major (but short) climbs within Wildcat Canyon, then a longer slope to get onto the roads in Tilden Park, then a major (and long) climb to get out of Tilden Park. They're always challenging. Even at my peak, most rides I'm only able to bike 1 or 2 of the climbs in the Canyon. I always bike the slope up to the roads, but then it's 50/50 whether I walk out of Tilden on the shorter route or take the longer route and perhaps ride, but perhaps walk part of it.

But on Saturday I actually biked all three of climbs within Tilden. The last two were very difficult, and I could feel that I'd lost some muscle as I was sometimes putting my legs down and having almost nothing happen. But I feel like I've also built up some endurance and improved my cardio-vascular fitness in four months of regular hiking, and I think that allowed me to keep going. So, it was tougher, but more doable, weirdly enough.

(I was also able to ride the slope leading to the Tilden roads, but then I walked the quarter or half-mile short route out of the park.)

I enjoyed seeing the park again, although it's somewhat the worse for the half-a-year I've been away. Storm damage has closed one of the major routes into the park, and that means that it's been like that for months and they haven't repaired it. (Unrepaired storm damage is becoming an increasingly big problem at many of our local parks; it seems to be accumulating in Redwood Regional and Tilden and Wildcat year after year.) Meanwhile, the whole top of the hillside was cut off for fire abatement work.

Fortunately there was a clear path through from Alvarado to Jewel Lake, then around to the roads, and up and out of the park.

The thing that surprised me the most about the ride was how good I felt. How healthy I felt. Now, I don't think biking is any healthier than hiking, and I'd been doing some darned good hikes, but the fact that I was doing something that I'd been denied for many months for health reasons made me feel better (even if the core problems linger).

The other thing that surprised me was that I missed my hiking! I've really come to enjoy walking our nearby trails in recent months. If I'd had a place to lock up my bike inside Wildcat Canyon, I would have left it a while and hiked up and down a hillside.

I mean, I've always hiked a bit, but I really came to enjoy it more in the last few months, so I guess I've found a new hobby.

And now I can choose to specifically bike to somewhere to hike, if I want.

(And so far, no worsening of symptoms or anything from the biking; I continue to watch it carefully, and I'm going to continue to do some BARTing over the next week or two, but I hope I can continue on. Of course the annoyance is that my chronic symptoms have always continued, which makes it slightly hard to measure if they're getting worse.)

That was Saturday. I had some other stuff that I wrote today about the Berkeley Book Faire on Sunday. But Livejournal gets flaky about its autosaves when you write something on one computer, then recover the autosave on another computer. So, when something or another killed my Safari it wiped out that last part of this journal entry (and my editing!).

Suffice to say: beautiful open air book festival; less beautiful content because there was too much crazy Berkeley stuff; and a great row of food trucks, which I wish we'd known about in advance. K. and I got a book of Berkeley Walks that we liked for how much information it had on its walks, and I got her a cute "K" necklace cut out of a book cover.

And that was the weekend.

And since then, I worked and hiked on Monday, and I worked and CTed and voted today. And I've been feeling burned out in the evenings again and not getting reviews and histories I wanted done. So it goes.
shannon_a: (Default)
In late 2014, after much hemming and hawing, Oakland finally agreed to revamp 20 blocks of Telegraph Avenue to make it safer for biking. This was a pretty big deal because it's the main route into Oakland from the north — and the bottom 20 blocks where they were doing the work were in an area that is almost absent any really comfortable biking routes.

Now Telegraph Avenue is my regular route down to Endgame (or Jack London Square or Alameda or places south). I usually ride it at least once a week. I'd gotten pretty used to it over the years, but in early 2015 I looked at the street with new eyes and realized how crappy it really was for biking — full of fast cars, turning here and there. I began to count down the weeks until work was to begin in March 2015.

Now Oakland has been pretty good in recent years at extending biking routes. But they're really horrible at doing anything on a schedule. I was disappointed but unsurprised when March, then April went by with no progress. Then word came out that work was to be done in the summer, then that it was to be in September.

Come October, Oakland finally repaved the bottom 10 or so blocks of Telegraph. It was a horrible mess of unpaved roads for a couple of weeks, but then the paving was done and it seemed like the biking work was just around the corner. Then in November the city roughly painted in where all new embankments and such would go in the bottom 10 blocks. (Yes, they are currently ignoring the top 10 blocks they're supposed to be redoing; current word is late 2016, almost a year and a half late, which probably means 2017.)

I would have thought that Oakland couldn't make Telegraph worse, but they totally have. It's now been at least two months since the repaving and repainting. Telegraph now has roughly painted lines on it that everyone is ignoring because they don't match up with the construction of the road. (The new bike paths in that area will be protected, which means concrete [or something] dividers, and car parking getting moved out from the curb.) So instead we just have an auto derby with everyone going every which way, driving up what should be the shoulder, swaying right and left. It's insane.

And Oakland's been OK with that for two months.

So if I was looking forward to those lanes going in before, I really am now that they've totally f***ed things over for two months.
shannon_a: (Default)
I took my bike out today for a long ride, the first of that sort I'd done since getting the new bike. I went out to Hilltop and back for a total damage of 23 miles.

It was a dreary overcast day, but the air was clean and the roads were wet. I actually really love riding in that sort of weather because there are fewer people out and the wetness makes the road go faster (though you have to be cautious, because it also makes the stopping slower). So, I was enjoying myself ... until the rain came back. First there was spitting, then misting, then drizzle. The rain was never hard enough to be uncomfortable for biking, but I was definitely wet when I got to Hilltop. (And few a few hours afterward.) I like riding in that a little less. Ah well.

A few hours later, when I was riding back, I was getting a little tired. I decided that it must be the new bike requiring slightly different muscles because 20 miles wouldn't usually fatigue me at all. But then I looked at my Fitbit records and discovered some of my bike riding back wasn't recorded as active minutes. In fact, I frequently dropped out of the cardio & fat burning zones on my home, with my heart dropping into the 70s bpm, and once even down to 69. While I was biking.

After a bit of thought, I figured out the explanation. I had to go off of my old blood measure med a couple of years ago when my insurance changed, because the new Blue Shield plan didn't cover it. (The old HealthNet plan carried it at a ridiculous price, but this new one pushed that even higher.) So, I went over to something new, which was what my cardiologist used for most of his patients anyway. But it never worked as well for me, so this last Wednesday we upped it to two pills a day.

And it's a med that can limit your blood pressure max. So it's almost certainly what was making things more tiring for me (not the new bike), and it's probably what kept me out of the higher heart rate zones part of the time I was biking. I'd actually been worried about it when I started taking it, that it might keep me from doing hills on my bike. But this (with the increase) is the first time I've seen real evidence of that effect. So, hopefully it'll fade. And I've only been taking the increased dose for a few days, so I'm willing to give it a chance.
shannon_a: (Default)
I fear the cold. Or at least, dislike it. When I was out on my bike to get groceries on Friday, my hands were just freezing. And my face. And my feet. (New biking gloves ordered! And maybe I should get a scarf. And extra socks.)

When the forecast on Saturday said more of the same (cold), I didn't really feel like going out and braving the elements. So Saturday I mostly sat around (and read and wrote). There was a trip out to CVS at some time for drugs and to dinner for tacos, but that was mostly it.

Today things seemed just a bit more pleasant around noon, so when Kimberly and I headed out to do some more errands, I took my bike with me, for use later. And, it was quite sunny and actually nice while we walked. Yay! After some wandering I left Kimberly waiting at the hair saloon for a barber named Godot (which went about how you'd expect), and I headed off for biking adventure.

Sadly, the moment that I hopped on my bike, the hour or so of warmth abruptly dissipated. Chill breezes set in. Sigh. Stupid winter.

I did a 13-mile ride on my bike, which is the most I've done on the new beast. After riding the Ohlone Greenway north, I headed up into the foothills for my trip back. But before that I stopped and wrote (and edited and read) a bit at the Canyon Trail Park in El Cerrito.

It was cold.

Then it was back home through the foothills. A nice ride, and I got to assess how well my new bike does in hills. And, I'm undecided. It felt like the shallow climbs were harder and the steep climbs were easier. I figure I need to go up to Lake Temescal, my most-familiar hill ride, to really get a better assessment.

Maybe on one of the next few evenings, if there's some rain-free time.

In the meantime, happy to be back in a warm house.

New Bike!

Dec. 31st, 2015 04:53 pm
shannon_a: (Default)
And I now have a new bike.

My 2009 Bianchi Cortina has been replaced with a 2015 Raleigh Venture 4.0. It's a "comfort hybrid", a category that I don't think existed when I got my last bike. (The hybrid did, meaning that it's intended for both street and dirt riding, and I do use it on both; the comfort is newer though.) Like my last bike, it focuses on comfort over speed, meaning I can sit upright. It's also been pushed further in that direction; for example it has a much wider seat that makes me feel like I have a fat ass.

The new bike rides smooth as silk, but that's not unusual for a new bike. The real question will be how it's operating in a couple of months. I have high hopes, though. It looks like the Raleigh Venture 3.0 would have been pretty comparative with my old Cortina, but I was able to get the 4.0 for the same price, because it's a close-out of the 2015 model. The 4.0 should have better parts than the 3.0, which hopefully means better operation and less maintenance.

(Overall, I'm very proud of myself with the purchase, as I researched it online, and went in to Mike's Bike to try out the Venture 3.0, and then to have them order the 4.0, which they only had in very limited supplies at certain stores. If I'd just gone in without the research I would have gotten the slightly worse model.)

The new bike went to EndGame and back well last night. The other big test will be on the hills, which I might do on Saturday (though I'm already totally over riding in this winter cold).

So, new bike. I'm ready to put another 12,000 miles on this one.
shannon_a: (Default)
Yesterday my brother Jason was kind enough to give K. and me a ride home from San Martin, and among many other discussions I mentioned that the next time my bike went in for serious repairs, it'd probably be time to just replace it instead.

Well ...

Tonight I went out for a planned ~25 mile bike ride, to try and offset two days of big meals and tasty candies. I went out to Hilltop Mall, had a big meal and some candy (hmmm...), did some writing in their big central court yard, then headed home.

On San Pablo Dam Road, just before I turned into a quieter street, a plastic bag blew into my bike. No biggie, eh? Then my rear wheel ground to a sudden halt. (I was pretty thankful I wasn't moving at speed.) The plastic bag had wrapped itself into and around my derailleur and then when it had gotten sucked into the gears, it literally ripped the derailleur apart. Bent up the chain too.

December is apparently crazy bike damage week, since last year, a few weeks earlier, I got assaulted by a runaway skate board. This time it was all the more bizarre, because a plastic bag literally proved itself stronger than my derailleur.

My bike was so horribly maimed that it took me 15 minutes (and a ton of grease on my hands) to get it to the point where I could push it without the derailed derailleur grinding into the tires, frame, gear shaft, or something else. Then it was a 2.5 mile walk to the El Cerrito Del Norte BART Station, and I was home free from there.

Believe it or not, The Missing Link is closed for a week, so it was off to Mike's Bikes, where they estimated repair of chain + derailleur at $100, which sounds reasonable, but more than I think the bike is worth at this point. It's 7 years old, with just shy of 12,000 miles on it. There was a cluster of repairs about 18 months ago, and I'd already decided that the time has come to stop rather than clustering repairs again.

So I had them show me new bikes for a bit, but it was too late to really come to a decision on one. So, I'll probably be back on Monday to decide on a new bike. I've got some notes on what they were suggesting, to see if I like what I read about them on line. (If not, I might have to find another bike shop that actually is open over the Christmas holidays.)

So. Sigh. A frustrating day.
shannon_a: (Default)
Ugh. I feel like I had a mostly lost weekend, which is a bummer because they're when I rest and rejuvenate after the week.

Skotos. Things started off annoyingly on Friday night. I've been doing some upgrades to Skotos' machines, to try and make them as safe as possible before the holiday seasons (and to make sure they can stay up-to-date going into 2016). After three updates that went mostly well, I ran into troubles on my fourth upgrade of the week, late on Friday. I stayed a bit late on Friday to track down a few show-stopping bugs, which were annoyingly known issues with the upgrade that hadn't been addressed in documentation or upgrade patches. A few more problems proved intractable in a short period of time, but were also lower priority, so I managed to put them aside for the weekend. (Mostly.)

Unfortunately, the Skotos hits kept coming. On Saturday I discovered a new problem that was somewhat higher priority, and I worked on that for a while, until I was able to at least see the boundaries of the issue (and decided it also wasn't a quick fix). Then on Sunday I had to offer some support for a GM facing some annoyances.

I didn't eat up more than two hours of my weekend time with all these issues, but they managed to overhang my time and gloomify it. (The major problems have since been dealt with, now that I'm back to work on Monday.)

Bike. Saturday is my biking day if there's no East Bay roleplaying game scheduled. Except this weekend I got delayed until after 11am by screwing around with Skotos problem #2-ish. And then I got out to the garage and remembered that I was unhappy with my brakes. They'd gotten off-kilter in recent weeks because the wheel had gotten pretty badly out of true, and the best compromise I'd been able to work out involved brakes that were too loose ... and getting looser. So I decided to recenter my brakes ... except I pretty much couldn't.

Another half-an-hour or so of that and I decided it was bike shop time. I'd sorta known that when they'd first gone off-kilter, but that was just before Thanksgiving, and I wanted my bike for that weekend. But now it's time had come.

Missing Link verified that the wheel needed to be trued. We also agreed to put some new brake pads on, because the old ones were mostly gone. So, I sadly left the bike behind, dreams of my day of (chilly) biking gone. They did call me about 3pm to say it was ready, so after I rushed out I took it out for a spin. Though I couldn't do my usual, relaxed day of biking — eating, writing out in a park, and biking again — I could at least do the biking bit.

Fitbit says I did almost exactly 2.5 hours of biking. I went up to Richmond, out to Port Richmond, around Port Potrero, and back. I had some nice views, got some nice exercise, and enjoyed myself, but it wasn't the relaxing Saturday I usually enjoy.

(Re: the out-of-true problem. It was probably caused by my increasingly structurally unsound large panniers bashing into my back tire at inopportune times. I've since ordered some *much* better large panniers which will be more structurally sound and glow brightly in headlights and ward off rain ... but they still won't be quite as good for carrying the largest packages.)

Play. And Sunday Kimberly and I saw a play of which I've already written. Enjoyable, but again, not relaxing.

That was pretty much the theme for the weekend, which is why it feels lost.

Writing. I also didn't get much of the weekend writing I usually do done, in large part due to the lost Saturday and the play Sunday. I'd planned to finish up my DnDclassics and Mechanics & Meeples writing for the year ... but didn't quite make it. At this point I have all my DnDClassics articles drafted, and I'm maybe halfway through the last Mechanics & Meeples articles. But I need to finish the Mechanics & Meeples and edit everything.

Ah well.

There's big relaxation coming up in just a few weeks! If I can just get ready for Christmas!
shannon_a: (Default)
I haven't been writing much lately. Actually, that's entirely false. I research and write thousands of words a week, making progress on a number of books that probably wouldn't see the light of day until at least 2017. But I haven't been writing here on my journal much lately.

And that's because life mainly continues on its its normal patterns. Skotos continues in its normal patterns, albeit with more tension & busyness than I'd like. Home life continues in its normal patterns, albeit with K. having more problems right now than I'd like.

So let me write briefly about the non-normal patterns: adventures in movement.

A couple of weeks ago I went into San Francisco with the goal of biking around the Presidio. I did, and it was very nice. Growing up in the Bay Area, I of course remember the Presidio primarily as a military base, and I've just been vaguely aware of its changes over the last few decades as it got turned over to the Presidio Trust and transformed into a big park. Which is why I decided to thoroughly explore it, biking around its perimeter (and hiking here and there too). I was surprised how many of the trails are bike friendly — a nd for my last trail of the day, Lover's Lane, which cut up and out of the park, I was willing to walk it.

The trails in the interior of the park are quite nice, with lots of heavily wooded trails. Then over to the west you have beaches. I dropped down to Baker's Beach when I learned there was a tour of Battery Chamberlain on that day. This was originally a set of four bunkers and 6" guns that existed to protect the west coast (in the same way that the TSA protects airplanes). The bunker itself wasn't that amazing, though it was a little sad to imagine poor soldiers living there, out in the middle of nowhere. There was also a ranger demonstrating how the gun worked, and that was cool.

I got to see some nice views of the Golden Gate Bridge too, while doing my biking. Overall a nice day.

This last Saturday I instead BARTed over to East CoCoCo. I biked around Lafayette and Walnut Creek, but my main goal was the Ygnacio Canal Trail, which may be the last major trail in East CoCo that I hadn't explored. There are a couple of other big canal trails in the area, but I actually like this one better because it was a very small canal — just a foot or two deep and two or three feet across. The trail also ran right at canal level, which meant you really got to enjoy it.

There was also some walking this weekend, courtesy of the fourth annual Sunday Streets in Berkeley. K. wasn't feeling up to braving the throngs, but about an hour before the Streets closed I decided I could really use some sunlight and exercise in the day, so I hiked up to North Berkeley and back along most of the 17-block block party. It was nothing particularly amazing, as I've seen this three years previous. There were people walking on Shattuck (which still looks post-apocalyptic to me) and there was live music here and there and there were a few different biking-related stalls (including a sample protected bike lane that I'd love to see on the horrid stretch of Hearst between Fulton and Shattuck; and a free tune-up area that made me wish I had my bike with).

My lesson learned for the day: you can walk to North Berkeley and back a lot of faster if you don't have to stop every other block for stop lights and cars. Yet another sacrifice we've made on the altar of our automotive country.
shannon_a: (Default)
The last few weeks have been stressful. I've had some medium-term financial concerns and though Kimberly has been having improvement on some ailments, others have been moving toward crises.


The goal of the holiday weekend was to relax and destress as much as I could. (Same goal as any holiday weekend.)

Saturday I had Taco Bell for lunch and rode up through Wildcat Creek Canyon before settling for a bit at Jewel Lake.

It's currently one of my favorite rides, as there's lots of beautiful terrain, and the biking largely remains within my capability. (There are three large hills on the ride up through Wildcat Canyon, each of which ascends 100-150 feet in a pretty short distance, and I usually walk either one or two of those; the trek out of Tilden Park at the end sometimes requires some walking too.)

On my way into the park, I usually take a break at a picnic table near a water fountain that's a few miles into the park. It's a frequent stop-off for hikers, because it's the only water fountain that I know of anywhere in the south side of Wildcat Canyon. Sometimes I ignore the people who come by, and sometimes I talk with them. Saturday was a talking day. I've even grown familiar enough with the park that I was accurately able to say it was about 2 miles more to Jewel Lake. (Actual mileage on my bike computer later on was right around 2.1.)

Sadly, Jewel Lake is now even more desiccated than it was last year. You can walk all the way around the lake where the water used to be, and the water no longer goes out to the floodgates that lead down to Wildcat Creek. Hopefully we get some rain before the Lake dries up entirely or there are going to be some very unhappy turtles and birds. (The birds could probably fly or waddle up to the larger Lake Anza, but I wouldn't bet on the turtles being able to do so.)

Sunday is my typical day with Kimberly. We grabbed some Subway, ate it at our local dog park, and then walked up to Ici for some ice cream. It was purposefully relaxed, between busyness on Saturday and Monday.

Unfortunately, Kimberly got really exhausted just from walking to Ici and back, due to problems with some of her meds. We'd been talking about doing something more adventurous together on Monday, but instead I ended up going it my own ...

So Monday I ended up going to Redwood Regional Park after lunch at Wendy's. I've only been up there a couple of times, so it was a real treat, and something nice to do on a holiday.

It's a hard ride, of about 1000 feet vertical ascent, and it was a hot day. These two factors probably combined to make me more likely to make it up to the Park, because I felt I had to keep pushing to make it all the way up the hill before it got too hot. So, I did it without any stops to read or write, as I might have done otherwise.

From the top of the Shepherd Canyon Trail to the entrance to Redwood Regional Park is an ascent of about 350 feet in less than a mile. That's rough; it means that the gradient varies from 5-10% with the occasional short, level patch. I did the smart thing and mostly walked it. Nonetheless, I still collapsed and rested atop the leaf-strewn ground for several minutes when I hit 1000 feet. I made it up to the park gate at around 1.15pm, after leaving Wendy's around 11.45am.

I've previously biked around the park and biked in the park on the (bikeable) East Rim trail, but my Fitbit has encouraged me to not stay confined to my bike. So this time I locked my bike up at the parking lot (no actual bike locks, which is typical, so I used a sign) and descended down the Stream Trail.

My theory was that as soon as I got into the Redwood forests and below the rim the temperature would drop, and it did. Too hot 90s to very comfortable 70s, I'd guess The walk along the (sadly entirely dry) stream was very pleasant. I eventually took a side trail and found a nice quiet place to write for a bit. It was at the convergence of three trails, and they were frequent people looking confused and trying to figure out where they were and which path to tke. I was able to point most of them back toward the Stream Trail.

I ran out of water while writing, so decided to take the Stream Trail a bit further to what was marked as water on the map ... but it was all turned off! So I went even further to "Trail's End", and there was water there. (Whew!) It was actually a good place to go to, because the Stream Trail from the parking lot to Trail's End is bicycle-free, but beyond there, there's a bikeable road. So, some other day I could finish the Stream Trail by biking around the whole park, and then biking up the remaining bit of the Trail.

Early in the day, while ascending the hill, I was still feeling stressed from the aforementioned pressures, but somewhere in the Redwoods, they disappeared. Mostly not back yet. (Whew!)

On my way back from Trail's End, I took a side path that took my up to the East Rim trail and took that back to the parking lot. It was the most grueling part of the day other than those last 350 feet up the hill. The climb wasn't actually bad, but the Rim Trail was mostly in the (hot) sun and had notable uphills all its own. (But I would have been going up hills in the bright sun coming if I stayed on the Stream Trail too.)

I picked up Taco Bell (again) for dinner for Kimberly and me on the way home.

So, that was the Holiday weekend. Lots of junk food, but lots of great exercise out in the wild. I clocked 22+17 = 39 miles on my bike and about 50,000 steps on my Fitbit (which records some fraction of steps when I bike too, but I know I did 4 or 5 miles on foot in the redwoods).

Should be good prep for hiking with the folks on Friday when they're visiting.
shannon_a: (Default)
Yesterday the weather report said that the East Bay would be in the high 80s. That's very hot for us East-Bayers, so I decided to do my Saturday biking adventures in San Francisco. It's, I think, just the 4th day I've spent biking over in the City, and just the first time I've really dived into the heart of the City, rather than just riding the Bay.

I started out on Market Street, which the City Council has been working to quiet for years. The most recent change was just a few days ago when they outlawed turning onto Market Street from 3rd through 8th. The result is indeed a much quieter Market, with most of the traffic being buses, taxis, and bikes. Apparently Uber and Lyft were becoming a big problem on the street, especially for bicyclists (because they were regularly sitting in bike lanes) and they're pretty much gone now. Lower Market is still challenging because you have to dodge buses, but it wasn't the horrifically busy street that I remember (just bus-sy).

Further up Market Street, past 101, you duck behind a Safeway and then you're on the Wiggle, a bike route that even has its own PSA and theme song. It's pretty much the route between Market and the Panhandle. Nice, quiet streets with very clear markings that eventually bring you onto a protected bikeway that leads into the Panhandle, and beyond that Golden Gate Park. It's all very well constructed, and exactly the type of safe bikeway you can have on city streets with careful thought. (It was also the source of Civil Obedience from bicyclists in the last week; a local precinct started aggressively ticketing bicyclists on the Wiggle, so bicyclists started showing them what happened to traffic if they put their foot down at every stop on the Wiggle as the cops were requiring. Traffic snarled to a halt. Two full-stop demonstrations, and the clueless cops went back to what they're supposed to be doing, which is ticketing Vision Zero violations that actually cause traffic fatalities ... like cars not stopping.)

The Panhandle is AOK. I don't think I've ever gone its full length before, but the best part of the trip came when I got to Golden Gate Park. I don't like how many cars fill Golden Gate Park. I've never liked that. But a mile or so into the Park, the streets were blocked off for automobiles, and then it got pleasant. It got even nicer a bit further when my path diverged from the main road. Though the parts of GG Park right next to the roads are very crowded, you get just a quarter-mile from parking, and the Park becomes much quieter, because the people who use GG Park largely don't like to actually walk. And, I love the quieter, darker parts of the Park, which is just so full of nooks and crannies. My favorite stop for the day was the Polo Fields, which have a track around them that bicyclists train on. I decided to do a lap, and it was beautiful, fast surface. Even weirder was the Angling & Casting Club, which really looked like it should be a Roman Bath or or something. While in the Park, I actually got lost twice, once because of construction and once because I just got confused and took the wrong turn (ending up back at the Polo Fields instead of the Windmills). I love that the Park is big enough to allow that sort of thing. By the time I got to the Park's western extent, the temperature had dropped enough that the rest of the day was totally pleasant.

I had never realized that there's a long strip of public land on the west side of San Francisco that runs from Golden Gate Park to the SF Zoo. That's what I rode as I headed south. It's unbroken, with sand all around. Lots of people are crossing from the beaches back to their cars or houses. Often the dunes are too high to see the beach, but occasionally I got to see long vistas of the waves crashing into the sand. Ahhhh. The Bay is just nothing like the real ocean.

At the Zoo, I took a left and went here and there and ended up at Lake Merced. This is a big public land in the southwest corner of San Francisco, which had always caught my eyes on the maps. But it turns out to be pretty disappointing. Much of the green area there is actually surrounding golf courses. Then, the actual park just isn't that well constructed. There's a big lake, but it's far enough down from the park that you often can't see it. There isn't even a path around the lake at lake level! And there's too little seating and way too little shade. (Hello? Trees!?) I did find one of the scant trees and sat against it, overlooking the lake, writing for a while.

Afterward I went to Fort Funston, mainly because it was right next door. This used to be military defense, but it's now a beach and dog park. I locked my bike against a street sign (no bike parking at one of the entrances, darn it!) There were some nice trails here and there, and some interesting remnants of the base. Unfortunately, some of the park's main paths were ripped up for reconstruction, and apparently have been for some time. So, those was much walking in sand, and I was wearing the worst shoes for doing so. (Never, never, never will I ever again buy shoes with mesh across the top to create airflow; I got rain in my shoes last winter, sand in my shoes in Hawaii, and sand and dirt in my shoes yesterday.) Nonetheless, I enjoyed walking along the cliffs, then there was a viewing platform that I stood entranced on for a while, watching the beach and the views.

And that was pretty much it for the day.

I came back through Daly City, which was the only place that I had a jerk honking at me to get off the road. I find that ignorant asses like that are more common when you get outside the SF-Oakland-Berkeley area, so I wasn't surprised that I met one yesterday in Daly City. From there I looped back up into San Francisco, finally hopping back on BART at Glen Park. (And 'lo and behold, bike lanes reappeared as I moved from Daly City back into SF.)

The whole route was slightly under 25 miles in a big circle from Embarcadero, out to Golden Gate Park, down to the Zoo and then around to Fort Funston, over to Daly City, and then back in to SF. There were no hills of much note in that route. I did drop down as low as 50 feet or so and got as high as 400 (though I might have exceeded that on foot when I hiked around Fort Funston). The weird thing is that I circled all the big hills in San Francisco: Mount Davidson, the Twin Peaks, and Mount Sutro. I just stayed clear of them the whole way.

It was a nice ride with GG Park being the highlight, but I enjoyed seeing the more farflung places. And it was definitely cooler than the East Bay, especially when I was up against the Pacific, as I was most of the afternoon.
shannon_a: (Default)
The Cats. Lucy has started being increasingly aggressive toward Callisto lately. It's just hissing and growling, but there's more of it. Mind you, Lucy has never been very fond of Callisto, but this seems to be going in a bad direction at the moment.

I suspect that it's my office that causes most of the contention and annoyance, since both cats like to sit around my desk while I work, and there's also just one food bowl and water bowl in the room. So, I'm in the process of making my office last contentious.

To start with, I tried to deal with the boiling annoyance last week by locking Callisto out of the office during my Thursday and Friday workdays. Poor Callisto, but I figured she got the rest of the house and her mama. But, she yowled at the door for quite a bit. And then she started throwing herself at the door to try and open it (which actually works on our Family Room door, because it has an old lock).

And then she did the wackiest thing ... she ran into the Family Room and started trying to get into the closet that we wedge shut there. She indeed managed to get that door open, because it doesn't latch. Kimberly later said, "What was up with that?" My theory was this: in her little kitty brain, Callisto knew she was blocked by the door from getting into her office. So she ran to open another door, figuring it would lead the same place. Smart cat? Dumb cat? I think the former.

Anywho, this week I got in some cat pheromones to run in my office. I'm also encouraging Callisto to use an alternate lounging place and have moved a second bowl food and water in there.

So far, things have calmed down a bit.

The Bike. I bought my fourth bike computer last month. Those things keep dying. The first started responding incorrectly to button pushes, the second lost a button, and the third stopped recording the bike's movement. The cheapest one I had, by Schwinn, actually lasted the longest at about four years, while the better ones from Sigma lasted just less than two years and just less than one and a half.

Inexplicably, I got another Sigma. Well, it's not actually inexplicable. They have better feature sets, and their new one that I got has a feature I really wanted: an altimeter. Now, I looked quite a bit for bike computers before I decided on one, and quite a few of them have altimeters now, but they're almost all using GPS. And GPS sucks down energy like no one's business. So I decided I didn't want a bike computer that was unreliable because I had to constantly power it.

So I bought the new SIGMA ALTI instead. I have no idea how it actually measures altitude. Maybe atmospheric pressure or something? It's not entirely accurate. I find that it shifts quite a bit, just sitting in my garage. I might put it away at 180 feet and come back two days later to find it's now at 153. But, it certainly gives the general trends, and over the course of a single bike ride it stays reasonably reliable.

I've been enjoying it quite a bit. I've gotten to see the altitudes of many of the places I ride, and what the actual ups and downs are. (I wish it showed rise over time, so I could understand what slopes are the most difficult for me.) I've found it particularly interesting playing the what's-the-same-height game. For example I've learned that the Berkeley Rose Garden and Jewel Lake (on opposite sides of a ridge) are at about the same height. I've also been able to see which routes are more wasteful due to rise and falls. It's also served as encouragement ("Look at that, I'm almost up to 1000 feet, I can go just a bit further"), which is the same purpose served by the odometer on the computer ("I'm lagging, I should push up to at least 12 mph from this puny 10.")

Other Entertainment. I wrote this last section head just to be parallel to my last journal entry, where I wrote about "Other Roleplaying". So, what other entertainment have I been doing? As usual that's board games, TV, and books.

Board gaming continues to be my regular Wednesday + Thursday evening activity. My current obsessions are Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (which gets played once a month with my Thursday group) and Roll for the Galaxy (a great dice-rolling game).

TV is in the summer slumps, which means we're watching great things on DVD. Thus far this summer has included Good Wife (season 3), Newsroom (season 2), and Game of Thrones (season 4), with Newsroom (season 3 and final) and Dexter (season 3) on deck. We've also been slowly watching through Arrow (season 3) and Flash (season 1), now that summer reruns finally got us the start of the seasons on our Tivo Of them Good Wife slumped a little from its season 1 greatness and Arrow season 3 just hasn't been as great as what preceded it, while Flash is still developing its cast and mythos. But they're all at least good (with Arrow my least favorite of that bunch) and many are great. We're also watching the embarrassing Big Brother 14 because I can't give up my love of televised strategy games for the summer, even when the summer show is crap.

As for books: I continue with my massive Michael Moorcock re-read. I just finished Phoenix in Obsidian (1970) a couple of nights ago, and am working on my article for it. Other than that, it's what caches my fancy off my to-be-read shelf. I've just started one of the few Sanderson Cosmere books I haven't read, Elantris. Recently finished books include Ship of Magic (a reread of the classic Robin Hobb book, which is still classic), Scream of the Shalka (a Doctor Who book written just before the new series, by Paul Cornell, which was OK, but disappointing for a Cornell book), The Annihilation Score (the newest Scalzi Laundry book which was very disappointing because it took the series in an entirely bizarre and inappropriate direction), and The Girl with all the Gifts (a post-apocalyptic Mike Carey book which left a bad taste in my mouth).

Oh, and I've also been re-reading A Feast for Crows, following our conclusion of season 4 of A Game of Thrones. I pick it up every once in a while and read one or two hundred pages over the course of several days, then I put it back down and read something else. The problem is that nothing happens. It's just a bunch of people standing around and hoping that something happens, but with a few specific exceptions spread out over the book, it doesn't. So, there's no tension and no concern about putting the book down for a week or two. Pfah. The writing is still smart, the characters well drawn. But it makes me that much sadder that Martin lost his way and wrote these two books that just tread water without any purpose.

And that's some of my current entertainment.
shannon_a: (Default)
I am writing to express my strong support for a bike lane across the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge.

The Bay Area is an interesting and diverse geographic region, but the Bay(s) can cause serious problems in getting around. Fortunately, our forefathers tackled that problem by building numerous bridges. Unfortunately, many of those bridges remain bike-inaccessible. For those of us who use bikes as a primary means of transport (and even for those that use bikes largely for recreation), large portions of the Bay Area are cut off!

The most inaccessible part of the Bay is surely Marin County. The only reasonable way for a bicyclist to currently get there is through a torturous trek that requires BARTing around to San Francisco, biking around the northeast corner of the city, climbing all the way up to the Golden Gate bridge, and crossing it. After a couple of hours of transit, crowd-dodging, and hard work he's in the Marin headlands ... and it's about time to head home for the day. The alternative is a several-hours long ride through a multitude of counties north of San Pablo Bay.

Richmond/San Rafael Bridge access would change all of that. It would provide relatively easy access for folks in the Richmond area, and pretty good access for *anyone* in the East Bay, who could take BART to Richmond, then ride the rest of the way on the Richmond Greenway and the Bay Trail connections through Point Richmond.

This is one of the biggest improvements you could make to bicycling access in the Bay Area (trailing behind only complete access to the Bay Bridge itself).

I hope you'll continue forward with this progressive and worthwhile project!
shannon_a: (Default)
I wanted to offer my support for a two-way bikeway on Dana. The whole south area of Berkeley, from Shattuck to Telegraph is troublesome for bicyclists because of its layout of streets. Shattuck and Telegraph are both dangerous to bike on because of their busy-ness and their poor design, while every street in between is one way, which is a problem if you're headed in the opposite direction. The result is a perfect storm of bad (& dangerous) biking.

Personally, I've been accosted by someone in a car who didn't like me biking down Fulton (which is too narrow to have a shoulder), I've nearly been hit by many bicyclists while walking on the sidewalk of Fulton (which they illegally ride both ways because they don't want to go out of the way and/or because they find the street too narrow), and I've been forced out into traffic on Dana by bicyclists riding up the bike lane the wrong way (again, because they don't want to go out of the way). Adding another route of access through these streets _starts_ to solve these problems.

The other big advantage of the Dana bikeway in particular is that it connects to the campus directly, whereas the other northward streets in the area, Bowditch and Ellseworth, both dead-end without taking you on to campus, unless you then walk your bike to an actual entrance.

If you want to better serve the bicyclists in your district, creating a two-way bikeway on Dana is a great start, because it frees up a major choke point in the area. Generally, it may be the worst of the southside chokepoints. If I want to leave my house at [XXX] and bike onto campus, I currently have to bike all the way up to College to get safe & direct access.

If you afterward want to continue improving biking access for your constituents, three other things would be a great service:

* Getting the northmost two blocks of Ellsworth repaved; the rightmost lane that bicyclists use is *awful*
* Installing a one-way bike lane on Fulton
* Adjusting the Do Not Enter sign at Fulton & Dwight so that it makes an exception for bicyclists
shannon_a: (Default)
Yesterday was the fourth of July, and though I'm not a big fan of mindlessly habitual patriotism, I do like punctuating my year, so when Donald and Mary invited me down to a BBQ before their regular alternate-saturday gaming, I opted to take them up on it.

And, we had a nice BBQ. Donald and Mary were there (of course) and their housemate Guy and Kevin, Chris, and Corina. And Chris Jr. It was fun hanging around with everyone in a non-gaming environment and just talking and relaxing. There were also delicious BBQ foods, including chicken and sausages and corn-on-the-cob, plus potato salad and a cookie.

A nice afternoon.

Of course getting down to San Jose was a challenge (and to be honest part of the reason that I decided to go down there). It's at the end of the BART line and Donald & Mary's house is about 20 miles beyond that. So I left at 9.30 in the morning to get there at 1 and I left the party just before 4 to get home by 8.

That of course meant biking. I totaled 48 miles for the day, which I think is the most I've ever biked in a day. My butt was really dragging for the last 8 miles or so, but I used to get exhausted after 30 miles, so getting exhausted every 40 miles is a huge improvement.

I was really tired as I pulled into Fremont (which is still several miles south of the Fremont BART station), so I made an emergency stop at a 76 Gas Station for a coca-cola Icee. First time I can remember having an Icee in years ... maybe decades. Oh, it was good in the hot south bay weather after much exercise though.

I rode down to San Jose fairly near the hills, and then I looped back up to Fremont (after the party) via the Guadalupe River. Along the way I touched upon all the trails and paths I could. There wasn't much that really impressed me, but there was some nice trails.

Lake Elizabeth is a pleasant little park just south of the Fremont BART station. I've seen it passing in cars many a time, but if I have ever visited it before, it was decades ago. It's got a nice lake in the middle and a lot of less-nice scrub around that. There are walking paths and picnic areas and even a water-slide. It struck me as a little less-cared for than I like and a little too suburban (mainly because huge parts of the park seemed to be taken up by miles of parking). But I might like it better if I visited it more. As it was, it was a nice way to travel through a mile or two of Fremont without having to ride the streets.

Railroad Avenue is a mysterious several blocks of off-road trail just past Lake Elizabeth. It run behind some condos. It also has a bridge over the major road there, which would be a great way to get to the Lake if it weren't just scrub at that point. I think perhaps this is part of an off-road trail that's mean to run all the way to the Fremont BART station eventually, but if so there's not much attention being given to it. Fremont generally seems to suck for their off-road trail work.

Hetchy Hetchy Trail is a little trail that starts just south of the Fremont border and mainly serves to connect together a couple of parks. It actually had a northern spur that I skipped because there's no way to get to it from the north! You have to go to the midpoint of the trail, and then go back. Sadly, that's the type of trail that people used to build, before they considered them for possible commute use. Even sadder, there's a clear space running through Fremont (presumably an old rail line) that the trail could continue on for many, many miles north, but ... Fremont.

Berryessa Creek Trail touches the south end of the Hetchy Hetchy Trail in Milpitas (or at least the south end of the park that the Hetchy Hetchy Trail peters out in). It is, I think, the worst trail that I've ever seen. All of the asphalt is cracked with waist-high weeds growing throughout. It's right next to a "creek" which is entirely enclosed in cement banks and which is filled with algae and weeds. Yuck.

Penitencia Creek Trail is the path I wanted to see because it runs behind the condos that my dad lived in many years ago, and I used to play on the trail when I was young. Sadly, it's not impressive. The eastern part runs through a park that I'm pretty sure wasn't there when I was young, but it was mostly scrub. The trail that I remember by the condos has a really nice part right next to the condos with lovely foliage (but you can't see the creek), then it ducks under the highway (just like I remember, but it's much lower than I would have guessed) and a few hundred feet past that it mostly peters out as it runs alongside some houses. It certainly seemed longer when I was young. Maybe the houses weren't there? I also could have sworn the path ran on the opposite side of the creek that it actually does, but I can probably attribute that to my crossing the creek and playing on the other side when I was young (and I now remember crossing on stones in the creek, but that may be confabulation). There's a second park on the opposite side of the trail, and it's nicer, with more greenery ... though its lake is totally dried up. Yikes!

Guadalupe River Trail is a rather magnificent trail that runs all the way from the Bay down to downtown San Jose. It's also a great commute trail, because it has underpasses that drop under every road you get to, meaning that you can go for miles and miles without stopping (except when rain floods those underpasses!). It was really nice where I got on, in downtown, but at some point I had to cross from the west bank to the east bank, and that wasn't as pleasant. The trail was on top of a big embankment (to keep those flood waters out), which means you got less river and more wind. Also: you see the backs of big industrial buildings to the east, most of which had nasty signs telling you they'd shoot you and feed you to the pigs if you dared to look at their property too long. Still, a pleasant ride.

Coyote Creek Trail could be the next big thing, but right now it's a big mess. Another Hetchy Hetchy Trail, which is supposed to connect Guadalupe and Coyote doesn't quite do so (so it was surface streets, past miles and miles of Cisco buildings) and then part of Coyote Creek Trail is still gravel (which is always awful to ride) and then it dumps you on to streets to cross over highway 237. It picked up north of 237 and is nicer up there, but then it stopped when it hit ... Fremont.

Overall, some wonderful trails. San Jose has really done a great job of creating trails in the 25 years since I moved away. If they can finish the Coyote and Guadalupe trails and connect them, they'll have a really impressive infrastructure for getting through the city North and South.

Also, I was reminded of what the streets are like in the south bay, as I rode them for at perhaps 20 miles of my ride. They're all huge with many lanes ... and simultaneously empty. Very ugly, but easy to use. And there were good bike lanes everywhere; in downtown San Jose those lanes were even buffered!

I expect I'm never going to repeat this particular ride. First, 48 miles was a lot. But also, BART is theoretically going to open a new Warm Springs station this Fall which will make all of San Jose more accessible to me by expanding the line several miles southward. Heck, that might be just enough that I could ride down to San Martin if I wanted (and ride back a separate day!)

I actually stopped and gawked at two of the BART stations under construction while in the South Bay. The Warm Springs station indeed looks like it might be done sometime in the foreseeable future, though I wouldn't bank on this year. The Berryessa BART station was clearly further from completion (though it's the one that will really open the entire south bay to me, and would cut a trip to San Martin down to a very reasonable 30 miles).

No one told me Donald and Mary had a pool. NEXT TIME!
shannon_a: (Default)
I regularly ride my bicycle in Berkeley & Oakland, and I find that my most dangerous biking occurs when I have to pass a stopped bus. Not only does this force me to pull further into traffic, but it also requires me to pass the bus, and unfortunately buses have the bad habit of pulling into traffic without watching for who might be there. Though I'm as careful as I possibly can be, literally every time I pass a stopped bus, it has the potential to be life threatening. Worse, I sometimes have to pass the same bus many times on a longer trip, as they tend to pass bicyclists between stops; this multiplies the danger.

I understand that on Hearst Avenue, one of the options being considered is bus-boarding islands, which will allow bicyclists to pass behind stopped buses. As a regular urban cyclist, I think these are more important than almost anything else you could do on the street. I hope you'll include them in the final plans.
shannon_a: (Default)
I am requesting that you OPPOSE SB192, the Bike Helmet law recently introduced by Senator Liu. Though I am sympathetic to the loss of the Senator's nephew a decade ago in a bike accident, I feel that her bill demonstrates a deep ignorance of the underlying issues.

Recent studies suggest that bike helmets reduce head injuries by 10-40%. However, there are numerous problems with helmet laws. Here are just a few:

* An experiment by Ian Walker showed that cars act more aggressively toward bicyclists with helmets.
* Australian studies based on their own 1990 helmet law suggested that bike ridership dropped 20-30% afterward.
* Helmet laws are particularly problematic when paired with bike share programs just now emerging in the state.

I'm personally a semi-serious bicyclist. I bike about 40-50 miles a week for transportation and for recreation. I choose to wear a helmet when I do.

However, I also want to encourage the casual cyclist, and they're the exact folks who'd be discouraged by this new law. Part of this is a selfless desire to see other people enjoy my recreation. However, part of it is pure selfishness: the biggest protection for bicyclists ISN'T helmets, but instead the number of bicyclists on the road, as has been shown by numerous studies.

To offer some specific numbers: bicycle trips in California have doubled in the last 10 years, but the number of accidents has only increased by 10%. In other words, I'm something like 40% less likely to get in an accident now than in 2005, in large part due to the increase in cyclists. That already protects me as much as my helmet could, and Liu wants to take that away.

If you want to protect bicyclists, please instead push state money toward protected bikeways, like the wonderful one going in on Oakland's Telegraph next month.

Thank you!

Shannon Appelcline

PS: 48% of head injuries occur in cars, as opposed to 1% on bikes. A car helmet requirement would save many more lives, but is more obviously ridiculous.
shannon_a: (Default)
My bike computer passed 10,000 miles somewhere toward the start of the year. That's 10,000 miles since I got the first of those computers, around Thanksgiving 2008. So, that's 6 years and a bit more. Still, a fair amount of riding.

I continue to try and ride 30-50 miles a week. I've been recording it in my Health app on my iPhone over the last couple of months, and it shows an average of 8.18 miles a day since November and 9.69 in the last 30 days, which is past the top of that range. At this point, I'd like to do a bit more, but that's in large part because I seem to have settled in at a weight a bit higher than I'd like. (My biking tends to have three purposes to it: raw enjoyment, mental relaxation, and physical exercise.)

In 2014, a lot of my riding was in the lowlands, with points north such as Hilltop Mall, Point Richmond, and Point Pinole being particularly popular. That seems to have somewhat impacted my ability to ride in the hills. Not that I can't, but it's harder than it was a year ago. So, it may be time for some hill riding again.

On Saturday I did a 26 mile ride out to Point Richmond, which has been pretty typical for a ride on a "free" (non-gaming) Saturday. It was absolutely glorious. Nicely warm when I was heading out, which is the best weather we've seen in a couple of months. (Sadly, that's related to our total lack of rain in January, but so it goes.) It was getting chilly out at Point Richmond by 3 or so, but still, very pleasant.

Sadly, riding through Richmond always reminds me how messed up their trails remain. I mean, it's great to have the Richmond Greenway mostly complete, which wasn't the case when I started riding again in 2008. But it's still got two big gaps in it. There's still no connection between the Richmond and Ohlone Greenways. It sounds like the sky bridge for bikes that was originally planned is straight out, but even the revamped proposal from 2010 doesn't seem to have gone anyway.

That just means you have to make a nasty crossing of San Pablo Avenue and a hike by all the day workers at the Home Depot, who crowd the sidewalks and span the spectrum from friendly to blankly indifferent. Worse is the fact that there's still a big gap in the middle of the Richmond Greenway, which requires you going several blocks out of your way across a few nasty surface streets. This ranks as one of the five biggest biking problems in the Bay Area, alongside big ticket numbers like the Bay and Richmond Bridges. Way back in 2003, this was also planned as a bridge crossing, but 12 years later ... crickets.

Much of the problem seems to be a lack of enthusiasm about Greenways in Richmond. I see it strongly when I ride both the Ohlone and Richmond Greenways like I did on Saturday. The Ohlone Greenway is clean and well-used, with the trails being constantly crowded with bicyclists, walkers, joggers, baby strollers, wheelchair pushers, and everyone else you could imagined. In contrast, the Richmond Greenway is relatively unused. I see maybe 10% as many people, per capita. And the trail is poorly unkept. On previous trips I've seen weeks or months of dog poo soiling the trail. This time I saw three or four trash bags of garbage dumped along the trail (some of the spilling all over). It's ... depressing. There's some community support for the western half of the trail, which has more space around it (making it more pleasant and more like the well-use Ohlone Greenway). There's even a new playground that just went in, but it was empty, like everything else.

I think part of the problem is Richmond's half-assed approach to this type of public facility. There's a Wildcat Creek Trail further north in Richmond (with part of it in other districts, possibly San Pablo and/or unincorporated west Richmond), and it should be a major thoroughfare. Unfortunately, the cities involved just put in some of the trail some years ago and never finished. In the east the trail deadends in a dirt field next to flood channels and in the west it's supposed to connect to the Wildcat Marsh and the various Bay Trails that run there, but instead it runs up to an underpass that has been closed for at least the last several years due to flooding. (It's all a muddy, algae mess.) Worse, whoever runs the trail has never had the good sense to at least open the western trail up to the road that's right there, so the result is another deadend (unless you hop over the short fence there, which I have at least twice ... after tossing my bike over). Oh, and there's a big gap between the western and eastern half of the trails.

Today the Wildcat Creek Trail is pretty much abandoned. Part of it is going back to nature as weeds grow through the cracked pavement. No one uses it, which is no surprise because it doesn't go anywhere. I can see the Richmond Greenway going the same way if the city doesn't finish the connections. And if they don't deal with its other problems, such as the homeless encampments that are on Baxter Creek, at the east end of the trail, and which have resulted in an increasing number of not-hostile-but-not-friendly people blocking much of the east end of the trail the last several times I've been there.

Thankfully, in lands south of Richmond, biking is getting more positive attention. Oakland is really the star (though I'd say the same of San Francisco if I was over there more).

This year, I'm looking forward to:

Chabot Avenue being repaved, making it easier to get up to Lake Temescal. I believe this actually happened two weeks ago, only about a month late. I might check it out tomorrow night.

Ashby Avenue getting a HAWK Light to make it easier to cross through some of our nearby neighborhoods. (Alcatraz really needs the same to make the whole area very navigable.) This was due to be done last fall. I actually asked the Berkeley person responsible for it for a status, but he apparently doesn't respond to plebeian citizens. However he's since updated the nine-month out-of-date web site, which I'd also told him was out of date. It now says that they expect to get state approval in spring 2015.

Tunnel Road getting better bike paths, something else that was scheduled for fall 2014, and which has been knocked back to later than spring 2015. This'll be another improvement for getting up into the Oakland Hills.

Upper Broadway getting a road diet and a two-way bike path, as yet another Oakland Hills improvement. This is scheduled to be done by fall 2015, which probably means 2016.

Telegraph Avenue getting protected and/or set-off bike lanes all the way from 19th to 40th. This still leaves nasty riding through the Temescal area, but there will then be 20 blocks of much more pleasant riding. This is supposed to start happening in March. It's near enough that every time I ride to Endgame now, I think, "That's one less time I'll have to ride these unprotected roads."

The Bay Bridge, which has been called the world's longest bike pier, finally extending its bike/pedestrian path to Yerba Buena Island (and Treasure Island). I mean, there's nothing to do out there, but I hope it'll be a pleasant place to sit out and write. I've done that a few times on the Bridge itself, but it's not as nice as the parks I prefer to visit. Maybe the islands will be. The last two promises I've seen for this were summer 2015 and Labor Day 2015, but I have zero faith in them, especially since CalTrans already failed with their original promise of end-of-the-year 2014.

Now whether we'll ever be able to bike the whole bridge is another question, and another point where I have little faith, but I'd really like to see either the Bay Bridge or the Richmond Bridge open up in my biking lifetime, so I could get across the Bay under my own power if I wanted.

Generally, Oakland's been busy; sadly, I can't say the same for Berkeley, which is dragging its feet even on the stuff already funded by the fourth bore settlement, which is all the Ashby/Tunnel related stuff. I suspect the town isn't big enough for the bike lobbying to really focus on, but it'd be nice if our "progressive" city did this sort of thing on their own.

Ah well, good stuff coming this year anyway.

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