Sunday, November 24, 2019

Richmond - San Rafael Bridge Bike Path - First Ride!

The new bike path on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge opened Saturday November 16.  I was hiking in the Sierra and missed the ribbon cutting.  Tom Willging (VeloRaptor and cycling activist) was there and got his picture in the paper! Tom is on the left.

To see the Chronicle Article click here

My first ride across was on the following Wednesday, and a sizeable group of VeloRaptors and friends came to join me.  We met at the Pt. Richmond Social Club in Pt Richmond, and a decent crowd showed up!  I counted 32, but I give up counting cyclists when the group size exceeds my number of fingers. 

The approach path on the Richmond side takes a circuitous route through the freeway infrastructure and has been nicely designed and constructed and the signage is good.

The engineer for the approach is a very tall guy that happened to be at the start of our ride.

Once on the bridge, the path is NICE.  The high barrier between bikes and cars blocks the wind and car noise.  The path is quiet enough for riders to actually talk, unlike the  Bay Bridge bike path.

Did I mention the scenery?  This view is looking to the East, and we did have a beautiful day!

The view to the North wasn’t too bad either, with the bridge curving into San Rafael and San Quentin.

The bridge bike path comes out onto Francisco Blvd in San Rafael, but our destination was the Rustic Bakery on Sir Francis Drake Blvd in the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur .  To get onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd the bike route takes a short, but interesting detour.  Yes, Howard, Goldy and Tom are heading through a hole in the fence! I believe it is a certified bike route, approved for cyclists by some wonderful government agency! Notice the green arrows at the bottom of the photo, remnant route markings of a past organized ride.

The large assembly of riders had broken up into smaller groups by the time we reached Larkspur, but all found their way to the bakery where we gladly refueled.  I chose a chocolate croissant paired with a cappuccino. No one went hungry.

The route back to the bridge included the second civil engineering highlight of the ride in the form of the Cal-Park Hill pathway TUNNEL!  The original tunnel was built in 1884 for a single track railway to haul freight to the Larkspur landing.  It was widened to a double track in 1924. Freight operations continued through the Cal Park Hill Tunnel during the 1960s and 1970s, serving local shippers that included a rail car restoration business and quarry in Larkspur.  The tunnel was closed for many years, until transit authorities realized that it could be used for transit.  The tunnel is now part of the SMART system and has a separate section for bikes and pedestrians

One of our rides (Steve S) worked on the development of this project 20 years ago, but wasn’t aware that it had been completed.  Here he is – all smiles!

Being the ride leader, I was of course the last to leave the bakery and took the scenic route back home with a group of 9.  We stopped for a photo op at the Richmond Marina

 The ladies in this group were having a good time!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Foggy Ride to Treasure Island - Fun but no Sun

Today’s ride was a little different.  I organized a ride to Treasure Island inviting both my bike club (VeloRaptors) and Oakland Rotary 3.  I set the start time for 10 am, hoping the fog would be burned off by then, but no such luck.  The temperature wasn’t bad (52 deg), but the fog was thick enough that we couldn’t see the bay, thus no pictures.  Dennis showed up with his 89 Toyota 4Runner, and was impressed that another rider (Mark) had a '92 version.  Dennis didn’t ride but decided to meet us at the MerSea restaurant on TI. 
Seven of us pedaled out from the Brickyard Pavilion and stopped to give our respects to the Bridge Troll hidden in a secret location along the way.  

I got a call from Dennis just as we reached the end of the bridge path on Yerba Buena island.  He wanted to let me know that the power was out everywhere on Treasure Island.  While I was taking the call, the others passed me and headed up the Yerba Buena Island hill.  Dennis decided to hang around the closed restaurant for a few minutes until we arrived. 
When the group rendezvoused with Dennis, we realized that Mark wasn’t with us.  I called him and learned that he was at the nearby Aracely café which was open (albeit without power) and where Carla from Rotary was waiting to meet us. We cycled the short distance over there and as we rode up a group of firemen were leaving.  Turns out they got the last cup of coffee.  We were relieved to learn that there were still pastries and hot water for tea. We had had nice snack and somehow Carla ended up volunteering to SAG for one of our rides!

The ride back was uneventful and once back in Oakland, several of us stopped for coffee at the Blue Bottle Cafe on Broadway.  I learned that one of the new riders (Kate) teaches 6th grade math.  I asked what subjects she covered during the year and our discussion led to me volunteering to come to her class and do a brief show and tell about my career in earth science. Basically, kids in her class have little exposure to career opportunities beyond service industries, etc. I think my 3 minute Rotary self-introduction talk can be expanded to 10-15 minutes and expose them to career paths beyond their local experience.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Biking Big Sur -

The first time I saw Big Sur was in 1970, just after Michigan lost to USC in the Rose Bowl, and Big Sur was totally fogged in.  I drove it a few more times during the early 70's in my hippie van, and several more times since, but have always driven through and not stopped overnight.

That changed in mid May when I biked from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Morro Bay with 5 other riders from my bike club.  Our adventure started in on a cool Monday morning in Oakland  at a local church parking lot where we met Trevor and Marie our guides from Black Sheep Adventures.  We loaded bikes, luggage and riders into the vehicles and headed to Carmel where we suited up and began our journey under grey skies.

We did a short ride around part of 17 mile drive then had lunch at Le Bicyclette restaurant in Carmel By The Sea,  The food was excellent, and the décor was appropriate, helping us understand our steeds.

Sally and Fred chose chairs on the floor, rather than those with wall mounts.

As we were leaving we were approached by a woman who was quite interested in our trip and insisted on taking our photo.

Turns out, she was Sheila Sheppard, owner of the restaurant.  Moreover, she verified part of Fred’s story about the restaurant ownership. Fred was telling us about how the owners also owned another restaurant down the street.  She said that no longer the case, as the other place was sold and now they only own Le Bicyclette.  This helped keep Fred in check and bolster Fred’s credibility both at once!

We also took a few minutes to try and find the house where one of our riders (the other Steve) met his wife.  We made several trips up, down, back and forth on San Antonio Rd, near 7th St.  Eventually, Steve realized that the house was either hidden or had been demolished and replaced – just to show that you can never go home! However, we did find a couple of houses with unique roofs.

From there we cycled along the scenic coast, to Big Sur Lodge, passing the iconic Bixby Bridge.

Forty miles from our starting location we rolled into Big Sur Lodge, got our rooms and relaxed with a few libations.

Dinner that night was at Nepenthe, a restaurant with a spectacular view!

The food was good as well, and I really need to mention the BANANA CREAM PIE that we had for dessert. The waitress recommended it, as the long-time baker only made it now and then.  It did not disappoint, excellent crumb crust, rich banana custard, whipped cream topping.  The pieces were large and almost 2 inches thick. We ordered 4 pieces for the 8 of us at the table and despite our best efforts, there was some left on the plates.

Tuesday 's ride called for 50 miles with 5000 ft of climbing.  That doesn’t sound too bad, except when you learn that the ascent all happens in three climbs, one at the start, and two near the end of the ride.  Here is the itinerary for the day, compliments of our guide, Marie.
 The initial climb was intimidating, but half-way up we fortunately encountered the the Big Sur Bakery,  Of course I had to stop. I mean, this is a bakery blog after all.  I sampled both the chocolate and almond croissants, and found that they met the mark for excellence, with crispy crust-not too thick, lots of buttery layers, and tasty filling, not too sweet.

They also have an espresso machine enabling Fred to get a breve latte in his ever present travel mug to accompany his pastry.

The day was sunny and the scenery was spectacular and we stopped frequently to take it all in. At one of the stops we encountered Kim, a fellow cyclist from Portland, who was riding this section of coast solo. His plan was to cycle the entire coast in sections that could be done in a week or so, and do one section a year. We offered up our snacks, and he heartily accepted.

This stretch of road also featured two large slides where the road is being rebuilt.  In both zones the traffic was under one way control. Fortunately, we were headed in the downhill direction for both zones and after letting the cars go ahead, we could freewheel on through, definitely an exhilarating experience. Moreover, as they were holding traffic, we had miles of road to ourselves. You can see from Sally’s face that it was a bit of fun on a bike.

Marie’s itinerary for the day showed the lunch stop at Mill Creek, mile 29.  I was riding with Sally, enjoying the scenery and conversation, and for some reason the sign for Mill Creek (big as it was) just didn’t register.  We were looking for mile 29, and Mill Creek campground was at mile 28.  Actually, I had lost track of the mileage due to operator error on my new Garmin device, and Sally was thinking mile 29.  So, we merrily cruised, and even stopped to admire the flowers at mile 31.

At mile 32 it became obvious that we missed the lunch stop, and we decided to look at the route sheet 😊.  Then I recalled seeing the Mill Creek sign a few miles back.  We turned around and were about half-way back when Trevor intercepted us with the van. We hopped in, Trevor loaded the bikes and we SAGGED back to the lunch spot.  I definitely ate crow for lunch along with a sandwich and a fun dessert (thanks Trevor).

After lunch came the 2 big climbs (ugh), then a short cruise into the deluxe Ragged Point Inn. We were all glad to get off the bikes, relax and wander the grounds for a bit before a great dinner at the restaurant.


We spent a couple minutes before dinner contemplating our accomplishments of the day.

Wednesday started off sunny, but a bit cool and with threat of rain. That allowed a few minutes for Herb to model his new zebra kit, and the rest of us to check on our devices

The weather cleared and we were on our way. We had gone about 10 miles along Hwy 1 when the rain caught up to us.  One of the great things about a supported trip is that when it rains, the guides load up the bikes and we get in the van! Most of the storm went north of us, and after a few miles we were back on the bikes, but not before a natural break.


We took a short detour through the Hearst Ranch where I spotted yet another old tractor. So, I stopped and paid homage to my roots in rural Michigan (looks like an of Farmall).

Then it was on to Morro Bay for lunch and to watch the finish of Stage 4 of the Tour of California bike race.  We had a seafood lunch on the water at Dockside Two, and Randy found bliss watching a fisherman unloading his daily catch.

We wandered up to Main Street to watch the race festivities.

Marie took Fred and I to her favorite coffee shop,Top Dog ( which roasts their own coffee and supports dog rescue efforts.  It was a cool day and my mocha was chocolaty and hot. Fred had his usual breve latte.

The TOC stage ended in an exciting sprint, it was amazing how fast they were going on an uphill slope after riding over 100 miles. Peter Sagan is on the far left.  He took 3rd on that day. Note, it took us 3 days to ride the same route that they covered in 4.5 hours!  

We all got blue TOC sourvenier hats!

Sea otters were happy as well.  

Dinner on Wednesday was at Robin’s in Cambria, and this restaurant also gets high marks

Thursday we headed inland making the long (seemingly endless) climb over the coastal hills on Hwy 46, and descending into the wine country around Paso Robles. 

Once in the valley we took a left turn onto Vineyard Rd and toiled over it’s rollercoaster hills for about 10 miles to Tablas Creek Vineyard and Winery (  They make Rhone style wines, using dry farming techniques, and have introduced many varieties of grapes from Beaucastel in the Rhone region of France.

Marie prepared a nice picnic lunch.

After that feast, we did at bit of soul searching.  The temperature was bit cool and our legs were beat, and we decided that a genteel wine tasting would be an appropriate way to end the trip. We changed out of our biking clothes, headed into the winery and bantered with the tasting crew until it was time to get in the van and head to Oakland.

Our last stop was in Paso Robles at Spearhead coffee (, for a latte, pastry and slide show recounting the trip.  Definitely the best coffee shop in Paso Robles.
Note:  Thanks to Sally for spearheading the organization of this trip, and to Randy, and our guides  Trevor and Marie for many of the photos. Black Sheep Adventures provided fabulous organization and support.