Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SF Adventure part 3: into the East Bay

After leaving the Marin Headlands, I headed across the Golden Gate into the sensory overload of crowded, frenetic San Francisco.

I was somewhat hurried to take pictures, because I was excited to meet a friend for lunch, so no pics. It was invigorating to aggressively ride in crowded urban streets, something I've always enjoyed, from Minneapolis rush hour to the Vegas Strip, and now to downtown San Francisco. After a nice lunch, I headed down into the subterranean to learn the ins and outs of taking my bicycle aboard the BART, which is easy as long as you don't try to lift a heavy loaded bike over the narrow gates (they have wider gates for wheelchairs and other wide loads).

I got off the BART in Walnut Creek to visit Rivendell Bicycle Works.

This is the Riv employee bike rack.

I'd hoped to chat with Rivendell-founder/owner Grant Petersen, but he was in a meeting. So I visited with some of the other RBW employees, with whom I have a fair bit in common, as far as my day-to-day work life. I spotted this item during my visit:

I am compelled to speculate about a future Rivendell sport-road bike that has clearance for light, supple 700x60C tires. You'll regret all the days you spent riding harsh 700x40C rubber.

One disadvantage of mid-winter bike travel is that darkness comes early. Every night I felt somewhat rushed to find a place to camp by around 4:30 PM to avoid setting up in the dark. After chatting a bit with some of the Riv people about where to go, I started riding toward the nearby Shell Ridge Open Space. The concept of an "open space" is foreign to us in the middle of the country, but basically it's a large tract of open land that is available for various forms of non-motorized recreation, livestock grazing, etc. There were many, many trail riding options, but I tried (and probably failed) to be faithful to some instructions given to me by Riv employee Brian. This led me to ride and (mostly) push my bike up and up and up onto the highest ridge in the immediate area. The ridge was very narrow at the top, where there was a well-trodden footpath, with steep sides falling away from the ridge-crest. As the sun was setting, it seemed that all the runners and hikers I saw were heading down, leaving the area. I hung out before setting up camp, and admired the view of Mt Diablo from this vantage point.


Once it finally got good and dark, I figured I'd have the place to myself (it was New Year's Eve), and I pitched my tent. Looking down at the lights of the city below me, I envisioned all the holiday revelers starting their new year whilst I hung out in my tent.

As I finished up my dinner and nestled into my bag, I heard footsteps jogging past on the trail inches from my tent. So much for my theory that the place would be deserted after dark.

I stayed up until an anti-climactic midnight while listening to This American Life podcasts and being witty on Facebook. I woke up to a foggy, amazing sunrise over Diablo. Right out my front door:

I had plans to meet an old friend (of 30 years!) for breakfast, and getting there was half the fun.

There was talk on the internet of a bunch of local riders going up Mt Diablo, and I tried to meet up with them by following one suggested route that was posted online, which turned out to be the exact wrong direction. Some text message miscommunication got me even further off the beaten track...into an area of extremely sticky mud. My wheels got so jammed with mud, they wouldn't turn. I jabbed at the mud under the fenders with an allen wrench until the wheels turned more freely. As I was departing the area onto paved streets, my rear fender finally succumbed to the force of the wheel transmitting through the mud, and folded into an accordion shape near where it mounts on the chainstay bridge. I managed to straighten it out, but there was still a lot of noise from the rear wheel. I stopped on a local paved bike path and began surgery. I removed the rear wheel and scraped a thick mud deposit out of my fender. I reinstalled the rear wheel and heard a harsh metal-on-metal sound from the rear disc brake. I performed a couple hard stops trying to free the debris from the brake, to no avail. Upon inspection I observed a thin piece of metal stuck between the brake pad and brake rotor. I again removed the rear wheel, and finally disassembled the brake. The small leaf spring that retracts the pads had gotten bent. I snapped off the offending part of the spring and did my best to reinstall the broken part. Being a holiday, I couldn't find a local source for a new set of pads, so I figured I'd limp through the rest of my trip with an imperfect rear brake. Turns out my field-repair was more than satisfactory, and before long I was back to fearlessly bombing down steep hills with full use of my brakes.

I decided to be a worthless lay-about in Walnut Creek for a bit. I found some coffee and just generally killed time looking for warmth and sun out of the wind. I met Daniel for lunch. Turns out Daniel and I have very similar bike interests and preferences, and our bikes were spec'ed similarly. Daniel is an interesting dude, and travels to a lot of remote, exciting corners of the globe with his bike. He's a good photographer and writer, too. You'll enjoy his blog, and appreciate the obvious effort he puts into his writing and photography. I was exceedingly grateful to have met him.

Daniel and I rode back to Shell Ridge. After over-eating all day, I noted that my blood was flowing to my full stomach and my legs were sluggish. Luckily, we took a less hilly route through the open space and took plenty of breaks for photos and bullshitting. Eventually Daniel had to attend a family thing, and left me to myself on the trails. It was getting close to camp time, so I started looking for a good spot. I was attracted to the gnarly old oak tress.
This one was nice, but too publicly visible. I kept exploring:

This place is amazing. I will spend more time here next time.

Finally I found the perfect spot.

Stay tuned for my return to SF and home.

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