Sep. 18th, 2017 12:54 pm
rebeccmeister: (Default)
What with the impending change in life circumstances (the cliff at the end of the year), [personal profile] scrottie has been keen to check out some marinas in the Sacramento River Delta. The Delta as a whole is fascinating. It covers a huge area. Recognizing that a lot of the lower stretches have incredibly rich soil, people have put in an extraordinary amount of effort to claim land back from the river waters. The outcome is a reticulated network of waterways surrounding tiled islands kept (mostly) dry by levees. It's like an American equivalent of the Netherlands. The only thing is, a lot of the reclaimed land consists of peat bogs, which start to sink if they aren't periodically recharged with new nutrient and plant inputs. So occasionally, there's a watery hole in the island network.

Anyway, not too long ago, S got his boat back from Bethel Harbor, and they suggested he go and check out a place called Owl Harbor as a potential alternative to his current mooring at someone's house in Discovery Bay. Initial investigations suggested Owl Harbor was accessible by a multi-transit expedition, so we decided to go for it on Sunday. We rode over to the Richmond station and threw ourselves and our bicycles onto an Amtrak train bound for Antioch. Then we picked up our bikes and rode along the heavily industrial waterfront over to the Antioch Bridge.

Things didn't look so promising at the bridge. The southbound onramp had a sign posted saying that bicycles and pedestrians were prohibited. The OoGley-derived directions had us heading up the southbound off-ramp, which lacked any sort of promising infrastructure and sounded like the worst of all terrible ideas. It was starting to look like the trip would be a complete flop. But at least the weather was nice and we were out on our bicycles. I proposed crossing under the bridge to examine the northbound onramp, where we finally spied a promising sign that read, "PEDESTRIANS BICYCLES MOTOR-DRIVEN CYCLES PERMITTED." There was a toll booth slightly ahead, so we cautiously rode up to it and confirmed with a tool booth worker that yes, indeed, we could ride our bicycles across the bridge. No toll necessary, for bicycles.

So I paused to snap a photo, as evidence:
Yes, you can cross the Antioch Bridge by bicycle

And we proceeded across.

The bridge reminded me of a number of the bridges I drove across in Louisiana. You feel like you're going to climb forever into the sky, but then eventually you reach the crest and cruise back down on the far side. The whole thing feels impossibly narrow and ridiculously high, but I guess that's what it takes to make sure that enormous shipping vessels can fit through.

I don't think I'd ride over that bridge just for fun, but I've ridden in worse places.

I didn't take any photos at Owl Harbor, but it was indeed a very nice marina, and there were many lovely boats of different ages and character moored there. The person working in the office that day suggested we fit in a 10-mile expedition around the "Delta Loop" to learn more about the local geography, so we did.

We had lunch at another nice little marina, just down the road:
Lunch stop at a marina along the Delta Loop

And as we continued to ride along, we saw all manner of other watercraft, in all sorts of shape, ranging from well-appointed river barges to half-sunk catastrophes. I could spend all week ogling boats.

We didn't pause for more photos, however, aside from this one:

Cycling around the Delta Loop

Then it was time to head back to Antioch to catch our return train.

We couldn't stop marveling about the whole bridge experience. Here's the Antioch bridge, viewed from near the Antioch train station:
View of the Antioch Bridge

Now I'm really curious about how it came to be, that the bridge is all-access. Was that included in the original plans, or a product of bike/ped interest groups working hard to advocate for access? Why is the Antioch bridge open, while the bridge between Richmond and the Marin Headlands remains only a dream?

Anyway, it was cool to have that sort of adventure in that pocket of California. The Sacramento River Delta is a fascinating place.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
So, happy reunion at the finish line. Eventually, we gathered our wits sufficiently so as to get bicycles loaded on the return trucks, pick up luggage, and head over to the food trucks for more food. The falafels and fries really hit the spot, although as [personal profile] scrottie noted, nobody handed him a beer and that's a grave oversight that will never be repeated.

Then off to our AirBnB. While we worked on getting oriented so as to figure out our transit options, we found ourselves within range of a gaggle of Canadian police officers, who were all too willing to make a few suggestions on how to reach our accommodations. Note that we were still sorting out our various international options with our electronics devices, so navigation wasn't a simple matter of consulting the Oogley-Googley or other such nonsense. If I'd had a few extra wits about me, I might have spent more time on preliminary navigation matters, but no such luck.

Eventually, [personal profile] sytharin took charge of matters, and we found a subway station, got tickets, and hopped aboard. Apparently the SkyTrain is automagical - it was awesome to get to watch the tunnel out of the front of the vehicle. We switched trains, rode some more, walked a bit, and arrived at a perfectly lovely spot. After dropping luggage and bathing, [personal profile] slydevil, [personal profile] scrottie, and I worked to rectify the whole lack-of-beer situation by paying a visit to Saint Augustine's. That place was great, and all three of us tried out the delicious beer paddles so we could try as many different things as possible. So satisfying.

Things got interesting in the morning. I woke up at 6 am so I could search out some coffee for [personal profile] scrottie at the coffeeshop we'd passed, JJ Bean. While their lattes were better than slugging down some Folger's, I wasn't especially impressed with the overall 6 am culinary experience. As a result, I became keen to check out another place that [personal profile] slydevil had identified in the opposite direction, Continental Coffee. We agreed to rendezvous with my dad, L, and R at 8 am back at JJ Bean for the return trek to the buses back to Seattle.

Wires got crossed in there, somewhere, because when S and I walked back past JJ Bean, admittedly a couple minutes late, nobody was there. Okay, maybe we can catch them at the train station. We proceeded to the train station, bought our tickets, and entered the gate. Since I wasn't responsible for the prior day's navigation, I wasn't sure which of the two SkyTrains we needed to catch. Once again, we caught the attention of a gaggle of Canadian police who were just standing around. Upon learning where we wanted to go, they directed us to take the 99B bus instead and hop off at Broadway and C_________ instead, then flibber a jop and higglety-pigglety to Yale. After asking them to repeat the directions, I figured we could hop on the bus to Broadway and C______, get re-oriented and ask someone else for further directions, and be on our way, mindful of the time, which was growing short for any hope of reaching the buses by the 9 am departure.

It took a good 15 minutes for the 99B to show up, and when it did, a horde of people trundled on board along with us, so it took another good period of time before we were able to get settled in place and start to track street names.

Time passed, and we didn't see any street names that sounded like C________, so eventually S requested to look at the RSVP map. When he discovered that it was nearly useless, he pulled out his GPS. As soon as it got a fix, he showed it to me and we concluded we had greatly overshot Broadway and C____________. Yikes.

I consulted with the bus driver, who confirmed our problem and happily suggested an alternative bus. Sensing that we were rapidly running out of time, I asked about catching a cab instead. Fortunately, we were getting close to the University of British Columbia, and the driver said there were almost always taxis at the upcoming corner. (remember, we're in Canada and don't have smart-o-phone apps to hail sharing-economy vehicles) Great.

We hopped off the bus, made our way across, the street, and were able to instantly hail a cab. It took me a few minutes to communicate our destination to the driver. Eventually he punched the park name into his smart phone, looked at the address, did some mental computations, nodded his head, and we were on our way.

Then he called up a friend or something and proceeded to have what sounded like a nice chat in another foreign language while he made his way over to our destination. Meanwhile, his smartphone or some other device offered up a lot of directions via English Bossy Lady voice. I was still nervously on edge because of the time, and it didn't help when I noticed that the Bossy Lady kept telling us to turn left where we were turning right, et cetera. Eventually I concluded that the driver was completely ignoring the Bossy Lady because he knew where he was going, but the Bossy Lady was trying valiantly to direct us back to somewhere close to where we'd started.

Imagine the extent of my relief when we finally made it back to the edge of David Lam Park and spied a straggly line of cyclists standing along the sidewalk. It was 9:20 am and cyclists were still waiting for one last return bus to show up. The bus pulled up right as we emerged from the cab, and we quickly hopped on board. By that point, [personal profile] scrottie was craving fresh fruit, and there was a berry stand set up on the corner by the park. We learned that the driver would wait a few more minutes for any other desperate last-minute stragglers, so S ran over for some blueberries, which we quickly gobbled up.

All in all, we were only one bus behind [personal profile] sytharin, [personal profile] slydevil and my dad, and we even spotted them on their bus while we all waited to go through US Customs at the border. Paying that visit to Continental Coffee was a stupid decision, on my part, as was trying to follow the helpful Canandian police officers' bus directions. My adrenal glands and wallet paid the price, but hopefully it's the sort of mistake I'll never, ever repeat again.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Also, from all that I got to see, Vancouver seems like an awesome city, and I hope I get to visit it again someday soon.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
We managed to reach the Maltby stop without further mishap, thankfully, and rolled straight over to the mechanic's tent. Upon seeing us, the mechanic said, "I haven't seen one of those [Opus IV's] in years!" He and several other cyclists were all heartily amused by the contraption.

We were relieved to have reached the mechanic, but received disheartening news: although the mechanic had a couple of 26-inch tubes, he wasn't carrying any 26-inch tires with him. You see, on rides like the RSVP, the vast, vast majority of riders aren't so foolish as to ride on mountain bikes with 26-inch wheels. It was a repeat of my experience in Arizona several years back, where on another occasion I found myself riding along with badly-worn sidewalls on a bicycle with 26-inch tires (the Jolly Roger, natch). On that adventure, which I nicknamed the BS-150 (because I was riding as a support squad for friends doing the MS-150), I'd had similar bad luck finding a new 26-inch tire, and wound up flatting 4 times on my way back to town before I encountered a bike shop.

Regardless, we soldiered on. We enjoyed the perfect morning weather and the smell of ripe blackberries as we pedaled along the Centennial Bike Path. Our next stop was in Machias, where there was also a mechanic on hand.

As soon as we arrived, I made a beeline over to the mechanic's tent. Once again, disappointment: no 26-inch tires in sight. There was nothing to do but drown our sorrows in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches garnished with chocolate sprinkles.

From Machias, S took a turn at the helm of the Opus IV. We continued along the Centennial Trail Bike Path towards the lunch stop at Arlington, where we held out hope that the brick-and-mortar bike shop would actually be open.

Given our general state of affairs, I tried to caution S against racing along at 17 miles per hour on the Opus IV, figuring lower speeds would put less stress on the ageing tire. Regardless, for one reason or another, we found ourselves suffering through a second blowout just four miles short of Arlington. Back to work I went, removing the wheel, installing a fresh tube, and repositioning the tire boot, which had somehow managed to travel away from the problem site.

Finally, Arlington at last. After brief confusion, we headed for the bike shop. Finally, luck was on our side. They had one 26-inch tire in stock.

While everyone else scouted for lunch, I set to work again, replacing the worn-out junky garbage tire.

Finally swapping off the busted tire

Amazingly, I am still smiling in this photo.*

Several minutes later, I wasn't smiling anymore. The extra exertion from pedaling the Opus IV, combined with our tire blowout delays, made us late for lunch, and my old nemesis El Crampo decided to show up. Much like "bonking," the main cure for El Crampo is time. In the meantime, the effect of El Crampo is worse, because it involves writhing around on the ground by the side of the road or in a ditch while suffering through the pain of a severe intestinal cramp. A fate best avoided.

Thankfully, a huge tray of Mexican food seems to be an adequate cure.

I don't remember much about the subsequent rest stops in Mt. Vernon or Allen Park. All I know is our various delays put us towards the back of the pack among the stragglers as the afternoon wore on. But really, there are worse places to be. Eventually we reached the final stretch of the day, along Chuckanut Drive. For me, it was glorious, because I was able to soft-pedal on the Jolly Roger while S and my dad stormed up the hills. The rolling hills, ocean views, and deep woods made my heart happy, and I could almost just reach out and grab the ripe blackberries, they were so tantalizingly close.

Finally, we arrived in Bellingham. There was a bit of confusion navigating to my friends' house, but that was more than compensated for by the amazing feast they prepared for us, and their wonderful and understanding company for this bunch of tired cyclists. We did it - we survived the first day. And it only took us 13 hours altogether, to cover that first 100 miles.

*You'll notice there aren't many photos from this ride because it was just too much to manage a camera on top of everything else. Oh well.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
As with the Seattle-to-Portland, the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party starts out in the parking lot at the University of Washington at the crack of dawn. We couldn't ask for a more convenient location, really.

I am always nervous about early-morning starts, for two reasons. The first reason is they tend to involve riding with large packs of unfamiliar riders who seem to enjoy pulling unpredictable tricks at the most inconvenient times. The second reason is that [personal profile] scrottie has an especially hard time in the early mornings, and somehow manages to figure out his own new exotic methods for getting into trouble.

On top of both of those factors, I was piloting the Opus IV out of the gates. To my great relief, the starting line was a roll-through start, so riders weren't all trying to clip in to their brand-new clipless pedals at the exact same time. Nonetheless, we found ourselves in a sizeable bunch at the first stoplight. My dad and I managed to avoid the worst of the chaos as the light turned green, by bombing along on the left-hand side of all the stopped cyclists. As we reached the other side of the intersection, right as the light started to turn yellow, I heard some crashing noises behind me. But given everything that's involved in keeping the tandem upright and moving forward, I decided I probably shouldn't add to the carnage by turning to look, so we kept moving up and around a hairpin turn onto the Burke Gilman trail.

Eventually, [personal profile] sytharin, [personal profile] slydevil, and [personal profile] scrottie managed to catch back up with us. At our first restroom break, we learned that the crashing noises were [personal profile] scrottie, who was on the Jolly Roger. Apparently someone had traveled through the intersection and then stopped suddenly, which caused S to slam on the brakes. Since S doesn't usually ride the Jolly Roger, he wasn't familiar with the Jolly Roger's brake configuration, where the rear brake has a whole lot of travel while the front brake is grabby. The end result? An endo. S suffered some sizeable scrapes, and the Jolly Roger lost a bar-end, but all things considered these seem like fairly minor casualties under the circumstances.

One-horned Jolly Roger

This minor mechanical inconvenience turned into a sign of things to come. Overall, we enjoyed a wonderful ride along the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish Trails, as we headed towards our first big climb of the day, up Woodinville-Duvall Road.

One of the things we addressed during our visit to Angle Lake Cyclery was a problem we'd experienced on the Seattle-to-Portland, where the smallest chainring was so small that we couldn't shift into it and use it for hill-climbing. I don't know if the teeth on that old chainring were intentionally angled funny or just bent out of shape, but it was nothing but trouble for us. We requested and received a slightly larger replacement for the RSVP, and during our parking lot tests it seemed to be much better.

Heading up that first big hill, I shifted down into the small ring, and my dad and I started to try and establish a comfortable hill-climbing pace. Just as we were finding our groove, I heard a very loud BANG! [personal profile] scrottie, who was riding right behind us, observed that the tandem's rear tire had gone flat. Drat!

We pulled over into a nearby driveway, halfway up the hill, and pulled off the rear panniers to inspect the damage.

Two things quickly became apparent: (1) the rear axle was a bolt-on axle and I hadn't packed any crescent wrenches, and (2) the cause of the blow-out was an ageing tire with a worn-out sidewall. Once again I found myself wishing I'd spent more time going over the Opus IV before departing for the ride. I'd been giving that tire the side-eye but thorough tire-checking is clearly not my strong suite.

Given the lack of crescent wrenches, I walked back to the side of the road, and commenced shouting, "I need a crescent wrench for a bolt-on axle!" over and over again to all of the passing cyclists who were chugging their way up the hill. I got some amazing confused looks from people. A couple of people were kind enough to pull over, but none were carrying crescent wrenches for their carbon-fiber racing bikes.

Eventually I spotted a rider that I'd noted at the starting line because he was wearing a Seattle Randonneurs jersey and was very clearing riding a randonneuring bike. Among my shouting, I said, "Hey, you're a randonneur! We need a crescent wrench for a bolt-on axle!"

[personal profile] scrottie says he thinks the guy pulled over mostly because he heard my shout about randonneuring. Thank goodness for that, because the randonneur was fully prepared, and magically had the correct wrench size! After leaving his phone number with [personal profile] sytharin, he said we could hold onto the wrench until we no longer needed it. Hallelujah.

Then, decisions. My dad said there was a bike shop right at the top of the hill, so we sent [personal profile] sytharin ahead to see about obtaining a tire from them. Meanwhile, do we wait, or do we try to boot the tire and continue forward? I opted for booting the tire and continuing forward. Randonneuring has taught me to always go for relentless forward motion, and in the long run it seemed better to me to keep rolling than to wait for one person to ride up, sort things out, ride back, and then deal with the matter.

My instincts were vindicated when we reached the top of the hill, because it was only 8 am and the bike shop was decidedly not open yet. There was nothing to do but roll on to the first rest stop, at Maltby Park, where there was a mechanic on duty.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Okay, so. Tuesday evening of last week, we caught the Coast Starlight on up to Seattle. The train trek usually takes around a day, but things were running behind a bit, as they often do. The overall trip northward was uneventful, and we enjoyed the scenery, arriving in Seattle late Wednesday evening. Southern Oregon is still very smoky and feels apocalyptic as a result.

Thursday morning, my dad and I set out for Angle Lake Cyclery on the light rail. In contrast to our experience two years ago, we were able to hop on the light rail at the University of Washington, and rode it all the way out to the Angle Lake stop. So civilized!

If anything, Angle Lake Cyclery is in even more of a state of disarray than two years ago. The owner has resorted to just working on the various bike tasks on the strip of sidewalk right in front of the shop. He had the tandem out before we arrived, and while we worked on various adjustments, he would pause to help other customers with things.

When we arrived, the upright seatpost on the Opus IV was difficult to move, but eventually we managed to work it free and adjust it. I'd forgotten that I brought along my own saddle the last time, and forlornly noted that the one on the bike was a very wide Sella Royale Respiro. It's the same model as what I normally ride on, but way too wide and squishy. Noting my skepticism, D said, "I've got the next model down in the shop, if you'd like me to put that on instead."

Little did I know that there's yet another wide and squishy model of intermediate size between the fat one that was on the bike, and the almost normal one on my bike. By then, we had spent enough time fiddling with things that I was getting tired of dealing with it all and just wanted to leave, so I threw up my hands and declared it to be good enough.

The return trip on the light rail was also uneventful, thank goodness.

I spent Thursday afternoon biking up Capitol Hill on the Jolly Roger to visit Elliot Bay Books, and then rode back down the other side to stop by REI for a couple of things. It was so nice to get to ride the Jolly Roger around Seattle. My mom's bikes are fine, but just not quite as comfortable as the Jolly Roger.

Thursday evening was then devoted to preparations for the Friday morning start of the RSVP.

Oh Seattle

Aug. 17th, 2017 09:15 pm
rebeccmeister: (Default)
The actual amount of free time to roam the streets of Seattle on this trip is very limited. Still, I'm glad I had a chance to ride up Interlaken Boulevard and drop in at Elliot Bay to pick up a book or two. Seattle in August smells like lavender and sweet, ripe blackberries.

I also jogged down (by bicycle) towards REI. I see that parts of that area are still completely and utterly torn to bits with various construction projects.

The REI trip was motivated by a desire to get a "sport top" for a HydroFlask water bottle that was recently given to me. I also wound up doing some bike part shopping, specifically for a new bike rack. Everyday pannier use in combination with my previous Blackburn rear rack has led to a lot of wear and tear on the Jolly Roger's rear fender stays, to the degree that the fender now rubs against the tire anytime I attach a pannier to the rear rack. Fender stays just aren't meant to provide lateral support to panniers.

I struck out at the Montlake Bike Shop, but I think the Topeak rack I got from REI is the exact same model I have on Froinlavin, so I am pleased and optimistic that it will help in the long term.

Subtle differences become a big deal over time when it comes to rack design

Three of the crucial but subtle differences:

1. The rear supports on the Topeak are flush with the edge of the rack. On the Blackburn, the rearmost supports are recessed and don't provide any side support for panniers. As I looked around, I noticed that multiple rack brands have recessed rear support, and I have no idea why anyone would do that other than for aesthetic or manufacturing reasons. The Montlake Bike Shop had a couple of racks for touring purposes, but they lacked hook points near the rack base for hooking my Overland panniers in place.

2. The total height of the Topeak is shorter, which means that I can hook my antique Overland panniers onto it properly.

3. The Topeak has a rear bracket that perfectly fits my rear rack light. On the Blackburn, I had to find a pair of metal clips to attach the light, and then had to add zip-ties to keep the whole arrangement from rattling like crazy.

I may still have to do something about the pannier-fender situation, but I am pleased with the rack.

Tomorrow, we ride. To Bellingham.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
[personal profile] scrottie had a friend in town for a visit, so on Saturday night we engaged in the time-honored tradition of a whole bunch of back-and-forth on what sort of expedition to go on on Sunday.

Eventually, S said that there was a Vintage Computer Festival happening this past weekend at the Computer History Museum in Palo Alto. An expedition out to the Computer History Museum sounded intriguing to J, and while we were chatting [personal profile] sytharin also happened to mention that one of her favorite parks could potentially be included along the route.

And so the plan was born: we took BART to Union City, disembarked, and headed towards the Alameda Creek multi-use path. The path made for extremely pleasant riding that reminded me of riding through the Danish countryside.

Alameda Creek bike path towards Coyote Hills Park

We eventually arrived at a gravel turnoff into Coyote Hills Park, and turned off to ride among the marshland.

Marsh view, Coyote Hills Park

S had recommended a brief stop in the park at the visitor's center to hike up a hill and take in the view, so we did:

Marsh view, Coyote Hills Park

Hilltop view from Coyote Hills Park

Hilltop view of the marshland in Coyote Hills Park

Hilltop view, Coyote Hills Park

Hilltop view of the salt flats from Coyote Hills Park

Scrutinizing the map, we determined that it was possible to ride out through the saltwater flats to meet up with the bike entry ramp onto Dunbarton Bridge, so we did.

That was an amazing landscape and I highly recommend it for the sake of adventure.

Riding in the salt flats, Coyote Hills Park

Riding in the salt flats, Coyote Hills Park

Eventually S suggested that we might want to pause for another photo. I suspect he had ulterior motives.

Stopping for a quick dip in the salt flats, Coyote Hills Park

The plunge, Coyote Hills Park

Come on in, the water's fine

We reached the Computer History Museum in time for a late lunch, and then pondered our options: Vintage Computing Festival, or the museum proper? We sent S on ahead to scout out the Vintage Computing festival, and his facial expression when he came back made our decision clear.

I have to admit, vintage computers aren't really my scene. On the other hand, it was cool to see all the people who were totally into it, and how they interpret their hobby. It was also way more interactive than the museum proper because the displays consisted of things people had brought with them to show each other and us.

Vintage Computer Festival Exhibition Hall

I found this one especially intriguing. This person has collected original prototypes of various computers and calculators, which are encased in transparent plastic so you can see all the guts.

Vintage Computer Festival Exhibit

All of the other stuff was fascinating and creative, too. For example, another person displayed a collection that highlighted the evolution of different storage formats, from the original 8-inch floppy disks to the various terrible flavors of zip disks. Someone else was working to feed modern media images to old Commodore 64s, working within the Commodore's graphics capabilities as a creative constraint. Another table was hosted by members of the Apple II's fanbase, who put together a poster illustrating ongoing current projects for the Apple II. There were also lots of Ataris to ogle and interact with, and S got sucked into chatting on a Unix workstation with other users, among whom was a user whose handle was "GhostOfSteveJobs", heh heh heh.

Many of the booth creators were standing by, excited to explain things even to a total newcomer such as myself.

We had to fight some headwind on the ride home, but once again the route and landscape for the return ride were wonderful. It was also good to get in at least some training mileage in preparation for the upcoming Ride from Seattle to Vancouver to Party.
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I couldn't go rowing Saturday morning, so [personal profile] scrottie and I decided we wanted to go on a bike ride instead. For a change of pace, I suggested we look into a partial route towards Petaluma, because we eventually want to bike up there to visit the Lagunitas Brewpub. On the local randonneuring list, someone had just posted about navigational logistics in the North Bay, and mentioned good food and drinks at the Mare Island Taproom in Vallejo. Sounded good to me!

On the outbound leg, Google gave us weird directions through Pinole and Hercules, sending us on a strange detour along some small bike paths. Eventually, we reached the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge:

On the bike path to cross the Sacramento River on the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge

The last time we rode across this bridge was the Saturday after moving out here, when I wanted to wedge in a 200k permanent to keep working towards an R-12 Award (ride at least 200k a month for 12 months). On that prior ride, we didn't have time to stop and take photos, so it was nice to take a more leisurely pace and observe the Sacramento River Delta.

Here's the view north, towards Vallejo:
View towards the Napa River and Mare Island

That's the mouth of the Napa River, separating Mare Island on the left from the mainland.

The Mare Island Taproom was in the ferry building in Vallejo, so I suppose if we didn't want to ride our bikes there we could have taken the ferry from San Francisco instead.

Our destination: Mare Island Taproom

We opted to bike back.

Here's an interesting-looking business on the south shore of the Sacramento River delta, a restaurant called the Nantucket. It looked busy on a Saturday afternoon, even though the marina right outside looks like it has seen better days.

Marina by the Nantucket

S is curious about the function of the barge-like boat in the center of the photo, which has a huge ramp on its back end.
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Today I cut out and stitched up the first prototype "bike spat." Voila:

Bike spats prototyping

Current observations:

Sewing curved flat-felled seams is HARD, as advertised. Here's the toe cap, from the outside:

Bike spats prototyping

Not too bad, right?

Well, from the inside:

Bike spats prototyping

Hahahaha, yeah. It should get the job done, though! No fraying nylon for me.

The upper shaping was even harder to get right than the toe box:

Bike spats prototyping

I feel like these need some additional stitching somehow, to shape them more effectively. But I'm optimistic that they'll accomplish their main goal, of keeping the rain out of my shoes.

Also, my respect for cobblers has just gone up by 287%.

And I think it's been at least a week since the last time I proclaimed my love for my new sewing machine.

Some of the corners I had to stitch through were THICK. So thick that I had to just turn the flywheel by hand and ease the fabric through. I also managed to completely bend a sewing machine needle. I've never done that before. Whoops.


In other bicycling adventures, this morning I rode my bike up to the Household Hazardous Waste facility in Richmond, to find out if they would take the old neon rowing light that stopped working. Riding through Richmond reminded me of riding through Phoenix - neighborhoods with way more character and cultural diversity than we seem to have here in El Cerrito.

When I got there, the HHW drop-off space was a large drive-through building with lots of "Slow!" and "Caution!" signs out in front. There were no other vehicles in sight. As I pedaled towards the entrance, towing my bike trailer, an employee got up from his chair and said, "We don't accept bikes!"

"That's good," I replied, "Because I don't want to get rid of this one anyway!" (zing! I'm usually too slow on the uptake for witty repartee)

As it turns out, I guess they can't have people on bikes or on foot come through/to the facility for liability reasons, but they were kind enough to make a special exception in my case. They accepted all the items I dropped off. It's nice to have that old neon light taken care of, finally. It was a ridiculous item from start to finish.
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Yesterday was Bike to Work Day here. The morning felt rushed and hectic because I had to get to the lab by 8 am, but had the conflicting goal of wanting to visit as many different "Energizer Stations" as possible.

Once again, we failed to find the one near the El Cerrito high school. Maybe it was at Ashbury and Fairmount.

The one at the El Cerrito Plaza was hopping, unsurprisingly. I wish there was a way to get El Cerrito to permanently install the bike art archway that gets put up. It's whimsical and fun.

The guy who has a big bunch of foster chickens was at the Marin Ave station again, and he confirmed that yes, he still works at Bikes on Solano. He provided a huge basket full of hard-boiled eggs for the riders.

The one at the North Berkeley BART station was all right, once we found it. The one at UC-Berkeley had someone handing out flowers! That was fun.

After work, [personal profile] scrottie and I went over to the Berkeley Bike Happy Hour, hosted at Sports Basement. They had a pedal-powered sound system run by Rock the Bike:

Rock the Bike pedal-powered music

Rock the Bike pedal-powered music

We both got in a good workout. The music was fun!
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I dragged [personal profile] scrottie on a bike camping expedition over the weekend, up to Samuel P Taylor State Park. For miscellaneous reasons, we didn't really get underway until around 2 pm, departing from campus, so we wound up catching a 3:30 pm ferry at Jack London Square in Oakland. We then set out from the San Francisco Ferry Building at 4 pm. After dodging tourists through San Francisco, up over the Golden Gate Bridge, and through Sausalito, we headed up and over Camino Alto and finally reached the stage of the ride where we could relax a bit.

We reached the campground at about 6:30 pm and then were finally able to learn how the park manages bike campers. I think it's a good and fair system, and suspect there are similar arrangements for other campgrounds in the region. Basically, they have a single hiker-biker campsite, it's capped at 15 people total, you can only stay one night, and it's first-come, first-served with no reservations. The campground opens at 2 pm each day, so as you can imagine, things were full by the time we arrived. Fortunately, the ranger was incredibly gracious and let us camp in a secret overflow location, so long as we packed up and left by 9 am the next morning.

The secret overflow location wound up being much nicer for my purposes because it put us across the river from the remaining campers, nestled in among some redwoods. There was a wedding reception across the river from us, including what sounded like live swing-jazz music, but even that quieted down before 9 pm.

We got up around 7 am Sunday morning, and were packed up and ready to depart by 9 am, as promised. We first headed over to a fire trail access gate, thinking we'd do a little bit of mountain bike touring. When we reached the gate, we discovered the fire road was a wee bit too steep for fully loaded touring bikes. Just a wee bit. So we parked and locked up and went on a hike instead, to explore Devil's Gulch. It was a peaceful morning and we mostly had the trails to ourselves.

After that, we headed back towards Fairfax to check out the Marin Museum of Bicycling, where I took a bajillionty-eleven pictures, and then we retraced our route back to the Ferry Building/etc.

It was 6:30 pm before I made it back to campus to sort crickets. When I went to swap my sunglasses for my glasses, my poor old, tired glasses snapped at the bridge. Sigh. New ones are now on order.

Photos later in the week. This was already blogged on borrowed time.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Viewing the sunset
Down in the cemetery
Hill-climbing's reward.

(The cemetery is a mercifully peaceful and quiet space. The turkeys were out yesterday, too.)

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito

Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Riding up slowly
Makes time for observations
Behold! Citrus arch.

Seen along Cedar St, Berkeley
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
The hilly route home
Is quiet enough that I
Have room for a thought.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
A day or two ago, I went to inspect the couple of spots on the Jolly Roger's rear wheel that had started to crack a few months back. My bike has recently been making more interesting noises than usual. Lo and behold, the cracks had grown to the point where I now worry about a flat tire and the "catastrophic failure" my friend A warned me about for cracked rims.

Lordy, I do not keep the Jolly Roger anywhere close to fastidiously clean.

State of the two worst cracks when I decided to end the wheel experiment:
Jolly Roger rear wheel wear

Jolly Roger rear wheel wear

These two cracks are on opposite sides of the wheel.

I also finally noticed that the tread on the rear tire was totally worn out. Whoops. Compare:
Jolly Roger rear wheel wear

That said - A-plus I would buy these tires again, just in a slightly wider size because it's almost impossible to find tubes for 26 x 1.35" tires. I've been riding on this pair of tires for a couple of years, waiting for them to wear out. I may have had a grand total of one or two flats in that entire time. I thought they had a kevlar liner, but the bike shop owner thinks it's just a high-quality rubber compound. If you ever shop for Schwalbe tires, get the ones with the blue fill, not the green stuff.

So! Time for a trip to the bike shop. I stocked up: spare shifter cables, spare brake pads, some of those Ergon grips, a fresh pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (26 x 1.5"), and a brand-new Stella headlight for [ profile] scrottie.

I can feel the difference from swapping in the new replacement wheel (ordered a couple months ago, just in case).
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
On Sunday morning, [ profile] scrottie and I finally managed to escape for a few hours to go on a bike ride. He'd been pushing for another visit to the Three Bears, but I wanted to do more exploring. So we biked up to Inspiration Point and then took the Nimitz Trail through Tilden and Wildcat Canyon parks.

When we reached the point where the pavement ran out, we decided to keep going. It was fun but terrifying, given that I had just bumped up the tire pressure in the 1.35" tires on the Jolly Roger, which don't have much traction to begin with. The surface in the picture below is also not my favorite:

Exploring Tilden and Wildcat Canyon

And I'll be honest, I mostly just like rolling along undulating trails, not things that go steeply up or down with lots of blind corners.

Exploring Tilden

For instance, we rode up and over that lump in the background. I use the term "rode" loosely, as I did a healthy amount of walking. On the other hand, [ profile] scrottie seemed to enjoy zooming and bumping and skidding along. And all things considered, at least the terrain out here is softer than the rocks and cacti in Arizona. It was also good to determine that we can come up with an adventure in the 2-hour time range. Maybe in the future we can use this as a starting point for a bike-and-hike expedition.

I overbooked myself for the rest of the day, mostly because I wanted to finish up a painting project at the BPRC, but also needed to pick up a few things at the store, sort crickets, and spend some time catching up with my sister-in-law and nephew and niece.

And now it's Monday, and time for what's looking to be an insanely busy week of circadian trials.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
It hasn't rained here since, what, March or so? Well, the remnants of that tropical typhoon finally landed here this morning. It started to rain with light but steady drops just as we finished breakfast.

My rain-game is way off. I managed to convince myself to change into spandex shorts, but I should have changed out my shirt as well. The Showers Pass jacket kept off most of the water, but not all of it. At least I don't need to look especially presentable today.

I should also double-bag my backpack. Water got through the bottom of the Arkel pannier and lightly soaked the bottom of the backpack. The corner of my journal is ever so slightly damp.

Days like this make me grateful for my rowing habits and the fact that I generally schlep around a ridiculous amount of gear. I have to budget a bit of extra time, but I have the routine down for changing clothes at work. The gear serves its purpose.

The rain brought a LOT of grime to the surface on the roadways.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I have started trying to take the hilly route home as often as I can. Cranking up the hill is somewhat cathartic, plus there are only two traffic lights at the very end instead of the 10 or so along the flat route. It takes me about 20 minutes to go up, and about 5 or 6 minutes to go back down, so the total time is also comparable to the flat route. And it just seemed like a good way to squeeze in a bit more consistent exercise.

Last week I took the hilly route 4 out of 5 days. I'm on track for 4 of 5 days this week, too.

View from the cemetery on the downhill section:
Sunset Cemetery view


Part of the motivation is getting ready in earnest for the head racing season. M and I are arranging things to row together twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, starting this morning. We're going to do a half-marathon race over Labor Day weekend in Petaluma (maybe next year I'll do the full?), then possibly the Tail of the Lake in Seattle in early October, then the Head of the Charles because M is going to be in Boston anyway, then hopefully the Head of the Lake in Seattle again in early November. That's a satisfyingly full docket, although it will be a lot to stay on top of while keeping afloat with experiments and job applications. This morning's workout made it clear that the two of us will be able to keep the boat going at a decent clip over a head racing distance, which is reassuring. There are a lot of things to suss out when rowing with someone new, but I'm continuing to think that rowing with M will help make me a better rower overall, and we're reasonably compatible.

As we got off the water, with respect to regatta plans, J said, "So, some people view races as a stick. Other people view them as a carrot - a reward to aim for. As for me, I like to think of them as a donut."

Having events lined up keeps me motivated to get out and practice consistently, which makes me more emotionally balanced and satisfied in the long run. I continue to be grateful to have such a good gang of rowers to hang out with at the BPRC.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
[ profile] scrottie and I made it back to the home base in CA on Friday, after a solid 11 days of traveling for me. I don't know that I'll do a detailed blow-by-blow chronological recounting of our various adventures, but here are some initial thoughts and memorable moments. Also, a photo album with descriptions under the pictures.

We participated in the final two days of RAGBRAI, first from Ottumwa to Washington, then Washington to Muscatine a week from Saturday. We reached Muscatine in the early afternoon, with enough time to watch people wade into the Mississippi River and hoist their bikes over their heads for a victory photograph. Then we had some food and drinks at Contrary Brewing's brewpub while waiting out some of the afternoon heat and sun, pointed our bikes west, and pedaled back to Washington Saturday evening. Sunday evening, we made it back to Princess TinyHouse, parked in Ottumwa, IA. Monday, we drove from Ottumwa to Lincoln, and spent the evening and following morning catching up with my old boss and his family. Tuesday morning, we parked Princess TinyHouse and picked up a rental car, which we drove to Denver to visit with A and meet S. We spent a good part of Wednesday around Denver, then carried on to Fruita overnight. From Fruita, we took I-70 over to Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America, and crossed mountain passes and desert valleys all the way out to Austin, Nevada, where we soaked in Spencer Hot Springs and flopped out for a nap in the scrub desert. On our last day, we reconnected with I-80 just outside of Reno and made it back to the house by midafternoon Friday.

They call RAGBRAI "Woodstock on Wheels." Overall, I found it to be more pleasant than the Seattle-to-Portland, for multiple reasons. For one thing, certain groups leapfrog along the route to sell foods and beverages to the riders. We appreciated the Iowa Craft Brewing tent in particular, although on a warm afternoon the hand-churned ice cream also hit the spot. For another thing, the distances are gentler on RAGBRAI, so it encourages riders with a broader range of aptitudes. Then there are the friendly people in the small towns, who pull out all the stops.

Originally, we had planned to roadtrip back to California in Princess TinyHouse, but as he thought things over, [ profile] scrottie decided it would probably be best to keep her in the Midwest, where storage is more affordable/less risky and from where he would be in a better position to bring her up to his mother's mechanic in Minneapolis. We considered various different options for the return trip, and eventually settled on renting a car to roadtrip back. That made for a lot of driving on my part, mostly counterbalanced by the fact that we took a different route from when we drove the moving truck out from Nebraska to California.

I don't know if I'll ever take the same route again, along Highway 50, but I'm so very glad that we went that way this time. It evoked some of the sense that I get during visits to Montana, that whole "big sky and wide-open spaces" sensation, and I was also deeply happy to see more of the wild and crazy geology in Utah. If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend the drive along Highway 50.

And now, back to the lab.

Also, the Jolly Roger feels super light and responsive after riding around with a full load for touring for a couple of days. Which is hilarious when you consider that it weighs at least 40 pounds unloaded.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
It feels as though it has been taking a while to sort out good bicycling adventures in this area. On Saturday, we tried out something new. Our friend Ls invited us on an "Easy mountain biking" ride down in Joaquin Miller Park, so we hopped on the BART to Fruitvale, ate a couple of fresh beignets, and toodled our way up the hill to our rendezvous point.

Over the early stages of the ride, it quickly became apparent that something funky was going on with Ls's shifting. One of the tricky parts of sorting out bicycling in a new place with new people is learning different peoples' proclivities, and it seems that Ls had gone with the strategy of "dust off the ol' mountain bike and hop right on!" Fortunately, [ profile] scrottie is well-versed in roadside bike repair. After some inspection and tweaks, he decided that the rear derailleur hanger was probably bent, so we teamed up to straighten it and got things back in line. Crisp shifting is useful for mountain biking.

For the Annals of Roadside Bike Repair

Our approach to the park followed a narrow, winding, wooded road that was peaceful and lovely.

The park itself was a touch more challenging, mostly because none of us were at all familiar with the trail network, so we had to keep on pulling over to check the map and the useless GPS that couldn't figure out where we were among the trees. S had to remind the rest of us to try and keep the trail clear whenever we pulled over. There was also some sort of Mormon LARP group out, blocking the trail in various spots with various sheets and blankets and paper jellyfish. That made the whole experience feel decidedly Berkleyish. We were able to successfully follow the good signage for the Sunset Trail, but missed our intended connection point with the Sequoia Bayview Trail. As usual, I spent a good part of the ride either walking or mildly terrified, but I was in good company, as Ls and Lk did the same. Mountain biking takes practice. The trails were dry and a little loose in spots, and it didn't help that I have 1.35" high-pressure tires on the Jolly Roger. Slippery. Still! We had a few glorious moments of riding through the redwoods, and at the end, popped out at an overlook:

Mountain biking with a view of Oakland

Next time I think I want to look at some options that are closer to home. Joaquin Miller was nice and all, but trekking over on the BART added a bunch of time to the expedition. It looks like there are some options in Tilden, and probably the best way to figure out what's the most fun is to just get out there and try more things out.

At the end, we sailed back down the hill and back to the BART station. From there, S and I headed in to San Francisco for a bicycling protest ride, where we both got sunburned and came to the conclusion that this region is operating in what we would term the "post-advocacy era." We went on the same ride in Austin several years ago and it was about three times as big, so we were a bit surprised by the smaller turnout in San Francisco, the birthplace of Critical Mass. Basically what we mean by the post-advocacy era is that cycling is sufficiently mainstream that it seems most cyclists just go around doing their own thing instead of clinging to cycling groups and events out of a strong sense of necessity. Obviously there's still a lot of work needed to improve multi-modal transit, but the bicyclists don't seem to feel so strongly compelled to band together and protest about it. This is probably also a product of being in a place where there are a lot of protests and related spectacles happening, so not everybody does everything. Ah well.

Anyway. Bicycling for that event was painfully slow, so after we decided we'd had enough, I still wanted to get in a bit more riding before heading to campus for some work. S suggested stopping somewhere for a refreshing beverage, so we took the BART back across the bay and rode through Oakland to a little brewpub with excellent beer next door to a tasty vegetarian Cajun joint:

Hoi Polloi and Easy Creole

Altogether, a satisfying set of expeditions for a Saturday.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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