NBG’s 2017 San Francisco to Palo Alto Ride

Changing the direction of our ride between San Francisco and Palo Alto, to end in Palo Alto instead of San Francisco, made for a less demanding ride. What ended up being a fun group, 11 of us left the San Francisco train station at 4th and King at  a few minutes after nine in the morning.

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Barry Burr, Scott Campbell, Pam Slocum, David, Lee Collins, Nelson Wong, Kimberly Wong, George, Yoriko Kishimoto, Maya Collins

Ahead of us stood:

  South San Francisco
  San Bruno
  Millbrae
  Burlingame
  San Mateo
  Belmont
  San Carlos
  Redwood City
  Menlo Park
  Palo Alto

Small cities most only see from the freeway or through a train window, we soon would hear, feel, see and even smell them in the way their locals do.

IMG_3166 IMG_3167Instead of riding over the metal Dirty Hary bridge, as Lee Collins called it because it was featured in the movie Dirty Harry, we crossed  the slough that separates San Francisco from the peninsula close to AT&T Park where the Giants play their baseball games. Riding through a light industrial area filled with giant warehouses, it was from here, that we all became dependent on Scott Campbell and the cue sheet he printed up for us. This was so because this  new route used a lot of different roads than what we’ve been pedaling  since 2003. Scott had found this route on the Map My Ride mapping platform.

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For the most part from start to finish I like what he came up with. However the fact that I was on the Eagle HiWheel bicycle made some of the road selections very difficult for me. Because I have essentially no brakes and rely on a backwards pedaling  motion to slow down, some of the hills were just way too steep. And I  had to walk a handful of up and down streets.

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The combination of my slowing the group down with not only my slow road speed but my also  having to walk the hills, as well as some of the  navigation errors we made didn’t get us out of San Francisco for a while. All work that would have caused us great pain had it come at the end of the day. As it turned out then, the  Brisbane Slough, along 101, didn’t seem like an unending slog that tested our reserves and  we were fresh and better able to enjoy probably the most scenic part of the ride that soon followed, Oyster Point in South San Francisco.

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A sleepy inlet lined with new office buildings, along it, we pedaled toward a new one being built  to look like a giant television screen.   When complete, it would mirror the  charming bay it looked out upon.  The car free quiet  complimented  the gently meandering path through well manicured grounds, all at the water’s edge.

It is man made environments like these that we can take example from as we reverse engineer the route from San Francisco to Washington DC that we have on line at BikeRoute.com.

In years past, to get to the Oyster Point bicycle heaven, we had had to  cross over the busy 101 freeway. Well, this year, Scott found an easy way for us to go under it as we also avoided downtown South San Francisco. It might have been nice for us to see its small downtown as coming from a different direction but at the time of day we would have hit it on a Saturday, there would have  been a lot more cars

We then found ourselves riding the clearly marked bike lanes that got us through the sprawling San Francisco airport complex. Painlessly so! In years past, we had always kept ourselves well away from its busyness. While inside I was thanking Scott, as we turned away from the roads that had led us through the airport, the  La Paloma Restaurant appeared!

IMG_3188It was made all the more  welcome  for both myself and Scott, by the fact it came as a surprise. Neither of us had been able to find it on online maps. And yet there it was as big as day, impossible to miss! 

Almost as suddenly,  we decided a lunch break was in order. Now in San Bruno, though we had only gone 12 miles, we had to stop!  A genuine Mexican restaurant, filled with local Mexicans, this had always been our stop before the work of San Francisco began.

And by the time we got our bikes parked, the La Paloma staff wasted no time getting tables pushed together that would accommodate all eleven of us.

No sooner had  we all sat down, we were serenaded by a man playing his guitar as he sang mariachi  tunes. Having had to take pictures, Yoriko showed me how to share them with anyone at the table who had an iPhone. Soon, not only were Yoriko and Kim, who sat across from me, sharing photos from the restaurant,  but those  of what we had ridden so far. Such memories. 

After a delicious meal, for myself complete with a huge glass of their fresh squeezed carrot juice, we forced ourselves back outside and on to our bikes for the 23 miles that remained   In terms of weather, it was the SF Bay Area I had grown up with and had come to take for granted. Throughout the day, it stayed between 65-72 degrees! 

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Upon leaving San Bruno, it wasn’t long before a different Milbrae  appeared. Instead of traveling through it on El Camino Real, the original road the Spanish had used to connect  the Missions in San Jose, Santa Clara and San Francisco, Map My Ride placed us a block away. Where there were hills! Some that I had to  walk.

Nor could we enjoy the older,  big homes of the neighborhood through which we passed because of all the cars. Slower moving than the ones on the Mission Road, there were however, a lot more of them over this short stretch. And we had to give them our attention and not the. neighborhood they  were busy desecrating.

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Instead of  the wall of trees that flanked us as we rode through Burlingame, for example, there was the wide open feeling of front yards that open up to homes as we rode south on California Drive.  Nor were we able to give any attention to one of America’s oldest auto malls where seven different  new car dealers fill up the three block that were soon ahead.

We also missed Central Park in San Mateo  this year as well as the charming neighborhood that leads up to it. In fact, going through it and its beautiful gardens has become so habitual that we lost Lee Collins who didn’t turn away  from it when we turned   

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Our new route also placed us on the opposite side of the now demolished Bay Meadows horse racing track in Belmont..As well as the adjacent San Mateo county fairgrounds. It was interesting taking a different path  through this area. And while the neighborhood bike lane we traveled on was tame, there were still too many cars for us take a harder look. 

It was not long before we reached San Carlos and  were riding on the longest uninterrupted road of our trek, County Road. A road that runs next to the train tracks, there  are a great number of car repair  businesses along it. And with this being a Saturday, as well as later in the day, as I keep saying, there was a lot more busyness than what we had grown accustomed to.

Nor was any of it a problem. There was plenty of shoulder for us to ride. And the increased activity made it a lot more interesting. Everyone also seemed to enjoy the handful of cars that were paying attention to me.

On  County Road when we reached Marvin Gardens, I suggested we stop. In 2015 we had stoped here to fix a flat tire. And Drew Wilson and Dan Kottke who cooled themselves off with a beer as we did, suggested we try it out on our next ride. We missed Dan and his attorney friend, Barry Harvis, who had also ridden with us a few years ago. They were at the San Bruno station probably an hour before we would arrive. And since I could not tell them when we would get there, or where we were at in San Francisco, they had no choice but to call theirs a day.

fullsizeoutput_29b1No one else wanted to go inside the roadside tavern, so I got an iced tea. When I came outside to drink it, Kim pointed out a sign. It read, “Happy hour Every Hour!”  We all laughed. At the rate we were traveling it seemed to fit!

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Back on the bikes, County Road gave way to downtown Redwood City. Looking forward to seeing it’s old time courthouse, its movie theater, and the other historic buildings soon ahead, Scot’s cue sheet had us making an unexpected right turn. Soon, as we pedaled toward busy Woodside Rd, we were riding a block away from history. As well as one of my favorite stops on the whole ride, the Redwood City Grocery Outlet. There healthy energy food and drink was always plentiful and inexpensive. I consoled myself in the knowing that I now lived less than a mile from the Davis Grocery Outlet. 

We were now entering the home stretch. And since I used to go to Redwood City a lot  to dance and/or to shop at Grocery Outlet when I lived in Palo Alto, I know lots of different, fun way to get to its City Hall. But Scott was our leader so we followed accordingly.

IMG_3220Soon we were at Palo Alto’s symbolic center where we assembled for this photo as another Palo Alto – San Francisco connection was  complete !

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