The journey is part of the fun

One of my favorite things about not having a car is that it reminds me to think of my journeys as part of the fun of my trips. Journeys take more of my time than they do of most people’s, so if I don’t enjoy them and look for ways to spice them up, I’d be much more annoyed by their duration, and I might as well just give up and buy a car.

This weekend I had several long-journey adventures.

First, I decided that instead of taking the Capital Corridor train all the way from San Jose to Davis, I would shorten (and save money on) the journey by taking BART to Richmond. (It’s not really shorter, but the weekend afternoon CC and Caltrain schedules don’t mesh very well.) There are two options: Caltrain to Millbrae to Richmond, and bike to Fremont to Richmond.

Fremont beckoned. In the three years that I’ve lived in the Bay Area (I moved here on the second weekend of November in 2005, so this was my anniversary weekend), I’ve never been to Fremont, only through it on CA-84 and I-880. And I’ve never biked over the Dumbarton Bridge (CA-84) which is one of the four bridges in the Bay Area you can bike over, and the only one that’s within my normal bike area that I have never biked over (since I crossed the Golden Gate for the first time during Waves to Wine).

I mapped out a route using Fremont’s bike map, aiming for roads with bike lanes because I’m not familiar enough with Fremont’s roads to know which non-laned roads would be comfortable for riding. The route I chose was scenic, but not short:

Willow > CA-84 Bike/Ped sidepath/sidewalk > Marshlands Rd > Thornton Road > Paseo Padre Parkway > Mowry Ave > Civic Center Pl > BART Way

The total distance was 17.8 miles, so my roundabouting added about six extra miles (Fremont is about 12 miles as the crow flies). Luckily, I planned for the extra time, leaving around 1pm for a 2:30 BART train. I got to the train just in time to board without being in a desperate hurry, but not without being worried. Thank goodness for having a tailwind most of the way, and for my leftover W2W fitness.

The route, despite involving bike lanes for nearly the entire way, was not entirely what I would call pleasant riding. To go about it backwards, Paseo Padre is a bit like Central Expressway (something I suspected from its Parkway appellation) only the bike lanes are even more poorly lined at intersections even though they are official bike lanes and not shoulders. The intersections were poorly designed overall, with bad pavement and short lights, and the intersection of Thornton with CA-84 and surrounds (yes, you get off 84 and then have to cross it again) was seriously the most terribly-designed intersection of a bike-laned road with a major highway I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen lots. Fremont? Not a terribly bike-friendly town, based on what I saw.

Before you get on Thornton, Marshlands Road is a two-lane road with “bike lanes”. The lack of real bike lanes rather than gravelly, terribly-paved, nearly unpainted imitations isn’t a serious problem because there’s almost no traffic, but the paving in general is very poor, although the scenery is quite nice: marshy areas, with hills arising out of them.

The bridge bike-ped path, and the path leading up to it (it starts at Bayfront Expwy, where the road gets wide and the speed limit high) was for most of its length fine except for having a lot of debris, which is basically par for the course for sidepaths. However, it also had two inset plates which were so inset that had I hit them unawares, I could easily have lost control of my bike. Note to self: find out who is responsible for that crap, and get it fixed. And then there was the flooded road. Yes, really. The road up to the bridge, itself, of course, was not flooded. Can’t have that. Cars must get through. But the sidepath/road to the recreation area (which you’re supposed to use until you reach the sidepath for the bridge itself) was under several inches of water.

No thanks. So I rode a short distance on the shoulder of the bridge approach, then carefully took my bike down a small embankment and over to the bridge path proper.

Riding over the bridge was pretty awesome though. The temperature was in the upper 70s and it was as clear as a bell. I watched the blueish water of the bay, and seagulls flying along below me, as I took in a view of the contrasting pinkish-tan East Bay hills ahead. It’s a longish climb but shallow, and an equally nice descent.

I enjoyed my BART ride too: conversation with a fellow bike enthusiast, reading and people-watching, and an unexpected view of the city and the bay when the train came up out of the Oakland subway portions. Transfer at Richmond was fairly painless (this was also the first time I’ve ever been north of Berkeley or south of Bay Fair on BART — now I’ve been to all the line termini in the inner Bay Area!), and the views began again. The Capitol Corridor runs along the edge of the North Bay there and I’ve never seen it in full daylight before, so it was a treat.

As we approached Davis, the sky pinked and the sun slanted prettily over the green fields. I rode around downtown Davis for a while as it got dark (sporting my new MiNewt light so I could actually see — amazing). It’s a pretty town, lots of trees and big houses, perfect for just tooling around going nowhere and enjoying it.

Today Mike and I went on another long-journey adventure: a ride over to Winters for lunch. It’s a 28-mile roundtrip, so neither long nor short by ride standards (mine anyway), but certainly longer than you would usually take just to have lunch. But the ride was part of the point, which is my point: when you ride, the journey is fun too.

It’s an interesting area to ride in, very different from the Bay Area. Out in the farmlands, you wouldn’t know you’re in California except that when you look west, you see mountains — that, and the fact that it’s in the 70s in November! But the farmland is amazingly like every other farm landscape I’ve ever seen, except flatter than some. Green, brown, and tan fields, distant lines of trees and small buildings.

It’s very, very flat, and so windy that it’s almost like having hills, though today was not as windy as the last time we went riding. Also, no tomatoes to avoid, but plenty of cracks in the asphalt. Does anyone know why asphalt cracks horizontally in that weirdly regular way? Or why fruit trees are painted white in the middle of their trunks, but not at the thicker lower part? Such are the mysteries that arise while enjoying the journey.

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