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May 26, 2014
Livermore and Dublin: Against the Wind and other biking hazards

Our route today!

He says…

Our dinner last evening didn’t turn out as we had hoped. Our first plan was to go to a local restaurant called “The Texas Roadhouse.” A friend had recommended it as having the best steaks in the Bay Area. Unfortunately:

  1. It was Memorial Day weekend, the place was absolutely jam-packed, and they weren’t taking reservations. Besides,
  2. We weren’t hungry enough to justify a steak dinner.

Our second plan was just to get Jamba Juice. Unfortunately, when we finally left the motel at 7:30, we discovered that JJ had closed at 6:30. “Special hours” for Memorial Day weekend.

We ended up buying some chips and salsa at the local WinCo supermarket, and snacked in the room while watching “Game of Thrones.” It was our first chance to use the DVDs and player that we’ve been packing for the past week. Even better, the TV had an HDMI hookup (yes, we brought cables and adapters for that as well, just in case), so we got to watch on a big screen.

Extended Stay America provided breakfast this morning. They call it “grab and go” – some basic muffins and oatmeal, but no place to sit down. We grabbed some food, grabbed some more food for the road, and once again ate in our room.

(Speaking of our room, we were able to store the tandem in our room. The motel said it was okay, and the bike just fit in the elevator.)

The tandem barely fits in the motel elevator

We hit the road nice and early at 9:30 for what was expected to be one of our most grueling legs. The sun was already out and blazing.

Our task today was to cycle over those hills in the distance

We knew that the first two-thirds of this 18-mile day were going to be uphill. According to Google Maps, we would have a 755 foot vertical climb, followed by a 236 foot descent. However, I also knew from having walked this before that we could walk the entire thing in a day, if necessary. We set out with the expectation that we would walk the bike up hills.

Gail is extremely proud of this photo: an automobile road, a bicycle, a pedestrian, a truck-crossing sign… and a train

And for most of the climb, we did just that. In addition to the unrelenting uphill climbs, the constant headwind made us feel like we were going uphill even when we were going downhill. We took our first break after 5.5 miles and our second break at 6.5 miles. We stopped by at the little house run by EDF Renewable Services, whose staff had been so kind to us during my birthday walk five years ago. Unfortunately, they were closed for Memorial Day. We reached the Summit Garage at noon and had a well-earned lunch break. (The Summit Garage is not actually at the summit, as we discovered when we rode on and discovered more uphill.) The temperature was now 100 degrees, and the all-too-brief descent was a welcome respite. We arrived at our motel in Livermore at 1:00 pm.

The Altamont Pass summit: 12:00 noon on Memorial Day

This was another moment where Gail and I looked at each other and our eyes lit up. Only 1:00 in the afternoon? Dare we go further? Yes! Still full of energy, we decided to tackle tomorrow’s leg as well. After all, it was only nine more miles. We could do it in less than an hour!

Well, sooner said than done. Since we had planned our car shuttle with a Livermore destination, we would have to adjust it for a Pleasanton destination. This meant driving 18 miles back across the Altamont Pass to Tracy to pick up the second vehicle. Once there we needed to make a reservation for our next stop, Pleasanton. (We had only pre-booked the first half of our trip through Memorial Day, just in case our schedule changed – which it had.)

Gail called the Four Points by Sheraton in Pleasanton, which had quoted her a price of $100 a week ago. Today they quoted her $200. Apparently, the price goes up when you book at the last minute. Gail said “No thank you.”

Vanessa at the Tracy Extended Stay America was enormously helpful. She looked up the ESAs in Pleasanton and Dublin on the Internet, saw that they had no vacancies, then telephoned them to make sure. As it turned out, they both had vacancies. She booked a room in Dublin on our behalf, printed both driving and bicycling directions for us, and wished us a good voyage. If ESA management reads this, please give Vanessa a raise and a promotion!

While we were still in Dublin, Gail said we should take our rain check on Jamba Juices. At just about that exact moment, I got an unexpected text message from my sister. It was a Jamba Juice buy-one-get-one coupon. I don’t know how you did that, but thanks Joanne!

We still had to do the other half of the shuttle: drive both vehicles to Dublin, leave one there, then drive one back to Livermore to pick up the bicycle we had left parked there. (We also cancelled our Livermore reservation.) By the time we finally left Livermore, it was 3:30 pm. Our glow of energy had long since faded, but we were now committed to ride to Dublin.

Fortunately, it was a very enjoyable ride. The roads were flat and the traffic was light. The worst thing was the constant headwind. Our new destination in Dublin was three miles further than our original destination in Pleasanton, but we arrived by 5:00 pm.

A few small pleasures from our second leg:
A dedicated bike lane separated from the road…
… and the widest shoulder we’ve ever seen!

Gail fell in love with this little bridge along the bike path in Dublin:
On side had a beautiful heron…
… and the other side had a waterway with a duck on every sluice

We are enormously proud of today’s accomplishment. Not only are we yet another day ahead of schedule, but we rode double legs in addition to riding over the Altamont Pass. While we didn’t meet any interesting people while riding (other than a guy who yelled out of his car window asking where we bought our bike), we got extraordinary service from all of the desk clerks at our many hotels, including Cyrus and Vanessa in Tracy, Janice in Livermore, and Kevin in Dublin.

We treated ourselves to an extra-special dinner at Eddie Papa’s. I discovered this Pleasanton restaurant by accident during my birthday walk, and I have made it a tradition to come here every time I’m in the area. It’s a wonderful slice of Americana, with little historical write-ups of every dish they have on the menu. I had my usual jambalaya, while Gail enjoyed chicken-fried-chicken and waffles.

It’s been a long day today and a late night tonight. (We had to do yet another car shuttle after dinner – this time to our next destination in Hayward). We plan to get a late start in the morning, and we are not even thinking of extending tomorrow’s leg. As we start getting closer to home, it may be time to stretch our enjoyment of these last few days as much as possible.

At the EDF Renewable Services house

She says…

This trip sounds great, doesn’t it? Beautiful days riding along, snacks by the canal, meeting interesting people, the great company of my husband…but don’t be fooled. It hasn’t been all sunshine and birdies singing.

Getting to the point of being ready for this trip has been an adventure in itself. The first time we tried the tandem after buying it, I barely made it around the block. I was sure I would never be able to get up the tiniest little hill. I was terrified the first time Russell took us out onto Stevens Creek Blvd. I said I would ride every day to get in shape, but it took me two months to get to a daily routine. Then I started to ride with Russell to work every morning and meet up with him halfway home in the afternoon.

When you ride, you have to have the right riding gear. So I bought riding shorts with padded undershorts, shirts and socks that wick away sweat, and a spiffy helmet. The result is that I look doofy. Seriously doofy. The helmet is as big as my head. The shorts are sort of like regular shorts, but baggy for comfort on the bike seat. The shirts are fine and I like the socks. But that helmet is just doofy.

Today it was so hot that I took off the shorts and rode in my undershorts. I was just soaked through. We were out in the middle of nowhere. There is almost no traffic on this road. And right when I was taking off my shorts – sort of hopping a bit to get them over my shoes – a car comes by. Not only does he slow down, but he comes to a dead stop. “Where is the nearest gas station?” You cannot make this stuff up. The undershorts look like typical spandex riding shorts, so it was okay. And I did dry off in the 100 degree heat and the constantly blowing wind. The advantage of the heat is that no matter how much I drink – and it’s a ton – I have no need to find a restroom. I am sweating out every ounce I take in. This was a really good thing today, because the three places I had counted on for a restroom were all closed.

Gail takes a break in the only shade she can find

The other hazard of riding in these shorts is that I am getting a tan on just the tops of my legs, sort of a rectangular tan. And since I am normally glow-in-the-dark white, it really shows up. It looks doofy. On the upside, I have muscles in my legs that I haven’t seen in years. And the most disappointing thing is I don’t seem to be getting any thinner. All this hard work and sweating… and nothing. Really, is that fair?

To add to the overall doofy look, I have given up on trying to tame my wild hair. Folks think, “Oh, naturally curly hair, how wonderful!” But nooo. It goes where it wants, and frizzes up in the heat, and catches everything that flies by. Well, not everything. At least the hundreds of grasshoppers we went through today stayed out… but they did keep hitting my legs. I so much dislike grasshoppers. So there’s poor Russell walking the bike up a steep incline, and there’s me going “Ooh, yuck, ick, argh,” and sort of high-stepping along behind. Not real helpful.

In addition to being hot, sweaty, grimy and stiff, my fingernails are breaking off and my allergies are just nuts (it’s in the wind). Every day I want to collapse once we get to the hotel, but we still need to shuttle the cars. And we still have to wash out our filthy clothes (yes, Russell does his share). We are so tired that we have not played one single board game, and have watched only one episode of “Game of Thrones.” Dinner last night was chips and salsa at 8:30; we were just too beat to go out.

The daily laundry

We have been attacked by a tumble weed (it blew right into us), grasshoppers, and a huge flock of black birds flew all around us as we went down the bike path today.

The road over the Altamont Pass was infested with thousands of tiny grasshoppers

But you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. Each day has been amazing by itself. Add them all together, and this trip will certainly be one we remember forever. The biggest hazard of a trip like this is that it makes us think about what we are going to do next.

Total distance: 122.81 miles
Distance traveled today: 29.14 miles
Time spent riding: 3 hours, 21 minutes
Average speed: 8.6 mph
Maximum speed: 20.0 mph

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