Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I’m spending a few days in the Bay Area, visiting some old haunts, and also covering some new ground by bike.

Today I wanted to check out the shoreline area of Mountain View, and I saw from a map of bike friendly routes that it was possible to follow some trails on levees on the edges of the the bay itself.

Leaving Mountain View along Evelyn, and crossing towards Sunnyvale, you have to cross the Mountain View – Winchester light rail line. Here is a bike and pedestrian only crossing.

Maude Ave is a bike friendly road, but the crossing underneath HWY 237 could use some work.

I headed towards the bay on Borregas, and as you can see from the map below, there are two bike bridges that cross 101 and 237.

Here is the ramp up the bridge across 101.

The north end of Borregas terminates at this point, and there are signs directing you to the Bay Trail.

Turning left, here is the entrance to the Bay Trail.

Rather than heading straight onto the Bay Trail, I decided to follow a loop on one of the levees. The surface was packed gravel of varying quality, but still perfectly passable on the Brompton.

Wearing an appropriate wool jersey for the occasion.

After the loop, I started on the Bay Trail proper. It had finer gravel of a different colour, and it was a better surface than the levee trails, some of which had been torn up by motor vehicle traffic.

Brompton portrait, with NASA Ames and the Google domes in the background (picture location shown on the earlier Strava map above.)

A closer picture of the new Google complex under construction.

This section of the Bay trail intersects the north end of the Stevens Creek trail. This is the point at which I headed back towards Mountain View.

Another shot of the Google site. Interesting that the Googleplex is on land that will almost surely be under water by the end of this century.

The Steven’s Creek trail has a whole series of bridges that cross the various highways and rail lines, making it a very easy way to get back to the downtown Mountain View area. Here is the underpass under HWY 101.

Here are some pictures of the bridges across Central Expressway.

Crossing this bridge, you see also see the Caltrans rail line, and HWY 85 running parallel off to the left.

The fact that the Stevens Creek Trail runs along a (domesticated) river bed makes it somewhat analogous to one of the ravine trails in Toronto (such as the Don River trail network), but the urban density of the Bay Area is high enough that there are many connections to this trail to various city streets, making it a valuable commuter corridor.

The ride was a nice way to spend the afternoon before Christmas, on what will probably be the last longer bike ride that I’ll have this year.

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Flooding in Japan

Japan got hit by one of the largest typhoons in recent memory, and this picture really brought it home for me.

It is an image of a playground on the banks of the Arakawa River in Tokyo, in Adachi-Ku. A little sleuthing on Google brought up this image from 2013 of the same area. Note the public washroom building in both pictures.

The banks of the Arakawa serve much the same function as the ravine parks that run through Toronto, providing public open space and a chance to get a little distance away from the surrounding city. Last summer I biked in this area, and when I surmounted the levee that flanked the river, I didn’t think much of it.

Now I realize that major sections of Tokyo east of the centre are in fact below sea level, and it was only due to this levee that they were saved. Other parts of the greater Tokyo area were not as fortunate.

At any rate, hoping that all my friends and extended family in Japan are doing OK.

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East River to Chester Basin

If you want to explore west of the Aspotogan Peninsula, a convenient start point is where the trail intersects Hwy 329. This is the point at which I turned south when I biked around the Peninsula.

A very short bike ride west from this point lead to the beginning of the Chester Connection Trail.

I thought that since the trail went inland for a while, it would be boring. It turns out that the next 8 km was one of my favourite sections of the entire trail since it was uninterrupted by roads or driveways, and had nice lake views.

Labrador Lake

Otherwise, it was the usual well groomed and wide gravel path.

As we approach East Chester, we get more trail crossings, and part of the trail are close to Hwy 3.

After about 13 km, you reach the outskirts of Chester, where there is another restored train station and just past this point you cross Hwy 3.

The trail nominally goes up the switchback, but it is more convenient to just take the driveway to the right.

This section of trail allows ATVs. I realize that correlation does not imply causation, but the more ATV tracks, the less packed down the gravel.

Today’s ride ended at Chester Basin, and at this point I turned around to head back to Chester.

Marriot’s Cove.

Chester Harbour

Beautiful downtown Chester.

This mailbox definitely looked out of place, and a little post ride googling revealed that the stated zip code was not exist. Some workmen were inside and they said they were putting things back to normal after a film shoot.

I bought a bakery snack at the Kiwi Cafe. Recommended.

One last lake view before I got back to the starting point.

Chester Basin to Mahone Bay

The next ride segment started at Croft’s Rd, just off Hwy 12. This is a convenient starting point as it is a very short drive south from exit 9 on Hwy 103.

About 2 km west of the starting point you reach a trestle bridge over the Gold River. This is the single longest span on the entire Rum Runner’s Trail.

View from the middle of the bridge.

At Martin’s River, the Chester Connection Trail ends, and the continuation is the Dynamite trail, but there is no signage indicating it at this point.

Heading further west, this is the first signage that I see with the Dynamite Trail markings.

There is another trail access point on Clearland Rd, and in principle you could turn left here and go down to Mahone Bay. I wouldn’t recommend it as it turned out to be a gravel road in worse condition that the rail path.

Instead, bike just a bit further and then you will reach the intersection with the Bay to Bay Trail which goes to Lunenburg. The rail trail also extends further west to Bridgewater and on to Liverpool, but that will have to wait for another day. Turn left to go to Lunenberg.

At least the first section of this trail is much narrower than the rail trail proper.

After a short distance, the trail intersects Main St where there is this kiosk. I decided to turn left to explore Mahone Bay. For the record, I actually rode just a bit further and then rode into town on Kinburn St, which had much less traffic and took you straight to the water.

Had a bakery snack at La Have Bakery. I asked if the carrot cake had nuts, and then said no, but I was warned that it had pineapple. Excellent in any case.

Mahone Bay really takes their Hallowe’en decorations seriously. There were scarecrows and dioramas all over town.

In summary, the Rum Runner’s Trail is a rail trail that extends from Halifax to Lunenburg. It is very well maintained, and is pretty much dead flat. What a great way to explore the coast and to do some very pleasant biking totally away from traffic. Highly recommended. Also the fall is a great time to do this ride as the leaves are starting to turn, and the locals say that by September, the bugs are down.

What I could fit into my schedule was a series of shorter rides of about 50 km each. I didn’t make it to Lunenburg this time, but I’ve been there in the past, and I found Chester and Mahone Bay to be equally charming and much less crowded.

My ride for the week was a 2017 Opus Spark 2, rented from Train Station Bike and Bean. I saw mostly MTB’s and hybrids on the trail, but this bike with 34 mm wide tires was great, and I much prefer riding on the hoods of drop bars.

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Upper Tantallon to Halifax

Once again, my starting point is the Train Station Bike and Bean at the head of St. Margaret’s Bay.

The total mileage to the end of the trail that we will follow is about 25 km.

If you go to the Rum Runner’s Trail website, you will see that the trail changes names a few times on the way into town.

After a slow, barely perceptible climb heading east, at the 6.5 km you cross Route 3, where the St. Margaret’s Bay trail ends, and the BLT trail continues.

Some nice lake views.

Otherwise, much of the trail is wooded on both sides.

Passing through a Halifax exurb, I see this sign. “Second prize is a set of steak knives”.

The BLT trail ends in an industrial park. This is the end of the trail, looking back west.

Looking the other way, the path is now the Chain of Lakes Trail, and it is paved. The first section is not so nice is you are in an industrial park.

You still get some lake views, but now there are houses present.

After this view of First Chain Lake, the trail turns to the north and becomes wooded on both sides for a while, even as it cuts through outer Halifax.

This is about as far as I got on that day. The overpass for HWY 102 is ahead.

Beyond this point, you can see that the trail continues as a regular separated multi use path, and from the way finding, it extends about another 1 km. I was not interested in riding the last section, so this is the point where I turned back.

I saw quite a few cyclists today, since it was a beautiful sunny day. The round trip from Halifax to the Bike and Bean would be a nice, flat 50+ km ride.

One other Halifax note: I dropped in on Martin Beaver, who is affiliated with Cyclesmith bike shop. He is the frame builder from which I ordered my Tamarack almost 20 years ago. He was pleased to hear that it is still my main road bike. He and his former frame building partner did PBP this past summer for the nth time.

For the final entry in this series, I’ll be exploring points further west, to Chester, Mahone Bay, and perhaps Lunenburg.

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This week I’ve had the opportunity to explore the Rum Runner’s Trail, which is a rail trail that goes from Halifax to Lunenberg. I’ve been using Tantallon as a base, and I’ve completed two rides thus far: out and back to Hubbards, and around the Aspotogan Peninsula.

Upper Tantallon to Hubbards

Train Station Bike and Bean is a converted train station that now houses a café and bike shop. They also rent bikes, and this is where I rented my whip for the week.

You can see the trail to the right of the picture. This section is called the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail. Out and back to Hubbards is about 50 km.

The trail is wide and well maintained, and is wooded on both sides for the most part.

You do get intermittent views of the ocean to the south, but for the most part, the best views are at some of the bridges that cross various creeks and streams.

At about the halfway point, there is a purpose built bridge that spans a highway exit, and you get some of the best views of St. Margaret’s Bay.

This section of the trail ends at HWY 3, where it continues as the Aspotogan Trail. There are a couple of sections nearer Hubbard’s where the trail was marked for repair. Some very coarse gravel was laid down. One hopes that this does not reflect the final state of repair.

Even though I can’t see the ocean from this spot, I am reminded of its presence 😉

Aspotogan Peninsula

The Asptogan Peninsula forms the western shore of St. Margaret’s Bay. I was told that it was popular with cyclists since it has relatively light traffic. This is in comparison to the road between Upper Tantallon and Peggy’s Cove, which is plenty scenic but has many blind corners, no shoulders to speak of, and plenty of car and tour bus traffic. One lap of the peninsula is about 50 km.

The Aspotogan Trail section of the Rum Runner’s Trail makes it possible to do a loop ride. I chose to do it in the counter clockwise direction. This is the trail entrance at Hubbards.

Pretty much wooded, but there are a few views of interior lakes on the way to the East River end.

Here is where the trail reaches the highway that goes south around the western shore of the peninsula. The trail itself continues westward, but I turned south here.

Nice to have this sign to remind motorists to keep a 1 m passing distance, but points off for the implication that all cyclists should wear safety vests.

Pleasant riding but not too many ocean views until you reach Upper Blandford.

The view from the Deck Convenience store in Blandford.

Bayswater is very scenic. There are washrooms at a small provincial park here if you have the need.

There is also a memorial site for Swissair Flight 111. I knew about the one near Peggy’s Cove, but apparently this site, the other, and the crash site form an almost equilateral triangle.

There are a few other pretty villages on the east side, (just as Northwest Cove) but I was too busy biking to take pictures. For the most part, the east coast of the peninsula has ocean views to the right, but you are on a bluff some height above the ocean. There are more rollers on this side as well.

In summary, the Aspotogan Peninsula is a nice detour from the rail trail if you want to see some ocean views on roads with very little traffic.

I’ve been told that other sections of the railtrail itself are also scenic, and I look forward to trying out the section towards Halifax as well as the part between Chester and Mahone Bay in the remainder of my time here.

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Good friend and riding partner Steve and I decided this summer that rather than doing STP for the third time, that we would do the other north/south ride run by Cascade Bike Club: Ride from Seattle to Vancouver plus Party (RSVP).

We were are leaving the house before dawn. Since it is one month later than STP, it was quite a bit darker than last year.

Here’s a crappy picture at the start. Not as elaborate set up as for STP since there are only 2500 riders on this one.

Heading north on the Burke-Gilman trail.

Dawn breaks over Lake Washington.

Approaching the first of three major climbs for Friday, the one that starts in Woodinville.

About a third of the way up the hill: DISASTER. The rear tire on the Brompton seemed OK the previous day, but riding to Steve’s from G&O, I noticed some out of roundness in the rear tire. This was also apparent riding to the start line, but I couldn’t see anything in the dark. However, it was clear now that the rear tire had worn clean through. Forget all the good things that I’ve said in the past about Greenspeed Scorchers.

Tried to boot the tire with a combination of some tire patches on the inside of the casing, plus a $5 bill.

At least Wilfrid Laurier got me the rest of the way up the hill, but then the tire was flat again. There was a bike shop at the corner, and Neil from Eastside Ski& Sport was very kind to let us camp out there for a while until we decided what to do, but of course he didn’t have a ETRO 349 tire.

We sent Peg to pick up a tire from a shop that will go unnamed. The person at the shop swore up and down that he was sending us a 349 tire, but when it arrived it was a 305, and we were back to square one. In the end, we drove back to Seattle, and I went out to G&O Family Cyclery again where they would have the tire for sure. They had plenty of take offs from owners of older model Bromptons who had swapped them for Schwalbe Marathons. Davey kindly let me use the kid zone to repair my bike.

I swapped out both Scorchers for good measure. To be fair, I got about 4000 km out of them, including STP on both a tikit and the Brompton.

Steve’s wife Peg sacrificed the rest of her day off to drive us up to Mt. Vernon where we could rejoin the ride. Ironically, there was a sudden rain squall while we were driving (that wasn’t in the forecast) and it ended just as we were dropped off. Thanks Peg!

Just out of Mt. Vernon, we pass by the I-5 bridge over the Skagit river that fell down some years ago.

A long flat ride towards some hills that we will eventually skirt to the west before getting to Bellingham.

Just past the turn for Chuckanut Rd, this bakery is highly recommended.

Approaching the hills now.

No really serious climbs on this part of the route: just a series of rollers.

Us getting in the way of some pretty, but hazy, scenery.

Another picture.

Hey, we’re in Bellingham.

One last hill before town had a series of signs talking up pink lemonade.

These lovely ladies have been serving at the top of “lemonade hill” for the past 22 years!

They also had a cowbell for first time RSVP riders. Of course no ride is complete without more cowbell.

Drat, once we reach town, there is still more climbing to do.

This fellow was not part of our ride but had left Redmond on his way to Vancouver, and then the islands.

One last turn before the luggage drop at the Days Inn.

After a shower and a change of clothes, some well earned beer at the Boundary Bay Brewery.

Leaving our accommodations bright and early the next morning.

Luggage drop off.

Very gradual climb out of town along Northwest Avenue.

Steve cruising along

Can you tell I’m riding a Brompton?

Approaching the Lynden rest stop.

Plenty of snacks were provided.

However, given the Dutch theme of the town, I was disappointed by the lack of Stroopwafels, and I had to make do with a cookie.

Heading north for the border along aptly named Double Ditch Rd.

We guessed that the line of trees that we were looking at for a while would be the border, and sure enough, we turn left just short of it.

Yes that is the border, and the road to the right is in BC. We were told by CBP that there were sensors and cameras for security.

Lining up to cross the border.

This is one of the more interesting ways that I’ve crossed into Canada. They set this up especially for RSVP.

Steve was admitted into Canada without having to answer too many questions.

We continue west along on the border, but this time in Canada.

We started seeing a lot of cyclists going the other way on Zero Avenue. It turns out that they were on the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer. Unfortunately we saw two riders in a pack go down, but by the time we got close, it seemed that everyone was on their feet and OK.

Heading north now on Otter Rd. These people look serious.

The one big climb for the second day up to the Langley area. I will say that in the middle the grade went up to 13% which was no fun on with my standard 6 Spd Brompton gearing.

Who says recumbents can’t climb?

North Otter Elementary rest stop.

I had a nice conversation with the owner of this bike. 650B, Ti, S&S couplers, etc. His partner had a lot of questions about my Brompton.

A bit of a break in Maple Ridge.

Preparing to cross the Fraser River on the Golden Ears Bridge.

We use a spiral ramp to ascend to the level of the bridge.

Approaching the bridge span proper, we hear our names being called out, and it’s Joel and friend Josh from Minneapolis. Joel had done STP at the same time as us in the past.

I actually found this crossing to be a little unnerving given the fact that the span was very high, and the bikeway rather narrow and right at the edge.

Waiting to cross HWY 7, just at the Pitt River crossing.

This bridge was not as high or long, and the bikeway was wider.

It’s pretty much city riding after the second bridge, but it helps when you are in a huge pack of riders.

Rest stop at Port Moody.

Now we have to skirt Burnaby Mountain before reaching Vancouver. We see a road that looks like it heads straight up the mountain, but we turn right before it.

Now a little over five miles on the Barnett Highway, but at least there is a very wide shoulder.

Who knew that there was a velodrome tucked away on this side of the mountain?

Hopefully this is the last climb. It was a long one, and the shoulder was a little narrow during the climb.

There was no sensor at this left turn, so we were waiting to cross with pedestrians, which was not ideal.

We take the Frances/Union bike route into town, which joins the Adanac bike lane. Although there is this Vancouver sign at theHWY 1 crossing to fool the tourists, we know that the city limit was actually a few blocks back.

The finish line.

A less fancy set up than at the end of STP, but there was a bike corral, and a finish gate that you didn’t ride through, but you could line up to take your instagram photo. We didn’t bother.

Here is the real momento. Note that it says “Vancouver BC”, since if you rode to Vancouver Washington, you’d be going the wrong direction.

Overall, I’d say that the scenery on this ride was better than STP, although there was more climbing to do. I imagine that the border crossing makes this ride less popular than STP.

I got lots of positive comments on the Brompton, and a few on my Palo Alto wool jersey as well. The weather was pretty much ideal.

Why 61%? Well with the disaster the first day, we ended up with only about 61% of the nominal total ride distance. Still, given that I was a little undertrained for the event, it was perfect. Thanks to Steve; always a pleasure to be riding with you. Once again huge thanks to Peg who saved the day by driving out to Woodinville after I sent her to get the wrong tire, and for making it possible for us to rejoin the ride at Mt. Vernon.

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As a prelude to RSVP, I had to make my way to Seattle. The plan was to fly into Vancouver, and then to take a bus down to Seattle. The Brompton would fly in a hard case, and then I would take it on the bus with a soft bag from Radical Designs. Here I am waiting for the UP Express on the way to Pearson.

Skipping a few steps, here is the Brompton on the way to the airport on the Canada Line.

Even though the Radical bag has a shoulder strap, I found that the easiest way to carry the bike was to put the regular handles over my shoulder, drape my arm over the bag, and to support the bike from underneath by grabbing the rack.

I’ve arrived in Seattle. Bike unfolded. The last time I was here, there were green Lime e-bikes all over the place. This time, these Jump e-bikes were very common. Although the indicator light showed that this one was dead. A postcard in the basket revealed that UBER is behind these bikes, which to me is not a selling point.

I noticed before I left, that my favourite bike shop in Seattle was between where I was going to stay and downtown. So off I went, while checking out some of the local bike infra. Here I am on 8th Ave headed north.

Bike infra should be obvious to the user. WTF Seattle, apparently at Virginia St I’m supposed to bike diagonally across the intersection while dodging cars?

On the other hand I enjoyed the MUP that runs along the west side of Lake Union.

A brief pause at the Fremont lift bridge to let some rich person’s powerboat to pass.

Arriving at G&O Family Cyclery.

The last time I visited, I noted that a good deal of the stock was e-bikes, and from what I could see, this trend has continued. BTW biking up to the Greenwood neighbourhood, I was reminded of how hilly Seattle is.

Davey was busy attending to real customers, but I did have a nice chat with Robert about a few of their newer bikes. Here is the e-assisted version of the Big Dummy, the Big Easy, which is still not available in Canada, although Morgan and Stephanie have one because they are special.

Robert said that they are popular because the riding position is more aggressive than other designs, but there were some minor issues with it as a family bike. For one, the position of the optional second battery makes a centre stand impossible.

Carsick bags come in many different colours, and G&O stocks “tie dye”.

I couldn’t leave empty handed so I got one of their bottles with their new slogan.

Now a short night’s sleep before the first day of RSVP.

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