Monday, May 31, 2010

Albany Bulb and Berkeley Marina Family Ride

Today's ride is a 9 mile out and back on a mix of dirt, gravel and paved surfaces with views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate, and the bay. A mountain bike or hybrid or something similar is recommended, but you can do it on a road bike.

Click for an interactive route map

The ride is suitable for families and kids who can handle a busy bike lane and a couple of street crossings. If your unsure about handling, consider the 10 to 12 mile ride at the start of the Bay Trail trip to Point Richmond and back, all on paved bike/foot path.

Today starts by crossing the bike/foot bridge at the west end of Buchanan Street in Albany, at Pierce.

FROM EL CERRITO PLAZA BART: catch the bike path on the east (hill) side of the station and head south. Continue for about 3/4 mile, then go right on Washington. After about 6 blocks go left on Kains, then right on Solano. Cross San Pablo to the stop sign, left on Jackson, right on Buchanan. Lots of people use the sidewalk here, but the shoulder is wide enough and pavement just a little bumpy. Head towards the water about 6 half-blocks and catch the bike bridge entrance on your left after bearing right and downhill just past the intersection with Pierce.

Going up the incline

On the decline you loop all the way around to the right, then do a 180 left back under the freeway.

This avoids the 580/80 on-ramp with cars going right on red from Buchanan.

Cross towards the water the at the light, and continue up onto the sidewalk. Head west, keeping the Albany mud flats and the fence on your right. Here is an old early morning shot from this perspective.

The sidewalk turns into a bike/foot path and after about 1/4 mile we take a right at a big gate on our right, heading straight up a wide paved section then taking the second left on a dirt trail.

The fenced off area is set aside as burrowing owl habitat, but they have not taken a liking to it yet. We take a little single track drop back to the lower trail, with a nice view from the top.

We take the lower trail to the right, along the water's edge. You start to catch sight of the many outdoor wild-art works that have been built out of the abundant construction debris that the Albany Bulb is made up of.

We continue straight at the junction, up the little hill, then straight through the next set of intersections heading more or less due north. The trail dips and you confront what I think is the iconic piece at the bulb

A little further to the left a sculpture garden has bloomed

Lincoln wanted to know if this was somebody's bike (complete with cast iron hula hoop racks) or a piece of art. He was stunned that someone could intentionally leave a bike out to rust, and kept asking me why anyone would do that.

We double back to rejoin the bay trail bike route at the foot of Buchanan street, where the road does a loop. Looking south the gate is to the right, next to the port-a-potty.

Through the gate the path is on the left, next to the fence line

Up the hill and through the parking lot, take the far left lane on the downhill - it's reserved for bikes and pedestrians. At the end of the downhill veer left, on the east side of the trees and take the wide open if slightly lumpy bike path

View off to your right once again

Cross Gilman at the corner, and go left around the soccer fields. You can ride next to the field in the paved area, don't stay on Gilman. Take a right where the sign says "right turn only", onto the bike path. Go straight past all the playing fields, then take a right when you go through a pair of posts in the road.

This little dirt section (Virginia Street extension) avoids having to go down University Avenue on the gravel and glass strewn shoulder. This route is much safer and quieter, and the road surface is not that much worse. Linc flies along

At the end of the dirt you can go right to connect to a loop around Cesar Chavez Park, famous for kite flying, but today we go left on the paved path alongside the fence.

We cross the street at the entrance to Berth F

Up onto the sidewalk, the continue with the water on our right as the sidewalk bends around to the right. We see our crosswalk

After crossing the path winds around another corner and we go through the forecourt at Cal Sailing club (where you can learn to sail or windsurf)

We pass the one-of-a-kind Berkeley Adventure Playground - an excellent space for kids to basically do what they want with saws, hammers, nails, scrap wood, and paint. There's a zip line with a sand-pile for crash landings, and some structures that evolve daily with kids input. There's almost no rules, yet kids don't seem to get hurt in a way that tears and time won't fix. Highly recommended for kids 5 to 12 or so

There's a play area for younger kids right next door, with reasonably nice bathrooms and drinking water. This area is somewhat sheltered from the wind when it's howling along the waterfront

We cut through the parking lot at His Lordships restaurant and ride by the crashing waves to the foot of the Berkeley Pier. This 3 mile pier was a primary commercial artery in the early days, now only the first mile is maintained as a fishing pier (no California license required on a public pier, but be careful what you eat out of the SF bay)

We are late for dinner, so we hurry home on the North sidewalk along University Avenue, cutting back to the waterfront path next to the little convenience store where we always buy worms when we go fishing here. We take the same route home, completing a nice one and a half hours at a leisurely kid-friendly pace.

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