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Category Archives: Bike Date

Bike Date Profile: Playground Fun in San Carlos

If you see a mother pedaling two towhead toddlers in a Dutch-style bakfiets in San Carlos, it’s probably Tyra. Tyra’s husband was itching to buy this classic cargo bike when her daughter was born, but until they moved to London she had no interest. After dragging kids and a stroller on the underground and on buses to get around the city, Tyra decided to give a bakfiets a chance. They all loved the bakfiets so much they shipped it here when they moved back to the US, where they find it just as useful as was in London.

Tyra and her kids ride everywhere within a 2-3 mile distance from home: to stores, to the post office, to her daughter’s preschool. But their favorite destination is a playground that’s nearly a mile away. It’s a bit far for preschoolers to walk, but no sweat for the three of them on a cargo bike. No hot cars to hop into, no squeezing in and bending over to latch car seats, and the fun starts as soon as they roll down the driveway.

Bakfiets Portrait 2

The cargo box is big enough for two kids and toys for the playground, plus any purchases on the way home.

The venue: Burton Park Playground, San Carlos, California, USA

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Bike Date

 

Bike Date: Candice & Carmen at La Lune Sucrée

They met 26 years ago country line dancing in a bar on St John Street. Carmen was in a relationship, Candice wasn’t looking. After 10 years of mutual friends nudging them: “You two would be good together” and changes in status, they got together. Now, 16 years later, they’ve tightened the knot with a legal ceremony.

From their home in Naglee Park, it’s just a short roll across San Jose State University to La Lune Sucrée for a taste of Europe on a weekend morning: coffee, crepes, quiche and the finest pastries. All baked fresh by chef-owner Bettina, who learned first from her German mother, then honed her skills in Paris and England.

Candice & Carmen Portrait Wide

Outdoor seating on the Paseo de San Antonio means easy bike parking and plenty of opportunity to run into friends from the neighborhood. It’s not hard to see why Candice and Carmen are regulars.

The venue: La Lune Sucrée at 116 Paseo de San Antonio, San José, California, USA

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in Bike Date

 

Farm to Table to Happy Belly in Napa Valley

It’s Thanksgiving morning here in the US, and Dick and I will be celebrating with a fine feast like every red-blooded American. Since we’re up in Napa Valley celebrating Dick’s birthday, I’ll be spared the cooking and we’ll go out for our feast. Dick will certainly have the traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I may vary from the traditional script, who knows?

What I do know is that our dinner can’t possible top the “farm to table” dining experience we had at JoLē in Calistoga for Dick’s birthday the other night. Three courses chosen from a list of about a dozen plus dessert, with wine pairings for each course carefully selected by their sommelier. It was divine decadence.

Dick Birthday

With four courses of wine, thank goodness it wasn’t a bike date. We only had to stumble upstairs to our room.

Of course, a meal expertly prepared with quality local ingredients and paired with exceptional wines doesn’t come cheap. It was the most expensive dinner we’ve shared and we aren’t particularly frugal on our weekly bike dates. But why not, birthdays only come once a year and none of us is getting any younger.

What was the best meal you’ve ever shared? What made it exceptional?

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Bike Date, Other Stuff

 

Bike Date Profile: Ryan & Jessica at Cafe Stritch

Ryan and Jessica live in downtown San José not far from City Hall where Ryan works on bicycle and pedestrian programs for the Department of Transportation. They’re big fans of the SoFA district in general and Cafe Stritch in particular. It’s big enough for large groups with mobile furniture that’s easy to rearrange, a great feature since they almost always run into friends there. All it takes is a quick glance at the bike corral to know who’s around.

Cafe Stritch offers a great beer on tap (IPA for him, hefeweizen for her) and outdoor seating that’s refreshing on a warm evening. Stritch offers a variety of well-priced vegetarian dishes, including a vegan french dip sandwich and fries that’s a favorite. They’ve seen some incredible jazz bands perform there lately too.

Ryan & Jessica Portrait

Cafe Stritch is on the other side of downtown from their house, so although it’s just a short ride away, there are different routes to choose from and they pass a lot of interesting people and places along the way.

The venue: Cafe Stritch at 374 South 1st Street, San José, California, USA

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2013 in Bike Date, Cycle Fashions

 

Three Bikes for Three Courses: A Bike Share Date

It’s been three weeks since Bay Area Bike Share launched and given the number of blog posts I’ve written (six) and photos I’ve taken (hundreds) and public speaking I’ve done (ok, only once) it feels like a lot longer. It does feel weird to be promoting bike share since without a station near my home or work, I don’t have many natural opportunities to use it. And Dick hadn’t even tried it yet since he missed out on the trip to San Francisco.

It was time to get creative with a Bike Date Friday hopping around downtown San Jose on bike share.

1st Street Bus Lane

As usual, Dick came down on Caltrain and I met him at the station. But this time we locked up our bikes and checked out our first pair of bike share bikes. First course: cocktails at Cafe Stritch on South First Street. Cafe Stritch is a rare place that feels comfortable for both 20-somethings and their parents, so we fit right in. The cocktails straddled old-school and modern, just like their patrons. A good choice for our first course.

Cafe Stritch

From Cafe Stritch it was a short bike share hop up First Street, then across to the comfy bike lanes on Almaden Boulevard where we redocked the bike pair #2 at Santa Clara Street. It took Dick a few tries to get it right.

Push Hard at Almaden Station

Our dinner destination was The Farmers Union, a new place specializing in hearty American favorites reinterpreted for a new generation in an upscale sports bar setting. We chose an oversized booth with minimal big screen intrusion and a view of the parade of people walking and biking on San Pedro Street.

I enjoyed my Roast Chicken with Mac and Cheese and Dick enjoyed his Bangers and Mash. But it was the Poutine that has me craving a trip back. Hmm, how long would it take to ride there for lunch?

Poutine at Farmers Union

With all the Poutine and Mac and Cheese, I had very little room left for dessert, but we had another course to go. No bike this time, just a short walk down to the ever-popular San Pedro Square Market.

San Pedro Square

We grabbed dessert from Chocatoo and managed to find a quiet table on the sidewalk that was perfect for people watching. There were plenty of people out and about on the warm night. Then it was back to our fourth bike share station to grab our third pair of bikes for the trip back to Caltrain. So much fun, we added an extra loop out to City Hall and the wide bike lanes on Fourth Street. As usual, a great finish a lovely night out.

When you go out, are you a hot spot hopper or do you prefer to settle into one place? Would bike share help connect your favorite spots in your city or are they all clustered in one district?

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About our route: We covered about four miles in three bike share legs and one walking section (orange). With bike share we were able to not only easily travel from Caltrain to downtown, we were also able to easily connect the South First and San Pedro Street entertainment districts. A win all around.

Route Map

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Bike Date

 

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Bike Date Friday: Riding South to Old Town Campbell

Choosing a different place every week for our bike dates is easier than you might think. Here on the San Francisco Peninsula, there are small cities every few miles with historic downtowns offering plenty of dining options. Within five miles of our home there are hundreds of restaurants in Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos and Sunnyvale. By hopping on Caltrain we’ve gone north to Burlingame, San Mateo and San Carlos.

Going south is trickier. While San Jose has great spots downtown and new bike lanes that make bicycling pleasant, as you go further south, the valley widens and becomes more suburban. The restaurants are more likely to be in strip malls than walking districts, the roads are designed to move cars fast, and neighborhood streets are labyrinths to keep cars from cutting through. Not a recipe for a fun bike date.

But there’s a sneaky way out of downtown San Jose to the trail along Los Gatos Creek, I discovered. So last Friday, we rode south five miles through Willow Glen to the old railroad and orchard town of Campbell. (map)

Los Gatos Creek Trail San Jose

When the railroad came to Santa Clara Valley, the crops shifted from easy-to-transport grains like wheat to perishable orchard fruits like apricots, peaches, pears and plums. The process for canning fruit was developed in the Dawson family’s woodshed along the Alameda at Taylor Street in San Jose in 1871. Orchards filled the Valley of Heart’s Delight and fruit drying yards and canneries were built along the rail lines.

The orchards and canneries have been largely replaced by office parks and suburban housing, but we could see signs here and there on our ride down to Campbell: old Del Monte canneries converted to townhouses and lofts in San Jose, and turn-of-the century buildings and the 1928 water tower in Campbell.

Campbell Water Tower

When we rolled across the Los Gatos Creek bridge and into Campbell, downtown was hopping. A band was playing on the corner, classic cars were cruising the streets and everyone was out for First Fridays. I was glad we had dinner reservations. It would have been tough finding a table, even though it wasn’t 7 o’clock yet.

Lowrider Caddy

After dinner we strolled the avenue checking out the bands, the still-open shops and classic cars before riding back up to San Jose. Next month’s First Fridays theme is “Cyclemania.” We may have to come back then and bring a few bike friends. I even scoped out a couple of restaurants just in case.

When you ride from home, do you favor one direction over another? What makes you turn south vs north or east vs west?

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Bike Date, Local History

 

Nothing Stirs Up Trouble Like a Bike Date

When the editor of my local newspaper asked me to write a weekly bike blog for their online edition, I was interested but concerned. The Mountain View Voice has a reputation for attracting nasty comments about cyclists, even on stories where bikes aren’t involved. Like a story about man in a wheelchair who was struck by a car in a hit and run. The victim was using the bike lane so I guess that made it fair game for anti-bike rants.

But I knew that writing about fun things to do on a bike might get more people off the couch and into the saddle, so I forged ahead into the unknown. After five weeks, I had only positive comments for stories on topics like how to get an old bike rolling again, the best ice cream shops to bike to, and how to find secret bike-only passages. So I was genuinely surprised which story brought out the bike haters: “The Rolling Romance of a Bike Date”.

Bike Date Wide

Here’s what I wrote. What do you think set the bike haters off?

A few years ago my husband Dick and I were in a dining rut. Unlike when we were dating, we just didn’t go out anymore. We decided that we needed a standing weekly date night, one set in stone on our calendars. Otherwise, it would be too easy to say we were too tired, or to fritter away time at home and then decide to eat in rather than face the crowds and a long wait for a table.

Dick’s day off from work was Friday, so that was an easy decision. I wanted the romance of him picking me up like a real date, so Dick offered to come by my workplace and get me. The twist: since I rode my bike to work, he would ride his bike too.

At the time I was working in Palo Alto, where a seemingly limitless choice of restaurants were a short ride from my office near the Baylands. That first Friday, I waited for him in front of my office building with all the excitement of any first date. When he rolled up I was tickled to see he was wearing a nice sweater and his going-out shoes. He had swapped the clip-in pedals on his bike for flat pedals just for our date.

We rode across the bike bridge over Hwy 101, rolled down to University Avenue for a relaxed and tasty Italian dinner, and then cruised home by the light of a full moon. With rush hour long over, the neighborhood streets were quiet and peaceful so we continued our dinner chat the whole way home. It was a very romantic night.

That’s why nearly three years later, we’re still at what we now call Bike Date Friday. The rules are simple: we eat at a different restaurant every week and we arrive by bike. In the winter we grab heavy coats and bright lights. If it’s drizzling, we grab our raincoats. And if it’s raining hard, we grab a big umbrella and walk the mile to Castro Street.

Now that I work near the airport in San Jose and commute on Caltrain with my bike, our options have expanded. Sometimes we meet at the Diridon Caltrain station and eat in downtown San Jose. Sometimes we meet at the Mountain View Caltrain station and ride across town or to Palo Alto, Los Altos or Sunnyvale. And sometimes we meet on a northbound train for dining in San Carlos, San Mateo and beyond.

In three years, we have yet to exhaust all our dining options. Some restaurants have been better than others and some routes were more fun than others. But one thing’s for sure: our dining rut is now a romantic roll.

The rest of the story gave some tips on where to go for an easy first date, how to pick a route, and a reminder to bring bike lights, including the laws related to riding after dark. Nothing controversial in my book.

My Dutch Bike Landscape M

The initial comments were not kind. The first was simply: “Or you could just drive.” The second was more harsh.

I just wasted 2 minutes of my life reading this, and probably 2 more responding. Who cares? You have a job you say? And still find time to write this article? When you worked in Palo Alto you said you crossed over 101, did you work in east palo? Or just dine there? Cause I’m sure the latter would make for a better article.

Whoa! Where did that come from? Riding bikes out to dinner is so far-fetched that I must be lying about even having a job? (For the non-locals: East Palo Alto is lower income with higher crime rate than Palo Alto) I responded in a non-challenging way and encouraged a few friends to comment with something positive. I didn’t want readers to only see rude reactions from grumpy people.

When I reflect on these reactions, my take is that I indirectly exposed how far and wide a bike can take you. In three years, we’ve gone out to different places every week through all sorts of weather, after dark, and in dress clothing without a car. I think it make people defensive because it takes away excuses why bicycling can’t possibly work. It’s one thing to talk about recreational rides to ice cream shops or to see a historic farm, but riding to dinner in the rain at night in a dress? That’s radical behavior.

It really doesn’t matter what the haters and naysayers think, we’re finding plenty of people out on bike dates, especially in the warm months. I was only a little surprised to see families with young kids out in downtown San Jose last Friday night. Considering downtown San Jose didn’t have much bike action or action in general a decade ago, that’s pretty darn impressive. And the kids were pretty darn happy too.

What radical bike behaviors have you been doing? How are you challenging the status quo?

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Bike Date

 
 
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