When I accepted my new job based in San Jose, over 10 miles from home, I didn’t know whether our Friday night bike dates would work. There are some good restaurants in downtown San Jose, but most of the routes home cross suburban style office parks and industrial areas with higher speed traffic. Hardly romantic. But after I shifted my commute to a combined bike + train ride, the opportunities opened right up. By putting the Caltrain in the mix, Dick and I can go out anywhere between San Jose and San Francisco.
I got the idea for our first San Jose bike date as I rode up the Guadalupe River Trail on my way to work. The big blue and yellow tents under the Taylor Street Bridge could only mean one thing: Cirque du Soliel was back in town! A couple of mouse clicks later back at my desk and we were set for the 8 o’clock Friday night show.
On show night I met Dick at the train station and we rode to San Pedro Square to grab a bite before the show. Vaguely reminiscent of Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale, San Pedro Square is a one-block historic district that was spared from urban development and now is primarily a restaurant row.
We made a quick decision, locked the bikes on a nearby bike rack, and got a table at San Pedro Bistro & Wine just in time to beat the crowd that soon developed in this relatively small restaurant. The food was better than average and we enjoyed a leisurely meal, neither rushed by the clock nor our server. Then it was back on the bikes and up the Guadalupe River Trail a couple of miles to the Cirque du Soliel big top.
We rolled past the expected line of cars waiting for parking and up to the gate, where I asked the attendant how to get to the bike rack I had seen when we rode past. “That bike rack is for employees only. We don’t have bike parking for attendees,” he said. “Then where can we park?,” we asked. He radioed in to ask the manager, then said we could lock up on the fence outside the gate. He assured us he would be standing nearby all night and would keep an eye on them. A kind gesture.
The show was everything I had come to expect from many years of Cirque du Soliel shows: athleticism, grace, drama and lyricism. What I didn’t expect was that the show ran over 2 1/2 hours with a 30 minute intermission. Their “Love” show we saw in Las Vegas ran only 90 minutes. With the last train leaving San Jose at 10:30 we had a tough decision: stay for the whole show or ride the 13 miles home late at night.
We wavered. Dick was tired from a hilly 50+ mile ride earlier that day, so we should take the train. But we’d miss the grand finale and the ride home is flat, so we should ride. When time came to leave for the train, Dick whispered: “Let’s ride.” So we did, rolling out past the pedicabs ferrying people back to their cars, over the Taylor Street Bridge, and into the dark.
The most direct route home was El Camino Real, a six lane road that serves as the commercial and retail backbone of the Peninsula. Definitely not a route to take during business hours. But after everything is closed and the wide parking lane is empty, it was surprisingly mellow. So mellow that we ended up taking El Camino the whole way up to Mountain View even after we could have turned off and ridden neighborhood streets. An hour later we were home, warm and safe in our beds just before midnight.
Have you ever been completely surprised how safe a seemingly scary bike route can be? Is there a route that you take only on the off-off hours?
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.