Bike Date Friday: Riding South to Old Town Campbell

04 Aug

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.


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


3 responses to “Bike Date Friday: Riding South to Old Town Campbell

  1. Martin

    August 5, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Downtown Campbell is lively, for sure. They’ve done a great job revitalizing that town.

    One slight improvement in your route to get there would be to get off the Los Gatos Creek Trail north of Campbell Avenue, and to go through the parking lot of the Campbell Inn. That puts you on the right side (i.e. the north side) of Campbell Avenue, so you don’t have to cross it to continue on into downtown Campbell.

    Another suggestion: try one of the restaurants on Lincoln Avenue between Willow and Minnesota in Willow Glen (my home town) for another pleasant evening. (But reservations are recommended here as well.)

    • ladyfleur

      August 5, 2013 at 8:36 am

      Willow Glen is definitely on the list. Since it’s further out and days are getting shorter, I wanted to hit Campbell first. As for getting off the trail at the Campbell Inn, that means we would be riding on Campbell Ave to cross the creek, right?

      Looking at Google Streetview that doesn’t look very attractive to me. It’s shows four lanes, no bike lane and the road looks high-speed. Where we got on Campbell Ave at Gilman, the traffic had already slowed to near bumper-to-bumper so it was easy to take the lane.

  2. Martin

    August 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Yes, you ride on Campbell Ave. to cross the creek. But I am pretty sure that there IS a bike lane across the creek. It does disappear after a couple of blocks (I suppose it must at Page St.) where the city has placed a Share the Road sign. (But you have the same situation if you come in at Gilman.) I prefer this route to yours because at certain times the park is crowded with families and kids playing, and as I said, it avoids having to cross Campbell. But you do what you find most comfortable, of course.


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