Category Archives: Bike Date

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.


Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Bike Date


Bike Date Good Friday, Bike Date Easter Sunday

In my parent’s generation, Catholics ate fish on Fridays to observe the day that Jesus died. Back home in South Louisiana, where seafood is fresh and abundant, eating fish hardly seemed like a sacrifice. My dad’s town even had a fish man who came to town every Friday, ringing a bell for the housewives to come out and buy.

But it wasn’t always sac-a-lait and crawfish for me. I ate my fair share of tuna casserole and fish sticks during Lent and was happy to do it. So it just seemed right that Dick and I are more modestly on Good Friday than on our usual Bike Date Fridays. Our choice: counter-service fish and chips at Cook’s Seafood in Menlo Park.

Fish & Chips at Cooks

It was nothing like the frozen fish sticks I ate as a kid. Nice firm, flaky halibut with a crispy, non-greasy batter. But don’t take my word for it, fish & chips is a favorite of Dick’s and he declared them top-tier.

If we were back home for Easter, we’d be having a big meal with my big family, perhaps even a crawfish boil. I usually plan a special dinner for just us two, but this year we rode up to the Gamble Garden for a impromptu bike picnic. Who cares that the weather report said rain by 3 o’clock?

Front Basket

Unlike our last bike picnic at the Gamble Garden, we kept it simple, packing a few things from home and grabbing sushi from Whole Foods on the way. There were a few sprinkles, but the rain didn’t come. The garden was busy with visitors, but we got a quiet picnic table under a big oak tree. It was a refreshing change from the usual holiday meal. And we got to see the glorious tulips and daffodils blooming in the garden.

Tulips & Daffodills

Do you celebrate Easter or another Spring holiday with a special meal? Where do you go? What do you eat? Do you like to mix it up from year to year or are you a traditionalist?

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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 March 31, 2013 in Bike Date


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Bike Date Friday: Oktoberfest at Teske’s in San Jose

“Prost!” That’s about all we could muster as the crowd in the beer garden chanted “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!” and “Eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa, Zicke-Zacke-Zicke-Zacke Hoy, Hoy, Hoy!” at the urging of the band. It’s Oktoberfest time not only in Bavaria, but all over the world, including Teske’s Germania in San Jose.

Teske’s is an institution in downtown San Jose, a family-run restaurant serving traditional German fare for decades. Set on the outskirts of downtown in a Victorian building surrounded by new office buildings and expansive parking lots, Teske’s and its neighbor Trials Pub are an oasis of fun on an otherwise bleak block.

Years ago I ate in the indoor dining room at Teske’s, but celebrating Oktoberfest in the beer garden with a live band was a completely different experience. The band was much more fun than anticipated and the shared long tables had us rubbing elbows with a variety of folks, from octogenarians with noteworthy dancing skills, to a trio of beer loving guys with a hankering for over-sized portions of meat.

For all of them and for us, Teske’s delivered: beer, meat and dancing in unusual setting. Not quite Bavaria, but definitely worth the short ride from the Caltrain station. And if you are drinking your beer from the larger liter-sized steins in true Oktoberfest style, there’s the VTA light rail that runs right past Teske’s front door.

Are you an Oktoberfest fan? If so, what is the biggest attraction for you: music, beer, or hearty German food?

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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 September 30, 2012 in Bike Date


Bike Date Goes to the Movies: Premium Rush

Have car chase movies jumped the shark? Sadly, no. But I was delighted to see the chase movie genre has expanded to include bicycles in Premium Rush. Think of it as Smokey and the Bandit with bike messengers and NYPD cops instead of truck-driving southerners and good old boy county sheriffs and deputies.

At first, Dick and I weren’t sure if we wanted to see it. Cyclists already get such a bad rap as scofflaws with no regard for safety–theirs or anyone else’s. Why pay to see a movie about the jerks that give us all a bad name?

We went anyway and we’re glad we did. I won’t give out any spoilers, so let’s just say that that aside from promoting the misguided notion that fixed gear bikes can’t stop without a brake, and fueling the anti-bike crowd’s claims that cyclists have ruined New York City, the movie is great fun.

The action is fast, the bike handling is superb, and you genuinely like the heroes even if they ride like crazed, well, bike messengers. And the dirty cop villain alone is worth the price of admission. Unlike most action movies, there were no guns, almost no special effects, and the actors had the skills to do many of the bike stunts themselves. Best of all, the movie proves without a doubt that bikes have the upper hand in heavy traffic.

My only fear: boosted by the popularity of Smokey and the Bandit, sales of the Pontiac Trans Am jumped 70% in two years after the movie release. Let’s hope Premium Rush doesn’t boost brakeless fixie sales in the same way. There are enough bike messenger wannabees out there already.

Do you think that a movie like Premium Rush makes cyclists look bad? What about car chase movies, do you think they make drivers look bad? Is it somehow different?

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 September 3, 2012 in Bike Date


Bike Date Friday Returns at the Empire Tap Room

For the past two years, Dick and I have gone out to dinner every Friday night. The rules are simple: eat at a different restaurant every week and arrive by bike. If it’s raining, we grab a big umbrella and walk instead. In June Dick went in for minor surgery that kept him off the bike until last week. On Friday, we celebrated with our first Bike Date Friday in six weeks. We were both very excited.

For this special comeback dinner, we chose the Empire Tap Room in Palo Alto. We wanted to enjoy their patio before summer ended and somehow a place named Empire seemed right during the London Olympics. The ratings on Yelp were only average, but since we’ve eaten at almost everywhere in Palo Alto we took a chance.

Dick met me at the Caltrain station in Mountain View and we rode the seven miles to Palo Alto together, pedaling hard to make our reservation. I always forget to add extra time to account for the strong headwind you face riding up the Peninsula on a summer evening.

We arrived just a few minutes late for our reservation and quickly relaxed at out table on the patio. The cocktails, appetizers, entree, dessert and ambiance were all very good. I don’t know what the reviewers were expecting. But the relaxed ride home in the fading light was priceless. Walking home after a date is romantic, but not as romantic as a twilight cruise on our bikes after an exceptional dinner out.

What would you miss most if you couldn’t ride your bike? Where would you go first once you were back on it?

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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 7, 2012 in Bike Date


Bike Date: Time Stands Still at Vahl’s in Alviso

Rolling up to it, the flickering old neon sign looked like it came straight out of 1952. Walking in, I felt like I was in a Scorsese film. Seriously. It was like time capsule where you have a big dining area, some old décor and well, pretty much a mixture of old charm ambiance and glossy-pink and baby-blue cake frosting painted walls.

I think the bar is the only reason why this place is still open. There are always a handful of locals in here, which accounts for about 75% of the Alviso population. If you read all the reviews, you’ll find they all say the exact same thing. But depending on the kind of person you are, it will either be a 1-star or a 5-star. For me, a 5-star.

Truthfully, the reviews on Yelp are where I stole everything I wrote above (including the title) from five different reviewers. Call me a plagiarist. The reviews and the retro building have intrigued me for so long that Vahl’s has been on our Bike Date Friday bucket list since I worked in Palo Alto, about 12 miles north on the Bay Trail.

After I moved to my new job just six mile south on the Guadalupe River Trail, it moved up on the list. But it took an upcoming 10 month closure to pave the trail to get us down there last Friday. It was well worth the sketchy gravel ride on our touring bikes with overfilled tires. Why did we fill them to 90+ psi?

Along the way to Alviso we crossed the river to see the James Lick Mill and Mansion. Built in 1855, when there were few settlers in the area, it’s now surrounded by suburbia, smack dab in the middle of an apartment complex. I correct myself, a luxury gated apartment community. Since we arrived just past the official 9am-6pm visiting hours, a helpful resident let us through the gate to see the mansion and the mill.

The story of James Lick has the makings of a Gabriel García Márquez novel: an unplanned pregnancy, a father refusing his daughter’s hand to a man of no means, the young man escaping to Argentina, Peru and then San Francisco to make his fortune in a lifelong battle to win his bride. Monetary success, romantic failure, and a legacy that lives today. I can’t do the story justice here. I encourage you to read about his amazing life.

Fast forward a few miles and a century later and we’re at Vahl’s in Alviso drinking Manhattans and eating what was considered upscale Italian in the 1950s in a dining room of mixed vintage–none of it currently in fashion. Meanwhile, the real soul of Vahl’s is carrying on in the bar, where a packed house of 80-somethings were belting out the hits of another generation, karaoke style, and shuffling along cheek to cheek.

“Anything that’s older than my parents has longevity for a reason,” one of the Yelp reviewers wrote. How true. Another wrote: “The fact that a place like Vahl’s still exists and is not overrun with people under the age of 30 is empirical evidence that Hipsters do not exist in the South Bay.” I don’t think that’s true, they just haven’t followed the Guadalupe River down to Alviso yet. I’m hoping the hipsters don’t find Vahl’s before we make it back there.

Is there a place near you that’s stuck in a time warp? Would you be sad if it went away–or worse, remodeled?

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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 June 19, 2012 in Bike Date, Local History


Bike Date Friday: Under the Big Top

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?

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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 April 14, 2012 in Bike Date

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