Monthly Archives: June 2013

All Day Fun for an All-American Holiday

This story originally appeared in Bike Fun in the online edition of the Mountain View Voice on June 27, 2013.

Parades, picnics and fireworks, and everything decked out in red, white and blue. That’s what the Fourth of July meant to me as a kid and it’s what I look for to celebrate our nation’s day of independence. Fortunately, these traditions live on in our area so that today’s youngsters can experience summer’s biggest holiday the good old-fashioned way.

There’s something for everyone throughout the day–morning, noon and night–and it’s even better if you bring a bike along for the Fourth of July fun.

Morning: Rose, White and Blue Parade in San Jose
I’m a little disappointed that there’s not a big parade closer to home, but San Jose’s Alameda Business District is hosting their grand Rose White & Blue Parade. The parade’s roots began in 1896 with a Rose Carnival, which evolved into the Fiesta de Las Rosas from 1926 to 1969 and was revived as today’s parade. The parade starts at 10 am from Lincoln High School in San Jose and wends its way through the Rose Garden neighborhood and down the shady historic district on The Alameda.

People on bikes, scooters, strollers or roller skates are welcome to join the parade and are encouraged to decorate them in roses, red, white and blue. Organizers will also have some decorations available the morning of the parade for those who need them. Just show up and sign up that morning starting at 8:30 am to decorate and be ready to ride by 10 am.

How to Get There: If you want to ride in the parade, you will need to take the VTA 22 bus on El Camino or drive to get there in time. To watch the parade, you can also take Caltrain from downtown Mountain View and walk or bike a mile to the parade route, or take the slower VTA 22 bus which should take you directly to the parade route. Note that transit will be on a holiday schedule.

Noon: Palo Alto Summer Festival & Chili Cook-off
A tradition for over 30 years in Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, the festival features live music and children’s activities including jumpy houses, balloon artist, face painting from noon-5 pm. But the highlight of the event is tasting a wide range of red-hot chili prepared by chefs battling for the chili championship. Chili tasting starts at 1:30 pm. There’s a small fee to taste.

How to Get There: Mitchell Park is on the South side of Palo Alto, so it’s an easy bike ride from Mountain View. See the map for bike routes ideas. Don’t forget to bring a bike lock.

Night: Shoreline Amphitheatre July 4th Fireworks with the San Francisco Symphony.
As Mountain View residents, we get special perks for certain events at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, like the San Francisco Symphony’s July 4th concert. It’s too late this year to get in on the 2,000 free tickets for residents, but discounted lawn seats for $13.50 are available until the day of the show, which starts with a Radio Disney Family Festival at 5 pm.

The fireworks at the end of the concert draw even more people to the area, and you don’t need a ticket to see them. The trick to getting close enough for a good view is to take the Permanente Creek Trail and find a spot on the golf course, or take the Stevens Creek Trail to my favorite spot, the grassy kite flying area near Shoreline Park entrance. The fireworks usually start after dark (between 9:15 and 9:30 pm) so you’ll need an extra layer of clothing to keep warm and bike lights for the ride home.

How to Get There: For the concert or fireworks, take either the Permanente or Stevens Creek Trails. The concert offers supervised bike parking near the amphitheatre entrance. After the show, the trails will be crowded. Expect to walk or ride your bike slowly on the trails until the crowds thin out.

Tips for Decorating Your Bike

Bike decorations don’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but they have to stay put when the bike is moving without endangering the rider. So far I have 100% success in that department, unless you count ripping the crepe paper woven in my spokes when pumping my tires.

While decorating a bike is like a kid’s craft project where almost anything goes, here are my top tips:

* For virtually free decorations, grab images off the internet and print them on card stock.
* If you shop at a party store, set a budget before you go in. It’s easy to overspend.
* If you ride after dark, battery operated lights punch up whatever else you do.
* Zip ties are the #1 way to attach things, but sticky backed Velcro, rubber bands and ordinary tape work too.

RESOURCES
San Jose Rose, White & Blue Parade: http://www.rosewhiteblueparade.com/
Palo Alto Summer Festival and Chili Cook-Off: http://bit.ly/190k6xv
Shoreline Amphitheatre 4th of July Concert & Fireworks: http://bit.ly/119bJgK
Fourth of July Bike Fun Map: http://goo.gl/maps/C4DWh

Independence Day Bike

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The Rolling Romance of a Bike Date

This story originally appeared in Bike Fun in the online edition of the Mountain View Voice on June 20, 2013.

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.

Planning the Perfect Bike Date

For your first date, keep it simple and stay closer to home. Castro Street is a perfect destination since it’s within three miles of home for almost every Mountain View resident. To make the bike ride a bigger part of the date, head across town or to a neighboring city. The map link below shows our preferred quiet neighborhood routes to destinations like University Avenue and Town & Country in Palo Alto, Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale, downtown Los Altos, and more.

More Tips for Bike Dates

* Choose a calm route, even if it takes longer, so you can chat. It’s a date, not a race to get to work on time.
* If you ride slowly you won’t sweat much, so can wear nicer clothes if you like. I love riding in dresses.
* Bring front and rear lights for evening dates, even now when the sun doesn’t go down until 8:30 pm. Dinner may take longer than you think and it would be a shame to have to skip dessert to beat the sunset.

About Bike Lights. To ride legally and safely at night, you need: a front light that’s visible from the front and side at 300 feet away; a red reflector visible from the rear; and white or yellow reflectors on your wheels and pedals, shoes or ankles. A red rear light is very highly recommended. I also installed amber spoke lights to make my bike more visible from the side. Don’t forget that people out walking don’t have headlights to hit the reflectors.

Have you ever gone out on a date on a bike? If so, where did you go? If not, where would you go?

RESOURCES
Bike Date Map: http://goo.gl/maps/QnMmo
Restaurants Reviews on Yelp: http://bit.ly/10zsOmo

Bike Date at Cafe Vitale

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Where Grant Road Ends, A Farm Lives On

This story originally appeared in Bike Fun in the online edition of the Mountain View Voice on June 13, 2013.

Baby goats frolic, piglets squeal, and little children frolic and squeal along with them at Deer Hollow Farm. Nestled in a small valley where the hills open up to Santa Clara Valley, the farm lets visitors imagine farm life in the 1800s on a working homestead with the complete range of livestock, orchards, gardens, tools and historic buildings. The farm and the surrounding Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve draw large crowds, so finding a parking spot on a weekend can feel like striking gold.

But for those in the know, there’s a more pleasant way to enter the park that’s only open for people on bikes or on foot. To find this secret passage to the farm, follow Grant Road to St Joseph’s Avenue. The connection becomes obvious once you learn that back in the gold rush days, what’s now Deer Hollow Farm was the Grant Ranch, and that until the 1989 earthquake, the farm’s neighbor was St Joseph Seminary.

The Grant family bought the land for their ranch in the 1850s and worked it for almost 80 years, raising wheat, horses and dairy cows whose butter they sold in San Francisco after a long weekly wagon trip. Their neighbors the Snyders were the first in the area to grow grain crops without irrigation. The Snyder farm included a vineyard, a large winery and 25 acres of orchards.

Nowadays, the cash crops at the farm are fresh eggs, orchard fruits in season, compost and manure. The hens produce about four dozen eggs per day that sell out quickly. The farm opens at 8:00 am daily and an inside source tells me that by 8:30 the eggs are usually gone.

But the most popular attraction at Deer Hollow are the farm animals, especially when the babies are born in Spring. This year’s piglets were born in January, Luna the cow gave birth in February, and the newest additions are two sets of triplets: goat kids born to Jenny and Athena in May. And another nanny goat is due any day now. Hurry over to see these cuties, they grow fast.

If wild animals are more your interest, the nearby trails in the Rancho San Antonio open space are a great place to find mule deer, wild turkeys, quail, hawks and gopher snakes. The Rogue Valley trail is particularly active for wildlife in the evening. And if you’re lucky (or not) you may see the rare bobcat or rattlesnake. We have.

More things to do at Deer Hollow Farm:
* Hike up High Meadow Trail to the vista point hill. On a clear day you can see San Francisco and Oakland.
* Pack a lunch and picnic in the hay barn. Note that you’ll have to pack your garbage out with you.
* Check out the massive bay tree near the tennis courts. It’s the third largest in the state.
* On the third Saturday of the month, a nature center is open in the historic Apple Shed.
* Come back in October for Ohlone Days to learn how the area’s original residents lived off this rich land.

How to bike there: The route is not steep, but gradually climbs about 300 feet in about five miles from downtown Mountain View. The secret passage is at the end of St Joseph Avenue where the road is closed to cars at an Interstate 280 underpass. See map for route details.

RESOURCES
Bike Fun Map with Routes to Farm: http://goo.gl/maps/3aJm6
Bike Fun Photos of Deer Hollow Farm: http://bit.ly/11XxITT
Deer Hollow Farm Information: http://bit.ly/u6xmp

Barn & Tandem

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We All Scream for Ice Cream

This story originally appeared in Bike Fun in the online edition of the Mountain View Voice on June 6, 2013.

Hey parents, want to treat your kids for a good report card? Hey kids, want to treat your Dads for Father’s Day without breaking your piggy bank? Hop on your bikes and take them out for ice cream. You’ll find an ice cream, gelato or frozen yogurt shop in almost every neighborhood. And if you want to work up a bigger appetite, try biking to a shop on the other side of town.

With so many choices all over town, I’ve created a new map that adds ice cream shops to the Secret Passages map from last week (see link at the end). Here are a few that are fun for a bike outing on a warm day:

48 Flavors at Rick’s Ice Cream
For a good old fashioned, locally made ice cream shop, Rick’s Ice Cream has a surprising number of flavors with exotic ingredients: ginger, lavender, saffron and sea salt, to name a few. But don’t worry, kids, Rick’s also has kid-friendly exotics like Cotton Candy and Birthday Cake and traditional favorites like Rocky Road. Rick’s has ample shaded outdoor seating: two benches out front and large picnic tables for bigger groups.

To get there, cross San Antonio at the old Mayfield Mall and use the secret passage from Nelson Drive. Bike parking is available nearby on a large, school-style rack.

Frozen Yogurt vs Gelato: Faceoff on Castro Street
He says yogurt, she says gelato. To please everyone, head downtown where you’ll find Gelato Classico and Yoogl Frozen Yogurt Cafe right across from each other on Castro Street. There’s outdoor seating on cafe tables on the Gelato Classico side and planter bench seating on the Yoogl side. So everyone can get what he or she wants without having to ride all over town, and everyone can eat it together outside.

Bike parking is available along Castro Street, but these days it tends to fill quickly.

Sweeter with Candy at the Sweet Shop
What was once a small market on a country lane in Los Altos is now a destination no one with a sweet tooth should miss. For candy lovers, there’s a wall of delights of every variety, from jaw breakers to malt balls to sour gummy candies. For those seeking frozen treats, there are three flavors of yogurt with a wide assortment of toppings. The Sweet Shop is one of few stores outside of tourist locations that sells Dipping Dots.

From the south side of town, you can take Marich, Portola and Loucks Streets. From the northeast, you can take Monroe, Del Medio, Showers or Escuela, but you have make a jog after crossing El Camino that may have you walking on the sidewalk for a bit. Bike racks and a lovely shaded patio with tables are available.

Baskin-Robbins All Around Town
For over 60 years, nothing has defined American ice cream quite like Baskin-Robbins and their 31 flavors, one for each day of the month. Now available in 49 countries, it’s not surprising that there are three Baskin-Robbins locations within three miles of downtown: one on El Camino near the Sunnyvale border that’s easy to access from the Stevens Creek Trail, one on El Camino near Shoreline that’s convenient to McElvey ball field, and one in downtown Los Altos. This month’s Flavor of the Month is Triple Vanilla, which swirls three variations of America’s #1 ice cream flavor, which also happens to be Dick’s favorite.

See the map for details on bike parking and outdoor seating at each location.

Ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt: which way do you lean in the frozen treat standoff? Which shop is worth riding a few extra miles for the pleasure of summer’s favorite dessert?

RESOURCES
Bike Fun’s Ice Cream Shop Map: http://goo.gl/maps/zAhgp
Ice Cream Shop Reviews on Yelp: http://bit.ly/18U6cQ8

Ice Cream Profile

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