Once the mainstay of the club the social brunch ride has fallen onto hard times. Whether it’s just the times we live in or unnatural selection we just don’t have many short ambles that involve dining rather than velocity and lactate threshold as the goal. There was a time when Leon’s BBQ—now long gone *sob*—across from the San Francisco Zoo was a common Decide ’N Ride destination. Nowadays Spokers prefer to ride longer, faster, and dine on Clif bars or quick and lackluster sandwiches. So Roger and I didn’t expect a big turnout. We had four RSVPs but then the weather, a rare rainfall, led us to postpone the ride to the following day and we lost a couple. DSSF old-timer Sharon Lum and relative newcomer Bill Knutsen ended up joining us in what turned out to be the perfect day for a bike stroll, a fabulous brunch, and a view from the new Bay Bridge.
Fortunately the weather turned out to be spectacularly beautiful—mid-60s, bright sunshine, and light breeze—making any trepidation about having postponed the ride on short notice melt away. For those who don’t know, Assemble is the restaurant in the old Ford assembly plant right on the Bay in Richmond. It’s conveniently located on the Eastshore section of the Bay Trail, a very popular, easy cycling route from Emeryville all the way to Point Richmond. Their signature dish is a chicken pot pie but also make a variety of American comfort foods using ingredients from their organic garden. The ride along the Bay Trail has nearly continuous views of the Golden Gate and the Bay, and wetland restoration has turned former garbage dumps into pleasant, natural retreats in our highly urbanized environment. Old-timers will recall that the area along the Emeryville section of I-80 was populated by junk and driftwood, which intrepid artists turned into whimsical sculptures; only a few remain today.
We met at Macarthur BART and rolled down 40th Street bikeway to the Emeryville IKEA, making our way under I-80 onto the Bay Trail. Because it was a sunny Sunday morning other cyclists, joggers, and strollers were out in force. But we weren’t hurrying the pace so it didn’t matter. Bill was recovering from a nasty cold, which was also keeping Wandersen too ill to ride that day. Sharon, who came out of cycling retirement for Derek’s Old Farts Confab a few weeks ago, really hadn’t been riding her bike in earnest for eons; she came up from San Jose because she was curious about the Rosie the Riveter Museum, which is next door to Assemble. The ride was essentially one long, ambling conversation. Bill and I rode mostly within earshot of each other while Roger and Sharon chatted quietly in the back. Consequently I didn’t hear much of what they were chatting about. I don’t recall all the details but Bill did recount his and Wandersen’s recent ocean cruise, the niceties of winter in Chicago, how he met Wandersen, and how icky his cold was. The excitement of the day was contending with the traffic going into Golden Gate Fields for race day. Although Roger and I had ridden through the horse track grounds many times it has never been on a race day and consequently it has been empty and barren. But not this day! Cars were streaming into their vast lot and filling it quickly. Golden Gate Fields also has the only hill on this section of the Bay Trail, a steep but mere blip.
Once at Assemble we didn’t have to wait long for a table. The interior is industrial chic and I was surprised it wasn’t jammed on such a great day; perhaps people were outside having too much fun? Roger and Sharon had the chilaquiles, Bill the sliders with fries, and I the fish and chips; Roger and I also split a bowl of potato kale soup. On paper they sound mundane but in execution Assemble’s dishes were definitely a notch above. Thusly sated we lolled a bit outside and peeked in the Rosie the Riveter Museum before heading back. Everyone decided to check out the Alex Zuckerman bike path onto the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, so we rolled back through Emeryville into a stiff headwind coming through the Golden Gate. If you haven’t been on our very own ‘bridge to nowhere’, you’re missing something special. It’s about eight miles out and back, and if the weather is good (and it was) you’ll get unusual views of the Bay as well as an up-close-and-personal view of the deconstruction of the old eastern span. At the end you’re almost within touching distance of Yerba Buena Island. Signage indicated that the path is scheduled to be completed by this summer! I rather doubt it seeing that the gap between the existing path and Yerba Buena is still ‘challenging’. But when it is completed it will be a splendid ride out into the middle of the Bay and no doubt we’ll plan a fab brunch on Treasure Island!!