Oh god, that lunch was good! After meandering through the dark recesses of the Port of Oakland and the varied, interesting neighborhoods on our very own local island, Alameda, we hit the jackpot with a fantastic mid-ride uppïges Mahlzeit (delicious meal!) at Speisekammer. But I’m jumping ahead…
The motivation for this ride (besides wanting to eat at Speisekammer, hence the Oktoberfest excuse) was to check out a part of the Bay Area I’d never been to, the Port of Oakland, despite having lived here almost my entire life. Unless you drive a big rig for a living or just dig container ships there seems to be no sane reason to venture anywhere near the Port. It’s a butt-ugly industrial area usually ruled by noxious, diesel exhaust emitting trucks and no where safe for cyclists to be riding. At least during the week. On the weekend the Port shuts down and it changes from “no-cyclists’-land” to an interesting area to explore on two wheels. The other reason was to check out Alameda; I hadn’t set foot there in almost twenty years and I was curious how the community has coped with the decommissioning of Alameda Naval Air Station.
After starting at Macarthur BART the six of us (Roger and I, Lamberto and Joe, Joseph, and Omar) rolled out to the Alex Zuckerman Path but then took the detour to the Port instead of heading out onto the Bay Bridge. It got gritty pretty quickly: bumpy, urban debris, and the occasional homeless person with supermarket cart. There was a complete absence of big rigs; in fact the entire time we were out there we encountered just three (!) cars. The Port was absolutely asleep; the most exciting activity we saw was a group of workers crudely lopping off the tops of a row of streetside trees (I guess professional arborists were too expensive to hire). What we did discover is that the perimeter of the Port has a couple of hidden parks, parks that are probably savored by port workers on their lunch breaks, Port View Park and Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. Who else goes there? They aren’t near any housing, shopping areas, or anything even slightly attractive. Right on the water these quiet refuges seemed disconsolately parked opposite the cranes that unload all those ships from China. But they afford really nice views of San Francisco and Treasure Island as well as any container ships! The latter park even had a three-story tall observation deck with binoculars so you could really see the sights!
After checking out a few gravel paths we were soon back in Oakland proper and rolled through Jack London Square before we were back to Gritty Part II on the Embarcadero, the frontage road of the Nimitz. The good news is that there is now a marked bike lane on the Embarcadero and although not mobbed with cyclists, it was at least being used despite the car traffic. Once we crossed the Park Street bridge to Alameda the traffic suddenly became more intense but not intolerable. Alameda being less industrial and more residential, local cars were out doing Saturday errands and judging from the playing fields, were full of parents hauling their kids to baseball or soccer games. We explored counterclockwise the perimeter of the island all the way to Point Alameda, the former Naval Air Station. The last time I was there the Navy was just shutting down. Since then not much as changed. When you enter you’re greeted by a fighter jet on a pedestal and a long row of barracks now empty, boarded up and full of broken windows. But the playing fields were full of kids and the parking lots were completely full! At the edge of the old landing fields the large warehouse/hangars have been taken over by a distillery, a beer brewery, and a wine company. Another hangar has become an indoor roller hockey site and fitness club that was also bustling with young adults. Otherwise there wasn’t much other development, which is probably bad for the City of Alameda but meant that the former military site is still evocative of its past. We stopped at the USS Hornet Museum—how many of you know that this renowned warship is even parked in the middle of the Bay Area?? This historic naval vessel played a huge role in the Pacific front during WWII including at Iwo Jima. In later life it also recovered the returning Apollo astronauts from the first landing on the moon. We didn’t go in (we were getting very hungry) and will save that for another visit.
We hied through residential Alameda along Shoreline Drive, where Alameda has a beautiful beach and new (well, new to me) protected bike lane. Along the way we got a very interesting tour of the housing in Alameda. We passed a slew of Craftsman, Mediterranean, and Victorian houses—who knew that Alameda was full of Victorians!—in beautiful condition too. There were also scads of hideous 1960s duplexes and some weird apartment buildings but given the expensive cars—e.g. Porsche 911s—in front I’m guessing they’re no deals. Alameda is like a living housing museum and the eastern side of the island away from the former base has beautiful neighborhoods, like something out of Mayberry RFD.
Well, we finally made it to Speisekammer, which is just off the main drag, Park Street. It has plenty of outdoor seating with umbrellas and bike rack for convenient parking within easy eye view. The day started off overcast but by the time we were at Speisekammer it was brightly sunny and balmy mid-70s temp so we opted for the outdoor tables. We ended up with quite a diverse lunch. Roger was channeling Berlin and ordered a currywurst with a pretzel; Joe had the vegetable strudel with goat cheese; I, the “farmer’s breakfast” (eggs mixed with yummy roasted potatoes and bacon); Lamberto, the Bratwurst with sauerkraut; Joseph, the Weisswurst; and Omar, the pork roast. Yeah, it was that good. Oh yeah, and there were a few beers to celebrate Oktoberfest. Judging by the crowd, Speisekammer is a very popular place, and a great spot to have a mid-ride food orgy. Well, sort of…after those beers we still had to do a few miles back to BART before napping was allowed. But this was a Social Ride, so it was all mighty, mighty good. Next month: the Baltic at Point Richmond for yet more German food!