Ride Recap: Social Ride-Lunch at the Prolific Oven

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Almost all of our Social Rides taking place in the immediate Bay Area originate at BART stations in order to make it easy and convenient for you all to get to the start without having to jump into a car—if you even own a car. Last Saturday’s ride started at Union City BART but only Roy came by train; everyone else drove! Perhaps BART’s many recent “challenges” swayed people into driving rather than risk another long delay in the system. As if on cue the elevator at Union City BART was out of order. So despite our generally effete efforts at living a quasi-green lifestyle Roger and I drove too because hauling his e-bike, which weighs like a kazillion pounds, up and down the stairs from the platform wasn’t an alluring prospect. Maybe next time we’ll just skip the pretense and start nowhere near BART!

Donald, Roy, Lamberto and Joe joined Roger and me for a longish Social Ride across the Dunbarton Bridge to the Arastradero Preserve above Palo Alto and then lunch at the heavenly Prolific Oven. Our rides, unlike almost all the club’s other rides, are oriented toward flatter and shorter routes in order to provide an opportunity for non-animals to ride together without fear that the group will vanish off into the distance. Last month’s ride up the Cummings Skyway had perhaps a challenging amount of vertical but reasonable distance whereas this month’s ride at 46 miles was on the long side yet the total vertical ascent was under 1,000 ft—unusual for a Bay Area ride!

We lucked out with the weather: it was sunny and not-too-hot, not-too-cool, with a light breeze almost the entire day. Starting at UC BART means riding through icky traffic but we managed to escape temporarily by cutting through Ardenwood Historic Farm, which just happened to have a Scottish Festival taking place. Ardenwood is right next to Highway 84 on the way to the Dunbarton toll plaza. I’ve probably passed it a thousand times in a car but until yesterday I had never set foot there. What a mistake! It’s a pleasant rural oasis in the middle of burgeoning Fremont: it’s like being in the countryside. And, unlike the farmland in Contra Costa County it’s in no danger of being turned into a housing tract or a business park because it’s owned by the East Bay Regional Park District. After a pit stop at the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge we literally bounced along the decrepit Marshlands Road up to the bridge. The pavement is deteriorating, and with no reason to be maintained—it’s only used by cyclists heading to the bridge and by a few fisherman heading to a pier—it’s only going to get worse. We were hunting for the few smooth sections of the road, which mostly happened to be a thin, white strip no more than six inches wide—good practice at riding a straight line.

Once over the bridge we rolled through Belle Haven, which was the low income area on the other side of 101 from tonier Menlo Park. Perhaps it’s still “low income” if by the term you mean modest-houses-starting-at-merely-a-million-dollars. A quick hop over a pedestrian/bike overpass to 101 and we were in the “where the 1% live” zone. Eventually we made our way through the Midpeninsula suburbs to the outer reaches of Palo Alto and the Arastradero Preserve, another important piece of open space. Housing and business were starting to nibble at the edges of Arastradero Road until the Preserve put an end to such nonsense a few decades ago. While taking a break at the Preserve we ran into a unicyclist heading up the trail, quite a sight to see him ascend! We also ran into a women on a brand new e-bike with the Shimano E-Steps system. When asked what she thought of it she said she loves it! Shimano is the first big bicycle equipment manufacturer to get into the e-bike motor business and they are just going to clean up; the motor looks to be a bit lighter than Roger’s Bosch system and the batteries are comparable in size and power.

Eventually we rolled back down to Palo Alto to the Prolific Oven. Downtown PA was bustling with traffic but for some strange reason the Prolific Oven, which has been a local mainstay since 1981, was practically empty. That made it all the easier for six hungry cyclists to get their orders. The true hedonists were immediately evident because they ordered and got their pastries before their sandwiches. Donald shared his cherry strudel with the table—I mean, with those of us who didn’t immediately get a pastry. Roger then went to the counter to get his own but Joe and Domingo had apparently already snatched the last slice, so he came back with a fruit tart. Not having sampled the fare to their satisfaction Joe and Domingo then went back and returned with a chocolate covered cream puff. Oh yeah, and we had sandwiches of various sorts. How can a deli sandwich stand out? Use homemade bread, and the Prolific Oven’s is first caliber. Needless to say it was a long lunch, fitting for a long ride. Eventually we rolled out the door and saddled up for the tailwind-fueled ride back across the Dunbarton.

The next Social Ride will probably be at the end of the month during Memorial Day weekend. Stay tuned to the DSSF Ride Calendar for more details soon!

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