Ride Recap: Social Ride to Danville Chow


It wasn’t December 21 but it sure felt like winter had arrived. This morning of the ride the thermometer said 38 F. Well, at least it wasn’t freezing but it was nippy when I poked my nose outside the front door. But I knew that if it was 38 at the house, then it was likely to be near freezing at the bottom of the hill. If you live in San Francisco or near the Bay, you don’t often see temperatures go below 40 and rarely below 35. But when you live in Contra Costa or Napa, it’s not uncommon in the winter to see frost on the ground or to have a freeze warning. Derek was the first casualty; he called me in the morning to moan that it was too cold and he’d have to bag the Social Ride today. Derek lives not far away in Walnut Creek; I couldn’t believe he’d be put off by a slight chill! Weaklings from San Francisco I can understand but not someone who lives over here! Fortunately it was bright sunshine and absolutely clear; I was confident it would warm up. Roger and I rolled down to Orinda BART to wait for Frank, who promptly showed up on the 9:45 BART train. Then I got an email from Jon saying he was bagging the ride too. So, the last Social Ride of the year was just Roger, me, and Frank.

This Social Ride is one of our favorite rides: it’s a jaunt from Orinda to Moraga and down the Lafayette Moraga Regional Trail, which is a converted rails-to-trails multi-use path. It’s a gentle downhill being a former rail line and therefore restricted to an average of about 2%. We had a nice warm up getting to Moraga because of the slight incline in between, but now rolling downhill we started to chill. By the time we got to Lafayette Roger, who never seems to be bothered by cold weather, was complaining his fingers were aching from the cold. And he was using little heater packs in his gloves, which alas seemed to be ineffective against the elements. We did a slight detour to Papillon Coffee Shop and got some warm drinks to boost our metabolisms and spirits. After a long discussion of the pitfalls and benefits of total knee replacements we got ready to head out. But Roger was still feeling too cold so he decided to turn around and go home. But Frank and I were determined to do the whole shebang.

We bade Roger farewell and took off. Being midday it was—to me—comfortably warm, and Frank certainly felt alright despite not wearing a hat under his helmet. Neither of us was dressed like polar bears but we clearly had layered adequately because as long as we kept moving we were generating enough heat. We rolled easily through the back roads of Walnut Creek and through Round Hill and out towards Blackhawk. Interestingly despite being a Saturday there were not the usual horde of cyclists throughout the San Ramon Valley. Maybe it was too chilly to ride?? We got to Chow in Danville and we lucked out again: their outside patio was completely in the sun and was plenty warm enough for us to dine alfresco. I love dining at Danville Chow not only because the well-placed patio is cozy and allows us to watch our bikes but because I’ve never had a bad meal there. This time I had their chicken noodle soup and a wedge salad. I’d never had their chicken noodle soup before: the broth was the real thing, not some canned fluid poured into a pot and it was perfect for a cold day. Frank had the mussels and a salad as well. His mussels were dripping in garlic and butter broth, which he soaked up with their toasted bread—it looked divine if a bit too heavy for a meal for me! More conversation ensued about the vagaries of riding in the Hudson Valley, riding in New York City, how the Bay Area has changed, getting new bikes, and maybe a little gossip about fellow Spokers not present!

It was a leisurely lunch—I think over an hour—and suitably refreshed we remounted our bikes and rolled up the Iron Horse, another converted rails-to-trails multi-use path, back to Walnut Creek. By now the sun was getting low in the sky and the trail had little direct sunlight. Even I was starting to feel a bit chilly. But the return has a few low hills and we warmed up and made it back to Orinda safely and pleasantly tired.

Stay tuned for Social Ride plans for 2017. We’ve already started working on the calendar and have some fav reruns as well as some interesting new routes and lunch stops!