Dear Diary 004: BFFs and Unrequited Bicycle Greetings

Red-headed BFFs + Canine Mania

Oakland and old friends. A sushi reunion. My old friend Wendi is a red-head with a vengeance and wears big jewelry that suits her. In sorta shiny copper colored cowboy boots she leans over and says, “I love you, little!” Sal and I sleep in her bed because she is too stubborn to expose us to what she calls the “demolished guest room”.

Her home is filled with candles and family and hospitality and dogs and big pots of coffee in the morning. Her sister glows according to their family requirements. We call their mother “RadMom” for a reason.

Djuna is a circus animal disguised as a house dog. She’ll make one million tricks for you (including but not limited to “spin”, “roll over”, “rambo” and “let’s pray”). Kona is as old as dirt with hips to match. An ancient retriever who still manages to look like a puppy despite a limping gate and propensity to fall asleep standing up. In between Djuna and Kona is Scout, a rescued mutt who looks a little like a genetic mashup gone wrong. In a good way. Think sheep dog mixed with basset hound mixed with black lab.

During the day the dogs decorate the couch with napping until someone comes in and says, “Let’s go for a walk.” at which point all hell breaks loose.

The Wrong Way Up

Sal and I decide to take an adventure ride and navigate our way to the top of the Oakland hills via Claremont and Grizzly Peak. Claremont is 2.5 miles of relentless, leg-stabbing incline unlike anything I’ve seen this year. At the top, the entire Bay Area spills out in all directions and you can see all the way to the Farralon Islands. Which should technically be impossible, but isn’t.

Clear skies and sun abound until we make a turn into the redwoods. The darkness feels ominous in a Hans Christian Andersen kind of way. A quick stop at Inspiration Point fails to yield a make-out session so we continue on, heading through Moraga and Orinda, up Canyon Road to Pinehust and Redwood Road to Skyline.

It’s a good ride with healthy climbing and quiet narrow roads. Bay Area cyclists are less friendly than I would have hoped and choking a tiny wave or lift of a finger out of most of them is nearly impossible. Old, rich men on very nice equipment seem to be the worst about it. I begin to combat this non-acknowledgement by gradually increasing the size of my initial greeting (maybe they’re not seeing me?). The finger tip becomes a hand off the bar which becomes a full-on parade-worthy wave.

They see me and still ignore me which we find endlessly entertaining.

As the ride draws to a close, a kind gentleman on a Cannondale spins up next to us and redeems the entirety of Bay Area cyclists in one fell swoop. He gives us a personalized guide of the ridgeline, pointing out famous houses and places where the fire destroyed entire neighborhoods in the late 80′s. Then, after learning of our little mountain goat excursion up Claremont, he shows us Tunnel Road.

“This is the way most people go up.”

We can see why. Tunnel is a tiny, winding gradual climb that spreads the elevation gain over a few extra miles. We go down it instead of up and I count 37 cyclists making their way to the top. Most of them wave. Welcome to the east hills super highway.

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  1. My brother lives in Canyon. He discovered it as a cyclist in the 80s and decided that was where he wanted to live. Ironically, he rarely ever cycles anymore.

    My wife back in college, again the late 80s, used to do Old Tunnel and Pinehurst on her daily rides.

    I can see the appeal of these roads: challenging yet gorgeous. If I were a long-distance cyclist, I’m sure I’d have had them under my belt too.

  2. Best thing ever in the whole, wide world having you here. Thank you for all your help with the par-tay and for making my birthday week PERFECT! xo to you and Sally from the dog farm.

  3. That sounded wrong. I meant “my wife, when she was back in college at Cal …” not “my wife back in college.”

  4. Welcme to the East Bay Hills! If you’re looking for a nutty challenge, there used to be a website for some guy’s Idea of a “Berkeley Hills Death Ride” complete with grades and lengths for most of the gnarliest climbs in Berkeley and Oakland. The one I’ve never seen a single bicycle on in 40+ years: Marin Avenue. So, if it’s challenging climbs you’re after, have a nice visit!

  5. Heidi, nice post–good to get an outside perspective on what is our native habitat.

    re: Marin Ave–I used to live a few block from it and did it on occasion. It’s part of this fun little ride:

    The riders on Tunnel, I’ve found, generally form the good vibe. Once more removed it’s hit and miss. The rich dudes are definitely more stuck up, but I’ve been cold-shouldered by the hot, the not, and the downright homely. It is a veritable freeway of bikes on some days; I get why some don’t wave.

    Coincidentally I rode by the exact spot of the Oakland Hills fire “epicenter” as it was starting. At the time it was a smokey grass burn close to Skyline, no flames visible. By the time I reached the bottom of Claremont a few minutes later the top of the mountain was a wall of flames!

    Dude you should do a Lance-style tweet call-out next time you need a group ride in these parts. Plenty of nice riders amongst the handless, waveless unwashed.

    The contents of this comment can not be held to a high grammatical standard, as it was co-authored by a lap warming dachshund.

  6. Patrick Lee

    Speaking of “the handless, waveless and unwashed,” keep an eye out for the guy who rides up in the hills who can’t wave at you, and give him a break. He has only one arm. He has a right arm, but no left I believe. He’s a pretty regular climber on Grizzly in the evenings.


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