Making New Friends on MARC

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When I fly to Washington, DC, I often fly with Southwest Airlines to BWI (Baltimore). Then I take the MARC train to Union Station and my college chum Carole picks me up. It is easy and costs just $7 one way. Last night I arrived at 6:45 and caught the shuttle to the train station. Walking outside was like walking into a hot sauna. I moved slowly across the to the southbound platform and sat down.

cicadasSoon I was joined by my new friend Simone from Santa Cruz, California. We could hear the cicadas loudly in the trees behind us. She asked me if I knew what that noise was. I have heard them in New Zealand so I had a pretty good idea. I found a photo on Google images and I asked her where she is from. We had a lovely chat. Later she came back to show me her camera and I asked if I could take her picture.

Then we boarded the train and she came and found me on the lower deck. She told me she was going to tour the White House and I asked her if she knew about Dolley Madison. I encouraged her to look for information on one of my favorite first ladies. Then her brother came looking for her.

This is why I love public transit. You have the opportunity for really fun encounters.

I am in Washington, DC for a girls weekend with Carole. We are going to take the AMTRAK train to Wilmington, Delaware. I will blog along the way.

Tour of California Time Trial in Folsom

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I pedaled my Brompton across town and then jumped onto the train from Davis at 9:24 a.m.  I asked the Amtrak conductor for a free transfer onto Light Rail once in Sacramento. Then I rode those rails to the end of the line in Folsom. All in pursuit of a day being a bike racing fan at the Amgen Tour of California. Today’s stage was the 12.5 mile time trial with a start and finish in old town Folsom. I arrived at 11:00 a.m. and spent time in the fan zone checking out the booths and picking up free samples of Jelly Bellys, and an Amgen TOC lanyard. I also bought a “Adios Jens” t-shirt at the Trek Racing Team booth. I also wandered around to get an idea of my viewing options.

At about 95 degrees, not a great day to be the California Bear mascot!
At about 95 degrees, not a great day to be the California Bear mascot!
Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen's Bakery
Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen’s Bakery

The start ramp was on Sutter Street right in the heart of old town Folsom. The finish had a challenging 90 degree turn onto Leidesdorff Street 150 meters from the finish. I decided I would stake out a spot along the barrier after I grabbed lunch at Karen’s Bakery. The Bakery is a popular spot for cyclists and the finish was right in front of the outdoor dining space. Karen rented sold out the space at $200 a seat, all you can eat.  That is a good deal, however, I prefer being right on the rails.

I used my REI portable chair and enjoyed almost an hour of time knitting before the race began. The couple next to me went to the race in Sacramento on Sunday. It was fun learning more of the details about that stage. A large television screen across the road began broadcasting the race at 2:00 p.m. The first rider left the gate at 1:05 and it took over 26 minutes to finish. Thus began the ritual of cheering 128 riders approximately every minute or so.

The last time I watched an Amgen TOC time trial was in Sacramento. I was able to download the order of riders and take a printed copy so I could track our progress. I went to the Amgen welcome center and got a program. They said the order of riders is on the “Tour Tracker” application. I had downloaded the app the day before, so I found the list, only it did not include the rider’s numbers and when they left the gate the disappeared from the list, so it wasn’t helpful for knowing when your favorite riders would be riding to the finish. Nonetheless, our fan group at about 125 meters enjoyed ourselves. We especially enjoyed competing to see who could catch the riders with our cameras.

Sir Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky
Sir Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky

As the afternoon wore on the riders finished in faster and faster times. 24:02 was the time to beat until Bradley Wiggins started his time trial. This is only the second stage and the first stage ended in a bunch sprint, so Mark Cavendish was wearing the yellow jersey and was last to ride. Of the general classification riders, the favorites are Bradley Wiggins and Taylor Phinney. The winner of the Olympic Gold Medal and the Tour de France 2012 decides to make a statement and he blistered the course. I am surprised I caught him on film. He finished in 23:18. Taylor Phinney rode well and placed third in the time trial but is now chasing Wiggins by 52 seconds.Mark Cavendish

The final rider is one of my favorites: Mark Cavendish, aka the Manx Missile. I only caught the beginning of his bike, though in this shot you can see the television screen and the barriers more clearly. No one expected Cavendish to stay in the yellow jersey but there is something about being the leader and as often happens he rode the best time trial of his career.

At this point I had to decide whether to stay and watch the awards or head to the Bike Valet and pick up my Brompton and catch the Light Rail back to the Sacramento Valley Train Station. After all of the sun, I was ready to head home. Great day and a great reminder of why I love watching cycling live.

Urban Bicycling in Oakland, California

Emeryville train stationNeeding to stage a trial run for my Le Tour adventure I arranged to meet my friend Austin for a day of cycling, eating, shopping and fun in Oakland. I barely made it to the Davis station before the train’s departure. The station manager helped me purchase my ticket and directed me to the right car. I pushed my Brompton onto the train and folded Black Beauty and stowed her on the luggage rack. I was a little nervous about leaving her on her own as I climbed the stairs to my seat.

Riding the train is so much more fun than driving. 1. No traffic. 2. I can use the time to finish my book, or stare out the window; either way it is very relaxing. 3. My round trip ticket cost $54 for an adult fare. If you compare to the mileage ($0.56 per mile equals $72.80) plus bridge toll ($5.00) plus potential parking fees.  Temescal Alley

Austin and I exchanged emails earlier to share ideas about places to go and things to see. I have been collecting Oakland travel articles from Sunset Magazine and other publications. It was 9:30 a.m. and we set off on our bikes to Temescal Alley, featured in two magazines. Have you noticed how some places get all kinds of attention and then you go and wonder what the fuss?

We parked our bikes and stepped into Doughnut Dolly for a creme filled donut. Dolly has a focused approach to doughnuts–you select either raised doughnut with granular sugar or powdered sugar, then select a filling and they inject them and they are ready to go. It’s an interesting idea and we munched our doughnuts on a bench outside. We compared our Yelp rating systems and I like Austin’s. One or two stars neither of us bother to review. Three stars we would go back if friends all wanted to go there. Four stars is awarded to a great place we would return to if we were in the neighborhood and five stars for a fabulous place that we would go out of our way to visit again and again. Doughnut Dolly was a 3 for me and a 3.5 to 4 stars for Austin.

Bee Healthy HoneyWe took off on our bikes to Telegraph Avenue towards downtown Oakland. We made a U-turn to stop at the Bee Healthy Honey store. We both love bees and are fascinated with beekeeping. It is a lovely shop and smelled like hamsters (pine shavings from the newly constructed hives reminded us of a clean hamster cage).

Continuing on our way we took a slightly circuitous route to the Oakland Museum. I have been meaning to go to this museum for years. We looked at the current exhibits and decided we really wanted to see the Giant Robot exhibit. My Crocker Museum membership includes a North American reciprocal benefit so I did not have to pay the $15 entrance fee. The “SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot” exhibit was super awesome.

And when did museums step up their quality of their cafe dining? I bought a bowl of sweet potato pistachio soup at the museum’s Blue Oak Cafe and it was delicious. Note to self, bring protein to eat with donuts to avoid bonking from sugar rush and plummet.

Next we rode around Lake Merritt. The trails around the lake are not exactly bike friendly. We stopped at one point for a march organized to keep attention to the plight of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. By this time we were feeling peckish so we began riding our bikes to Homeroom, a highly recommended eatery in another part of Oakland. (Review to follow in next post). We departed from the recommended route on Google Maps and discovered that Google Maps bicycle routes had probably been saving us from big hills. Black Beauty’s brakes work.  I also discovered Oakland has not paved some of their streets for decades (think cobblestones) and the Brompton is a comfortable ride. By the time we got to the restaurant we were ready for a good long lunch break.

Yarn and fabric storeWe had one more stop: a yarn store called A Verb for Keeping Warm at 6328 San Pablo Avenue. The yarn and fabric store is terrific and we enjoyed a good browse and a little shopping.

At this point we were close to the Emeryville train station and we pedaled there. The return train trip was very relaxing and just as easy to travel with my bike. The day made a successful test drive.

I have to figure out a lightweight option for locking the Brompton. And my bike repair classmates feel I should always keep my Brooks bike saddle with me. I am also very interested in the foldable helmet that my friend Hetta brought to my attention.

Children's book author Austin Lan was my bike buddy
Children’s book illustrator Austin Lan was my bike buddy