Departures: Most of the Way Around the Bay 2016

In October 17-21 2016, I walked most of the way around the bay. Not much happened. These notes might help me if I try another stunt like this, though.


Something Like a Game Photo: Novato US 101 Bike Path Photo: Park Hill Tunnel Photo: Alto Bowl Open Space Photo: Sausalito Tourists Photo: Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Baker Photo: Mt Sutro from the Presidio, San Francisco

I rode the bus north to Novato. This walk was a celebration of sorts. I'd been programming, tinkering, putting together a location-based game to play on phones. It had recently transitioned from a spewer of debugging-diagnostic info to something that was recognizably a game or at least an activity. To play this game, one had to walk around. One didn't need to walk long distances. Optimal play was to wander one's hometown. I'd done that. Now I wanted to do something special. Thus: bus ride to Novato, where I'd started my previous walk most of the way around the bay.

Unlike the previous year, I wasn't routing my journey based on Foursquare's best-rated places. Thus instead of starting at Novato's Toast restaurant for breakfast, I started further north, in Novato's center. Thus I'd have to walk farther; silver lining: I wasn't hungry for breakfast, having stuffed myself on my apartment's perishables the night before. Last year, routing by Foursquare best-rated places, I'd stopped in many eateries. Foursquare users like food. I liked food, but last year had been too much of a good thing. This year, I let myself walk past some good restaurants and eat when I was hungry.

In a Novato convenience store, I bought a snack-bag of crispy chili-lime chickpeas. It was fine.

The year before, I'd taken a scenic route south from Novato, a trail by a sewage treatment plant by the Bay. I wanted try new routes. Also, it had rained the night before. Hadn't that trail been dirt? I didn't remember, but probably yes. Probably it was muddy now. Instead, I walked streets and bike paths that fronted US Highway 101. It was noisy but also paved and direct. Miles went quickly.

There was a new-to-me bike/pedestrian route from San Rafael to the Larkspur Ferry. The Park Hill Tunnel paralleled the still-under-construction SMART train tracks. It was a hot, sunny day. The tunnel provided cool relief.

Google Maps found a pedestrian route from Corte Madera to Pickleweed Inlet that didn't hug the 101 (which I'd wearied of). Instead, it sent me along Sausalito Street and Coach Road. Part of Coach Road turned out to be a dirt trail through the Alto Bowl Open Space. You may recall I'd avoided dirt paths, worried about mud. And this path was indeed muddy. But it wasn't super-muddy and taking a paved route would have involved a lot of backtracking. I shlepped through and it never turned into a swampy slog. Still, I should remember to favor the 101-hugging route in future treks.

By the time I reached Sausalito, the last town before the Golden Gate Bridge, it was getting on towards late afternoon. I was pretty tired of walking, but Sausalito is not a place for cheap tourist lodging. (The place swarmed with tourists; but they'd mostly bused/biked in from elsewhere.) I vaguely remembered that the Bridge closed to pedestrian traffic at sundown. Would I make it? I poked at my phone to do some research; according to the Bridge's website "sundown" during daylight savings time was 9pm, so I needn't have worried.

Ignoring protests from my legs and feet, I trudged on. I picked up a jar of peanuts at a market for energy. Trudged along East Road, through Fort Baker, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to San Francisco. Like Sausalito, San Francisco isn't a place for cheap tourist lodging. But it's where I live; I walked a few miles further on through the Presidio, Richmond District, and Golden Gate Park. It kept making sense to walk just a few miles more. Ouch, those last few miles added up.

By the time I was in my home neighborhood, I was pretty wrecked. I smelled bad. I went to my second-least-favorite taqueria in the neighborhood. It wasn't great, but I wouldn't mind so much if I got banned for stinking up the place.

Soon I was home where there was a shower and I could put up my feet, read the internet, and sleep.


Photo: My Apartment Building's Amazing Lobby Photo: Sutro Tower from Twin Peaks, San Francisco Photo: San Francisco-Daly City Border Photo: Colma Photo: Sixteen Mile House, Millbrae Photo: Peninsula Clock Shop, San Mateo, as seen in the Doctor When Game Photo: Redwood City Sunset

Ah, the comforts of home. I woke up before dawn. I went out for coffee, brought it back. Had a relaxed morning sipping coffee, finishing off last night's burrito, and reading. And reading. And reading some more. Eventually, I forced myself to stand up and start walking again. I left my laptop computer behind in the apartment: convenient internet browsing made it too hard to get started in the morning.

I headed up Mount Sutro, over Twin Peaks, down the other side.

When you walk south from San Francisco, you must decide what to do about San Bruno Mountain. I wasn't sure-footed enough to go over it without tumbling ass-over-teakettle on its steep fire roads. The year before, I'd walked around on the Bay side. This involved walking on the shoulder of some roads; just after dawn on a Sunday morning, those roads had been quiet. This year's walk was out of phase; if I walked those roads, I'd do so just after rush hour. That didn't seem like a plan for a fun walk. Instead, I walked around to the west: through San Francisco's West Portal neighborhood, south across Brotherhood Way, crossing over into Daly City.

If asked to design an object model for transportation, you'd probably say that a City contains Streets. But some streets go beyond city limits. They transcend (and connect) settlements. There is an aura of power to such a road, like a river that has pushed its way through mountains.

El Camino Real is the SF peninsula's exemplar of such a road. It rolls through city after city; its nature changes from place to place but it carries on. It's often shabby; yet it's magnificent in its way. I once planned to walk the whole thing. But that was back when I believed the marketing hype. There was an El Camino Real that Spanish settlers used as they moved here to Alta California from Mexico. But today's El Camino Real is not that road; it's close in places, but mostly it was named after the old El Camino Real a few decades ago as a marketing gimmick. It was an impressive gimmick: getting so many communities to agree on a name for this road. But who wants to plan a whole walk around a lie? Maybe I could walk the whole thing as the part of this walk most-of-the-way-around-the-bay. Then I'd have the pleasure of walking this road without feeling like a chump.

I walked up to El Camino Real. I followed it through the necropolis of Colma (except that I walked on a parallel street for the part that had no sidewalk, which I remembered from past walks). At the South San Francisco BART station, I walked along the parallel Centennial Bike Path. This took me to Orange Memorial Park, which I knew would be a good place to refill my water bottle. I got back onto ECR.

In last year's walk, I'd been thwarted visiting the local See's Candies shop, arriving before it opened in the morning. It was open now, so I erased my old disappointment by going in and picking up some molasses chips and mint chocolates. Then I walked on. For a good lunch, Foursquare recommended Little Lucca. There was a long line. My pained feet didn't want me standing in line. Further on, El Faro had OK burritos with no line. Perfect.

I walked for miles along El Camino Real. It was civilized; I stopped for a cold juice in Millbrae. When all the cheap lodging in San Carlos turned out to be full, I just kept walking down the road to Redwood City and the Sequoia Inn had room for me no problem. It wasn't fancy, but I put a mint chocolate from See's on the pillow and that was fancy enough.


Photo: Welcome to MTV Photo: El Camino Real, Santa Clara Photo: Dirt by the Central Expressway, San Jose Photo: Clambering over the Railroad Tracks, San Jose Photo: Through the McCarthy Blvd Parking Lots, Milpitas Photo: By the Southbay Freeway, Milpitas Photo: Sunset, Milpitas

I woke up before dawn, went out for coffee, walked back to my room at the Inn. The cold pre-morning wind was delicious. I'd walked south all day yesterday. Thus, I'd faced the sun all day. My absurd floppy hat had protected my face, but not my chest. The front of my neck was sunburned. Who thinks to put sunblock on the front of his neck? I don't; but then I don't normally walk south all day. Good thing today's walk would turn eastward.

I set out. I walked through downtown Redwood City and then back to El Camino Real. In Palo Alto, it was too early to stop at Calafia or the Anderson Collection, but I'd have other chances to visit those. I breakfasted at Hobee's and walked on and on from city to city along El Camino Real.

In last year's walk, I'd stopped at Las Palmas Park because it was a Foursquare best-rated place. This year, I wasn't following that agenda but stopped at that park anyhow: I remembered it was a major park. No doubt I could refill my water bottle there. Getting back onto ECR, I stopped at the Comic Collector Shop. It was Wednesday, new comic day.

El Camino Real was still civilized, and thus I could take a break from the heat at a smoothie shop in Santa Clara. I was nearing the end of El Camino Real. From there, I'd be navigating through the pedestrian-unfriendly business park area of north San Jose to reach Milpitas: also pedestrian-unfriendly. Milpitas was a little oasis of affordable lodging in a vast desert. I played around with Google Maps.

If I walked to the end of El Camino Real (or at least to where it changed name) and thence to Milpitas, I might not make it before dark. If everything went without a hitch, I'd be there before dark. But I remembered last year's hitches. The last approach to Milpitas' cheap-lodging area would be on a sidewalk by a freeway; I didn't want to walk it in the dark. So, new plan: I wouldn't walk to the end of El Camino Real. Instead, I'd cut that corner and head north to Milpitas.

Google Maps tried its best to guide me, but that part of San Jose is tricky for pedestrians. Google Maps suggested I walk along the Central Expressway. I set out on the sidewalk, but the sidewalk disappeared. Should I turn back? Walk on the road shoulder by the bike trail? Continue on the dirt where the sidewalk ended? I stayed on the dirt as the road beside me descended to go under some bridge. It turned out to be a railroad bridge: thus instead of going under the bridge I scrambled over it. There was plenty of visibility, but it still felt sketchy. I probably trespassed on some railroad's property. Beyond the tracks, the expressway rose up to meet me.

The road led to a complex intersection next to the San Jose airport. Google Maps wanted me to go north. Having learned from past overconfidence, I looked ahead at the sidewalk going north. I could see that the sidewalk disappeared disappeared where the road narrowed at an overpass. This sidewalk was another decoy. There was a gap in the airport fence that opened onto an airport access road. The access road had a bike lane, so there was some aspect of people-powered-travel-friendliness. It didn't seem to be going exactly the right way, but maybe Google Maps was trying to point me this way? I entered the airport, walked the bike lane. I walked and walked; the access road turned. I could no longer deny it: I was off the route that Google Maps had set.

(Now, in the luxury of my apartment, I can use Google Streetview to see what route Google Maps had in mind: instead of entering the airport, I should have headed north on that road. What about the disappearing sidewalk, you ask? I should have walked on the other side of the road, the one without a sidewalk. The sidewalk was a ruse to make you think you knew which side of the street the city planners wanted pedestrians to use. If you instead walked through the dirt, then you'd eventually come to a crosswalk and a sidewalk allowing you to walk on that overpass without having to dodge traffic.)

I was glad I'd left myself time for such misadventures. I walked along. I walked past a T intersection where a road branched off. Signs said this was a road to a parking lot. I kept walking. I looked back. From this angle, I could see signs saying that this branch-road wasn't just a road to the parking lot, but also a bike route that would allow me to escape from the airport in kinda-the-right-direction. My brain gibbered with rage a bit (Why hide the sign? Why?), but I eventually calmed down. I poked around on Google Maps a bit, confirmed that this disguised bike route branch could indeed get me back on track.

I got back on route, kept walking. There weren't always sidewalks, but of course those would have been decoys anyhow. On the business-parkish McCarthy Boulevard, there were no sidewalks, just lawn. Instead, I walked through business park parking lots. (Legally, perhaps there were sidewalks. Where the parking lot driveways hit the streets, there were little squares of pavement. Where one driveway was under repair, the nearby squares were protected with sawhorses saying "SIDEWALK BLOCKED : USE OTHER SIDE OF STREET". But that little square of "sidewalk" didn't lead anywhere; there was no sane reason to cross the street. Maybe the city pavers only had one kind of warning sign?)

Further along, McCarthy Boulevard got a real sidewalk. I foolishly used it. Of course it was a decoy, ending suddenly. I crossed the boulevard as angry Cisco commuters sped up to drive around me. But once I was past that, I realized I recognized where I was; I was in a part of the business park that I remembered from before. I knew where I could walk without infuriating more drivers.

I realized I was passing close to a Foursquare best-rated stop from last year's walk: Milpitas Square, a shopping center where I'd had a nice cold boba tea. Relaxing with a cold boba tea sounded pretty good today,too. But the sun was getting low. I was getting close to the cheap lodging area, but what if something else went wrong? Any boba tea relaxation would evaporate if I was walking along a highway after dark. I kept walking.

I made it to Milpitas' Heritage Inn before dark with no further disaster. I went out in search of dinner and bumped into B-Cute, a new boba tea place. It was so new that it wasn't listed on Foursquare yet. And so I sat and drank cold tea with grass jelly and entered information into Foursquare. That tea probably wasn't my most nutritious dinner ever, but it was just what I needed right then.


Photo: Bench Facing Away from View, Fremont Photo: Where the Sidewalk Ends, Fremont Photo: El Camino Real Bell, Fremont Photo: Central Park, Fremont Photo: Alameda Creek, Fremont Photo: Mission Blvd, Union City? Hayward? Photo: Valle Vista Park, Hayward

I set out north along McCarthy Boulevard: a shopping center and more business park. It wasn't so exciting, but maybe I'd had enough excitement.

For the next bit of walking, I was darned sure I didn't want to use last year's route, which had taken me past the lawns and mean dogs of south Fremont. Instead I took Fremont Boulevard. This was yet more business park, but at least there weren't mean dogs. There were factories which probably had interesting things going on inside, but were boring boxes from my point of view. But again: no mean dogs.

I reached Fremont's Irvington neighborhood. There I found a marker for El Camino Real, though that road was on the other side of the bay. (Later, I'd go on Wikipedia and learn that the marketers of the modern El Camino Real had indeed set up an East Bay route. It hadn't caught on like the peninsula one had, perhaps because the historical El Camino Real hadn't gone that way.) I walked up to Fremont's Central Park. Google Maps wanted me to walk around the back side of the lake, but I chose the front since there were places there to fill up my water bottle. The day was heating up.

I walked north through Fremont until I reached Mission Boulevard. Here was another road that transcended cities. Unlike El Camino, this one didn't have the same name from town to town. Depending on where you were, it was called International, 14th, E14th… here in Fremont, it was called Mission. I'd take this road north to its end at Lake Merritt.

First, a little detour at Fremont's Niles neighborhood for lunch at the Nile Cafe. The part of my brain motivated by tasty food wanted to walk on to Union City, which had a shopping center full of tastiness. But that would take me further off-Mission (in more than one sense) and hadn't I already established that this trip wasn't about the tastiest food? For the Niles neighborhood, the Nile Cafe was pretty darned good.

And then it was onto Mission and walking along from city to city and on and on. The afternoon warmed up and warmed up some more; I drank all my water. I walked through the heat. I got thirsty. When I spotted a refrigerated drink case through the doorway of a donut shop, I couldn't walk past. I walked in and got an apple juice. If I didn't want to keep stopping at every convenience store in Hayward, I needed to refill my water bottle. Google Maps knew of a park a ways ahead; I trudged there, but it had no water fountain. I headed further on, deviating from Mission, to the South Hayward BART Station; it didn't have a water fountain I could reach without entering the station proper. I went further off Mission until I reached Tennyson Park, which had a drinking fountain. I drank. I filled my bottle. I drank some more. It was so hot. I wasn't happy.

I walked back to Mission, kept walking until I reached downtown Hayward. I went into a Togos and ordered a sandwich. I realized I wasn't so much hungry as just plain tired of walking: it had been a hot and thirsty afternoon. It wasn't even 5pm, but it was time to find a motel. Thursday had kicked my ass.

At Hayward's Budget Inn, I filled my bottle with ice, drank the ice as it melted, and slept about 11 hours.


Photo: Gruen-Designed Bayfair Mall, San Leandro Photo: Road Renewal, San Leandro? Photo: East Meets West 2010 Graffiti Wall Photo: Lake Merritt, Oakland Photo: Temescal Neighborhood, Oakland Photo: Downtown Berkeley Photo: Ohlone Bike Trail, Berkeley

Back on Mission, I resumed walking north. I spared a glance for the Gruen-designed Bayfair mall, but didn't go in. At San Leandro, the street got fancier. I stopped for an espresso. In Oakland, the street got less fancy. I stopped for a burrito. OMCA, the Oakland Museum was open. In last year's walk, OMCA had been a planned stop, but I'd arrived too late in the evening. Should I stop there now? Bah, I'd been there just a few weeks before; not much point going back so soon. I looked at their list of exhibits: Wow, there was a new exhibit about the Black Panthers. That sounded pretty interesting and I wanted to see it, but not while I was so tired. I wouldn't stop at the OMCA just now. But I made a note to visit soon. Around Lake Merritt, I walked with my chin up to let the cool breeze blow over my neck.

If you're familiar with the East Bay and have been paying attention, you think you know what came next. San Pablo Avenue transcends cities; you think I walked it. That was my plan. But I remembered the afternoon before: the heat, the thirst. I associated many positive things with San Pablo Ave, but copious shade wasn't one of them. Instead, I walked along Shattuck Ave. I walked through Oakland's Temescal neighborhood, favored by Nancy Groschwitz.

In downtown Berkeley, I sat in Au Coquelet, sipping an iced tea as I'd done many times before.

I walked along the Ohlone Greenway bike trail. The elevated BART tracks shaded my head until the sun dipped low.

I arrived at the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station. I was about three hours' walk away from Rodeo, the furthest point I'd been able to find a safe-looking walking route. Did I want to walk there now, getting there after dark? I'd have the satisfaction of walking further, but I'd be waiting for a not-running-so-often bus so I could transfer to another bus so I could ride back to this BART station so I could ride back to San Francisco. That sounded like a long night. Three hours was such a short stretch of walking. It didn't feel worth springing for another motel night just so I could do it in the morning. I declared my walk over. I hopped on BART and was soon back in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, an obnoxious jerk tried to board the train before passengers (e.g. me) could exit. I blocked him, leaned into him. I like to think a lot of sweat wiped off.

comment? | | home |