Home: Jayaram and Aparna’s house
When I had messaged Jayaram and Aparna via WarmShowers about spending a night at their place, Jayaram not only responded, but graciously offered the opportunity to spend a couple nights if we wanted to. Our immediate reaction was “nah, we expect to continue south, and don’t want to impose that much anyway”. But, perhaps as more-experienced long-term bike tourers, they knew better than us what would be good for us. So after thinking about it a bit, we decided to accept their generous hospitality and spend the day and second night in Alameda.
It gave us an opportunity to catch up on the usual business: route planning, blogging, and doing laundry (luxuriously in their in-house washer/dryer, an absolute dream compared to the cloth-diaper hand-washing/drying that was part of their bike-touring chores!)
But even more valuably, it gave us time to feel life in a place. We always say that bike touring is the perfect speed to travel: slow enough to see everything, but fast enough to get you to places worth seeing. However, we’ve really found that the slower-than-normal, multiple-day-stay form of bike touring we’ve adopted this autumn might be even more ideal.
Even before arriving on Alameda, traveling south via the East Bay (rather than the “standard” Pacific Coast bike route) had felt like the right decision, because it added so much more breadth and depth to our understanding of the entire San Francisco Bay region. The racial, economic, and stylistic diversity gave the area much more color than the relative homogeneity that I’d known from my work trips to Silicon Valley.
Riding on one of the nice bikeways through Oakland yesterday, Rett had been suddenly struck with an epiphany: she’s living in California. And it was a feeling I understood and agreed with, and one that was born of the riding we’d been doing the last few days. We’ve already been in the state so long, and have been seeing it through such a slow and winding path that it had morphed the usual feeling of “passing through” into “living”. And “living in California” is something neither Rett nor I thought we would ever get to do. Even if it’s only for a few months.
And so then being able to spend an extra day on Alameda just added to that feeling. Whenever we get to a new “famous” place that we haven’t been to before, I’ll say something to Rett like “we rode our bikes to Napa! So now whenever someone asks you ‘have you been to Napa?’, you can say with blasé worldliness, ‘oh, sure”, and follow it with excited pride: ‘…I rode my bike there, it was great!’”
And while many people have been to Napa (especially those who like to talk about where they’ve been), how many of them have also been to Vallejo? And then onto Alameda Island? Because it’s a bit out of the way, and part of the reason why we felt so lucky to find Jayaram and Aparna, because going to their house gave us a reason to explore an area we otherwise would have had no reason to see.
So we spent the afternoon walking around the northwestern end of the island. From the narrow walkways cutting through J&A’s co-op, to the wide two-way bike lanes newly laid-down as the start to a planned re-development, to the open concrete spaces walled by giant airplane hangars, to the former Navy housing either abandoned or lived in by people hopefully on the way up rather than the way down, it gave more getting-to-know-a-place than even cycling through could tell us.
In the middle, we stopped at Almanac Brewing, one of the industrial-city-type businesses taking part in the redevelopment of the Navy base. After briefly chatting with the bartender for a bit about what we’re up to, he gave us a free can of an unreleased beer of theirs. That little act of generosity would have touched our hearts in any case, but this particular beer hit pretty much every one of our (and especially Rett’s) beer keywords perfectly. Amazing! Berkeley to Alameda, we experienced both “free as in speech” and “free as in beer”!!
Back at Jayaram and Aparna’s, they cooked us up another wonderful, fresh dinner, of the sort that’s impossible for us to get either in camp or a restaurant. More talk of lives and bikes, but then it was to bed early so we could all catch up on sleep and be out back moving again the next morning.