Thursday, July 29, 2010

San Francisco Bay Trail: East Bay - Martinez-Benicia Bridge

Week #3 - 7.6 miles, 3.5 SF Bay Trail

7-18-2010 - I'm catching up but the blog is still running ten days behind my experiences.  It reminds me of William Brewer's journals, which were edited into Up and Down California in 1860-1864; The Journal of William H. Brewer.  It's a narrative of the Whitney California Geological Survey.  There were also big scientific reports that were published but Brewer's journal brought the state to life in the best detail to the time - meeting people, exploring, collecting far more than rock samples, and the Survey visited Mt. Diablo numerous times.  It was near San Francisco, the biggest city, and near Sacramento where Whitney traveled frequently to request funds from the legislature.  Brewer was in charge in Whitney's absence.  He was a botanist by training and collected thousands of samples, including many of the first collections of endemic plants now known from the mountain.  You see his shadow in their names, and those of landmarks, or in the collection data, Brewer's dwarf flax for example.  When the Survey camped in one place for awhile he'd catch up on his journal, reporting on the past few days or weeks.

My first ride was on the penninsula, and my intent was to balance my Bay Area Ridge Trail hikes in the East Bay with West Bay San Francisco Bay Trail bike rides for a little variety and mixed length drives. This Sunday found me procrastinating and it was maybe an hour before dark when I got out of the house.  I cycled right out of my driveway.

In my twenties, when I had more time than money, I rode my bike everywhere, daily and longer trips for vacation. It was a much healthier time. I'm trying to take the bike with me more to take advantage of spare hours.  I imagine I'll fit this ride in when I don't have time for much more.  It's a little over 7 miles round trip and can be completed in about 40 minutes or less.

San Francisco Bay Trail: Martinez-Benicia Bridge
The bridges are good starting points for the SF Bay Trail, and one is about a mile from my house.  The Martinez-Benicia Bridge is also one of the more recent Bay Trail segments, and one of just two locations where the San Francisco Bay Trail and the Bay Area Ridge Trail are the same.  The other is the Golden Gate Bridge.  When the new bridge was built--there are actually three between Martinez and Benicia, the new one, the old 1962 one and a 1930 railroad bridge--the old one was refurbished and a bike-pedestrian lane added.  Now the two main bridges are each one way for drivers.

The Bay Trail - Ridge Trail Carquinez loop
The Crockett-Vallejo "Al Zampa" bridge was completed in 2003 and its trail segment in 2004. It has a bike/pedestrian lane too, so it's now possible to ride 50 mile loops across both bridges.  Cycling groups lobbied long and hard for the bridge crossing, and the dedication was the first time in Cycling groups lobbied long and hard for the bridge crossing, and the dedication was the first time in

The dedication of the new Benicia bridge trail segment was on August 30, 2009. It was a really hot day so I waited until late afternoon but took a few pictures; lucky, because tonight's ride was a little too late for good light and pictures.  It's an industrial ride from downtown Martinez on Escobar then Marina Vista to the bridge approach on Mococo Road, passing through the Shell refinery to the western edge of Highway 680.  Beyond the freeway are the marshes of 198-acre Waterbird Regional Preserve and McNabney Marsh.  Al McNabney was a leader in the local Mt. Diablo chapter of the Audubon Society which advocated for preservation of the marsh.  You can normally see lots of waterfowl there, including an ever-present flock of white pelicans.

But that evening I turned north instead on the bike path, the new toll plaza above and out of sight, a gradual climb up onto the bridge.  It's about 1.2 miles long and 138 feet above the water.  The new bridge to the east is 1.7 miles and they cost $25 million and $1.3 billion respectively.

It's not the Golden Gate Bridge and the freeway traffic is fast and loud, but the views are spectacular, west up the Strait to the Crockett bridge and east across the Delta to the Sierra.  Once you reach the center it's a long coast to the other side, where you can loop left and under the bridge and north to a dramatic Vista Point.  I turned around there after looking at the fading light and Mt. Diablo for a few minutes, and retraced my route back to Martinez and the old train station on Ferry Street then back home.

Mt. Diablo view from the Benicia side Vista Point across the new bridge

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