When I think of California’s Bay Area, I think of throngs of people and hordes of traffic. I do not think of good biking. At least, I didn’t, until I went down to visit my good friend Mark, previously of Upcycles in Portland and now relocated to Beeline Bikes in Menlo Park, CA.
For a few months, he’d been telling me about all the rad biking around his neighborhood — and though I certainly trust him, I also sort of didn’t believe him. But when I went down to California during the holidays, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit and see for myself.
The biking was, as Mark had said, spectacular: farms and open space and untrafficked roads, redwoods and hills and the Pacific Ocean only a few good climbs away. But my favorite part was probably something we found at the end of a crazy moon-of-Endor (ya nerd!) descent that took us down to Tunitas Creek.
This is the Potrero Nuevo Farm Bike Hut, a super sweet little space all set up for cyclists. It has a porta-potty for your convenience and an outdoor picnic area that would be lovely on a nice day. On a slightly foggier and rainier day like the one we found it in, it has a warm(ish) indoor space where you can sit and dry off, fill up your water bottles, buy a snack or two or five, read some cycling-specific magazines, look for routes on some good cycling maps, and check out some bike-centric artwork.
The snacks they have there are delicious bags of trail mix, dried fruits, chocolate covered yummies, and all sorts of scruptious things you might find in a really nice bulk bin selection — which is because they’re donated by Sunridge Farms, which apparently supplies most of the natural food stores in the Bay Area. And they’re for sale at the Bike Hut, $2 a bag.
The best part, though, and the part that makes me hopeful for humanity, is the fact that it’s all on the honor system. No one staffs the Bike Hut, so if you want to buy a snack, you just open up the cash box, make yourself some change, and call it good. They even have a sign saying that if making change for yourself means that you’ll clean out all the small bills in the cash box, or if there’s not enough to make change, you should just take the snack and pay for it next time you come by. Which is so super lovely.
This kind of thing seriously makes me the happiest person ever. It’s like the Swanton Berry Farm, a lovely stop on the California coast not too far from Santa Cruz that I stumbled into on one of my first longer bike tours. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but at least in 2010, it was a cyclist-welcoming, help-yourself, open-cash-box honor system as well. They even offered a discount if you showed up by bike.
I love that there is still this kind of trust in the world, and I bet that given the chance, most people pay at least what they’re “supposed” to. Given the chance to be honest, I bet most people are, and then some.
Do these kinds of things exist in Oregon? It seems like the kind of thing that should exist here, but I can’t think of any that I’ve run into off-hand. The closest I can imagine are various farm stands like this one on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway where you pay for the fruits or veggies you want into a box left out for that purpose:
Those Willamette Valley (and other parts of Oregon) farm stands, though, aren’t bike-specific like the Potrero Nuevo Farm Bike Hut, which not only stands in as a rest stop for various organized rides but is clearly catering to people who cycle through. Does that kind of thing exist in Oregon? If it doesn’t, it should.
And in the meantime, I’ve had to revise my opinion about Bay-Area cycling, since it’s true: there are miles and miles and miles of great roads just waiting to be explored. And definitely a bike-friendly business or two.
Thanks, Mark, for showing me around! :)