This was the last long distance bike trip that I went on during my internship in San Francisco earlier this year. Up till then, my bike trips have mostly involved biking directly from my Financial District apartment and this meant that I wasn’t able to venture too far from the city proper. This trip was different. It was going to be around the eastern outskirts of a small-ish town across the bay called Livermore. Getting there involved taking the Bart to the easternmost terminal station (the Dublin/Pleasanton station) and biking even further eastward.
I’d been inspired to go on this trip by a popular cyclist on Strava. It seemed like I was going to be biking through a baby mountain range with rolling green hills and valleys filled with wind turbines along the way. I would later find out this place was known as the Altamont Pass Wind Farm and it’s one of the earliest wind farms in the United States. I’ve never been to a wind farm before and pictures of the route online offered glimpses of fantastic views. It was hard to say no.
The train ride from San Francisco to the Dublin/Pleasanton station took around an hour and I soon found myself biking along wide stretches of open road towards Livermore. The weather was perfect for a long distance bike trip.
Livermore is known for its vineyards and wineries and although it’s nowhere near as popular as Napa Valley or Sonoma, the town still manages to attract a good deal of out-of-town visitors.
According to Google Maps, I was climbing the moment I left the Bart station but the road is shallow enough, initially, that it’s hardly noticeable that I was biking uphill. I only started to feel the climb after biking several miles eastward when the urban landscape turned rural. It’s not a short climb either and this was going to be one of many during the trip.
The climb is steepest near the top and up till this point, you won’t be seeing many wind turbines. I remember I encountered about two or three but that’s it. This changes dramatically as you reach the peak. The view of a steep uphill road from moments before melts away and becomes that of a wide green valley dotted with wind turbines.
This was such a perfect way to end the long climb. The sparse traffic on the road made for a very peaceful experience. It was just me, my bike, and the occasional soft breeze. After a busy week at work, moments like these were very welcoming.
The downhill following the climb is probably the best I’ve experienced ever. That’s not saying much since I’ve only started biking “seriously” at the start of the term and haven’t been to many places. Nevertheless, ten kilometres of downhill on a straight road with sparse traffic would make any road cyclist happy. My previous experiences with long stretches of downhill were mostly on curvy mountain roads where a car can appear at any time behind a bend in the road.
It’s really unfortunate that, at the end of the stretch of downhill road, I got a pretty bad case of hay fever. I shouldn’t be surprised though, as I was probably exposed to a gazillion pollen particles going down. Luckily, I brought some Claritin pills with me as a precaution but they only worked up to a certain degree. I still had to put up with hay fever for the rest of the ride :(
You encounter a great deal of livestock throughout this route. It sounds mundane but one of the more memorable moments for me was seeing a herd of cows moving along against the backdrop of several large wind turbines lazily turning in the wind.
The rest of the bike trip was filled with even more uphills and downhills, though none as long and steep as the first. The trip in total had around 2500 feet of climbing but doing so with hay fever makes it feel so much worse. Overall, it was around 90 kilometers of biking.
Here’s the view I got at the end of the day. Almost as good as the one at the top of the first hill.