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Weekend adventures: Bike to base, BART to birthday


One of the old buildings on Alameda Point.

This weekend started with a touch of TCOB. Erik and the kids biked to Toy Safari downtown to buy a present for Sunday’s birthday boy while I did a little speed cleaning. I think I need a new vacuum cleaner, which I will order online, since biking to Target, though possible, is not super convenient.

After lunch, Erik checked everyone’s tire pressure and we hit the Bay path, heading west. Destination: Alameda Point, the old Navy base which is now a wonderland of concrete for biking, with indoor soccer fields and rock climbing, a distillery, a brewery and a winery. We were planning to hit all that.


Our three kids, and the 10-year-old friend who tagged along, all handled the five-mile ride without a complaint. It’s a really nice route, mostly along San Francisco Bay, with plenty of stops with drinking fountains along the way. Then we hang a right at the Crab Cove Visitor Center and ride along some more industrial, storage lot areas, and then there we are on the closed-down base.


Our first stop was to be the Bladium, the gym with indoor rock climbing. We had picked up a free three-day family pass at a street fair we biked to last week, and wanted to use it. I had even packed my rock climbing gear in the bike trailer.

Unfortunately, when I had called the gym earlier that day, the employee I spoke with failed to inform me that they had a birthday party scheduled in the rock climbing area in the afternoon, so we couldn’t climb. The kids were pretty ticked at me, and complained that they were hungry and thirsty. It was hot out and the base has little shade.

So we remounted and headed through the Bladium parking lot toward Rock Wall Winery. Check out the USS Hornet in the background.


 At Rock Wall, I bought the kids two plates of warm, fried pastries — they were like beignets but had an unfamiliar name — and some house cut fries, all from the Scolari’s trailer that takes care of food service. We sat down with plenty of cups of water at some shaded tables flanked by wine barrels. Erik and I ordered this dreamy cheese plate:


Erik and some of our friends had an appointment to tour St. George Spirits, which does not allow children, so he threw back his Rock Wall zinfandel and headed over there while I stayed with the kids, who soon finished their food and ran off to play on Rock Wall’s expansive fenced-in concrete space. Other kids had brought scooters, and there were some cornhole sets out there. A few more mom friends showed up and two 3-year-olds joined the kids, while we took turns holding my friend’s baby. This was our first time at Rock Wall, and I just loved that no one cared how much our kids ran around and how much noise they made. There was so much space, actually, that we couldn’t even hear the kids from the terrace, but we could see that they were fine. It was paradise for parents who are into benign neglect and wine. My friend Vanessa, who blogs at Three Generations Under One Roof, took this pic of our her sons with my kids.


Toth plays with his 3-year-old buddies while the girls putter near the fence.

Our plan had been to meet up for dinner at Faction Brewery after the tour, but sadly Faction quit serving food just as we were ready to head over there, so we ended up convening at one of the group’s homes for takeout instead. Even though everyone was driving but our family, it worked out great. Our driving friends stopped to order dinner while we biked there.

BART to Birthday

Sunday morning we woke up late after Saturday’s fun, and I checked Evite and realized that the party we were supposed to go to was starting in less than two hours — in San Bruno, near San Francisco airport. I hadn’t even made a plan for how to get there.

This was one of those times where not owning a car can be a drag, because when you own a car, you don’t have to set aside time to plan how to get somewhere. You just jump in the car and go.

After a few minutes with Google Maps over coffee, I realized that if we hurried, we had time to BART to the party, which was at Dart Ops, a Nerf war facility, at Tanforan shopping mall. Thank goodness we had bought the present and had it wrapped the day before. To speed up our journey, Erik drove us the two miles to the BART station, using a car which a friend parks near our house and which we have the key to. We don’t drive it often, but it is handy for a short trip in a pinch.

As always, the kids enjoyed riding BART better than riding in a car, where they would have been strapped cheek-to-cheek-to-cheek and probably pinching or spitting at each other. OK, they don’t look thrilled in this shot as we ride the boring dark part under the Bay, but still, room to spread out:


 Soon after this moment, a young guy wearing huge headphones started doing yo-yo tricks, which inthralled the kids.


And after that, we met a nice young woman who was suited up to work as a medical technician at the 49ers-Bears game that evening at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara. She had a longer trip ahead of her than we did.

After an hour ride including one transfer, we got off just before SFO and had to figure out how to walk from BART to the party. This was the toughest part, because although the two buildings weren’t far apart as the crow flies, of course nothing is set up for walkers and we had to take a roundabout route along sidewalks. At least there were sidewalks, and even a bike/walking path for part of it.

Because our walk took longer than anticipated, we were half an hour late for the party, but the hosts were late too so things were just getting started when we arrived. The big kids played in the dart war area, but Toth was too young so he got to play in this trippy children’s bouncy area. He loved it!


After the party, our lack of flexibility in not driving came into play. The birthday boy’s mom invited us all back to their apartment in San Francisco to play Minecraft. Their apartment is in San Francisco, but not near a BART station.

But no worries — the three kids and I found rides in unoccupied seats in the backs of a couple of the other guests’ cars. We had brought along Toth’s booster just in case this happened. At the end of the long afternoon, our friends were kind enough to drop us at BART so we could head back to the East Bay.

We boarded BART at Civic Center, where we not surprisingly had a less-savory environment. There was this one dude sitting wrapped in a blanket on the floor in the middle of the station, lighting up a glass pot pipe. But the kids did not notice because they were too busy staring at another guy who was doing tricks with a glass ball, rolling up and down his arms, like David Bowie in Labyrinth. A BART worker driving a floor cleaner stopped to watch, and the guy even let him try it, but the worker wisely realized right away that he would probably break the thing if he tried rolling it down his arm, and gave it back.

We never see stuff like that go down when we drive.