Cinderella Trail: Feels on Wheels

Excited to hit the trail with John Roberts of BTCEB

Many if not most of the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park meetings and email threads include conversations about bikers at the park. On the one end of the spectrum are jerks from other cities who ignore trail markers, build illegal jumps, and zoom past or even insult hikers. On the other end of the spectrum are the park guardians.

I asked John Roberts of the Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay if he'd show me the park through his eyes, or at least at his speed. We met at the Ranger Station and he unloaded an extra set of wheels.

Mountain bikers are mostly men—but I know my way around a bike. My brothers, cousins, surrogate sons never thought to invite me on a mud run. But John loaned me his daughter's bike—he'd raised her on the trail. My husband bikes to work, but would begrudgingly load up for our own family trips along the shoreline. Once we started dropping our own son and his wheels off at Chabot Science Center (where he worked as a museum explainer), it was no longer a family affair. He discovered the joy of gravity on his commutes home. I'd always been a bit jealous—and couldn't wait to see the park on wheels. 

From the ranger station we cycled down the hillside to the meadow, giving John a chance to coach me on the gearing—shifter technology keeps evolving. It was great to be back in a saddle again, and I told him stories about biking through Europe with my family the year I moved out to California to finish my BA at Mills. 

Tooling along past the blackberries and bays, I could completely see how the idyll of being immersed in the scenery a little faster than a walk could turn into a technical obsession, and how the search for the perfect gear could make spending thousands easy. And you have to have the outfit, too... today I was certainly not dressed for aerodynamics!

We took a right above the Sinawik chimney (no longer a cabin), and headed off on a trail new to me. It took a while to get the hang of the up-down quick shifting, so I did a fair amount of getting off to push—not something I mind at all, though John with his well-trained brain/thumb muscle memory would whiz right past me, spinning easily in a low gear.

Once we got a little elevation, the views were just breathtaking. I must admit it was a little bit like getting to go to the ball, suddenly seeing the world from the famous Cinderella Trail! Of course, the downside of biking is you can't just pull your camera out! The trail narrowed and it took some concentration to stay on the path on those thin tires, the ground sloping up on my right and down down down on my left!

We stopped for a sip of water when we got to the end, and I went out to Castle Drive just to orient myself. "Be careful out there"—we spoke to another biker about the reports of brazen, armed bike jackers. I learned about the service the bike patrol does to for the community. They see things that others don't, and they know what to do about them. They build and maintain trails. They offer assistance to hikers, and keep their eyes out for danger. And they know what to do if trouble occurs. They wear red jackets and look very official—so if you see one give them a wave!

Not so aerodynamic, but mighty pleased!

The ride back was a real thrill. Memories of Alps and wine country in my muscles, though, I stood on my pedals and let my knees become shock absorbers. John and I took turns leading the way. I was more comfortable following, and listening for his shifting as the path fell and rose and turned (and going  "wheeeeee" not quite loud enough for him to hear.)  

Sometimes in this role I feel  like a bee, going from flower to flower, sipping knowledge but also sharing pollen. John and I talked about the scarred hill at Lookout Point, where the fences keep coming down. He did not know about the rare and endangered Oakland Star Tulip. Soon the idea will take fruit, of re-routing trails in that area to create a restoration area.

Being on wheels again brought back so many wonderful memories for me. From riding my bike to school to riding through fields of yellow flowers in Europe, I was both grateful for the friendship of this park, and motivated to get my old roadster fixed up and find a ride up to the park! I'll end this post with a favorite bike picture of me and my dad, who passed away last month, with a song in his heart...probably about a bicycle. I've got a story about his dad, coming up soon....


  1. I suggest requiring all mountain bicyclists to ride tandem, thus creating a symbiotic relationship with another individual - and the earth around them.


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