Biking the Berkeley Hills
The Berkeley Hills Biking Bonanza
Way back in my Russia daze, I would spend countless hours playing Age of Empires with Matt, who was one of the many Peace Corps volunteers in Russia. His claim to fame in the PC community, besides his grammatically correct swear words, was his mountain bike, which was the only thing he brought to Russia.
Now Russia is not known for its bike-friendly climate, and anyone whose lived there will tell you that Russian drivers can be even more cold than the winters, so Matt’s bike drew stares everywhere he rode. While I was never brave or sober enough to ride with him, I did hear his constant stories about mountain biking in the Berkeley Hills. By the time I got to San Francisco, I was so sick of the Southern California car culture; I instantly called up Matt in Orinda to ride in his famous hills.
So there I was, on a hot Wednesday morning, sweating my ass off in what looked to me like a very parched cow pasture on the side of an uninspiring hill. Wondering if I somehow had offended Matt to the point that he wanted to bike me to death, I asked a few times for us to turn around on our dusty 2,000 ft assent up the backside of the Berkeley Hills. Luckily, Matt refused to let me quit, though he did allow me to walk my bike up the steep parts.
I say ‘luckily’, because once we reached the top, I was in awe. Sweeping out before me was a lush green canopy stretching down the bayside of the hills with a breathtaking view of Oakland and San Francisco peaking out from the fog. As we biked along the ridgeline, I kept stammering out compliments, drunk with the beauty and views around me.
That’s when I remembered a colleague who, years ago when I worked for ACEEE, turned down a transfer to DC because she lived in the Berkeley Hills. At the time I thought Judy was nuts, for DC was the big bright city to me, and anything called “hills” seemed very rural. While the Berkeley Hills can still be argued a rural, I completely understand her decision now. The Berkeley Hills are amazing!
They are so amazing that I went back for a second trip a few days later, this time, Marcie, another ex-Russia PCV, joined us as we went tear-assing through redwood forests and fog-covered trails. Actually, the second trip made me realize how much fun mountain biking is.
It might just live up to all the hype it gets from those who ride the unwieldy things through the city. While I can beat them in a medium gear on my road bike, there is something to be said for sliding down a ridiculously steep and rutted trail at breakneck speeds as branches, rocks, and the occasional squirrel go whizzing by.