Changing Gears: Biking San Francisco’s ‘Opposite Shore’

This weekend’s Bay Area bicycling tour explores the byways across the bay. Spanish explorers first called these lands the Contra Costa, or the ‘opposite shore’, a term which is preserved in the name of Contra Costa County, as well as many other landmarks in the region.

In this tour, we’ll take the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train from Oakland’s Jack London Square (a great ride with the tracks running right up against the waters of the bay) to Martinez, an old port town on the Carquinez Strait, where the waters of inland California flow into San Francisco Bay. This was the route of Gold Rush miners up to Sacramento and then on to the diggings, and today is a heavily used deep water channel with ships bringing Central Valley produce down to the big ports on the Bay.

Martinez was heavily populated in the early 1900s by Italian immigrants, mostly from Sicily, and mostly fishermen by trade. Many of them continued west and went on to create Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, including the di Maggio family, whose son Joe went on to spectacular fame. The St Catherine of Siena Cemetery at the top of the hill above the town is testimony to generations of immigrant families from Italian-speaking lands, and a beautiful spot to watch the ships go by.

Leaving the Amtrak station in Martinez, we wind up to the Carquinez Scenic Road toward Port Costa. Alas, most of the road is closed due to rebuilding, so we’ll head back, take in the John Muir House, his gravesite, and the scenic backroads of Alhambra and Reliez Valleys. Last stop is the Contra Costa Canal Path and a BART ride home (with some excited Oakland A’s fans). Enjoy the ride!

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