Tooling Around San Jose

I had the afternoon to myself as my wife took the girls up to Napa Valley, so I figured I’d ride my bike to the nearest park with a disc golf course. It turns out that the nearest one is over twelve miles away, but what the hell, I had a full afternoon and I planned a stop midway at the Gordon Biersch brewery to tip back a few pints.

I’m a lot more comfortable riding on these city roads now. It’s pretty nerve-wracking at first because it seems that, no matter what route you take, you’re going to be overwhelmed by automobile traffic. A lot of roads have a well spaced bike mini-lane, but you have to fend for yourself most of the time, often choosing whether it would be better to die from getting hit from behind by oncoming traffic or by being cut in two when a car parked on the side of the road suddenly opens their door as you pass by. It’s a delicate balance, and you learn to have eyes everywhere and hope they see you.

And as always, wear your helmet. You’ll at least stay alive long enough to disapprovingly rebuke the mom texting in the minivan who pins you between herself and a parked car while making a right turn.

As it turns out, if you bike 12.5 miles in the city, you’re more than likely have to bike that same distance back. Having forgone basic arithmetic, it came as a surprise to me, halfway through, that I embarked on a 25 mile journey. During rush hour, nonetheless.

Riding during the normal mayhem is fun but if you really want to live, take your bike to the streets during rush hour. The bumper to bumper traffic and lightning fast lane changes ought to satisfy any thrill-seekers’ palate. The lights are timed even worse for bikes during this timeframe, so no matter how hard you peddle or yell obscenities, you’ll always end up at the intersection just after the light turns red. There were at least four blocks where I rode as hard as I could, screeching to halt as the light turned red, only to be greeted each time by the same group of people walking the same way as I was riding. I was panting for breath. They were looking at me quizzically.

I made it there and back in one piece. The park with the disc golf course was a sad imitation. It took a while to find it. I rode up and down Hellyer park, which is a nice, green, and luscious park on the edge of the foothills, but couldn’t find a single disc basket. Only when I left the park, crossing underneath Highway 101, did I come upon the disc golf course. Whereas Hellyer park was vibrant with life, the disc golf course was a deserted afterthought. Nothing but scrub brush, dead grass, and dirt. The baskets were packed so closely together that, even with pictures of the course at the start of each hole, you couldn’t tell which one you were aiming at. I had a feeling there were rattlesnakes everywhere so I tread lightly and avoided the brush.

The disc golf course was a bit of a disappointment, but I can appreciate the reason it had to be that way. With open green space inside the city such a commodity, it would be inappropriate to plant a disc golf course in the middle of a well-to-do park. Instead, the only place one could thrive is on a rejected lot by the highway. I’d like to go to some parks in the mountains to find a good disc golf course, but my bike marathon only brought me a tiny way through the city, and there’s no way I’m peddling ten times as far just to get up into the mountains. I’ll have to wait for the Jeep and a willing wife.

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