Alameda and Bay Farm Island, and more bike challenges


Today was a complex day, full of ups and downs. Right now, the ups are what stick with me, so I’ll mostly focus on those.

I went to the Brompton-approved bike shop here on Alameda to check on the rusty part of my bike. The mechanic told me it wasn’t something to worry about at this point. He lubed it for me—at no charge—and sent me on my way. What a relief!

Then I checked out the local natural foods store, just a few blocks away, which was part of a larger marketplace. Then I went to sit in the sun in a local park, which was a welcome respite from all my recent errands and stressors. I finally got a chance to catch up by phone with a friend I’d been wanting to talk to for weeks, which felt good.

And then, my friend Selina, whom I had never met in person but only online, came over from San Francisco to do a short bike ride with me in the afternoon. We crossed over the bike-and-ped bridge to Bay Farm Island (which isn’t actually an island—in fact, it’s the site of the Oakland airport) and saw some beautiful late-afternoon-light views of the bay and some lovely trees.

Afterward, I headed back to my Servas hosts’ house, but not before stopping at the nearby Safeway for a few sundries. On the way, I took Shore Line Drive, and got to see the sun setting over the bay. Beautiful.

A strange and unfortunate thing happened outside the Safeway, though: I locked up the bike to go inside, and when I returned and approached the bike to unlock it, a man sitting on a nearby bench stood up. Perhaps he had a neurological problem or something; he reeled after standing up, and then fell awkwardly to the sidewalk. It was a difficult thing to observe, and reminded me of my own fall (from the bike) just a few days ago. Like me, he lay on the ground dazed for a bit, as several onlookers stopped to see if he was all right. He seemed lucid, but said he was “not all right.” People called paramedics, and helped him to his feet, including a woman who seemed well versed in such protocols. I stepped away briefly, to give space to the people surrounding him who seemed to know what to do to help. As I walked back to unlock my bike and head home, the woman was sitting next to him on the bench, and addressed me as I approached the rack: “He wants to know if the bike is OK.”

I had actually seen his head hit the front wheel as he went down, but it seemed to be a minor impact (compared to his impact on the concrete) so I assured them both that I assumed it was fine. I walked the bike to the curb, just as two fire trucks pulled up and paramedics jumped out to help him. I carefully navigated around the trucks to begin pedaling just a few blocks back to the house.

But as I did, I noticed that the bike had in fact sustained some damage.

Oof! I had just managed to shake off most of my stress from the past few days (lodging has been falling into place; I dropped off the pants for mending; the bike had had its OK from the shop just a few hours ago) and now it all flooded back. What was this new damage? How would I fix it?

I biked home to the painful sound of my front tire rubbing against something. I tried to manually straighten the fender, and checked to make sure the brakes were OK and not rubbing, but the sound continued.

I knew I would need to leave the house pretty early in the morning, because I was to head all the way from Alameda to Pleasanton, then return to Alameda and pick up the trailer, before setting out for north Berkeley, where I’ll be staying the next two nights. But I wouldn’t be able ride the bike like this.

It was now dark. Presumably, all bike shops were closed. Google Maps told me that the Brompton-certified one wouldn’t open until 11 tomorrow.


After I got back and told my host Lucy about the situation, though, and we looked over the bike together, I checked Google again and discovered that another nearby bike shop was still open for another 40 minutes. I took the chance to bike ten minutes or so over there. The mechanic put the bike up on the stand, and adjusted the steel wires connecting the fender. They are bent at special “odd” angles, by design, so I had been afraid to work too hard at manually adjusting them myself, lest I inadvertently bend them out of shape in a way that would cause lasting harm. But the mechanic saw what needed to be done, and bent them quickly back into alignment. The wheel spun easily, and no further action seemed necessary. He even declined to charge me for this quick-and-easy fix. What a blessing! (If you’re ever bicycling in Alameda, I can personally recommend both Alameda Bicycle and Westside Joe’s Bikes.)

So… I was on my way again, and feeling OK again. I returned to the house and enjoyed another delicious home-cooked meal and good conversation with my hosts, Lucy and Dan. They even took a picture of me for their “Servas book” of all their guests*.

So… all’s well that ends well, although if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip, it’s that nothing ever “ends.” Things sometimes go smoothly, and sometimes don’t. And either one can change in an instant, and even change back again in an instant. So, I’m doing my best to breathe as much as I can, smile and laugh (or at least chuckle ruefully) as much as I can, and trust as much as I can. Tomorrow is always a new day. And I’m looking forward to it.

* Incidentally, if you’ve been reading about Servas here on my blog, and you’re curious about possibly becoming a host, I would encourage you to look into it. Many Servas hosts in the US are upwards of 70 years old, and although this represents a treasure trove of wisdom and travel experience, some of them are beginning to “retire” from hosting, and it’s such a wonderful organization that they (we) all hope for more new members, both hosts and travelers. All the hosts I’ve stayed with or met up with have said they’ve had wonderful experiences.

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