This year we rode our 3rd annual bike ride to Brentwood, California to visit G&S Farms to go cherry picking in Brentwood. Our original ride to cherry picking was great, and we've wanted to continue the tradition every year.
Getting there isn't very easy by transit, but it can be a neat multimodal trip from Oakland and other parts of the East Bay.
Cherry Picking by Bike in Brentwood 2023 - Some stuff was different than years past.
BART Bus Bridge
This year, due to track work that was being done on the BART tracks between Rockridge BART and Orinda BART, there was what they call a "Bus Bridge" between stations. There was no direct train service, but there were free courtesy shuttle buses at both Rockridge and Orinda stations. This is normally a bit of a hassle, but it was especially more worrisome because we had our bikes. I knew that AC Transit buses normally have rack space for 2 bikes in the front, and we had the equivalent of 2.5 bikes - two adult bikes and our Trail-A-Bike.
We were planning to meet other families in Brentwood before picking cherries, so I didn't want to arrive at BART and be stuck if our bikes didn't fit. I reached out to BART and the Bike East Bay and was eventually assured that bus operations would make accommodations if the bike racks were full.
We planned our route (more on that below) and estimated our arrival time in Brentwood so that other familes could meet us then for lunch. Due to the BART Bus Bridge, trains were only running every 30 minutes, which made our timing a little more critical. (Sadly these long headways make BART less usable overall, but I'm not sure how much flexibility they have in improving this).
When we arrived at Rockridge BART, we found that our worries about the bike racks being full were warranted. There were already two bikes that people had loaded onto the front rack. Luckily there were a lot of people in hi-vis vests there and I was able to tell them that I had been told that bus drivers would make accommodations if the racks were full. Though the bus was fairly crowded, they were able to have us bring our bikes onto the bus, and though a bit uncomfortable, other bus riders helped stabilize our bikes while we got ourselves situated.
Getting on the BART train en route to Antioch
It was stressful trying to get all of our bikes off of the bus and onto the BART platform for the transfer, since we only had 5 minutes. We ran with our bikes a little because it was a short transfer, and it took us a while to get our whole setup up and down stairs. We may have fit some of the bikes in an elevator, but we didn't want to risk trying the elevator if there was a chance we'd have to carry our bikes up the stairs anyway. It was a lot calmer once we made it onto the BART train.
The transfer at the Pittsburg transfer station is a little annoying, but it wasn't too bad. The new trains are still pretty nice.
An annoyance: stairs at BART stations
Carrying the bikes up and down the stairs at the Antioch BART station was not that fun but manageable. At the same time, it's kind of unfriendly infrastructure that feels like it only exists because car routes were prioritized. You have to go up all of these stairs in order to get over and across Highway 4. Walking across a freeway bridge helps remind you how loud moving cars are!
A longer but mellower bike route from Antioch to Brentwood
Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch travels over Highway 4 and was probably our least favorite stretch of the route on previous years. We had talked about how our kid could potentially ride their own bike, and I sought out a lower-stress route just in case.
The new route was about 13 miles long instead of the original 10 miles, but allowed us to spend more time on residential streets with less traffic, and more time on dedicated biking and walking paths.
Slatten Ranch road by the Antioch BART station looks like this. It has a fairly wide bike lane, but also a long wide street where people drive fast. Luckily there wasn't much traffic on it, so overall it was not too stressful to ride on.
We elected to go out of the way and ride through a residential area in order to avoid Hillcrest Ave. I did not account for how hilly it was in this area! It still felt worth it in order to skip Hillcrest Ave. As I'd written before, the bike lane is weird, very narrow at points, and there are multiple freeway on/off ramps to navigate. It's a very high stress area for someone on a bike.
So a couple of extra miles and hills were an okay trade:
Interestingly, BART originally reached out to see if a bike/pedestrian bridge could be constructed across the freeway and BART tracks. But some residents didn't like the idea: "It will simply make that neighborhood’s parking unbearable for the homeowners there and have all kinds of randoms in their neighborhood," and suggested that BART add bus shuttles instead. This would have been a non-solution for us. We were not about to get on a 4th bus/train for the first leg of our trip.
Oh well. As a result, we rode an extra hilly 2 miles just to make a safe crossing and ended up being "randoms" in someone else's "backyard" instead.
One positive was that our new route meant a much smoother transition onto the Via Delta De Anza trail. It was pretty good riding except the trail was closed near Bellflower Drive for some reason. I couldn't see why it was closed. As a result, we rode on Hillcrest Ave, which parallels the trail, for a bit. This part of Hillcrest Ave is a little bit friendlier for biking. It's still a super wide 4-lane road, but there is a decently wide (painted) bike lane, and we only needed to ride on it for a quarter a mile or so.
It was great to get back on the trail after we crossed Hillcrest Avenue:
Somehow along the way here, I got stung by a bee or a wasp, while riding. I don't know how it happened and I'm surprised that an insect could sting me while I was riding at 15mph or so.
Our path took us onto Neroly Rd, in Oakley, CA, where we rode by Freedom High School. It looked like a commencement ceremony had just ended, and there were graduates in their caps and gowns having their pictures taken. Congrats to them!
This time, instead of riding on O'Hara Ave for a longer while, we cut into Brentwood Park so we could eventually make our way onto the Marsh Creek Trail. This area was pretty.
On the Marsh Creek trail we happened to see a huge lot of brush-clearing goats:
The Marsh Creek Trail passes under O'Hara Ave. Once again, the tunnels are neat, but it's also weird car-centric infrastructure. Having to build tunnels and underpasses probably adds a ton to the cost of a simple paved path for people who walk and bike. A bike rider has to take a really weird 3-tunnel route in order to make a simple left turn. Riding through tunnels is fun though, so maybe it's ok.
Making a left turn as a bike rider
Making a left turn as a car driver
It felt great to roll into the cherry picking farm in Brentwood. The cherry season seemed to be later this year than last, probably due to all of the rain earlier this year. The trees were full of cherries. We rolled our bikes (we had AirTags mounted on the bikes just in case of course) near the farm stand, signed the waiver, got cherry bags, and then walked to the trees.
The bike ride back from the Cherry farm to Antioch BART station
We stopped by Safeway before leaving Brentwood to pick up some snacks and refreshing drinks. Then we were off again!
Riding in the afternoon sun was very pretty. The grass was golden and glowing with the low afternoon light. Mount Diablo looked great below the striated cloudy sky.
Getting our bikes back onto BART was not too bad.
At the bus bridge in Orinda, the bike racks on the shuttle bus were once again full. This time, instead of fitting our bikes onto the crowded bus, we were able to catch the next bus that left immediately after the first. We put one bike on the front rack, and the other + trail-a-bike in the aisle. The Bike Beam held up well at 60mph highway speeds!
When we got back to the BART station, we calmly rode home and emptied (and eventually washed) our cherries while thinking about what we wanted to do with them the next day.