Riding to the Beach

Oakland's Beach

Anna was called to substitute for a prenatal education class today so I found myself with a free morning/afternoon to fill. Always eager to get out and explore our fair city on my bike, I popped open Google maps, turned on the satellite view and scanned the area around downtown Oakland for an interesting destination. I notice a small patch of green along the bay, snuggled in behind the Port of Oakland and zoomed in to see that the green patch is a little park called Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. Destination found!

I clicked on Google Map’s bike lane layer and choose a good route from our place to the park and set out. The full round trip (including little side loops in and around the park) rang up 15 miles on the bike computer. There are some long stretches of Middle Harbor Road where I pedaled past heaping piles of shipping containers and flatbed trailers stacked up in the yards next to the docks. I imagine that this is a humming place during the week. On a this cool, breezy Saturday, though, I had the road mostly to myself. On the way to the park I was pedaling directly into a stiff wind. (The ride to the park took considerably longer than the ride home — it was a struggle to keep the bike above 9 miles per hour when pedaling into the wind. On the way home I barely pedaled and easily rolled along at 13-14 mph.)

Like Union Point Park, the landscape of the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park seems relatively new. There are some picnic areas, a couple of large grassy fields (a soccer team was practicing on the field next to the beach) and, of course, the beach. The tide was out while I was visiting, so the sandy shoreline looked over a vast mudflat, but I imagine it woud be a nice place to soak up some sun on a warm summer afternoon.

Along the south side of the park you can get within a couple hundred yards of the massive cranes that load the container ships that carry goods in and out of the United States through one of the west coast’s busiest ports. It’s fascinating to sit and watch the process as the cranes gracefully pick up containers and swing them onto tall stacks on the decks of the giant ships. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: the somewhat natural landscape of the shoreline park (it’s actually sitting on a massive man made landform) butted up against a industrial landscape of the container shipping facilities. From where I stood to watch the ship being loaded I could turn 180 degrees and I was staring at the San Francisco skyline across the bay.

I hope to return to the park soon. The wind, sun, and the salty air were a tonic.

Container ShipGreen Container CraneContainer CraneMiddle Harbor Shoreline ParkPiles of containersLight on corner of observation tower

Saturday May 22, 2010 — Mark —