Published Cycle California, March 2018, Vol. 24 #3
Ride a painted pony
Let the spinning wheel spin
— Blood, Sweat and Tears
Sure, you can load your water bottles with powdered electrolytes and stuff your back pockets with all varieties of gels or protein bars. But sometimes a ride just needs a booster rocket in the form of a doughnut, also efficiently spelled as donut. According to the Smithsonian, the doughnut was developed by the loving mother of a New England ship captain, who actually put nuts in the soft center of a small round cake. This has evolved into what you crave, whether glazed, chocolate, powdered, old fashioned, sugar; maybe top-coated with maple, sprinkles, coconuts, pecans, pistachios, anything.
Really? Maybe not at the start but when the adrenaline rush of starting the ride has long subsided, when your stomach’s empty and your brain needs sugar to carry on. You want something more than that gooey packet you’ve been carrying around for two rides.
As my rides mostly leave from the Palo Alto area, my favorite donut stops are strategically located either to stretch out a ride’s distance or gas up an empty tank for the final leg homeward.
Site of the 23 Club and Na Na’s Kitchen, Brisbane is the Bay Area’s secret town. Christy’s donut shop in buried in the more urbane Brisbane Village Shopping Center. Snuggled in a corner of eateries, Christy’s makes a great turnaround destination, located just off Bayshore Blvd., once the main thoroughfare now bypassed by Highway 101. For a short, stiff climb following your indulgence, you can bike through town onto San Bruno Avenue and begin a climb that’s less than a half mile and reaches a gut-wrenching 20% near the top.
For something longer, find Guadalupe Canyon Road and turn up Radio Road 1.5 miles to the top of San Bruno Mountain, not very aesthetic with all the communication towers but a great view, often beset by a howling wind.
If by myself, I usually turn around at Christy’s and ride the tailwinds home, 30 miles away in Palo Alto, either along the shoreline bike paths or using part of the paved Centennial Way Trail.
Burlingame, Royal Donut
Downtown Burlingame is chic but the Burlingame Ave. donut shop is definitely old school. 17 miles from Palo Alto, the Royal Donut Shop is located next to the train station, which is a plus if you and your group want a CalTrain lift home. The shop is located where N. San Mateo Dr. meets California Ave. on a north-south bike corridor with lots of street traffic but very direct.
From Burlingame, a rabbit warren of narrow streets ascends through Hillsborough. To the north, the Broadway bike bridge crosses 101 to a bayside road that leads to the paved Bay Trail south. Going south instead, you can take Crystal Springs Rd. and Polhemus Rd. to reach a sluggish 0.75 mile climb at 5% to the Ralston Bike Bridge and then down to Cañada Rd. If your donut has served you well, for more adventure, you can stay on Ralston Ave to Hallmark Dr., which roller coasters to Crestview Dr. before cascading down to Edgewood Rd.
Redwood City, Donut King
The Donut King at Alameda de las Pulgas and Jefferson Ave. 9 miles from Palo Alto, too close to be a direct turnaround worthy of a donut break. To earn your calories, you could take Cañada Rd. out of Woodside and swerve down Edgewood Rd. before turning right onto Cordilleras Rd. Cordilleras in English means ridges, which the Emerald Hills provide. Going up Sylvan Dr. and then bearing left snakes to a short unpaved section at the base of the Easter Cross. Eventually, you’ll reach Jefferson Ave. followed by a twisting descent through neighborhoods, always watching for cars.
If part of a longer ride, the Donut King provides a last stop before taking the Pulgas Alameda (“Fleas Highway”) home.
Niles, Niles Donut
Situated at Mission Blvd. and Niles Canyon Rd., Niles Donut is at a crossroads, located about 17 miles from Palo Alto. After crossing Dumbarton Bridge and cruising along the paved Alameda Creek Trail, you’re ready for a break. Niles, a district within the City of Fremont, has its own quaint attraction, having been Charlie Chaplin’s first West Coast film studio, worthy of a pedal tour through the small downtown.
While scenic, Niles Canyon can have spotty heavy traffic and zero shoulder at times. Just across Mission Blvd. is a little neighborhood on Old Canyon Rd. with Canyon Heights Dr. leading southward to Morrison Canyon Rd., a narrow and steep two-mile dead end ascent to the left, or a right turn back to Mission Blvd. Returning via Dumbarton means suffering once more through the bumpy chipseal layer covering the former approach, once traveled by thousands on Sunday evenings returning from Lake Tahoe or Yosemite Valley.
The alternative is to find your way to the Alviso, thereby making a loop to your west bay start.
The London-named Park Victoria Shopping Center is located on East Calaveras Blvd., just east of I-280. From south Palo Alto, it’s 16 miles direct by going around Moffett Field to Alviso and then Calaveras Blvd. Longer by a few miles and with less traffic is the paved Coyote Creek Trail connecting with Dixon Landing Road to reach Park Victoria. The shopping center is a great starting point for parking if doing a daunting Sierra Road loop or extending to Mt. Hamilton for a long out and back.
Christy’s is one of many donut shops using that name (including the first one in this article). Going on line, I learned that the original Christy’s in La Habra was bought in 1976 by a Cambodian native, who had been working at Winchell’s. The new owner kept purchasing other stores, naming them Christy’s without establishing a true brand identity. If the England-related name sounds familiar, Christie’s in London was founded in the mid-18th century, a hundred years before the first donut was made.
I only mention these donut shops by name for their location related to local bicycle loops. Bike in any urban setting and you’re sure to come upon a downhome donut shop. As Shakespeare once wrote, “The world is your donut,” or something to that effect (okay, it was oyster, not as readily available).
So, how many calories in a donut? Are you kidding me? Websites indicate that at 15 mph and 190 pounds, you’re burning about 58 calories per mile. 9 miles of biking and you’ve earned that maple bar! If you weigh less, say 130 pounds and don’t want to get up to 190, put in 12 miles. If you’re still feeling guilty about having downed even a lesser calorie donut, take the long way home.