In August of 2017, we relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. Not yet certain of where we would be working, we took the most affordable Airbnb we could find, which happened to be in Concord, in the foothills of Mount Diablo, the tallest mountain peak in the Bay Area at 3,849 ft (1,173 m) with one of the largest viewsheds in the Western United States. Apart from it’s geographic significance, it has religious significance to many Native Americans, and early Christian settlers told of miracles happening there. Mount Diablo State Park labels offer a lot of information about the hill’s significance.
The huge size of the suburban roads and houses, and the brightness of the sun, which made the colors of the California landscape vivid, especially the reds and yellows of the parched hillsides, came as a shock after a year spent in the U.K.
No longer able to rely on public transportation, our bicycles became our main mode of transportation until we found a car. Riding on the street posed challenges as bike lanes don’t connect to one another and drivers in Concord don’t offer cyclists the courtesy that drivers in other regions of the Bay Area do. But Concord has something very special – the Contra Costa Canal Trail, which connects to the California State Riding and Hiking Trail.
Quoting from the East Bay Parks Regional District website: “The CA State Riding and Hiking Trail connects Martinez to Lime Ridge Open Space in Concord, beginning at the Carquinez Regional Shoreline. The trail passes over the Franklin Hills and connects with the John Muir Historical Site. It passes through the residential areas and parks of Martinez before entering Pleasant Hill where it shares a paved, multi-use trail with the Contra Costa Canal Trail. It follows the Canal Trail past Walnut Creek’s Larkey Park and Heather Farm Park then crosses Lime Ridge Open Space, residential areas and Newhall Community Park in Concord. The trail then continues southwest towards Lime Ridge and will eventually connect to Mt. Diablo State Park.”
One of the many great things about the Contra Costa Trail is that it nearly intersects with BART stations in Concord and Walnut Creek. One of the first things we did upon arriving in Concord was to take the Trail to Rivendell Bicycle Works in Walnut Creek, home to one of our heroes, Grant Peterson. We were mildly star-struck when he adjusted my brakes on the spot. Not only does Rivendell design, manufacture and sell really cool lugged steel frame construction bikes, but it also sells tons of hard-to-find bike parts and accessories. We stocked up on “unracer” patches and other goodies.
Another fun trip to take is the Contra Costa Trail from Concord to the Walnut Creek BART Station, then the BART from Walnut Creek Station to Civic Center/UN Plaza Station, and then ride from the Civic Center/UN Plaza Station to Golden Gate Park. BART staff are super friendly and more than happy to help. But if you’ve never been to San Francisco before, take heed that the Civic Center/UN Plaza Station is an epicenter of San Francisco’s homelessness problem.
One day when we were cycling around Concord, we were surprised to stumble upon an Eichler neighborhood.
Joe Eichler was a post-WWII building developer who valued “correct” architectural aesthetic over making a large profit. He is one of the America’s most famous building developers. Most people assume he designed the Eichler homes (myself amongst them), but they were in fact originally designed by Anshen & Allen.
Eichler homes were affordably-priced, mass-produced, modern works of art consisting of 3 bedrooms/2 baths, blank front facades, flat or peaked rooves, rear and side walls of floor-to-ceiling glass, kitchens open to the family room, wood siding and post-and-beam ceilings, radiant-heat concrete floors, and atriums, spanning 650 to 1,500 square feet with enclosed backyards.
“The use of Anshen & Allens’ ‘concentric circle’ or ‘bull’s-eye’ site plan, which featured cul-de-sac streets that reduced vehicular traffic, created varied views of the houses and more privacy” (“Design for Living: Eichler Homes,” by Jerry Ditto, Lanning Stern, 1995).
Eichler homes sell for a pretty penny today, but originally targeted middle class families.
Significantly, Joe Eichler, a product of the frontier ideology of individualism and equality associated with California, sold to non-whites, facing down complaints from white home-owners.
Nearby there was an example of a far more modest Post-WWII, flat-roofed development.
We loved our stay in Concord. If you’re looking for a place to stay in the Bay Area, and don’t need to be close to San Francisco, consider Concord. It was a fantastic introduction to the California countryside, and only a 60 minute BART ride away from San Francisco. By the way, Mike Gianni’s Airbnb is amazing (look for my review posted in October 2017).
Airbnb, Luxury 37′ Triple Slide Motorhome in Concord
Anshen & Allen (Wikipedia)
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), About
California Department of Parks and Recreation, Mount Diablo State Park
California State Riding and Hiking Trail (list of trails)
City of Concord California, Parks
Ditto, Jerry, Lanning Stern, Marvin Wax, Joseph L. Eichler, Joseph L. Eichler, and Joseph L. Eichler. 1995. Eichler homes: design for living. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
East Bay Regional Park District, California Riding and Hiking Trial
Grant Peterson (Wikipedia)
List of summits of the San Francisco Bay Area (Wikipedia)
Lugged steel frame construction (Wikipedia)
Mount Diablo (Wikipedia)
Review of “Just Ride” by Grant Peterson in the New York Times, 27 July 2012
Rivendell Bicycle Works
UC Berkeley Environmental Deisgn Archives, Oakland & Imada
University of California Oak Woodland Management, California’s Oak Woodland Species