For the second year in a row, we missed the Viva Calle San Jose ride, but I remember our fun ride in 2015. This is the story I wrote then.
My husband sees the announcement in the Metro, that free weekly paper, the one with ads for phone sex. The Metro piles up around the house because he likes to read every article and cut out restaurant write-ups. Me, I only read the Capricorn horoscope, to make sure I’m on the right track with my life. We both read the Mercury News but for some reason, that paper never mentions the ride until after the fact, so if Irv hadn’t seen this week’s free paper and noticed the map showing streets to be closed off, we would have missed an all-round beautiful day––the first annual Viva Calle SJ Ride.
We park at Blackford School, unload the bikes from the car, and ride down Willow on what is the last leg of our normal ride if we start out in Los Gatos. We pedal past the crowd at Bill’s and on toward Bird Avenue where we often turn toward the Guadalupe River trail. But this time we stay on Willow toward the roadway that is closed off for the event.
We ride down a street where all the shops are Mexican––is this still Willow Glen? I wait outside a small grocery while Irv goes in to look for Spanish peanuts packed with hot peppers, which they don’t have. A man with a big smile offers me free bottles of agua fria, but we already have water bottles on our bikes. I take one frosty bottle and tell him we’ll share it and refill our bottles. He’s happy. Then on to Keyes and Story––roads that we rarely drive, let alone walk or ride. Lots of people: kids on scooters, moms pushing strollers, big burly guys riding bikes with little dogs in the basket, and lots of street music––some from boom boxes carried on two-wheelers ridden by black-jacketed men in leather and tattoos. We feel safe. At intersections with established car routes, handlers put up yellow Cuidado barrier tapes when the light turns red, and we stop.
Pretty soon the store signs include words like Duc, Phat, and Thiet, with little squiggles hanging out of the letters. We had heard of the fuss about naming the area, but certain people must have prevailed because we pass a sign announcing “Little Saigon.” My first visit. It looks like every other part of San Jose filled with small shopping malls.
Out to the Emma Prusch farm where we have also never been – kids can get pony rides today, and maybe every day, I don’t know. A huge gravel lot corrals porta-potties and food trucks selling aqua fresca, tacos, and “real Thai” food. Then we back-track the same route past tire stores and gas stations, through a transition area with ambiguous shop names like “Lee’s”, to First Street where we turn north for another leg of the ride.
More tire stores and tattoo parlors, taquerias and pho shops are closer together and share doorways. We stop to join a crowd watching niñas––not yet chicas but grown up enough to wear carnations behind their ears––swirl their bright colored skirts in time to canned music a parent provides. And here I am, without a camera. VTA and repair shops hand out notices of free bike clinics and maps.
My husband and I share a dish of cinnamon-y “Eastside horchata ice cream” from a food truck, then walk our bikes a block North and two or three East––Irv is sure there’s a Mexican market here that might sell the peanuts packaged with hot peppers. But no market and therefore no peanuts, so we jump on our bikes and head back South again amid the other riders, strollers, and roller-bladers, toward downtown Willow Glen, but first, a stop at one more market where Irv also does not find Spanish peanuts packaged with hot peppers.
Back on the normal, not-closed-off streets, I have trouble remembering to stay in the bike lane and share the road with autos. We make it to the Blackford School and put the bikes on the car: 15 miles total––just enough of a ride on a perfect October day.
When we get home, Irv sees that he already has a couple of bags of peppery peanuts in the pantry. He probably found them at Trader Joe’s.