It’s Tuesday morning so that means my weekly commute ride from North Berkeley to Mountain Yoga in the Oakland hills to teach my advanced level yoga class. It’s roughly a 10 mile ride that takes me about an hour, crossing town southward through the flatlands for the first half, then gradually ascending up Broadway Terrace into Montclair Village. My students marvel at this effort, but I do it for the love of being with them each week and sharing in the joy of the practice. And to be frank, it’s something I only thought about doing when I still owned a car two years ago, but now seems as regular as brushing my teeth.
The toughest part of the ride is keeping completely alert in the midst of the morning bustle of people in cars who are late for work, bleary-eyed, cell-phoning and texting while driving, and just plain in a hurry and distracted. I am everyone’s eyes and ears, not just my own. The first stretch through Berkeley offers Milvia Street’s generous bike lane with the biggest obstacle being Berkeley High’s colorful array of student’s arriving for school in a parade of latest fashions. They move along in boisterous packs, or arrive by car practicing their skittish driving methods with mom in the passenger seat. And, whether by foot or by car, like clockwork cut into the bike lane completely unaware of my presence. The next segment is a zigzag of bike laned streets towards the upscale Rockridge neighborhood passing young parents escorting their young ones to elementary schools; commuters rushing to find parking at BART stations; and standing-room-only, behemoth buses shuttling the masses to their 9-5 jive in downtown Oakland. I’m pleased with the random driver who stops to let me cross a busy street and I wave and smile to acknowledge their awareness and kind gesture.
Part two of the ride begins at Broadway and College, my old art school stomping grounds where I gaze nostalgically towards my past as I wait for the light to change. When it does, it’s as though someone snapped their fingers and I’m transported into a new realm. As I pick up the bottom of Broadway Terrace and amble upward for several miles, the ambiance shifts as I pass the country club and a stacking of increasingly beautiful homes that evolve towards miniature estates. Landscapers unpack their trucks; locals walk their pure-breds; a single latina woman disembarks from an otherwise empty bus on her way to take care of children and household duties for the well-to-do; and serious, competitive road cyclists take on another morning challenge in the network of world-class rides up here. A sensory shift occurs; a deer grazing by the side of the road, the scent of skunk, a warmth to the air, as the winding narrow route begins to hug into the edges of verdant oak and redwood forest of the Oakland hills.
Some days, I take the alternate short-cut past the gorgeous grounds of the Theological Seminary and on through to Lake Temescal, a family swim area in the summer and an all-seasons retreat from the urban pulse of Oakland. The area is verdant and full of bird life and challenges me with a series of uphill stretches of paved biking trails that spits out onto the upper reaches of Broadway Terrace.
As I gradually approach Montclair Village, very much like a European village of intimate shops and eateries, I hear the banter and laughter of the seniors enjoying coffee outside Peet’s, a regular klatsch that today includes a couple of guys plucking a mandolin and a guitar. I steer my way onto the sidewalk to lock up my bike and unpack: from cyclist to yoga teacher – my cotton chamois, fresh clothes, music, a journal of yoga inspirations, grooming tools, and, the most important item in my pack: an attitude of service to others.