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Recap - East Bay Run to the Hills - January 22, 2023

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Your Host For This Event:

Eddie Vergara

Our first drive of 2023 through the East Bay hills almost didn’t happen. After years of extreme drought, the skies opened up with one wet storm after another in quick succession for almost a full month.  Rains had come down so hard that roads through all of the Northern California hills suffered damage, some severely.  The road we originally planned to start our East Bay Hills run on, Redwood Road north of Castro Valley, collapsed and washed out in one large section from the prolonged torrential rain storms.  CalTrans posted numerous traffic advisories for fallen tree debris, flooding, and rock and mudslides throughout our planned route.  Given the conditions and weather, the club leadership and run host discussed possibly rescheduling the run when road and weather conditions would permit.

This run host was determined not to let that happen though, if at all possible.  My MINI had been garaged since October while I was doing some major upgrades, and this run was going to be its inaugural club run.  After all of that wrenching, I was really itching for a nice drive!  I mapped out a potential alternate route, and along with our 2023 club president, Pat Lewis, we went on a pre-run to verify that the new route was passable, safe, and up to NorCal MINIs’ standards for fun monthly runs.  

Fortunately, we were successful, and we relocated the meetup location to east Oakland and began our run for the hills on Skyline Boulevard instead of Redwood Road.  Luckily, the weatherman accurately forecasted a break in the rains the weekend of the run, so we declared the run a “Go!” for February 22.

And what a successful run we had.  We had 90 souls riding in 37 MINIs, including some new members making their first club run with us.

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Early on the morning of the 22nd, five cars from the San Jose area met up at Almaden Ranch Shopping Center and convoyed with the run host up to the run’s revised meetup location at the Foothill Square Shopping Center in Oakland.  The shopping center parking had plenty of room for us to park together, greet old friends, and meet new friends before we held the drivers’ briefing and started the run.

"The Tildesley Collection"

The run meetup featured a special reunion of sorts, starring the “Tildesley Collection of MINIs.”  Three MINIs that used to be owned by Simon (past president), Nikki, and Alex Tildesley are now owned by other NorCal MINIs members, and they all parked next to Simon and Nikki’s Paddy Hopkirk Edition in the first row of cars.  This run also marked Simon’s first club run in many years without any official duties other than to enjoy the drive.  Thank you for your years of service, Simon!  

2023 President, Pat Lewis, at the drivers' briefing

Our new club president, Pat, kicked off our drivers’ briefing with club business and announcements, before turning the floor over to our host, Eddie, to walk us through the day’s route plan.  After discussing the route and safety precautions, we started our engines and tuned our 2-way radios to Channel 7-21 for the scenic drive ahead of us. 

Run host, Eddie Vergara, at the drivers' briefing

To keep the drive manageable with nearly 40 cars on tight, winding backroads, we broke the group into two. The first group was led by Eddie, and the second was led by Pat.  Group #1 drove off with a 10- or 15-minute head start to minimize radio crosstalk between the two groups.  After cutting through the local neighborhood and passing under the freeway, we headed up the hill to Skyline Boulevard.  

Heading north on Skyline Blvd., we climbed up near the top of the east hill’s ridgeline. From this lofty vantage point, our drivers and especially their passengers were treated to stunning views of the Bay on an absolutely clear and pristine day with blue skies and fluffy white clouds.  The Peninsula, Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, San Francisco, and even the Golden Gate Bridge, could all be seen easily from many spots along this first segment of our route.

Following the 40-min drive on Skyline Blvd., we reached our first stop at a picnic rest area among the trees of Tilden Park.  Drivers and passengers took a bio-break and stretched their legs before we picked up our second half of the run deeper through the east hills.  

At the rest stop, Group #1 was pleasantly surprised to meet a fellow MINI owner who had seen our group on Skyline, followed us to Tilden Park in his Rebel Green JCW, and inquired about our group.  Club directors shared a NorCal MINIs business card with him and explained what we were all about.  We were glad to learn that the driver joined the club within just a day or two of the run.  Welcome to NorCal MINIs,  Jim M.!

Tilden Park rest stop

The second segment of the run featured more of Tilden Park's forests and the wonderful sight of seeing San Pablo Reservoir full of water.  We drove past the reservoir and into the lush green hills and farms of the Alhambra Valley before passing through the town of Martinez as we headed to our final stop at the Martinez Marina.  Road conditions along the run were surprisingly good, so we must give a tip of the hat to Alameda County Public Works for clearing the roads of debris so well, so soon!  However, as we made our way through the marina’s very large parking lot, drivers had to choose a safe path for their MINIs through some flooded areas. These big puddles seemed like lagoons in comparison to our small cars!  Our host posted a video of Group #2’s brave souls wading through the “deep” waters. It is on our group FB page in case you want to check it out.

Group #1 initially decided to park as close to the north end of the lot and the shoreline as possible, so we could get clear views of the Carquinez Strait and Benicia-Martinez bridge.  But within minutes of parking, members noticed that the tide was rising, and the lot was quickly starting to flood with the brackish water from the strait!  We rushed to our cars seeking higher ground further from the shoreline. In doing so, we proved that Californians really don’t know how to handle a little water! LOL

That puddle keeps getting closer!

The second group joined us shortly after we moved our cars from the rising tide.  

Group #2 navigates the flooded driveway

Duane Caldwell, our 2023 Social Media Director, run photographer, and the club’s honorary “Cliff Clavin” (for you fans of the old TV show, Cheers!)  shared with us some wonderful trivia about Martinez, including bits about martinis, Joe Dimaggio, and John Muir.  We wrapped up the run with a club photo before everyone headed into downtown Martinez for a well-deserved lunch with club friends.  Most of us even got home in time to watch the Niners' playoff victory over the Cowboys.

Group shot at the Martinez Marina

Following the drive, I posted the message below on Norcal MINI’s Facebook page, and with it, I wrap up my recap for this run.  Please make sure you register and join us for Gordon and Alison Lee’s February 25th run “Marin to Bodega Bay”

“I'm thankful for many a thing at the start of this new year, but right near the top of the list, is being part of this club.

Had a wonderful drive with 30+ members and their partners in crime.  Lots of smiles, laughs, jokes and even trivia about Martinez!  Top that with some great food with friends, and it just can't get any better.

I was very honored to be your run host today.  Glad you all enjoyed it!  Thank you all for your feedback and hope to see you all in the next runs!”

Thanks for a great day of MINIs, and the hilly backroads of the East Bay!

Eddie Vergara

For more great pictures from Duane, check out this link to the Google Drive folder for the run pics