Perseverance, perspiration and a little cheating, for the record. That's how we survived today. As usual, I'm getting ahead of myself. Waking up this morning, as usual, we have changed our plans so many times, neither of us can remember what we agreed on. Are we camping at Mt Tam tonight or going back to the city? Why did we want to come to Pt. Reyes anyway? What day is it even? In early spring when this was supposed to be a motorcycle trip, I perused an awful 'listicle’ of hidden gems in California. Two things mentioned were the Cyprus Tunnel and Marconi Radio Station and Alamere Falls, both in Pt Reyes. Having no concept of the size of the National Park here, we put them both on the list. Additionally, we received recommendations for climbing at Mt Tam, Ring Mountain/ Turtle rock, Black Sands beach and Stinson Beach. Stubbornly, I packed my climbing shoes and encouraged Nick to do the same, bound and determined that we would find somewhere to use them.
A decision was reached, we had come so far, it would be a shame to miss any of the things, so we decided to ride up to the Radio Station then down to Stinson and hopefully boulder there. The wrench in these plans is a road washout on US 1, so we wouldn't be able to ride south that way, but would have to go over Tamalpaìs to reach the Golden Gate. If you're following along at home, we already decided yesterday we didn't want that much elevation, but we remembered those small busses from the previous day, and one runs from Stinson to Marin City, eliminating a few thousand feet of elevation and a LOT of miles from our day. The last bus of the day left at 5:40, so that was our only deadline.
Something I try often not to talk about is that I have chronic pain issues. My joints sustained significant damage in the time before I was gluten free, and I've had two fairly significant car/bike interactions in the last three years, all of which have left various parts of me very sensitive. I've been fortunate thus far that all the elevation we have ridden hasn't aggravated my “very expensive” knee. It also means that I am stubborn and will push to accomplish things to prove to myself that I have gotten stronger, but also when presented with the option to take a ride, be it over a mountain or to provide some additional rest, I'm learning to pick the option that allows for recovery.
The path we chose for the day had 4 hills, one out of Sam Taylor, one north to the radio station, that same hill in reverse, and another south to Stinson. We broke camp and left late, as usual, and rode out of the woods. Signs kept telling us we we're approaching the seashore and the visitors center, but it took us several false turns to reach their new building where we consulted a scale model topo map and knew that Alamere falls was DEFINITELY not for us. Nick also noticed, though I missed, that the radio station wasn't actually open except on Saturdays. On our way through all the tiny waterfront towns, we spotted and abandoned and decrepit fishing boat, the Point Reyes, resting on what remained of its keel, so we stopped to investigate. We wound our way through the coastal byways, until the base of the hill. It felt so long, we stopped three times when I couldn't catch my breath, one of which was a driveway with a ridiculous mask posted on it. Just when we thought it would end, the hill turned another corner before finally descending into salt flats. Did I mention it was finally warm? We had both changed into shorts at the visitor center, but the other side of the hill had chilly ocean breezes. Part of the gradual descent was flooded or washed away entirely, a section was only one lane. Climbing around another corner, we caught sight of cows and then the tops of Cypress trees. They've grown together at the tops over time, lending a 1950’s Sunday drive feel to the shady lane approaching an art deco building. Once again, we peeped in the windows, but with nowhere inside to investigate, we broke for lunch and more sunscreen. The trip out here had taken 2 hours and we'd only done 17 mi of the 42 we needed to reach the beach. Would we make it?
Returning back up the hill was amazing. The decline had been so gradual that riding up it didn't feel like work at all (which is saying a lot, hauling 40lbs of gear anywhere) and were able to ride in our large chainrings over the rolling terrain and make up time returning back to US 1. Because of Frankenspoke, I can't fly downhill anymore for fear that I’ll hit something, so I've been extra cautious. By 3:15 we were headed to Stinson, with 17 miles to go. The first half of the distance was more rollers, gradual ups and downs to a steep section that we didn't even have to stop on at all! Climbing the last shallow section, we passed a couple with front panniers, the husband hauling a trailer with child/children (?) and the wife with an enclosed bob trailer. Crazy! Maybe a dog someday, they require less gear.
But we were over the hill! This downhill was different from all the others. Even with dramatic curves, the road was well banked in the corners and freshly paved, for flying with no worries (except Frankenspoke). We saw signs for Stinson, the road was flat and curvy. We lost track of how many times we'd told each other it was breathtaking, gorgeous, amazing. Part of the attraction of the beach was bouldering, tide dependent. Being run half off the road to get there by Mustang convertibles was great, too. But we rolled into town, there was someone sleeping at the bus stop already with a bike, and the bus only accommodated two. We actually made up a bunch of time unexpectedly, flying in our big chainrings again, but the only bus for the night was the 5.40, and now we would have to ride to Bolinas, where the line started, to beat this guy and board us both, or else risk riding up the mountain.
What were our intrepid adventurers to do? Go to the beach! There wasn't time to make Bolinas, maybe we could take the wheels off Nick's frame, both quick release, and carry the whole thing on board. Worried about time and getting on the bus, we walked, bikes included, onto the beach, electing not to climb. I convinced Nick we HAD to take our shoes off and walk into the ocean. We couldn't have come this far and not touch the Pacific. While it was the first hot day we’ve had, we had cooled down sufficiently, even without ice cream, that a full swim didn't seem palatable. Feet wet, we hauled back up through the sand and headed back to the bench to wait. Love and behold, there was a bus stop in the parking lot, before the one on Main. If there wasn't anyone on from Bolinas, we would be fine. And we were!
The bus pulled up, we loaded our gear, and pulled around the corner. Instantly the bus filled up with folks our age going to Muir Valley and that sleeping guy. He took his wheels off and carried on board instead. That bus ride was maybe the single best decision of this trip so far. Panoramic Highway would've been a nightmare on a bicycle. The road was all steep pitches, tight curves and NO shoulders. Having come 40 odd miles so far, we would've been struggling to push the bikes uphill walking, let alone riding. We were instead, safely ensconced in the nauseating, shockless back seat, staring down into the Pacific while I held my breath. So much for that back up plan.
The ride was short, but the driver let us off in Marin City so we could cruise by some pretty houseboats on a bike path before hitting the Golden Gate Bridge. I whined for a while about the texture of the path before we realized that I had a rear flat, so there was some time devoted to stopping for repairs, again, less that a football field from a bike shop. I'm keeping well away from them now on. I think they're booby trapping the paths. Once everything was reassembled, the ride felt much smoother. Little did I know that there was more uphill to get to the bridge. Ugh!! We stopped, nearly there so I could put on my jacket. The sun was setting fast and it was taking longer to get to SF than we anticipated. There were detour signs confusing us as to how to access the actual crossing, but we figured it out eventually. And then, the Golden Gate was before us. It was windy. Nick put on his jacket too. We'd been warned about the winds and unsuspecting tourists walking off the bridge holding bicycles and clutching bruises or bloodied noses. Also, Nick’s done this once before in the reverse direction with family. Anyway, we were prepared and fine and made it to the opposing shore in time to watch the sun sink behind the Marin Headlands. The first time we've actually seen the sun set into the Pacific.
Nearly there, just winding our way down through Presidio and Crissy Field to get groceries. We rolled our bikes right into the Safeway this time, as we've seen people do on many of our previous visits, bike theft having just struck close to home. Paris and her partner, our first hosts, had both of their bicycles stolen last week. So we made like the Romans to avoid that setback. With a few now laughable San Francisco city hills between us and our destination, we made quick work of it. My cousin is hosting us for the weekend and he's part of the technocrati who live high on the hills... literally. He has two roommates and they share a palatial apartment with a TV alone the size of my bed. And the shower! Two shower heads with separate controls! This was supposed to be a one-night deal, but we plan to extend for the luxury, if we can listen to them talk. The highlight of my night has been finding a full bag of arugula in the trash because “it expired last week” and when we inquired, we were told to “Freegan the shit out of it.” Clearly our priorities are a bit different. Tomorrow will prove that, when we head to the opening of the greatest show and tell anywhere, Bay Area Maker Faire. Can't wait to investigate EVERYTHING. Oh, and take a shower.
Total: 53 mi bicycled, 7.3 mi by transport.
Total so far: about 280 mi by bicycle, over 300 mi including miles walked.