Running on Empty

Today was a difficult day. The conditions were mostly excellent: minimal traffic, lots of sunshine, warm but not hot. A bit of headwind but nothing like yesterday. And it was pretty easy riding: rolling hills, nothing too long or steep, only 62 miles. But we discovered very early on that our legs—as the German Kristof would say—are killed. Especially the first twenty and the last dozen or so miles were pure will. We were just out of gas.

We were slow leaving Bodega Bay, partly because we were trying to sort out accommodations and social arrangements for the next few days, which are all about connecting with friends and family in Marin, Palo Alto, and Santa Cruz. Settling on a Marin hotel was tricky: every hotel is either prohibitively expensive, or reviews suggest that you’re likely to be murdered there. (We finally decided to take a chance on an econo place, the America’s Best Value Inn/Mill Valley, which turned out to be awesome— newly renovated and a real bargain, $100 less than the better-known chain across the boulevard.)

We had juice and fig newtons in the room, then rode roughly 9 miles to the Estero Cafe in Valley Ford. The food was underwhelming, but the outdoor seating was nice, and we ran into Kristof yet again. He introduced us to another tourist, Michael, who came over from Singapore to ride the route we’re doing. Kristof took off, but Michael joined us. Cheerful guy, carrying a massive pile of stuff on the same model Trek 520 David is riding; he plans to come back and ride across the country. While we were there another solo tourist arrived, a young guy named Peter (a recent college grad, we speculated). He’s riding from his home in Boulder all the way to Anchorage (“I wanted something really epic,” he said). He’s on a carbon road bike carrying an enormous backpack, which seems terrible to us, especially given the fierce headwinds he has been and will continue to be fighting — but he’s made it this far, so it seems to be working. Hanging out with those guys over brunch, sharing stories and talking about routes, was the highlight of the riding day.

From there it was rolling hills, still on Highway 1 though it felt a little more rural: today we worked our way inland away from the coast. For a long time it was farmland, more cows than cars, which is fine by us, except for the flies and occasionally rutted pavement.

After lunch, we cycled along Tomales Bay, and there wasn’t much in the way of services for a while, except for the occasional oyster bar.

Just up and down endless rolling hills until we caught a bike path through the Samuel P. Taylor State Park, a sudden transition from California golden grasslands and mixed oak back to shady redwood groves — not the giants of the Humboldt, but huge by everyday tree standards.

The Cross Marin bike path dropped us off in the little forested crossroads of Lagunitas, where at a corner grocery we finally got a sandwich and more water. From there it was 20 miles along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and some smaller roads parallel to it, flat-ish until the end, threading a maze of increasingly upscale suburban towns: Woodacre, Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, Larkspur, Corte Madera. Think Range Rovers with “Save the Whales” stickers, sun-hatted gym-toned dowagers walking poodles, organic cafefuls of preppies in shorts and Ralph Lauren dress shirts, storefront meditation centers, cheese- and wine-tasting rooms, and side street after side street of high-end homes with a Mercedes in the driveway, 2.5 perfect children, and impeccably tended landscaping.

Riding through Marin was tedious: every Porsche-driving yuppie was manifestly impatient with having to get around a couple of grubby bike tourists.  When one irritated lady in a gigantic BMW brushed by David a little too closely, Ashley almost chased her down (“what, are you late for hot yoga?”). We decided we don’t love Marin (thinking of a preppy princess character in Parks & Rec, we’ve dubbed it Marinnifer).

The flat, bustling urban roads turned abruptly into a steep climb out of Corte Madera, up and over the winding and wooded Camino Alto, being passed by Lycra-clad road bikers as if we were standing still, but then a thrilling 30-mph descent into Mill Valley, where we picked up a broad freeway-like bike trail, the so-called Mill Valley/Sausalito Multiuse Pathway, that dropped us off a block from our motel (although the six lanes of traffic and lack of pedestrian crosswalks temporarily bamboozled us; fried as we were, we couldn’t spot it, until a helpful passerby set us straight). At this point we rejoined Hwy 1 at its intersection with long-lost Hwy 101, which meant a mad dash across 1, a virtual freeway, to the America’s Best Value Inn parking lot.

The Mill Valley/Sausalito Multiuse Pathway, part of the 500-mile San Francisco Bay Trail

Showered and changed, we welcomed our good friend Jan, over from San Rafael, who drove us across the street (really — it’s safer that way than walking) for a festive Italian dinner.

Tomorrow: the Golden Gate, SF, and Half Moon Bay!

Today by the numbers: 61.7 miles, 3326′, five hours and 17 minutes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s