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posted November 26, 2017 in explorations

Above an interactive map slash photo gallery of our adventure. Click on any photo to zoom in. You can also use your keyboard to switch between photos:

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tl;dr Biked 171 miles over three days starting from Berkeley and finishing in San Francisco. Loved getting to see so much Northern California beauty on a bike, with no concerns and nothing to do but mash pedals and goof around, plus there’s a nice high you get from biking 50+ miles. It also makes me sleep like a baby. No, a rock. …a little baby rock. Can’t wait for the next multi-day bike adventure, TBD.

My cousin, Tom, and I spent our Thanksgiving weekend on a little three day adventure by bicycle, and it was better than sweet potato casserole [or insert your favorite Thanksgiving dish here], and I love to eat. This cousin went by himself on a two day bike trip to Santa Cruz a few weeks earlier and crashed on my couch the night before. I was on the verge of dropping everything just to go with him, but I made an agreement with him and myself that we would go at the next opportunity, which turned out to be Thanksgiving.

That Tuesday we meet a Finnegan’s Wake to hash out the details. The plan still feels hazy when I leave, but we at least had decided to start Thursday morning from Tom’s place in Berkeley and ride north, winding through wine country, then at some point veer west and meet up with the Pacific Coast Highway which would bring us to San Francisco on Saturday. I would crash on his couch the night before this time. As for sleeping the other nights, we decided to defer booking hotels and bring our camping stuff, so in the worst case we can find a secluded patch of forest to call home for a night. Having that option in our back pockets gives us flexibility with limited downside, but at the cost of carrying that extra stuff.

I load up on shelf-stable foodstuffs from Trader Joe’s and buy some pannier bags online to carry them and my camping stuff. A little anxious about the possibility of finding myself in the middle of nowhere with no snacks, though in retrospect its obvious the chances of that happening are slim to none. But, like I said, I really like to eat.

We leave Thursday morning and rode north, just like we planned. The first several miles through Berkeley, El Cerrito, etc I’m ecstatic with anticipation for the adventures ahead. But the weight of doubt and of my pack hits me along with the first hill. All the stuff I’m carrying makes hills significantly more difficult to ascend. I fear winding up on the side of some massive hill, unable to pedal another foot, whereupon I suddenly, and with a loud thud, fall on my side. That never happens, as it turns out. I eat some of my snacks, my pack becomes lighter and I have more energy. A win-win-win solution!

Aside for a brief grind along highway 29 through American Canyon, the first morning is pleasant and peaceful.

“B****TCH!” Someone has decided to share his feelings with me and has leaned out of a window to shout them. I’m in such a good mood that I just smile back. I register some dismay on his face just before he withdraws, as if that wasn’t the reaction he was looking for.

While eating lunch in Napa, we decide to veer west a bit early and head towards Santa Rosa, where, through the wonders of the internet, we discover a hotel with vacancy.

We rode through Sonoma, ravaged by the recent fires. Saw remains of houses with little more than a chimney to mark the ground somone once called home. A spray-painted sign hung on the fence around one such ruin reads “Still thankful.” We conclude the night with massive burritos and beers at a restuarant across the street from the hotel. I’m exhausted, but in a euphoric way.

The next morning we set out while the chilly fog yet hung about, lending a certain shadowy mystique to the agricultural landscape. Its just farmland and forests, hills and valleys, all the way to the costal highway. Cows and sheep are our only spectators today. There were a few hills that almost broke us, psychologically. It just made the view at the top all the more wonderous.

We arrive at to Point Reyes Station, and though there’s still a few hours of daylight left, decide to hunker down there for the night. Having neglected to do so earlier, we pull out our smartphones to figure out where exactly that would be. It was looking bleak there for a bit, if you can call having to camp in the woods bleak. But we found a vacancy at a wonderful little bed and breakfast with a hottub, and surprisingly affordable. Sold! I could have slept on the park bench I was so zonked.

The next morning we ride down to Stinson Beach, where we eat lunch. Tom’s knees are bothering him, so we decide to “ride” to the top of Mount Tamalpais via bus. The bus arrives with one bike already on the rack. There’s only space for two. Maybe that bike’s owner is getting off, we hope. It becomes obvious that only one of us is getting on the bus, so I tell Tom to go ahead and I’ll meet him up there. Little did I know that the ride to the summit is at least an hour and a half long! I knew it would be a slog, but not such a long one. I tried my darnedest to catch up with him, but by the time I was half way up the mountain he had already waited for a while and rode on to Sausilito, several miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Up to this point the trip had been perfect, I can’t imagine it going any better. If I could do it again I would skip the summit and instead ride to Sausilito to meet up with Tom so we could ride across the bridge and finish the ride together. I never ended up catching up with him, he was exhausted and wanted to go home. I did make it to the top of Mount Tamalpais, so I was rewared with an expansive view of the bay area, but I think the sense of accomplishment from us riding across the bridge together would have been greater. I tend to either try for too much, or nothing at all.

I find my way down Mount Tamalpais, which turns out to be its own challenge. The most direct route to Sausilito is a mountain bike trail. I’m a bit trepidatious about taking it with my bike weighed down, but take it anyway since I’m still thinking I could meet up with Tom. Also the sun is setting. I’m pleased to find everything, bike and body, still in one peice when I finally reach pavement. Then I just ride home, feeling bummed about the failed rendevious as I cross the bridge alone, but I’m simultaneously full of thanksgiving for having enjoyed such a great adventure.