Roger and I did a two-fer this past weekend: we attended both Saturday’s Alpine Dam Loop ride and Sunday’s Bovine Bakery Loop ride. That’s unusual for us mainly because getting the bikes and ourselves into the van and trucking over to Marin—well, really anywhere—is just a PITA. It’s simpler and less time consuming to ride from the manse. And with gas over $6 per gallon again, it’s also costly. Originally we thought we’d just go on Stephanie’s Sunday ride since it’s easier, plus a pleasant Sunday jaunt at a noodling pace into west Marin just sounded enticing, which is an unreal feeling for me because after many years of being a SF denizen I had become burned out on riding in Marin. I finally must have recovered! But even more appealing was the prospect of gorging on Bovine Bakery’s lovely pizza slices, at least two of them. Despite the Saturday ride fitting our schedule better, that involved going over the Golden Gate Bridge, which we just won’t do anymore on a weekend afternoon. In the end we took David Goldsmith’s suggestion to forego the bridge and just start and end the ride in Sausalito. That not only omits the moshpit on the bridge but also leaves just the best part of the route: around and up Mt. Tam!
On Saturday it was super easy to get to Sausalito by the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. We met the others and promptly found out they had changed plans and were now going to do the loop in the opposite direction, counterclockwise instead of clockwise. That was fine with me because despite the hurt having to climb the Seven Sisters I much prefer that than hurtling down the backside with my brakes melting and my life flashing before my eyes. Saturday’s ride, which was originally going to be a cool ride in Pescadero along the Stage Road, was a replacement due to San Mateo county’s aggressive chipsealing of coastside roads rendering them dangerous for cyclists. Apparently the prospect of thousands of vertical feet up steep climbs daunted many Spokers as it was just six of us—Mark and Jeff, the leaders; along with Eric; newish member Jacob; Roger and me.
After a flat dash through the Marin suburbs up to Fairfax, we stopped for a snack/early brunch at Perry’s before remounting and heading uphill. By now the day was warming up and intent on adding to the challenge of climbing Tam. Fairfax-Bolinas Road is a 7-8% grade and goes in and out of tree cover but mostly out so we were already sweating profusely by the time we reached the golf course. Each regrouping had us huddled under trees pining for any breeze. The entire time Eric raved on and on about how beautiful the scenery was and how lucky we were to live where we can ride in places like this. Hearing his enthusiasm I realized how inured and jaded I had become to the roads I had ridden a billion times. Ah, “beginner’s mind”. He went on to point out the trailheads of dirt rides he had done with Joan and Brian out here and how fantastic the trails were.
My memory was playing tricks on me. From the golf course it’s a net drop to the dam. But it had been many a year since I had ridden to Alpine Dam this direction, probably more than fifteen, and the “descent” to Alpine Dam had a couple of ascents before the pleasure of the final drop; each unexpected ascent was disheartening. At the dam it was cooking. Although Roger and I quickly went to the shade, everyone else was cavorting on the bridge taking selfies like Aussies on a beach. After another languid break we remounted for our encounter with the Seven Sisters. Until now Eric had been blazing each uphill but now Roger decided he wanted to get over it ASAP. So off we went and in trying to follow him I saw heart rates I haven’t seen in years! No pain, no gain. But usually it’s “more pain, no gain” anyway. The road is completely exposed and that probably was the whip that got us to Rock Springs quickly as our legs would allow.
At the Rock Springs parking lot was a food truck. Now that’s a new (but smart) one! I was out of water and longingly eyed it with the thought of a Coke. But the crowd of hikers had the same idea and I decided that being a cheap bastard was okay and I’d wait for Bootjack to refill with…plain water. At Bootjack we had another lengthy break even though just the fast downhill remained. I went last because I’ve become cowardly. Even though this is a descent that I’ve literally down hundreds of times and could play a video in my mind of the entire thing, I’ve just decided that it’s not worth it for me to risk skin and bones anymore. So I descend like the old man that I am.
Of course we got caught behind cars, no surprise. That allowed me to catch up. Well, that and the short but punchy uphill by the Mountain Home Inn. We ended up behind a long train of cars on Highway One and before we knew it, we were done. The others headed off to the Junction for pizza and adult refreshment while Roger and I went back to the car at Mike’s Bikes. They were doing a 60-mile day but we were doing only 35. Nice ride and surprisingly chill for a C-pace. But that made for an especially friendly ride. Maybe we should call these ‘Social C’ rides?
The next day was Stephanie’s ride to the Bovine Bakery. Perhaps the Siren call of west Marin has lost its allure for Spokers, as it was just five of us: Stephanie, Nancy, Roger S, and Roger and me. This morning was cooler—what a relief!—so climbing up Lucas Valley was the perfect warm-up. Being Sunday the ongoing road repair of the upper reaches of Lucas Valley was quiet. The new pavement and improvement of the turns is going to make it a really fast descent on the way back. Stephanie decided that instead of doing the usual counterclockwise loop from Pt. Reyes Station, we would instead do it clockwise. That’s actually a wise move because the climb out of Olema to the top is harder and longer than up Sir Francis Drake and down to Olema. Oh well, another day for the Garmin to get completely confused!
Although Stephanie never seems to be anything but totally amped when she’s on her bike, today we actually did have a relaxing ride in West Marin. We took plenty of rest breaks and no one seemed to have had too much adrenaline. Stephanie blazed the descent off of Lucas Valley and kept hammering all the way to Nicasio where there is a very convenient set of porta-potties.
As much as Lucas Valley Road is a great ride, it seems more cyclists are deciding that they prefer to get to west Marin by car so they can start enjoying the open space immediately: the parking lot in Nicasio was full of cars with bike racks. I confess that this development strikes me as antithetical even if I understand why it is happening. When I lived in SF I never drove to Nicasio. In fact even driving to Lucas Valley, which I do now because I live in the East Bay, was 50-50 back then. We would just ride from SF to Pt. Reyes Station and back. Joseph Collins was perhaps the last Spoker to uphold that practice. Perhaps it’s lack of time or the influence of mountain bikes: most mountain bikes today are so ungainly on the road that dirt bikers avoid pavement when possible. Instead of cycling to the trailhead on your mountain bike, one just drives there. To this day I still find it odd to see so many cars parked on Skyline by Redwood and Chabot parks. It’s so close to the ‘burbs you can just ride up the roads to the trailheads. But that’s not the practice anymore.
Cycling past Nicasio reservoir it looked low even though it’s actually at 75% capacity despite the drought. Marin residents must be doing a fantastic job of conserving water. Nonetheless everything in west Marin seemed dry and sere.
After the steep and fast descent to Olema, which Stephanie of course led, she took us the “back way” on Bear Valley Road to Pt. Reyes Station in order to avoid the at-times thick tourist traffic on Highway One. In town we made a beeline for Bovine Bakery only to be greeted by…nothing. Usually it’s a clusterfuck of cyclists and day tourists lined up at the front jittering like junkies waiting for their next fix. But today it was unexpectedly closed. There was the sign: “Today we are closing at 10 AM.” Perhaps it’s hard for them to find employees to work a Sunday. A disgruntled day tourist walked up to the front and started cursing, ranting about how he’d had it with Bovine and their untrustworthy hours. Wow, there’s nothing as uncomfortable as going ‘cold turkey’, is there?
I confess the wind more than went out of my sails: I felt suddenly adrift as if the world made no sense anymore. What was I to do except collapse to the ground in a fetal position and cry? Then Stephanie said, “Oh, let’s just go across the street to the Palace Market and get sandwiches.” Well, you get your fix wherever you can find it! I had never eaten anywhere else in Pt. Reyes Station except Bovine and back in the day, at Ed’s Superette #2, which is now Whale of a Deli at the other end of town. It turns out the sandwiches at the Palace are pretty decent and satisfying, so that was an ugly lemon turned into sweet lemonade! We lingered over lunch sitting at a picnic table next to Bovine. A man sat of the grass playing his acoustic guitar. Shortly another man approached him and engaged him in conversation talking a blue streak. We looked at each other and suddenly our conversation turned to schizophrenia and our experience with those who have it. Are we in Dolores Park? Time to move on!
Back on the road Roger S. proceeded to blitz the downhill to Platform Bridge while the rest of us tried to stay alive. I can’t say I was feeling especially eager and really felt more like taking a nap by the side of the road. At the top of Lucas Valley Stephanie again took off and despite the much improved pavement I was very cautious. In what seemed like just minutes we were back at the start. After the post-ride banter we bade each other farewell. Two days, two great rides. Thanks, ride leaders!