Tuesday, August 27, 2013

8.25.12 Sacramento - Davis - Woodland - Sacramento

The bike lane along Interstate 80 always stands out when I am driving or stuck in traffic on my way to San Francisco.  I decided to check it out this afternoon on the way to Davis for the first time.  Getting to the beginning of the trail along the Yolo Causeway is pretty simple from Sacramento, but I still struck up conversation with another biker along the way and rode alongside him until we hit the path along the highway.  He wanted to beat his last ride time on Strava. The trail is very well maintained and allowed for fast riding most of the way.

Looking south from the bike trail.
Turning off of the trail to the road portion of the ride gave good views of the road structure, built above the ground so it doesn't get covered in water when the flood gates close and the Causeway floods to prevent Sacramento from going under water. The ground around here is very fertile and any plot that can be used to grow crops is fully utilized.

Seventeen miles later and there I was in Davis.  There were ton's of bicycle racks, the nice kind too, and plenty of bikes to go with them.  It seems like the kind of city that is nice if you like to go out to eat often. Unfortunately, I wasn't too hungry so there wasn't really much for me to do in town.  Sticking with the plan, I rode north from the Davis Amtrak station to Power Line Road leading to Highway 102 (the top flat segment on the map).  

Farms, farms, and more farms.  Once again, that's all there is on both sides of the road.  Barely any cars passing in either direction makes it a pleasant ride though.  Trucks leaving the nearby farms leave a trail of squished tomatoes along the road.  Hunger is starting to kick in and I keep an eye out for any tomato that doesn't look too damaged, but they had all seen better days.

Out of nowhere comes the Elkhorn Saloon and I have no choice but to stop for a burger and water refill. Conversation begins when the waitress and the other couple sitting at the bar notices that I biked over and we end up talking about how I ended up in California.  After hanging around for a little while and watching the remainder of the Little League World Series Game, California vs. Japan, I put my credit card on the bill for the waitress to take.  With the card in her hand, the guy sitting a couple seats over tells the waitress to give me back the card and to add my meal to his tab.  "Welcome to California", he said.  First a free night with a bottle of wine in a VW van and now a complimentary meal, not to mention the free ice cream that a different guy bought me and Lauryn a few weekends ago in Sacramento, people in California are really nice.

Fisherman along the river.
Roads turn to paved bike trails, bike trails turn to dirt paths.  Momentum keeps me going and it feels refreshing to be off of a paved surface.  Boats and jet skis whir by as the Sacramento skyline appears from behind the trees.

Hiking trail along the Sacramento River.
I spent longer than expected at the restaurant chatting with my new friends and got a text message from Lauryn asking if I was home safe yet.  Instead of responding with a text, I went ahead and sent over a video. For a moment there I felt like a mix between Aron Ralston in the opening scene to 127 Hours and Fred Armisen in Portlandia.

The dirt trail ends abruptly and drops off right at the River Walkway near the pyramid building.  From here on it's just a few more miles over the golden bridge and then straight past the State Capitol Building to my apartment.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

8.10.13 Bolinas by Bike

The plan was to head north from San Francisco and find a beach to sleep on before riding back to town in time for an Ikea shipment; we ended up sleeping in a stranger's VW Westfalia pop-top camper.  It all started back in Sacramento where I left work early to make sure my front Surly Nice rack was waiting at my door, packed up my other bags, and biked over to Edible Pedal to get the rack installed and to throw on a new chain.  Fully loaded, the first stage of the trek to SF via rail began on the Capitol Corridor Amtrak train. Two hours and $31.00 later I pass through Emeryville, bike two miles to the MacArthur BART Station, and meet Lauryn at the 24th Street & Mission stop.  Four blocks later we are at her apartment unloading my bags to split the load and repack in the morning.

Fully loaded in the MacArthur BART station.
Unpacking and redistributing weight.
Bikes may run on human power but humans still run on caffeine. Quick stop at Ritual Coffee on Valencia Street and we are good to go.Valencia to South Van Ness, South Van Ness to Van Ness, we are already at the waterfront.  This way cuts off the extra six miles I was thinking of taking by biking to AT&T park first and then heading up Embarcadero.

Ready to ride...after some caffeine intake.
Somehow we luck out and get to cross the Golden Gate Bridge without battling the fog, a rare occurrence in San Francisco.  Tourists aren't awake and renting bikes at this time so the ride is actually nice.  Off to Sausalito we go.
GG Bridge...and no fog!


Following signs for Sausalito brings bikers underneath the bridge on a steep curvy downhill before dumping you at the bottom of a big hill to climb before coasting downtown.  Continuing straight through town leads to the bike path toward Mill Valley.  This is all familiar from my July 4th ride up Highway 1 to Point Reyes and then back to SF, but it feels good to not need a map this time around.

Turning off the town road to the "highway".
Instead of doing an out and back trip on the same exact route we took Highway 1 to Panoramic Highway and ride it until meeting back up with Highway 1 at Stinson Beach.  This route had less traffic, killer views of SF, the GG Bridge, and the bay bridge, and was nice and shaded to keep us cool.

Stopping to take in the views over Stinson Beach.
Lauryn crushing the hills.
Hills and loaded bikes demand calories. Trail mix with a "healthy" portion of three different types of M&Ms along with PB&J on tortillas does the trick.  Overnight trips typically involve sleeping somewhere, and at this point Stinson Beach wasn't looking as good as I had thought.  Camping on the beach would involve carrying the bikes and all of the gear to the far end and then hoping we wouldn't get kicked out by the rising tide or police in the middle of the night.  We decide to "figure it out later" and continue biking north.

Lunch detour off of Hwy 1. Trail mix for days.
Off in the distance across the Bolinas Lagoon we spot some small beaches and a nice looking road.  Detours are always welcome, not like we have anywhere else to go.  Riding along we pass some locals and ask about places that are legal/acceptable to sleep.  They say everyone in town is pretty relaxed about campers and we shouldn't have any troubles if we are respectful.

The ultimate touring machines.
Ends up that people in town are more than pretty relaxed, they are also overly generous. Lauryn and I decide to stop at the only restaurant in town for dinner and to ask some locals where we should sleep.  The restaurant host overhears us talking to two other guys and offers up his VW Van at no charge.  Before we knew it he was walking home to grab the van and park it near the beach for us.

Local beach in Bolinas complete with surfers and no waves.
Instead of breaking a bottle full of wine like a guy did on our last weekend bike trip, I picked up this handy GSI wine bag at REI for some "field testing".  The owner of the VW was going to stop by after his shift ended around 8 PM to check up on us...so we hung on the beach to kill some time.  Dinner followed and 8 PM passed, still nothing.

Bagged wine on the beach. Tough life we live.
Loading up on protein.
Thinking that he was not going to swing by we decided it was time to get in bed and rest up for tomorrow's return ride.  Lauryn notices a truck stop next to the van and we realize that it is the host from the restaurant.  He didn't hop in the van and drive away fast like what probably would have happened in New York; instead, he hands me a bottle of wine and a candle through the cracked open door and wishes us a good night. Phew.

Preparing the "bed" for the night.
Morning came fast and we ate a couple homemade granola bars before getting back on the saddles and saying goodbye to the van.  There was a small grocery store near Stinson Beach and we set off for some coffee to start the day.  We pass deer, seals, and vultures on the short ride around Bolinas Lagoon. Coffee transitioned to cooking eggs on a camp stove in front of the store as we sparked up conversation with some locals getting their morning caffeine fix. 

Seals in the Bolinas Lagoon.
With the clock ticking past 0945 we set off south on Highway 1 for the straight shot back to Mill Valley. City and bridge views were traded for ravine and ocean views on this route.  The uphill climbs never end on Highway 1, but the reward of flying downhill is totally worth the battle.  Temperature swayed as we rode through sun and fog, uphill and downhill, so a stop to rest and shed layers at the Muir Beach Overlook was due.

Ocean views heading south on Hwy 1.
Endless stairs to the Muir Beach Overlook. Worth it.
Enjoying the cool fog  and rest overlooking Muir Beach.
Passing by the Highway 1 and Panoramic Highway intersection means it is all downhill from here.  The best way to head downhill safely is to take the whole lane and let any cars coming up just ride behind until they can pass. Most all drivers were pleasant and respectful; however, there is always the one person who must have had a bad experience biking as a child and likes to pass bikers with only inches to spare.

To the right we go...
Highway 1 turns off to the Mill Valley-Sausalito bike trail to downtown Sausalito, just a straight shot away from the Golden Gate Bridge.  Not too long after struggling through tourists biking and stopping in random spots over the bridge we are dodging potholes on Van Ness Street heading back toward 21st Street.