09.30.11 – Upon the Golden Gate

It was our first morning back on the coast since two days before when we left Eureka. It was cold, wet and foggy there — and it was cold, wet and foggy here too. The picture here proves that. For much of the morning, perhaps because of the heat from the sun, the fog rose from the coastline below and up into the mountains above. It was a surreal sight to see the fog moving with such conviction. More hairpin turns littered the road where elevation was quickly lost and just as quickly gained, forcing us to enjoy a slow pace through the small towns. One of those towns was Anchor Bay, about ten miles south of Point Arena. Though we just cycled through it, it was easily the most colorful town on the coast. The two dozen businesses that flanked the main stretch of road through town were painted different colors of the rainbow and I half expected to see a few Teletubbies walking around. By the afternoon, the fog and clouds had cleared but riding didn’t get any easier. Our destination, Salt Point State Park, sat at the top of a hill so the last mile was very memorable. At the point where my GPS located the campground was a sign that it was still a quarter mile away. At this moment, that was more than I wanted to do. After a half a mile, I reached the state park entrance. From here I was directed another half mile up the hill to the hiker biker site! They do not make this easy! I then learned there are no showers and no electricity, which wasn’t really a problem but seemed about right for everything else that this campground was throwing at me. Stephanie and I made some tuna-mac-n-cheese and met a middle-aged woman cycling the coast on her own. She described herself initially as selfish, saying she had done a few adventures like this without regard for her family. She said that when we friend backed out riding the coast with her, she went anyway and through the solitude, realized this would be her last adventure like this. The way she put is was that “my family is now my adventure.”

It rained during the night but had mostly stopped by the time we awoke. Stephanie and I packed up a wet tent, had our staple breakfast of bagels with , and Nutella, and descended in a cold morning to Jenner. Jenner sits at the mouth of the Russian river and is home to Sonoma Coast State Beach. If there’s one town I wish I could have spent more time in, it might be Jenner. We didn’t stay long because there was ground to cover and the fog hadn’t yet completely lifted, making it difficult to really appreciate the view of the rocks out in the water. A bird’s eye view shows just how amazing the ocean coast and inland areas along the Russian river really are. The next major town was Bodega Bay and by the time we got here, it was nice and warm and the harbor was littered with active boats coming to and from the large marina. For unknown reasons, the highway left to shoreline and traveled inland for about 5 miles. This was a pretty miserable section of road because it really smelled like cow dung and the headwind forced the stench into my nostrils. After another 5 miles back to the shoreline, Stephanie and I found ourselves no longer on the coast of the ocean, but instead Tomales Bay. This very thin bay was enclosed by the Point Reyes National Seashore on the other side. It was a beautiful sight to see the tremendous green hills against an incredibly calm bay. Fog sat around the peaks of the mountains added to their immense size. Our plan was to make it up one final hill to the hiker/biker campground at the Samuel P. Taylor State Park but after spending a few moments in the wonderful town of Point Reyes, we decided to stealth camp along they bay and have a nice dinner in the town on my final night. Wait, did I just say final night? Yes, I did.

It didn’t hit me until the last couple miles along Tomales Bay but I finally realized that San Francisco was tomorrow’s destination and the end of my foreseeable adventure. It was a bit upsetting and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear about it. As we sipped on some beer and listened to live music on a calm Sunday night, I was really happy to have Stephanie with me. We had shared numerous days and nights riding, talking and exploring the coast all the way from the middle of Oregon to the middle of California. For nearly two weeks we (along with many other people) spent nearly every day doing the same thing but experiencing it from completely different backgrounds. Yet despite this, we connected so well because our experiences were the same in so many ways. The simplicity of our daily goals, needs and activities gave us each an identical base upon which to understand each other in a way that I don’t think we would have had we met under other circumstances. I was very excited to hear she would be continuing down to San Diego on her own but not until after spending a few days with my friends and I in San Francisco.

An early start was a warm one too. I thanked the sun and clouds making all of today a nice one. The Cross-Marin trail took us through the state park where we originally were going to stay. It was a couple miles of paved secluded path on the opposite side of the river than the road. Crossing over the river and road at one point, the trail turned to packed gravel and, instead of being a bother, added to the feeling of solitude. Pulling out of the hiker biker campsite was an older french couple traveling the coast with trailers. They also had their sights set on San Diego like Stephanie. I think this may be where I started subconsciously thinking about the road beyond San Francisco. It’s easy to get confused by all of the roads through the northern SF suburbs to the Golden Gate Bridge. After all, we’ve been riding pretty much one road for the past 600 miles. Stopping in a bicycle shop, we got some suggestions but ended up running into Dave, a roadie who decided to be our chauffeur pretty much all the way to the bridge. As we rode along the bay in Sausalito, we gazed upon a unique community of house boats. Apparently this was where Otis Redding supposedly had written his famous song, “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay.”

Stopping in the parking lot at beginning of the bridge, Stephanie and I stared at it for a couple moments, taking in its towering presence on this spectacularly clear and sunny day. Grinning to each other, we clipped in and took off. You can watch the silly video of me riding on the bridge to get the full feeling of excitement. Suffice it to say I was ecstatic. Super ecstatic. We got to the other side and snapped a few pictures before grabbing lunch, not surprisingly, at a pub. From here we felt we really had to go back to the bay and sit and stare at the bridge for a while to really let it sink in exactly where we are and how far we had come. After 14 straight days of riding, I had traveled from Salem, OR to San Francisco, CA — and it was over.

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