Posts Tagged ‘Half Moon Bay’

SILICON VALLEY ACROSS GOLDEN GATE TO WINE COUNTRY!! Monday, September 3rd, 2012

SKYLINERoute-day one

Page Mill Rd to Alpine to San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay, Devil’s Slide, Montara, Pacifica and San Francisco

 

Route-day two

Mission District, Lake Merced, Sunset,Golden Gate Park, Cliff  House, Sea Cliff, Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, MillValley, Corte Madera, San Anselmo, Fairfax, White’s Hill, Olema, Pt. Reyes, Marconi, Marshall, Tomales Bay, Valley Ford, Round and Round, THE WASHOE HOUSE, Rohnert Park

Route-day three

Sonoma State, Penngrove, Petaluma, Nicasio Lake, Lucas Valley Road, Big Rock, San Rafael, Greenbrae, Corte Madera, Sausalito, GG Bridge, Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf and Train Station.

Total Mileage—258.5 miles

Flat tires—4

Horrible places—Devil’s Slide, Highway 1 south of Half Moon Bay, Road markings west ofSanta Rosa, traffic attitude in SonomaCounty.

Beautiful places—Vistas from Alpine Road, selected areas of Highway 1, Pacifica, Golden GateBridge, Persidio,Sausalito, Bike path North of Sausalito into Corte Madera, Fairfax, Pt. Reyes, Tomales Bay and that absolutely necessary beer at the Washoe House on Roblar Road, Bike path from GG Bridge through Presidio onto Marina and Fisherman’s Wharf and finally a heavenly and triumphal ride down the Embarcadero to the train station.

 

Mistakes—forgot sun block, did not drink enough electrolytes, did not put new tires on bike, did not have bike rack on bike.

The Narrative:

It was Sunday, the day of final preparation for the bike trip. It was a mild summer day and felt light hearted as I tidied last details and errands dressed in T shirt, shorts and flip flops. Light rock from FM KOIT played gently in the background as I looked forward to the many adventures ahead of me in the next few days. A patch kit and spare inner tube purchased at Walt’s Bike Shop on Carroll St. completed my preparation. I returned home tranquilly and finished the packing. Water, Power Bars, a light backpack, my new Giant Bike, a few bucks and credit cards was all I needed. All was tidily packed and ready.

Six came early the next morning revealing an overcast but warm day. I sipped coffee and watched Lance ride on OLN Network and wondered if I really wanted to do this. Am I nuts or what, I thought. The comfort of the couch and a sleepy body acted as the inertia to the beginning of the trip.

By six thirty I pushed my achy and sleepy body through the garage door with water bottle in hand and set the bike on the pavement. Time to go! Time to go!  At the first stop light on Fremont  I remembered that the water bottle was carelessly left atop Patricia’s car as I had lifted the bike off the ceiling hooks. I rode sleepily and lazily through the morning traffic of Sunnyvale and Los Altos. At Loyola Corners I stopped at the convenience store behind the gas station and bought a two liter bottle of Evian. An older, cheery, tall counter clerk queried me as to what Evian meant backwards. I strained with sleepy eyes and a slothful mind at the label of the bottle almost annoyed at the question. The mental mechanism slowly and painfully began to move.

“Yep, yep, naïve! And how very appropriate for this French stuff”, I said.

The clerk sported a broad self pleased smile as he handed me the change and in a friendly style said, “have a good ride and good day”

“Adios, my friend”, I replied.

Up familiar Foothill Expressway I began to gather momentum. My spirits were awakening to the adventure ahead. My body and energy also began to awaken. The familiar road assumed a cloak of adventure as it was the gateway to my long planned trip up the coast to Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Old Page Mill Road is a throwback. A short stretch of quaint, tree shaded winding and hidden road runs adjacent to the new expressway, a beehive of activity during most times of the day and night. Once beyond the 280 underpass the traffic disappears and the road winds through its two thousand foot ascent to Skyline Boulevard. I’d climbed this road a number of times before and though never easy I’d forgotten how challenging some of the more rigorous climbs truly were. I stopped several times to drink water and chew on a Power Bar. “Tough, tough, tough,” I thought. About three quarter of the way to the summit I stopped and looked back to Silicon Valley sleepily still hidden in the low fog with the sun peering above and shedding soft light on the upper slopes. When the summit finally came my spirits soared as I began to traverse a road never before traveled.

 

THE SUMMIT** PAGE MILL ROAD** HIGHWAY 35, SKYLINE BOULEVARD** ALPINE ROAD

It’s always a moment of triumph at the summit of any climb!!!

Across Highway 35, the summit, from Page Mill Road is Alpine Road, the beginning of the descent to the coast and the town of San Gregorio. The name still rings with spicy thoughts from my younger days of nude beaches somewhere in this wild coast land. The road became a narrow ribbon following the contours of the ridge lines, diving into oak groves, following narrow creeks and rising onto crests revealing the many golden coastal hills in all directions. Ranches and an occasional home interrupted the natural curves of the rolling hills.

It’s only its remoteness and lack of good roads which saves this beautiful unspoiled country from the ravages of housing developments, high density housing and all the modern trappings of civilization. Perhaps this is why I love bike touring so, the capacity to enter this desolate country on my own power without disturbing one iota of the environment.

Alpine Road continues its descent towards the coast for six miles till it junctures with Pescadero Road and Highway 84. The ride is pleasant as it is mostly downhill and darts in wooded areas along creeks and the coolness of the shade is welcome. Just before the Highway 84 junction by La Honda I enter a thick forest of majestic redwood trees. The air is cool, the light, what little there is, pierces the darkness of the giants and I walk by the running stream with steep banks covered with lush fern and giant clover. There is stillness and darkness and piercing beams of bright morning sunshine and I feel the soft ground under my feet. The feeling is serene.  It’s a special place. It’s majestic. It possesses the eerie silence and coolness of the most glorious of European cathedrals.

It’s Heritage Woods and definitely a place worth a second visit-perhaps, a day ride with a picnic lunch eaten under the redwoods and then resume the trip to the coast. It amazes me how some can be bored! With a little effort and a bit of a sense of adventure discovery and excitement are just waiting—just waiting to join the human spirit and contribute to a delightful and uplifting time. Patricia and Domino will love this spot on the way to the coast. Oh! What a pleasant thought that is!

I marvel at clover, lush and green, the size of my hand. Could there be a four leafer? Nope! Can’t find one. No matter-I’m already lucky to have experienced such a spiritual place…..and the wonderful surprise of it all.

I pick up Highway 84 just west of La Honda. It’s a two lane road, wide and with comfortable shoulders. The traffic is sparse and the countryside begins to assume the flavor of the nearby coast. There are some homes and ranches. One such ranch advertises an upcoming rodeo with food and all the rodeo stuff. Just imagine–out here in the middle of nowhere. But perhaps it’s a renowned local event.  I ride easily and enjoy the mild road and expansive vistas. The sun has disappeared and it’s gray and overcast. At Stage Road, a much better route rejoining Highway 1 just before Half Moon Bay, I stop at a delightful building with Spanish facade. The large lettering in front says San Gregorio General Store. A couple of old guys sat on the low window ledges sipping on their morning coffees. A hand written sign by the front door asked bicyclists to remove their shoes. As I entered the businesslike lady behind the counter looked at me and I immediately replied that my shoes had no cleats. She smiled and waved me in.

It was a large open store with an eclectic collection of merchandise. A long counter against the wall served food, drinks, sandwiches, beer, wine and booze. Half dozen neat wooden tables formed a tidy dining area in front of the broad front windows. There were books of interesting and odd varieties. There were lots and lots of bizarre cards—old cowboys, movie stars, antique signs, odd sayings. Every corner was crammed with amusing items. I ordered some coffee and strolled through the narrow isles and noted many items that amused me. As I left I commented that I would be back with four wheels and meant it too. It would be a good addition to that day trip after the picnic in Heritage Woods.

 

From San Gregorio to Half Moon Bay, Highway 1 was somewhat dreadful. It was mountainous and laden with traffic. Packs of ten and twenty motorcycle guys in their leathers and round helmets all in black screamed by at what seemed regular intervals. I could feel the roar of their engines in my chest. There were plenty of motor homes and trucks too. The traffic produced a wrenching and grinding, gritty noise which soon gave me a headache and made me question my judgment in regards to choosing this route. Then my front tire went flat.

 

At least it’s the front tire, I thought. It was cool, noisy and uncomfortable by the side of the road. However, I soon resumed the trip after applying a patch and removing a sticker from the tire. Up ahead one of the motorcycle guys had parked his big bike in the bicycle lane and was chatting away under a nearby tree on his cell phone. After passing him by some fifty yards, boom, another flat in the front tire again. What a pisser, I thought. There I went again with the patches and glue and all that unpleasant rigmarole. Out of the corner of the eye I could see the motorcycler walking towards me as I kept working on the tire.

 

“How you doing”, he said. “My tank gauge must be malfunctioning. I can’t believe it. Fortunately, my girl friend went on ahead to get some gas.”

 

“That’s fortunate”, I said. “Half Moon Bay is just up ahead and she should have no trouble finding gas. I’m not having much luck with these darn tires. It’s the second flat in less than a mile. What a bummer”

 

“Well, good luck”, he said as he began to return to his bike.

 

I continued with my repairs. I noted that he had mounted his bike down the road and heard the roar of the engine. Never thought a thing about it and went on with my repairs.

 

He came to me again. With a sheepish look on his face he said” well, I figured out how to work the spare tank valve.”

 

I began to laugh and momentarily forgot how pissed off I was at the stinking flat. He was laughing, too.

 

“However”, he said, “I’m not going to tell my girl friend about this.”

 

We both laughed again and he returned to his bike. I hopped on mine and resumed my trip north.

 

North of Half Moon Bay the shoulder widened and the traffic seemed to be less bothersome although still heavy.  The coastal communities of Moss Beach, Montara and Rockaway go by as I see occasional sunshine and fine view of the Pacific coastline. At Montara I see a gaily decorated shop, Caffe Lucca. I have to stop. It’s an artsy craftsy type with floors of cement dabbed with different splotches of colored paint. There are two rooms with windows to the highway and a patio to the rear. I sip my coffee at one of the table and note the décor on the walls. The owners must be from Lucca, I thought, as I focus on an interesting rather wide panoramic view of the amphitheater of Lucca. It was a wonderful view of the spot and had never quite seen it done that way. Although….my pictures taken under the arches from either end tended to be more dramatic and artistically better, this one was good and enjoyed looking at it. I thought of asking the counter girl about Lucca and the owners’ ancestry but thought better of it as she was busy and after hearing a few of her comments she sounded like a disinterested and uninformed teenager. She probably did not know anything about Lucca.

The craggy, rocky, rugged mountains which drop to the surf and the thin road lodged on a thin shelf describes the area known as Devil’s Slide. I began the five hundred foot climb with care and deliberation. There is no shoulder but there is plenty of traffic; the matter is further exacerbated by construction all along the climb with cement dividers further encroaching on the road. Cars were passing by what seemed just a few inches and around curves too. “Wow”, I thought,” this is not bright”.  I continued to climb and sped up around corners to minimize my exposure. “Definitely, definitely, this is my one and only time on this infernal stretch, if I make it alive,” I thought. And…just to show that “crazy” is relative, at that moment in a leisurely and placid mood comes a rider on a recumbent towing a small trailer down the slope occupying a quarter of the road with plenty of traffic behind. He was smiling and waved to me seemingly oblivious to the dangers about him. It made me laugh!!! The guys on recumbents are a strange lot.

Beginning the climb to Devil’s Slide.

Never, Ever, Again!!!!

At Sharp Park Highway 1 turned into a freeway with no bikes so I meandered through city streets and found a route hugging the coastline to the Pacific. Remember the song? “Little houses, Tiki Tocki, and …they’re all the same!!! That’s the one! Pacifica on the hills preceeding San Francisco. Well, let me tell you—the neighborhoods are every bit as steep as they look from Highway 280…and it was hot too. But I found my way without too much trouble as I had the foresight to bring a good selection of maps neatly packed in the bottom pocket of my useful Claris, freebie, backpack.

 

Never having traveled this road before I originally had unrealistic expectations as to how far I would progress on this, day one. By now it was fourish and San Francisco seemed like a good place to hole up for the night. As I turned towards Lake Merced my mind turned to dinner. Ah! Yes, dinner, what a wonderful idea. The thought of food, perhaps a veal scaloppini, or chicken parmigiana, a wine, French bread….yes, yes, yes. I had the perfect place in mind, the Granada Café in the Mission.

 

From Lake Merced cut across the San Francisco State campus and took Holloway Street towards the Mission. It was pleasant. And surprisingly so. The residential streets of San Francisco, as I was to find out, were without traffic and pleasant to travel. Without much effort I found myself in front of the Granada Café where I asked the bartender permission to bring my bike in.

I sat, had a beer or two and talked to some of the old guys at the bar. I didn’t recognize anyone from the old days. All dead, old or gone, I suppose. Jose, the chef of twenty five years or more, had just left his day shift but was still running the kitchen. My friend Michael was dead as of a year ago. Charlie Stuhr, the lawyer, comes in once in a while but is very ill, I was told. The place looked precisely as I had remembered it from the eighties. John, the owner, who is now eighty nine, still runs the place and lives downstairs in his basement apartment.

 

Smirian, the head waitress, whom I remember, came over and took my order. I ate a salad with blue cheese dressing, antipasto plate with French bread, rigatoni Bolognese, a delightful chicken parmigiana and a couple of glasses of house red wine. A gourmet meal at the most renowned of places could not have produced more satisfaction.

 

Just down the street I found a motel, The Avalon. Not great but cheap and convenient. It cost $70 for the night and I had a ground floor room. That night when I called Patricia and described the room, she told me to watch out for bed bugs. I thought of that more than once as I dozed off to sleep that night.

 

 

END, DAY ONE!!

The next morning, bright and early, at sixish I found my way across Mission Street to a non Starbuck’s coffee shop run by a serious minded Chinese guy. The storefront was scrubbed delightfully clean and furnished with only the necessities-a counter with display cases, a few tables, a cash register and a plastic lit menu on the wall.  A coffee and a plain donut was my breakfast. I sat at the corner table and watched the workers come in for their morning coffee and roll before their day’s work. Traffic was sparse and many of the stores were not yet open. It was a typical overcast San Francisco morning.

I traced my way back to Lake Mercedand followed Sunset Boulevard to the outer Sunset. The old neighborhood beckoned. 44th to 46th Avenues between Judah and Lawton were my first visions of San Francisco and the US of A when I first came from Italy in the late fifties. I rode slowly around the neighborhoods and must say that the area looked rather shabby but not much really had changed in fifty years.

Down 44th Avenue, across Lincoln Boulevard into Golden Gate Park I cruised and stopped in front of the windmill,Queen Whilomena Park. It was just beautiful with dainty colorful flowers. A few more feet and I was on the Great Highway with a fine view of the Pacific and the Cliff House. Up the hill and onto Clement Street for a mile or so till I turned into Sea Cliff, the area I had always admired when young for their fine homes and neighborhoods. When visiting my Aunt Bruna I would always travel that route and dream that some day when I found my fortune in life I would live in such a place. Those dreams are now somewhat tarnished and dusty and no longer hold the magnetism of youth.

The Presidio is a wonderful old relic of the history of San Francisco and much overlooked. The buildings are picturesque reminiscent of the early Spanish days of California. I rode through Fort Winfield Scott and stopped to admire a fine vista of the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the fortifications built to defend the bay in the 1890s. I’ve lived in this area most of my life and moments like this make me realize the beauty and drama of our environs.

Merchant Road off Lincoln Boulevard on the way to GG Bridge

presents 1890 vintage fortifications defending the bay.

Merchant Road ends at the Toll Plaza to the bridge. Wow! Even to the most uncritical eye the scene commands attention. The Toll Plaza buildings, the coffee shop on the east side, and the majestic bridge all present to the eye a continuous display of style—Art Deco, spanning the entrance to our marvelous bay. One is moved to admit—this is not just a bridge—this is a work of art. Rustic, bold and strong in the brazen rust orange color. The builders knew that this was an icon of greatness. A testament to the human spirit—to build, to progress, to harness the challenges of nature.

I stood in front of the coffee shop looking at the statue of Strauss with his creation behind and just marveled. And….remembered!  Yes, remembered the stories that my mother, Mary Alice, would always tell me with pride. On the first day of opening of this great bridge in 1937 it was only for pedestrians. She was one of those historic people who were the first to walk the span to Marin County. I heard that story many times but never appreciated it till now. Perhaps it takes reaching a mature age to see and savor such things.

STRAUSS AND HIS BRIDGE!

GRACE STRENGTH BOLDNESS

The strands across the span hold up the roadway and thus a bridge exists. Truly simple! And yet, the two craggy faces of the shoals, separated by more than a mile of maritime currents, are spanned by this thin, stylish and resilient ribbon of iron. The currents thrust waters in and out of the bay with savage force. Winds blow the road surface and the cables with rhythmic gusts. The salt waters and sea spray attack the rust colored paint and iron beneath, but it stands. It absorbs the forces, it endures the elements, it sways with the wind, it parts the currents; it has done so since its inception in 1937. It lives in harmony with its environment and has become an iconic symbol of the community.

 

However, to truly appreciate its size and magnificence one must place himself in the most rudimentary form. To walk or run across it—-yes! To ride a bicycle—that’s my way. The winds howl across the strands. The bridge sways subtly but noticeably. Splotches of the orange paint are missing revealing the work of the sea. The vibrations and noise from the ever present traffic force the suspension to vibrate as an instrument. I look to the south and see the San Francisco skyline, Alkatraz and the southern shore of Marin all in the early morning haze. I take pictures as I wish to remember this moment. It will be an instant placed with other iconic moments which are naturally filed under “pinnacles of the aesthetic” to be accessed at random times as life goes by. This moment will rank with “the first sight of the Grand Canal as you climb the steps from the train station”, “the first view of Lake Tahoe from the summit on Highway 267 South from Truckee, “Europabrucke going south onto the Brenner Pass”, “the steely winter waters of Lake Tahoe from the slopes of Diamond Peak’, …..and… many more. But this moment will be there neatly tucked in the synapse world waiting for the call.

View from Vista Point!

Picture taken by a tourist.

Then there is Alexander Drive descending from the world of the urbane to the bohemian. The bay and silhouetted views of the San Francisco skyline display a rich color palate in the soft morning light. However, the voices of the past speak of steamy rapture, bawdy houses, iconoclastic artists, rough and tumble fishermen and beatniks with their coffee houses. Could we ever forget Sally Stanford? The madam! The lady of the house! The mayor of Sausalito! The owner and hands on manager of the Valhalla House, commanding the northern entry to Sausalito and a breathtaking view of the “City”. Good old Sally did things her way and the old fashioned way. It was in the early seventies when I would travel from the south bay to see my aged parents in Fairfax in Marin County. On the way back I would stop at the Valhalla House for a drink, or dinner but really I just loved the local color. The food was mediocre and expensive. At the end of the bar there was a barber chair all decked out in red leather, with the foot rest and all the trimmings done in chrome. Oddly enough it did not stand out nor did it seem bizarre as there were plenty of other quirky things to look at—-wrought iron head boards on the walls, red lights, old pictures of SF, red flocked wall paper. So why not a barber chair! All part of her Barbary Coast Days. Heh!

 

On one such visit the barber chair was occupied. It was Sally. It had to be as it had been made clear to me on prior visits that no one…but no one other than Sally..ever, ever dared to sit in that chair. As I sat at the bar sipping on my wine and looking out the window to the SF skyline a gruff and admonishing voice was heard over the normal chatter of the bar. “Too much booze”, “Not that way” etc. She would be directing the show as the bartenders calmly went on with their task. The drinks were mixed with small bottles of mixes and not with the automated guns as was the norm in every other bar.   Her hair, all gray was up in a tight bun and she reclined in that barber chair dishing out her energy. What a scene. It was worth the price.

 

Now of course Sausalito filled with tourists and the homes and environs have been gentrified. You know- the upwardly mobile with the light colors, the skylights and the corian counters. All light and bright with nary a hint of character. The BMW’s in the garage, day care, ergonomics, herbal teas, Starbucks Frapuccinos for five bucks and no smoking on the sidewalks of Sausalito. I think I wanna barf!

I strolled down Bridgeway Street and noted that my favorite men’s store, Gene Hiller, where I had bought many a fine clothes for my maitre’d days in the restaurant business was gone. I rode easily in light traffic out of the city and stopped at Caffe Trieste. I sipped on regular coffee in a large cup and sat on a sidewalk table looking at the homes on the rising mountain across the street. In a rare empty lot which I gathered was soon to be under construction was a series of very tall stakes with ribbons drawing horizontals to the house just behind. The views! The views! I could just hear the objections and heckling at the city planning sessions. “We were here first”, Our views  to SF”, and on and on with all that tripe. I looked at my new Giant bike leaning on the traffic post just in front of my table and thought—“How beautiful! How simple!

 

A double tap on the horn came from a gleaming Prussian blue BMW convertible waiting to make a left turn as the driver smiled and waved to the couple sitting at the table next to me. A few minutes later they were united. He spread plans on the table and their conversations turned to elevation plans and colors and feel this…feel that. They were probably the owners of the lot across the street. All of a sudden the bike and the road ahead looked unusually attractive.

Beyond the underpass to Mill Valley I happily stumble onto a bike path which traversed the low bay lands of Richardson Bay towards Corte Madera and Geenbrae and Kentfield. By this peaceful route I entered the world of my adolescence. There were joggers and occasional other cyclists but I progressed through the expansive plain effortlessly with the bay behind and the mountains of Marin ahead. As I scanned the scenery the reclining indian maiden captured my focus.  It was Mt.Tamalpais, of course. I remembered my mother telling me about the reclining maiden and I never could see it. But today there it was plain and clear. Of course, what my mother never pointed out was that the profile of the maiden could only be seen when viewing the mountain traveling north and not from Fairfax where we lived. But now, some fifty years later, I got it! I could just see her shaking her head with a wry smile…..Luciano! Luciano!!!

 

I follow the highly trafficked E. Blithesdale out of Mill Valley and climb along Camino Alto for several miles into Corte Madera. I continue through familiar city streets through the town of Larkspur and the trendy Lark Creek Inn, onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through Ross, San Anselmo and into Fairfax. I take time to follow a nostalgia trail through the center of town. The only store I recognize is Celoni’s Liquor Store and the Variety Store. Lady Baltimore Bakery, my mother’s favorite and a must stop for a cake every Sunday after church at St. Rita’s up the street, was no longer there. The baseball field where we played little league, St. Rita’s Church, and our old house on Vista Way with a grand view I examined slowly while memories from my youth surfaced.

 

Power Bars, Power Bars and more Power Bars! And lots of water, too! That’s what I would consume throughout the day.  It worked very well but by the third day of riding I determined that the electrolyte balance was way off. The water quenched my thirst but my energy level dropped and felt fatigued.  The water needed to be supplemented with Gatorade or some such drink to replace needed nutrients.

Beyond Fairfax the Marin countryside is sparsely populated and the terrain is mountainous and thick with vegetation. White’s Hill is the fist challenge and the heat of the day it required a good effort to reach the summit. I stopped at Laganitas for a yogurt and a rest as a couple of guys and a girl offered me a seat at their table. It felt good to rest and sit in the shade. We chatted and soon they were spinning their tale of woes. It seems that a member of their party was injured and now on the way to the hospital and their car was on the fritz, and they had to get back to San Rafael to catch a bus and they had no money….and…and… I finished my one of two yogurts I had bought and said, “I’m sorry to hear all your woes. Here is a yogurt and $5 if that helps. Now I gotta be on my way to Sonoma County. Good luck, guys”

 

I’m sure that I was a soft touch but who cares, I thought.  It was shady and pleasant riding through Samuel Taylor state park; the road was narrow and winding; there was no traffic and soon I emerged into the rolling, coastal hills with dry golden grass and refreshing breezes.

 

Pt. Reyes is an interesting town with its blend of ranch and Victorian architecture.Main street is lined with businesses and there is a fair amount of activity. I pass a saloon which catches my eye. I ride on as I never have a beer during the day. Another block and I began to slow. That place is awful interesting, I thought. Perhaps an exception ought to be made. My bike made a lazy u-turn and gathered speed towards that saloon. I climbed the brick steps and brought my bike inside. The little white dog which was slumped at the entrance rolled an eyeball towards me from its comatose pose. It was a western saloon, rough and tumble and picturesque.

“A draft beer”, I said, and began a conversation with the bartender.

“Is that dog the boss”, I asked as I pointed to the reclining pooch.

“That’s Fred”, she said, “the boss and guard dog”

 

We both chuckled. I finished my beer and listened to the idle chatter between the two older locals seated at the end of the long wooden bar.

Highway 1 proceeds north along Tomales Bay, a most unusual natural formation. The wind had picked up and was always in my face, or so it seemed. The town of Marconi, Marshall and Tomales went by. In the middle of a field just off the road were a hand full of folks flying huge kites, brightly colored and briskly undulating with the currents.

 

This entire area of northern Marin is desolate, beautiful and unspoiled. It’s a blend of coastal wet lands, rolling golden hills and isolated villages hanging on to economic life long after the forces for their beginning has disappeared.

FLYING KITES ALONG TOMALES BAY!!

RUGGED COUNTRY AROUND TOMALES BAY!!

TOMALES BAY OYSTERS!!

I was beginning to feel a bit fatigued. It was the effect of the day’s heat, dehydration and the constant head wind. Now I can see that my electrolytes were out of balance. Just drinking water did help. But as I crossed the county line into Sonoma, my spirits surged as I was close to a shower, dinner and rest.

 

However, unbeknown to me at the time, my adventure and fatigue were not over. At the juncture of Highway 1 and Petaluma Valley Road I headed for familiar names without referring to a map. I recognized Valley Ford and that’s where I went. By the time I realized my mistake I was mired in fatigue, mountain roads, dehydration,Bohemian Highway, Sonoma County traffic and aggressive hayseed trucks. My temper was getting short too—partly at myself for making a mistake so late in the day and partly the reawakening at the Sonoma County country/hayseed mentality. In most of the bay area bicycling is viewed as a healthy and accepted sport but in Sonoma County it is considered sport for those speeding ranch trucks probably rushing to their favorite beer dive. It was all coming back and negative feelings were surfacing from the past.

 

After what seemed forever Burnside Road passed by Bloomfield and I was back on Petaluma Road. The Power Bar I had eaten a few miles back was sticking to my throat as I also had run out of water. But soon I was on Roblar Road and with additional effort the red façade and roofline of the Washoe House was discernible over the tree line. “A Godsend,” I thought. I lodged my bike in the entry way so that I could see it from inside and entered. It was déjà vu all over again as Yogi would say. A few red faces were lined around the dilapidated bar. The dirt, the faded dollar bills and cards pinned to the ceiling, the streaky mirrors and the dirt infested floors and a good coating of dust all over—yes! Yes! All the elements were present. Like a museum—all was preserved.

 

I was so glad to be here, though. I sat on the rickety bar stool with a slumping thud. “A draft”, I grunted and shoved a fiver to the slovenly dressed bartender. He gave me the change with nary a word and resumed his loud conversation with his red faced cronies. I phased them all out and turned my attention to the times I had visited this place on the way to golf trips and also those early days which had not been as of yet tarnished with those awful years in Rohnert Park. Back then it was viewed with interest, history and local curiosity. Ulysses S.Grant was reputed to have stayed here. And…if you look closely they probably have the same shot glass—unwashed and all. I sipped the beer slowly and chuckled at the round and about loop that I had taken, the road signs I had missed and the extra miles I had tacked onto my one hundred and ten mile plus day. The garbage dump was close by and this place had a popular following with those country boys who combine the dump and a shot. Just perfect!!!

 

Calm, refreshed and relaxed I finished the last few miles, turned onto Rohnert Park Espressway and viewed my former nemeses—The Olive Garden, Red Lobster and the “lords of the manor”, “the counts of hickdom”, my former landlords, the Coddings. “Don’t go there, Louie”, I thought! It’s all past history and it’s buried.

 

I checked into Motel 6 and a great deal it was– nice clean room, a hot shower and a bill of $49. Perfect! The inconveniences of an electronic key that did not work, a dreadful visit to one of our old haunts, the Boulevard Café, now a drug ridden dive, a failed attempt to get a cold drink at Burger King’s drive through on foot and perhaps one of the worst breakfasts I was to have the next morning, were all overcome by that delightful steak dinner served by a spry and intelligent staff at the Outback Steakhouse. I was back in Rohnert Park but I was not suicidal……I would leave bright and early the next morning.

END, DAY TWO!

 

 

At the Black Bear Restaurant across the parking lot from my room I waited at the counter as the harried waitress became settled with the demands of her two early morning tables. The lone cowboy I noted smoking a cigarette while leaning on his tattered car in front came in and sat at one of the counter seats for coffee. I selected the hearty combo breakfast and waited to order. The small restaurant chain was founded in the Shasta area and known for its friendliness and hearty food or so the back of the menu said. The cook behind the line was getting ready for the day’s business but certainly was not ready for us this early in the morning. I got coffee and ordered and soon the platter was placed in front of me. The waffle was doughy, the bacon was soggy and limp and the eggs were tasteless. I made myself eat as I would have a long day of riding but remembered the very best waffles in the world served at the Hyatt Incline Village. No comparison, I thought as I ate what I could, paid the bill and left.

 

I rode through the shopping centers to see what businesses I could recognize. Most were the same but looked seedy. I rode briskly and somewhat detached and delighted that I was not longer mired in this place. I skirted around Sonoma State University and towards Petaluma to AAA for some maps. I had noted that there seemed to be no direct bike route out of Sonoma County. Nope! Nope! Nope! And…I had examined all my cache of maps but could only get to Novato and then only US 101. I thought to call the police department but by the time I arrived at the triple A office and surveyed the new supply of maps I decided to head inland and meet the juncture at Nicasio Reservoir and come out in Terra Linda. It was a circuitous route, desolate and mountainous but filled with many scenes of the rich golden oak tree laden hills so typical of California. I completed the mental picture of northern Marin and the gentrified expansion from the thin strip of growth along the 101 corridor. It was hot, it was mountainous, and it was difficult. The cumulative effect of dehydration had robbed me of all power and that breakfast was a detriment now sitting in my stomach.

 

The ride was hot and boring. At the top of a promontory I noted a monstrous rock as I descended towards Terra Linda. Good heavens! There is a convenience store with umbrellas in front. I drank two twenty ounce bottles of Gatorade without pause. And…sat for a while. It was elevenish and I had a ways to go before I arrived at my destination, the train station in San Francisco. I chuckled to myself as I noted then name of the store, Big Rock. That’s about it; that was the only distinguishable landmark in fifty miles.

 

The Gatorade did the trick. I was back on track. Terra Linda,San Rafael, over the hill by San Quentin onto Greenbrae and Kentfield to find the gentle bicycle trail by Richardson Bay towards Sausalito. I was refreshed and vibrant again as I looked forward to a rest stop and a beer at some wonderful and lively spot in Sausalito with a wonderful view. But….sometimes plans don’t materialize. At the beginning of Bridgeway Street in Sausalito my back tire blew and with a loud pop, too. The second flat that day.

A fine view of the Missionin San Rafael—picture taken from Third St.

Luciano was awarded “alter boy of the year” from St. Rita’s Parish in Fairfax. Ceremony held here in 1959.

…You never know where life leads you….but this is one place that I rode by and did not stop!!!

San Quentin

I dismantled the bike and began the usual procedure. Upon examination I noted that the tire was frayed and worn. It needed to be replaced and fortunately I remembered a bike shop just up the street. I repaired the tire and limped on in to Mike’s Bike shop.

” New tires, new inner tubes”, I said to the attendant at the shop, “and how long will it take. I’m on the road and wish to get going as soon as possible”.

 

The nice young man said that they could do it right away. “Good”, I said, “I’ll be drinking a beer and I’ll be back.

 

I bought a cold can of beer at the convenience store a few feet away and walked just behind the center where there was a cozy park with fine view of the houseboats and Sausalito hidden life and the reclining maiden of Mt. Tamalpais.

A fine view to sip a cold beer by as the bike is being once again made road worthy!

Sometimes luck is with you!! A beautiful picture. The bike ready to go!!!

Into SausalitoI went. And….with vigor, too! Just ahead of me I recognized a cyclist as the gentleman who had stopped at my flat tire and had advised me to change tires every two thousand miles. We began a conversation as we rode through Sausalito and parted as the road narrowed up the slope of Alexander Drive. I climbed with power and ease. I crossed the bridge and followed the bike trail which skirted the bay towards the Marina. It was sunny, the ride was pleasant, the view was breathtaking and there was no traffic. I felt privileged to be riding through this international city without the impediment of traffic. Through the Presidio and onto North Beach, by the cable cars and in front of the Buena Vista was my route. No cars and crowds were to be seen. Miraculous! I thought.

A rare scene! Riding through San Francisco without cars or crowds.

Once by the Embarcadero, I rode easily on the wide sidewalk skirting the occasional pedestrian or jogger or roller blader. I was close so I rode without a care. I cast my sights on the bay with the bigger than life Bay Bridge looming over the Embarcadero piers. It was almost five and the train station was near. Yes, yes!! The trip was done.

A triumphal beer while waiting for the train!!! (picture taken by biz guy from Philippines)