Cycling: SF to Point Reyes Station

Highway 1 near Slide Ranch

First “real” ride of the season (after the tire debacle down in Pescadero a few weeks ago) to Point Reyes Station.

I have a certain fondness for this ride, going straight up US 1, as it was my first real solo ride.

Each time I do this trip brings great memories of visiting NorCal from Chicago, driving up 1 north of Stinson Beach near Olema Valley and seeing cyclists – I thought that these guys had to be part of some kind of cycling elite – they were in the middle of NOWHERE!

Perhaps two months after I got my bike I decided that it was time to see if I could make it to Pt. Reyes under my own steam and set out with enough provisions to have lasted me a self-supported century: 3+ bottles (including one in a jersey pocket), probably 6 clif bars, and a small jug of Gu. I had built up Hwy. 1 in my mind as a desolate, desperate, uninhabited stretch of road, and thought that I would have no access to fuel until Point Reyes.

On that first ride Stinson Beach appeared like an oasis – a shining jewel of civilization on the jagged coastline. In Stinson Beach I was convinced that I now REALLY needed to kit myself out for the push to Pt. Reyes, eating Baklava from the little store, chugging a gatorade, and replenishing all the food I had consumed so far – in the 20 miles since leaving home! The sweat on my top tube in the final push back towards SF up out of Slide Ranch is etched in my cycling memory. I realized that I was nearing the end of a physical test that had seemed nothing short of superhuman just a few months earlier.

Yesterday’s ride was far less epic, now a part of my regular riding repertoire. The solitude of West Marin, though, never wears off. I knew that a hilly (~6K vert.) 70 miler would be an interesting day for a guy who’s been on the bike approximately NOT AT ALL in the past 6 or so months that I’d been focused on the run. A steady pace and a stop in Stinson both ways were enough comfort for my legs that it was a great day out.

Hwy. 1 was the foggiest I’ve ever seen it from Panoramic down to Stinson – I was worried about getting hit from behind – visibility had to be 15 feet in places!

US 1 near Bolinas lagoon is one of those weird places where somehow it manages to feel downhill both ways, which is a bonus, unlike some parts of Paradise Drive that LOOK downhill but somehow manage to feel uphill…

Rolled in to Point Reyes Station feeling just a little toasted and saw… WESTERN DAYS! Though Pt. Reyes Station is usually a pretty welcoming place for cyclists, owing to it being just about the ONLY town in this part of Marin. There is, however, a (mostly) unspoken tension between “cowboy” western Marin, and “yuppie” Marin (the “hippies” stay out of it). This tension is on high during western days, as I found out while being yelled at as “THE GUY IN SPANDEX”.

I’ve drunk/drank my share of beer and bourbon in The Western – a hell of a lot more than my fair share for a guy who has lived in San Francisco for two years, and I let people know it.

Sadly one drink made me lay down in the grass next to Bovine Bakery, and I awoke to (again) someone saying, “Hey, there’s a guy in spandex passed out with his bike in the front yard”. I wasn’t aware that this space, always having struck me as a public park, might actually have been a homeowner’s yard. I beat retreat quickly, not wanting to hear the jangle of spurs coming my way. There is only so much goodwill for guys in spandex during Western Days.

This festival was an incredible display of the confluence of cultures that continues to shape West Marin: Aged post-hippies, once anti-establishment, now checking their portfolios with the best of them (thought still maintaining the patina with the aged Volvo – absolutely de rigeur); the farmers and agriculturalists maintaining Marin’s heritage as a breadbasket to NorCal; the ever-growing Latino culture (complete with Low-Riders in Western Days!!!); and the rest of those that found themselves, one way or another, living in this corner of the world – artists, environmentalists, and workaday folks that managed to carve a spot out in the countryside sometime before this became some of the most valuable rural property in the nation.

Somehow the ride back to SF from Point Reyes Station always seems both faster AND easier. It’s a mystery I’m happy to keep exploring.

PS How did Dogtown (Pop. 30) make it on to Google Maps? Look at the size of the font relative to its population!

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