I’m writing this during a power outage in a hotel in Santa Cruz. Things have changed but I will try to keep this as in the moment that it refers to as possible.
From what I remember (as everyone else who has done this thing has already noted, things blur very rapidly,) this was a pretty routine morning. I put my scattered gear back together in my bombed out room and waited for Gene to meet me at the appointed 7:30. As I later realized, Gene really needs me for the route through the city. We take off through Marin, mostly along well appointed bike paths and routes. Bikes are everywhere. An interesting thing about this part of the Bay Area is that even the spandexed roadies are mostly on cool steel bikes. Not sure why, but part of it is probably that so many of the craftsmen who make them are here, the birthplace of the mountain bike. Also, even though the roads are very bike-friendly, they can be bumpy, so maybe they just train on more durable steel. Numerous organized rides pass us, one with three support vehicles in tow. Wow.
Going through civilization is still somewhat of a sensory overload. Even after my admittedly short time along the deserted coast, it is hard to resist the impulsive grab that the availability of calories and caffeine provides. However, both of us have picked up the common habit of not stopping for any refreshment or nourishment until at least a decent chunk of miles has passed. My morning miles have all been caffeine free but fueled by either a couple packets of oats or whatever junk carbs I had left over from the previous day or both. We pass all the cool cafes and coffee shops without stopping and end up in Sausalito and the run up to the Golden Gate Bridge.
There are some amazing views.
After a quick pee in the bike-filled parking lot, we set off across the bikeway. Here is Gene.
Note the circa twenty years ago Bell helmet, which probably has no protective value left. He is travelling light on an insufficient hybrid type bike and he knows it. He’s carrying a little tube shelter, a sleeping pad, and a really skimpy sleeping bad. He had a lot of more appropriate stuff, but it somehow wasn’t in the right place when he started his trip up to the Canadian border to come down. As such, isn’t prepared to camp multiple nights in a row the way the rest of the south bound bikers are. It would have been fine in the summer, but not now, when camping nights are routinely below 40 fahrenheit.
Here is me. I’m ready for everything except the shock of seeing my orange and brown face in the mirror whenever I finally stop for breakfast every morning. Lindsay Lohan and the rest of you fake bakers, eat your hearts out. I went orange naturally.
The ride across the bridge was routine and filled with bikes, even on this chilly morning. I didn’t get a major sensation of height or danger. It was just a roll across a generous bike path. No major starting hill– if you’ve been across, you probably remember that it is pretty flat. Nothing like the illegal climb up the Coronado Bridge for the frontrunners on SD Critical Mass.
After the bridgeway, the guidebook route took us up 28th street through a really nice residential neighborhood, and then through some Chinese neighborhoods to the way south out of the city. Fairly hill free and pleasant, although cold and windy. We zipped past the President’s Cup golf south of the city and finally stopped for breakfast across the county line in Daly City. It was a struggle to find breakfast, and honestly, I would have been better served getting some kind of killer vegan breakfast in SF but that would have required a lot of research or assistance from the useless Chris Mosher, and I availed myself of neither. The first stop for food was in a huge Asian-oriented center in Daly City which was anchored by a Ranch 99! On a longer tour, that would have been a major food stop for me, but Gene wasn’t into it, and I had no real need to load up. We eventually found a local diner, where I had my usual disappointing vegan roadside breakfast of dry toast and jelly and coffee.
We took an off-highway route through the west coast Levittown-looking Daly City and got back on the highway for the somewhat cramped climb up the Devil’s Slide which had no shoulder due to the ongoing tunnel construction. A group of about 12 fixed-gear riders blew past us going uphill and I never saw them again. More power to them and best wishes for their knees when they are my age. I missed a great opportunity to add to my collection of roadkill photos when I didn’t stop to shoot a discarded porno DVD. It just wasn’t safe to stop and start again without a shoulder. I won’t print the title here to avoid unnecessary google hits.
I don’t really remember much of the rest of the ride down to Half Moon Bay except that it was fairly pleasant. Riding with someone else is a completely different experience. Time passes differently and not being alone with your thoughts creates a different cadence and pace. The point of this segment is mostly getting through the Bay Area, which luckily for us was on a Sunday, and staging ourselves at Half Moon Bay for the next day, which is desolate and without services. Much more on that later.
The city of Half Moon Bay is a relative metropolis for a city next to a hiker biker stop. Every kind of food and service is available, which again, is overwhelming. We grabbed what we needed and checked in to the camp ground without intending to come back out, even though it was less than a mile back to civilization. At these stops, I usually grab a tub of salsa for cooking, some pretzelly carbs, some cookies, and some fruit. I usually leave some of it in the hiker/biker bear box as road kharma for anyone following and have been gifted by some of the same from others.
My man B asked for some shots of camp life, so here they are. The HB site at HMB was a bit ghetto, with only one firepit for all to share and no water spigot.
The location is nice, though, and for the just recently raised price of $7, it is tough to complain. Also, by their nature, the HB sites are communal, which, for me, adds a nice vibe, as people travelling this way are rarely dicks. More on that later, also. One thing that was different and disconcerting about HMB for me was the day use traffic. We set up camp around 4 or 5 and people from the day use areas and bike paths in the park were constantly winding through our camp and staring as if we were bears or some other attraction while they walked their Shitzus.
This is my tent at HMB. I usually only use one vestibule and between that and the interior of my two person tent, I can secure all my stuff that isn’t on the bike. If it is raining, I can quickly take everything off the bike and shelter it.
Lynne and Five Star, a couple of cool women from SF were bike camping for the weekend, with their homemade (I think) plastic container panniers. While Gene made a bunch of phone calls back to the world, I talked to them for about a long time. They shared the picnic table (essential to bike campers) next to the firepit and said they’d be stoked if I made a fire. Gene seems less social with others in the HB zones, probably because of the age gap.
Inspired by Phoenix on sdbikecommuter.com, I strapped a load of wood on the LHT and brought it back to camp.
Here is my camp cooking setup. The little MSR backpacking stove, which I’ve had for a while, is awesome. Here, I am making rice with some dehydrated veggie chili mix and salsa. Making rice on a camping stove is pretty sketchy and hard to get soft enough but I keep doing it anyway. Most things taste great at the end of the day and with enough Sriracha sauce.
I got a fire going eventually and Gene and I hung out a while and then the women returned from town and hung out. I left them the fire and crashed. During the night, we were again raided by camp raccoons, and again, I lost some dried fruit which was in a pannier pocket and not in the bear (raccoon) box. Whatever, they were there first anyway.
Here’s the track, which as usual, is missing miles because of user error: