Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 16 Mill Valley to the Golden Gate 6 miles (total miles 655)

After yesterday's long ride left us 6 miles short of the Golden Gate, today we had to make the ceremonial finish to the grand journey and ride the bikes up onto the bridge itself.  We had tried to find the closest normal hotel to the bridge itself and that put us in the Mill Valley Holiday Inn Express which turned out to actually be 6 miles away.  

This time it was Maggie's turn to ride the tandem with Dad as Catalina had had her fill over the past 2 weeks and it was a change of pace for us. 

Maggie has 2 speeds:  Coasting and Turbo.  Either she would pedal like mad or coast and make up codes to go with the bell that found its way onto the rear bars back in Fort Bragg:  "Dad, if I go ring ringggggg ring it means I want to go fast. If I go ring ring ringgggggg it means I want to slow down.  After we got the codes sorted out it was a pleasant ride on bike paths and on the surface streets of posh Sausalito.  Until we reached the bridge itself and faced one final steep climb up to the bridge deck where we met the rest of the gang who had arrived by car.  

Then Catalina hopped on the bike one last time as we cruised back to our hotel to load up the bikes and say goodbye to Grandpa and Grandma who were heading back north to Oregon while we are staying a few more days to see San Francisco before driving back to Texas. 

That is the adventure.  There were a few times back on some steep long sections of highway that I started to wonder what I was doing on the road with my 10 year old daughter and 75 year old father.  But we made it with really no mechanical or physical problems and are all much fitter and road wise. In the end, a very satisfying experience.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 15 Bodega Dunes to Mill Valley 64 miles (total miles 649)

We broke camp early today and packed our bags one last time
for the ride into Mill Valley where we had our hotel waiting as close as we could find to the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Today was going to be the longest ride of the trip which was the price we paid for cutting our day short and grabbing a motel in Ocean Cove two days ago. 

The morning ride was once again just endless ups and downs as Highway 1 veered away from the ocean at Bodega Bay and then eventually back again at Tomales Bay where we rode along the shoreline for about 20 miles

It must be oyster season in Tomales Bay because every tiny town we passed was full of cars lined up to buy oysters at the docks or at little shack seafood places.  We found one such place for lunch.... The Marshall Store where about the only thing on the menu for Catalina that wasn't seafood was a pork sandwich. 
After lunch we finally left Highway 1 which we have been following since Leggett and veered inland following our biking guide maps which were good to have because we still had no cell coverage 30 miles from downtown San Francisco.  We followed a series of small country roads across one final set of hills and through the redwoods of Samuel P Taylor State Park until finally breaking out into a series of upscale suburban Marin County towns where our route took us along suburban bike routes and bike paths.  We had one final hill to climb before finally glimpsing San Francisco in the distance and descending into Mill Valley and our finish.  I didn't take any pictures of the final ride through the suburbs because we were just tired and Catalina was driving us hard to beat her sisters to the finish line.  

We finally made it to the hotel just moments ahead of the cars and after cleaning up in the first real showers in 2 days we had a nice reunion dinner at the hotel restaurant.  

Tomorrow we will bike the last few miles to the Golden Gate without packs or trailers.  I don't even remember what it is like to ride without 60 lbs of gear and trailer hanging off the back.  Then we will say good bye to Grandma and Grandpa and start our week-long family vacation in San Francisco before driving home to Texas.  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Day 14 Ocean Cove to Bodega Dunes 27 miles (total miles 585)

We got a late start from the Ocean Cove Lodge which turned out to be a hidden gem.  The coffee and muffins from the lobby were great and Catalina was happy with her Sat morning cartoons. It was also a foggy morning and we thought it might burn off but never really did until we were almost at the campground. 

Here is our first morning rest stop in the fog. 

One would expect Highway 1 to become wider and more developed as we approach San Francisco. But it has been the opposite.  10 miles into today's ride we were winding over mountains and clinging to cliffs on a tiny narrow mountain road. Cattle were grazing along the road and we crossed numerous cattle guards as we passed various ranches.  This is some of what the scenery and highway looked like

We had lunch at another country store in Jenner, another tiny coastal town. 

And we had our first chance to use our first aid kit as Grandpa scraped his leg on a guard rail and needed a band aid

Catalina spotted more seals on the beach. 

The last 10 miles got increasingly crowded with cars as we started to finally   encounter the weekend vacation traffic but we made it into our campground where they had another hiker biker site for us at an otherwise packed full campground.  I asked the ranger if the ever turned away bikers because they were too full and she said no.  Even on the 4th of July weekend you are good if you arrive by bike or foot.  They have secret spillover spots they will open for bikers if necessary so that is good to know even though this is our last night camping. 

Catalina is ready to have her computer and internet connection back after 3 weeks on the road

Tomorrow we have our final 58 mile ride into our hotel near the base of the Golden Gate.  The road veers inland so it will be warmer to Catalina's delight and I think the last 15-20 miles are on suburban streets and bike paths. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Day 13 Manchester Beach to Ocean Cove 43 miles (total miles 558)

Another beautiful day riding along the northern California coastline. After 2 days riding in Mendocino County we finally crossed into Sonoma County and only have Marin County left before reaching San Francisco.  After today our destination at the base of the Golden Gate is just 87 miles away with 2 days of riding to go.

Seems like we are making slow progress but the terrain is just endlessly rugged.  Barely a flat spot anywhere, just endless ups and downs.  Our shifters are getting a workout as we are constantly shifting up and down for each hill.  

Before leaving the KOA this morning we had to make one final tree climb

A couple hours into the morning ride I heard a shout from Catalina as she had spotted a group of seals on the rocks far below.  So it was as good of a place as any to make a morning rest break.  Can you spot the seals?  There are 13.  

For lunch we rolled into the tiny town of Stewarts Point and had lunch at another tiny old general store.  This one was built in 1861 and is still going strong.  Plus it had a nice outdoor deck so no eating on the sidewalk or mill crates this time.  Grandpa and I ordered Ruben sandwiches and they warmed up some meat loaf from the deli for Catalina. Food is generally excellent at these little stores. 

We had planned to ride all the way to Bodega Dunes State Park today which would have been a 68 mile ride but by mid-afternoon we came across what is probably the only motel on the coast with vacancy on 4th of July weekend.   Catalina is about done with the camping in the cold and wind, we probably all are.  Evenings in the coastal campgrounds have been low 50s or high 40s with constant wind so just a bit chilly to be outside camping.  

So we biked up and got a room at the Ocean Cove Lodge.
It is an old style motel that the owner, an elderly guy named Tim just bought and re-opened after it had been closed for 10 years.  Nice and adequate in an old motel sort of way.  Apparently he isn't very internet savvy so he has no online presence and people just don't know about it yet until he gets on tripadvisor and the other online sites.  But it was our luck he still had a few rooms at 3 in the afternoon.  Here is the view from the front of the motel

Tomorrow we are going to bike the remaining 30 miles to Bodega Dunes and hope to arrive early enough to snag a hiker biker site.  I expecting campground sites will be more and more precious the closer we get to SF this weekend.  That will leave 58 miles for our final day to the Golden Gate on Sunday.

Day 12 Fort Bragg to Manchester Beach KOA 40 miles (total miles 515)

We got kind of a late start today as it is tougher leaving a bed than a cold tent in the morning.   Grandpa had the second small mechanical problem of the trip.  A hose clamp that holds his seat to the frame broke but luckily there was an auto parts store next door to our motel that was open on the 4th so it was a quick cheap and easy fix and we didn't have to rig up something on the road with zip ties and wire.

The weather has been great for riding.  Sunny skies and temps in the70s and the Mendocino coastline is just spectacular.

Also astonishingly undeveloped even compared to Oregon. Tiny little towns are scattered 10-20 miles apart and they are all tiny without much more than a few houses and general store.  We had lunch in Albion
and an afternoon snack breaking Elk
and we took one more break
Here is the view from our break spot

Before pedaling into the Manchester KOA. The KOA people were very nice to us. The campground was completely packed but I had called ahead the week before and the manager said she would find us a spot which she did as we were on bikes.  The guy before me in line was kind of obnoxious demanding a spot with no reservations.  She looked at him and said sorry no space but we have one delux cabin for $200 for 1 night only take it or leave it.  He took it.  It is the 4th of July weekend and we are now within 100 miles of San Francisco so every campground and hotel within 100 miles seems booked solid here on the coast which isn't surprising. The State Parks all have Hiker/Biker sections that are always available.  They just squeeze you in if you arrive by bike but turn you away if you arrive by RV so we have been lucky.  Here is our campsite.  

While I did laundry Catalina learned how to play pool and made friends with an 11 year old kid named Diego who I am guessing was Argentinian after hearing him talk to his parents 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 11 Leggett to Fort Bragg 49 miles (total miles 475)

Today was our toughest day of climbing yet.  We left Leggett at 8 am to get a head start on the heat and the climb.  The first climb of the morning was Leggett Pass which we hit in the first 5 miles of riding.  Over 4 miles up at 7% grades that were even steeper around the switchbacks.   We made it part way up until the legs gave out then worked our way to the summit taking breaks and walking in parts.  Here we are at the summit.  

This was the warning to trucks traveling back the way we came.
Over the summit the heat from the inland valleys quickly gave way to cool coastal air as the temps dropped from the 90s to the 60s on our descent and we started to see mountain streams which made nice break spots.  
After screaming down over 2,000 ft of elevation we had another 1,000 ft pass to climb over before the highway broke out of the mountains to the Mendocino coast.  

After 2 days riding inland the coast has changed dramatically.  We have left behind the forested coastline of Oregon and far Northern California. The coastline is now semi-arid grasslands broken up by groves of Eucalyptus and Cypress trees and yucca blooming along the roadside.  It is also nice to be off busy highway 101 and on the much smaller CA-1.  This section of coast is much more remote and wild than the Oregon coastline.  It looks more like the Chilean coast south of La Serena.  Very few towns or businesses.  

We rode for 10 miles down the coast until we came across the first town tiny Westport where the only place to eat was the little general store.  We sat outside on milk crates.  

After Westport it was a fairly easy final 15 mile ride into Fort Bragg where we had a room at the Surf Motel waiting.  The rest of the evening was laundry, dinner, and grocery shopping.