Approaching San Fransisco

Sonoma – Petaluma – Tomales – Point Reyes Station – Fairfax – St Anselmo – Sausalito – San Fransisco

Don’t worry – this is going to be relatively brief! Four days. Four delightful rides.

Arriving in SF was always going to be a highlight for us. Cycling over Golden Gate Bridge and being in a city so often captured in movies, songs and novels has been an exciting prospect ever since we thought about going on this journey. We decided to take it slowly.

From Sonoma we returned to the sea, anxious not to miss out on too much of this amazing coastline. We headed south and then diverted inland through Marin heartlands, before hitting the city. This took us on the following rides.

Sonoma – Petaluma – Tomales. A shift from vineyards to cattle ranches; from lush valleys to wider grassland scapes. It was a quiet route, avoiding state roads for the majority of the way. A bit bumpy (tame, mind after other recent rides!), hot, dusty and dry with blustery crosswinds.

We passed through Petaluma. A river town that grew considerably with the railroads. It became an important destination for storing agricultural produce and game to serve expanding markets in SF and Oakland. However, trade was badly hit once Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937. Local debate is ongoing about what to do with the former tracks – could become an excellent cycle route! The town was fortunate to be spared the ravages of the 1906 earthquake that hit California. Many of the old mills and warehouses still stand and are being renovated.

En route to the coast we skirted the US Coastguard Training Centre – aka ‘Force Readiness Command’. Also, swathes of farmland securely fenced off for ‘testing’. Have not got to the bottom of what is going on there.

Our destination was Tomales. What a lovely village. A number of well preserved historic buildings. The town was founded in 1850 and has a steady population of about 200. Unfortunately, we were too late to visit the local museum but took advantage of the deli, grocery and bakery – what more do you need? We stayed in a snug cottage dating from the 19th Century.

Tomales – Tomales Bay – Point Reyes Station – Fairfax – St Anselmo. This was a tremendous ride. Starting with breakfast in the bakery, where the official opening hours are ‘until we run out’ – brilliant. Given this situation we grew a little concerned when the guy in front of us in the que decided to order our breakfast pastries decided to order vast piles of buns…..but fortunately two small cinnamon rolls remained for us.

We cycled along Tomales Bay on a narrow, gently undulating and weaving road. It had just been resurfaced and works were still ongoing as we passed through. These works comprised a guy leaning out of a truck in front of us and replacing the cats eyes by hand – surely there’s a more efficient way? This painstaking and laborious process meant we could sneak by the truck leaving a huge long line of traffic to huff and puff behind the truck, which in turn meant we could roll along side-by-side, chatting, perfect. The Bay is actually an inlet about 15 miles long and only one mile across. Its northern end opens out on to Bodega Bay, providing shelter from the Pacific currents. The waters create perfect breeding conditions for oysters, clams and mussels. And as a consequence, little fish shacks and cafes perch along the water-edge and on jetties – oozing character and charm. Regrettably, too early in the day for us. (Editors note. I really thought about it but oysters at 8am, sadly not!).

We stopped in Point Reyes Station for lunch. Another former railroad town where loads were switched between different gauge tracks as goods traveled from Russian River in the north to Sausalito in the south. Today, the town is a popular stop for those traveling through – having a collection of artisan produce and craft shops – as well as serving the coast and its agricultural hinterland. It has a number of 19th Century buildings. According to local literature – a vaguely Italianate influence (many of the early settlers were Italian or Italian speaking Swiss) but this didn’t seem very evident to us.

The route then took us inland across foothills, through farmland and redwoods along the valley of San Geronimo Creek to emerge in Fairfax. Only 20 miles north of San Fran, it felt suburban – something we’ve not experienced for a while. Fairfax is a cycling hub and true to form there were Lycra clad cyclists aplenty!

Our stop-over was in neighbouring St Anselmo in an extremely comfortable AirBnB, thoughtfully catering for every need. Hey-ho, laundry time again!

Muir Woods loop. Fairfax, nestled in the south of Marin County, surrounded by hills and the birthplace of mountain biking. Therefore, we had to do a local ‘classic’. We checked out recommendations from cycling clubs in the area and opted for the Muir Woods loop. I thought I’d read it described as a good recovery ride, so we expected a gentle circuit. Oops, mistaken – climb, climb, climb some severe; a couple of short sections so steep we thought we could topple over handlebars on the up and drop off the back coming down. The route took us through outer city suburbs (including the gentille Ross neighbourhood), hills, redwood forests, virtually to the coast and back to Fairfax.

It was a lovely ride. Topped by getting our first distant glimpse of SF. As Jen said in one of her posts – the skyline looked remarkably similar to one of our ride profiles!

Fairfax – Sausalito – San Fran. An urban ride but mainly on greenways and cycle routes. We hit San Fransisco Bay just above Sausalito, renowned for floating homes on Richardson Bay that were built by artist squatters after WWII and is still a vibrant community. The houseboats are brightly coloured with attractively planted docks and boardwalks. After stopping for lunch we continued around the headland, in to the face of strong winds and low cloud – ever thus? All adding to the anticipation of reaching The Bridge…..Jen will tell more, anon.

And a few miscellaneous bits from our experiences along the way.

1. We realised we’ve climbed over 35,000m in elevation. That’s 4 times Mount Everest. Ok it’s taken many weeks but not too bad for a combined age of 107!

2. Thursdays and Fridays are the new Sundays – so many cyclists out riding.

3. Delicious ice cream in Tomales affirmed Jen’s penchant – hard to believe but it had waned following an overdose in Healdsburg!

4. The ‘Summer of Love’ lives on; first generation hippies are chilling in Tomales and Point Reyes Station.

5. Golden Gate Bridge is not gold or red; it is orange vermillion, officially Internal Orange.

6. The disappearing meno-pouch….umm, work-in-progress!

That’s all for now!

2 thoughts on “Approaching San Fransisco

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