It’s been a hot, hot summer here in Los Angeles and after two weeks of over 90º weather, we had to get out of town. Let’s be honest, though, that’s what everyone in this county of 10 million people was thinking too! So where would we go? As I was contemplating this very question, I bumped into my friend Nathan, who told me he had an amazing touring route from San Francisco out to Point Reyes National Seashore planned for the long weekend. I immediately asked if there was room for Cari and me to come along… I owed her a better touring experience after getting us lost in the Sequoias!
The thing about bicycle touring is you’ll come across these nuggets of locales and want to permanently relocate there. You’ll spend all the free time you have exploring them, but leave feeling like there’s more to it. Hell, you leave knowing there’s more to it. Point Reyes is one of those places. I’ve camped there and ridden through before, but still felt like I was only scratching the surface, like a raccoon who barely gets to the bottom of some unsuspecting cyclist’s pannier. I wanted more.
Luckily, Nathan had done a fair amount of reconnaissance and I had been there enough to cover everything on the surface, leaving the good, harder to access areas on our agenda. But first, we had to get there and we had to prepare for this trip. Our initial plan of skipping town to avoid the weather quickly melted like a fallen ice cream scoop. The Bay Area was under an extreme heat advisory, with parts of it hitting triple digits.
Were we bringing the heat up from Los Angeles? The locals sure seemed to think so!
At least this change of events made packing even easier. We’d leave the rain fly, sleeping bags, flannels and warm clothes at home, opting for lightweight bedding and apparel, ultimately leaving more room for things like booze, food and yes, a cast iron skillet. The group assembled at an AirBnB in the Mission and discussed the next morning. After coffee, our friend Tyler rode with us through GGP to the Golden Gate bridge. From there, we were on Nathan’s watch as we pedaled up Mt. Tam before dropping down to Stinson Beach for oysters, tacos and bloody mary’s.
The thing about touring the California Coast along HWY 1 is you always forget how much elevation there is and the stretch from Stinson to Olema must have killed me before when I rolled through seven years ago because I don’t remember it being so hilly! We all stuck together, fought through the blow-dryer warm wind, aggressive, impatient drivers and made it to Olema for a restock on snacks before rolling into Glen Camp, a bike-in and hike-in spot in the coastal hills.
With our bikes loaded down, we navigated the fire roads before making it to camp just in time for a hazy sunset to blanket the meadow. We all passed out early, all packed up and ready to roll to the beach at Wildcat Camp before daybreak. The only thing on our agenda was to spend the day at the beach to wait out the heat. Luckily, our impulse buy of two sun umbrellas provided enough shade – and photographic entertainment – for the day. Once the sun had turned in for the night, it was time to haul our heavy asses up the 2.5 miles to camp, up roads exceeding 20% in grade.
That was nothing compared to the following morning’s haul out. I think the entire group was shelled by the time we rolled into Pt. Reyes Station for a breakfast pastry and a quick stop by Black Mountain Bicycles, the local shop in town. There’s more on that tomorrow…
You can’t go to the Tomales Bay area without eating oysters and we knew just the place. 50 oysters for $70 and you had to shuck them yourself. This weeds out a lot of the crowds normally, but this was Labor Day weekend after all. The road to the oyster market was filled with impatient, honking drivers, as we did our best to stick together for safety. It was already blisteringly hot out and the pizza slice I had eaten early was already gone in my stomach. I was hungry. 50 oysters hungry? You bet!
Sated for the moment, it was time for our second camp site of the trip: Samuel P Taylor. A place I’d been before, where I first encountered the “Crackoon mob” as they attempted to raid my empty panniers and mollest my tent the whole evening. Something had to give, however, as the shear crowd of the weekend must have overwhelmed them. Not a racoon was in sight and the only visitors we received that evening were our friends Dylan and Mallory, who brought beer and fire wood, along with smiling faces and a warm welcome.
It was our last day. The temperature had broken and we opted for an easy roll-out. Taking bike trails to Fairfax, led us to meet up with none other than Jacquie Phelan, a friend of Kyla’s and all around bad-ass of a woman – there’s more on that encounter coming this week. Jacquie took us into her and Charlie’s home, made us smoothies before taking the group to the Marin Bicycle Museum. At this point, Cari and I wanted to eat something and get on the road back home. We missed our pup Max and the idea of rolling into town at 1am wasn’t sitting with us so well.
Our route was calm, before the storm that greeted us in Salsalito. With winds and rain headed our way, we put our heads down and hammered back up and over the bridge, to our car and a 7-hour drive home. We’d beat the heat, mostly and found our new niche in one of the Bay Area’s best areas for bicycle touring. Along the way we’d gotten to know our friends even better and made some new ones.
Here’s a rough approximation of our route, omitting detours and wrong turns.