Marathon ride to the city

Day 18, Bodega Dunes to San Francisco, 76 miles

Dreaming as I wake this morning, and sleep talking, in full conversation with the characters in my dream stories. I wonder what the other campers think, if they hear. Often there is some kind of resolution at hand in such dreams. I’m not sure what the meaning of these ones, this morning, because as I quickly remember the day ahead, I also quickly forget the dreams.

I lay in my tent longer, delaying what I know is the inevitable. A long hilly ride out of Bodega Bay. And parting company with these new cycling friends. Funny how long it has taken me to warm up to these pedaling companions, and now the bittersweet parting of ways must occur. Thus, I’m slow to pack up, lingering then at breakfast, sharing coffee with Alden and Claire. The others in camp have left by the time I push off.

The hills seem harder this morning. I’ve been riding 18 days straight, since I began this tour in Cannon Beach. My legs are feeling fatigued as I begin these first of so many hills in the rolling countryside north of San Francisco. Climbing, descending, reaching the town of Valley Ford, where Gary, Eric and Rick are stopped for breakfast. I roll past, they catch up just at the turnoff to Petaluma. I bear a hard right to stay on Route 1, we offer rolling farewells to each other.

Not, the long steep climbing, past dairy farms in the sparse rangeland. The road is lined with wild dill, now flowering again from recent rains. California gets a second spring in the fall. The scent of dill is mixed with the pungency of eucalyptus and other aromatic shrubs. The skies are clear as I climb through and onward.

A long descent, then I reach Tomales, where I stop for coffee and pie. Claire and Alden make a stop too. We chat about the route ahead. They will be stopping at Samuel P. Taylor, just north of Lagunitas and Fairfax. I head onward, the road now following the sparkling blue waters of Tomales Bay. So many rolling hills, just like the coves and headlands on the coastal shoreline to the north. I pass the oyster farms, no time for lunch here, then the last climb and descent into Point Reyes Station.

I grab some food at the market, then press on to Olema. I pause for a coffee break to gather my strength, then I turn begin up Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, one last long climb before I reach Samuel P. Taylor. I put on some music to distract me from my aching legs. Gear down, pedal up, slowly, ever closer to the crest. Ah, at last! A rapid descent down to the beautiful redwoods of this last state park before San Francisco.

I roll on past the park, past the campground, through Lagunitas, then climb up to the pass at Mount Tamalpais. I’m feeling tired, and still inspired. Just a few more miles until the bridge! I descend into Fairfax, following the bike route through the small communities north of the city. I climb past Larkspur, then descend to follow 101 over more hills to Sausalito. The sun is sinking lower as I ride, around the edges of the north bay, then I climb Bridgeway to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

My heart always leaps at the first sights of the rust colored towers. Then I’m crossing under 101, approaching the bike path on the north side of the Golden Gate. The sun set is well underway as I cross the bridge, painting a glorious sky beyond the shadowed profile of the Marin Headlands. I stop for pictures, then ride on.

After nine years of touring this route, my arrival at the Golden Gate Bridge remains a key marker of the epic nature of this bicycle journey, this mode of travel, some 800 miles from my starting point, all via human power. I call Seth and tell him of my arrival, how I’ll catch the BART at Market Street. But still, I must pedal the bridge and then across Fort Mason, Fishermans Wharf and the Embarcadero. Headlight blazing, these last 5 miles are easy as I anticipate a weekend visiting my sons and resting my aching body. There, the Ferry Building, just a couple blocks to the BART elevator, then I’m on the train, steel wheels screeching against the rails as we hurtle through the tunnel under San Francisco Bay.

I field distress calls from home. I feel so far away, wonder if I should cut the trip short, catch the Amtrak north. I try to offer assurance that all will be well, but I wonder at this journey. At last I arrive, Seth and Shawn greet me at their door, hauling my bike and bags up the short flight to their apartment in Oakland. I’m dazed and exhausted as I collapse on their couch. It’s so good to see them, to feel our family connections again. Even as I long to reach out over the miles to Corvallis.

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