Monday, June 1, 2009

The Green Tour

Red Ryder rides again!

My RV on two-wheels. Everything to sustain me on the road is carried on the bike - camping gear, clothes, food, tools and replacement bike parts, etc. - all about 45 lbs in the four panniers in addition to the bike which weighs 30 additional lbs.

A fully-loaded touring bike may look heavy and impossible to move but the key is in the gearing. Having ultra-low alpine gears is the secret to climbing steep hills and propelling the beast.

But if you get hooked on loaded touring, it's a magical way of traveling moving under your own power with the wind in your face, at a speed (averaging 10 mph) where you see and experience everything around you up close and personal. Stopping whenever you want and going as far as you feel on any given day. Pacing is key and fueling the engine is the major fun part of touring where you are constantly on the hunt for hearty local cuisine. Consuming mass quantities of food, burning mega-calories thus not gaining weight, and becoming pretty fit are touring major benefits.

Life gets pretty simple traveling on a bike.

HA! . . . to the high price of gas which is inching up toward $4 a gallon again. I called this tour of the north coast the Green Tour taking our zero emission touring bikes and public transportation on our return trip from San Francisco. At the end of the tour, we took the ferry across the bay and the Capitol train from Oakland to Sacramento.

At the urging of uber touring enthusiast, Herb Lee, I joined Dennis Engblom and Herb on a quickly planned 6 day tour of some of the most picturesque country in cycling distance of Sacramento. Our route took us from Sacramento through Napa, Sonoma, and Marin counties ending in San Francisco.

We have done similar versions of this classic route several times before which passes through quintessential California terrain - the premier wine regions of the north coast, oak-woodland hills, redwood forests, along the Pacific Ocean and Tomales Bay, and funky Bohemian communities with great eateries, just to name a few highlights.

On this tour, we added a visit to the Marin Headlands on our last day. Foggy or not, we got tremendous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and SF from it's various vantage points.

The 252 mile route climbed over 12,500', and we averaged about 47 miles per day. We camped every night and stayed in the Marin Headlands IYH on the last night.

The tour started from home and our first day was riding to Lake Solano County Park west of Winters. Don Dupage accompanied us to the Yolo Causeway and took our picture.

Stopping off in Davis for lunch

A brand new Nature/Visitor Center at Lake Solano. A very slick building!

Our first night's camp on the shores of Lake Solano.

Putah Creek flows from Lake Berryessa into Lake Solano

The Glory Hole (round drainage structure on left) on Lake Berryessa stands about 25' above the water line

The store at Spanish Flat is "world-famous" for Chinese egg-rolls. People drive great distances to eat them. Tasty food for the road!

Herb gives it two thumbs up.

Taking a break at Lake Hennessey before dropping down into the Napa Valley

A great stop is Close Pegase Winery south of Calistoga. World-class sculpture garden surround the Michael Graves designed buildings. A bike path near the winery takes you into downtown Calistoga.

A modern Eygptian entryway into the winery

Resting in the shady courtyard of Close Pegase

From Calistoga, our 2nd night's stay, we cut across Sonoma County on Chalk Hill Road into Windsor then continued on to Occidental and Bodega Bay via scenic cross valley roads

A fun encounter on the farm- retired rancher Victor with his odd collection of animals.

Frank you missed a good one!

A herd of about 20 Brahma cows

Several Emu's and funny domestic ducks

A baby Brahma already showing the little hump

Biking through the heart of the beautiful Sonoma wine country

Stopping off at Howard's Cafe in Occidental, another one of my favorite eateries, serves bountiful breakfast and lunches . . . and a great cup-o-joe

After two hot days, the "June Gloom" comes early to the north coast. Dennis transforms into Chiquita Man by donning his yellow rain suit.

After lunch in Occidental, we head off to Bodega Bay, our 3rd night's camp at Bodega Dunes State Park

Stopping off to check out the Potter School House in the community of Bodega. This famous landmark was used in the Hitchcock movie, The Birds, filmed in 1962.

Crow attack!

From our campground, we have a short walk to dinner along the marina to the Sandpiper Restaurant

A flock of migrating Brant geese stopping over in Bodega Bay

A cool gnarly cypress at Bodega Dunes

Almost ready to roll . . . waiting for Dennis to break camp at the Dunes

A rest stop at Valley Ford on Hwy 1

A funky but well-stocked little market

Next to the market is Gabby's Gifts

Gabby, the laid-back yellow lab, guards the front door

A racer rips by on beautiful Middle Road in Marin County. No cars, just bikes.

A cool loop-de-loo on Middle Road

The last big climb before the town of Tomales

Tomales Bakery, a famous local icon, draws cyclists from through-out Marin County

Riding along creek feeding into Tomales Bay

Kayakers on Tomales Bay

The outdoor BBQ at Hog Island Oyster Farm

Funky homes on stilts near Hog Island

The Marshall Store, a very popular casual eatery known for great BBQ oysters on a half shell

Crusty artisan bread and fresh BBQ'd oysters

After camping at Olema, we head south on Hwy 1 to Bolinas

Pastoral scenes near Bolinas

Bolinas, a quirky Bohemian community, still maintains it's peace-loving lifestyle. A rancher with a peace symbol on the barn. Isn't that an oxymoron?

Birds aplenty in Bolinas

Scruffy pooch rules Main Street

The Coast Cafe in Bolinas is a great coastal eatery. Loading up before tackling Bolinas-Fairfax Road, a 10 mile; 3,000' climb to Ridgecrest Road and Mt. Tam.

Warming up with a good cup-o-joe in front of the hot stove

Meeting a couple from Norman, OK who were also touring the north coast

Riding along Bolinas Lagoon

Herb appearing out of the clouds at the top of Bolinas-Fairfax Road. The redwood trees were dripping rain.

After 3 days of fog and over-cast skies, we finally see the sun near the top of Mt. Tam

A ranger driving a kool off-roader

Riding along the marina in Sausalito

Looking across the Bay at SF skyline

The mega-million dollar mansions of Tiburon across Richardson Bay

Checking out the street scene in Sausalito, a great place to people watch

Enjoying the sun in the town plaza in Sausalito

Our last night's stay was at the IYH in the Marin Headlands.
The building was a former military hospital.

Relaxing in the large comfy common room in the hostel

After 4 nights of camping, it was cush to sleep indoors

At the Headlands, the former chapel is now the National Park Visitor Center

Officer's quarters is now park residence

Over-looking Rodeo Lagoon

A couple bunkers at Pt. Bonita

From Bonita Cove, the view of Golden Gate Bridge and the City

A unique perspective of SF from Pt. Bonita

Click on pics for close-up views of SF

View of east bay hills, Treasure Island through GGB from Pt. Bonita

Another great view of SF from Pt. Bonito

A group shot from Vista Point before crossing the GGB

Biking across the GGB, a thrill of a lifetime

This was Dennis's first crossing of the GGB on a bike

From the south-side, a view of Fort Point

Biking over to Fort Point for a closer look

Fort Point was constructed the year before the outbreak of the Civil War and only brick fortress west of Mississippi River. The big guns were never fired in anger and the fortress so solid that it was saved and preserved during the construction of the GGB.

Battlements inside the Fort

Lighthouse atop the fort

Tour almost over. OK, where to next?

"Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is the supreme law. By it alone, can mankind be saved"

Mohandas Gandhi

Our bike tour ended at the Ferry Building

Inside the Ferry Building is a gourmet specialty complex full of great food shops and eateries

Catching the Bay Ferry from SF to Oakland

Bikes are stored at the back of the ferry

Heading to Oakland under the Bay Bridge

Our last leg was catching the Capitol Train to Sacramento where the sun shines everyday!

While waiting for the Capitol, an auto train goes by. Never seen these before.