San Simeon State Beach

It was easy to sleep late in the shade of the redwoods. I left after a small, cold breakfast not really knowing the plan for the day, just heading south. Again it was a perfect day, sunny–perfectly cloudless–and warm, bordering on hot. I was grateful for every little breeze. The day started out with a big climb, the first of four 800-or-so-foot climbs of the day. Funny that 800 feet forward is nothing; 800 feet up is hard!

I stopped early in the day at Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park to hike to an overlook of a waterfall that plunged to the beach below. Also saw more of those little lizards and some kind of very fragrant plant, with innumerable little seed pods that smell spicy & sweet, I’ll try & bring a sprig home with me.

Much of the day was just spent cycling. I did about 70 miles and four big climbs. I’ve been surprised how desolate it is out here. There was a sign at a little gas station in Big Sur “Last Gas for 40 Miles”. It did make traffic pretty light all day, even though it was a weekend. I think everyone else on the road was just out for a pleasant drive along the coast–I saw several cars pass with cameras pointed out the window. I’m amused thinking of their future slide shows–“wait, was that a bicyclist?”

I stopped in Lucia, a “town” which is essentially just a store/restaurant/lodge, for lunch and the ice cream of the day, just a (very expensive) ice cream snickers bar, plus some home-made treats–a piece of blackberry cake, a piece of strawberry crisp, and a chocolate chip cookie for later. And a bottle of Anchor Steam. I met a group of Harley riders who were full of questions and interest in the trip, full of enthusiasm for two-wheeled touring.

Shortly thereafter I hit Los Padres National Forest and the campsite there, but it was very early, there was still plenty of sun and I wanted to keep riding.

I saw a group of hang gliders just recently touched down, it was fun to realize, as they watched me pass by and waved or nodded, that we were all thinking of the other “that looks so cool!”

It’s a little rare to actually meet other touring cyclists on the road–we trickle out of camp at different times and then all travel at roughly the same speed. Today I met two Brits who I’d seen in camp for a few days, as we were stopped at Lucia. Then on the third big hill I caught Joachim, a German who was pushing his bike, making me feel very strong indeed for not even being in the granny gear yet. Yay for (relative) youth. Finally I met Bettina again, her bike’s pirate flag a dead giveaway. She & I leap-frogged much of the afternoon.

Most of the last couple of days has been riding through mountains, hilly and twisty, very little visibility except for the incredible coast views. At one point, after the last big hill, the mountains disappeared and I was in flood plain, on a road that actually went in a straight line. I could see in all directions. It was such a strange feeling, something like anti-claustrophobia, an elation in a wide open space.

I passed an unlabeled turnoff that seemed surprisingly popular & pulled off to see–it was a group of elephant seals! Hundreds of them sunning themselves on the beach! Amazing.

I passes near Hearst Castle but didn’t stop. It was too late in the day for me. It’d been an attraction I would have stopped for if I’d had time but wasn’t going to make time for it. However I did see zebras (!) on the nearby land, I guess WR Hearst liked them and imported a herd.

I made it to the state beach here in great time, with a good deal of sunlight left. Amused but unsurprised to find Omar here already. I set up my tent, put on my swim trunks (now hilariously big on me), and went down to the beach. I splashed around in the waves for a bit, so nice to feel cold after such a hot day. The water’s still quite chilly, I couldn’t stand to be in more than about 10 minutes. Then I walked down the shore for a ways, past sand castles and a rotting seal carcass. I found a tree trunk and sat and drank a bottle of beer and watched the sunset and shivered. It was glorious.

After that a hot shower was so welcome.

I got back to my camp & started preparing spaghetti, to be joined by Bettina & Omar. We chatted for hours and shared tequila and beer, it was so great. It’s been another perfect day.

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Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

I didn’t make it far today, but it was just too perfect a day for cycling to stay put. Who am I to resist it, eh? Still I didn’t make it as far as I would have liked, “settling” for a campsite here in the redwoods of Big Sur. Poor me, life is rough. And the day did feature, finally, blueberry pancakes.

I didn’t sleep great thanks to a sore throat and nearby snorers. And I woke to crazy guy already muttering to himself, which he kept up for the hour or so I was there. Another epic stream of consciousness, really poetic in it’s way, the same old themes of the military, licensed bartenders, radicals, and Magnum PI. Bettina, who’s Swiss, tried yesterday to explain to him that she couldn’t understand him, just got more levels of crazy. I do feel pretty bad for this guy, he’s got serious mental health problems and is just walking around on the streets, somehow managing to fend for himself. If he were bleeding all over the place, someone would be likely to get him help, but because it’s a mental problem he’s largely just ignored.

The vague plan this morning was to poke around Monterey in the morning and then ride like crazy to Kirk Creek campground. It sounds like the greatest campsite ever, many coast cyclists rate it their favorite. But it’s very rustic, not even potable water. I stopped again at Trader Joe’s to get something for dinner I wouldn’t need to cook, picked up a large wrap sandwich and some dried fruit. Then I found the aquarium. The nice cyclist who’d shown me around yesterday recommended a breakfast place near there for pancakes, though he couldn’t recall exactly where or what it was called. The iphone helped, I found a little spot that had my long-sought breakfast dream. “Inside or outside?” they asked. “Actually, I know this sounds a little odd, can I get a seat near an electrical socket?” They were most gracious & I powered up the iPhone and got to text chat with Julianne. I ordered up the plate of blueberry pancakes. “It comes as a stack of three, each is the size of a dinner plate. That’s the price for the full stack but you could get two or just one” the waitress said. “I’ll have the full stack. And a side of bacon.” It was sooo good. And so much food, she wasn’t kidding about how giant their pancakes are. I couldn’t quite finish but I got close, the waitress was mighty impressed.

After breakfast it was aquarium time. I’d heard amazing things about the Monterey aquarium, and at $30 a ticket I was hoping for epic. It was pretty nice certainly, and fancier than Seattle’s with more video displays & interactive play exhibits for kids. But that’s not what I’m there to see. I did get to see some new-to-me cool stuff, like skeleton shrimp and armored crabs and baby jellyfish! And old favorites like giant octopus and so many anemones. And cuttlefish! Took me a second to find them, there’re such masters of disguise, perfectly camouflaged against the white rocky ground. Plus there’s a neat exhibit there about the old canneries, that’s Cannery Row right there.

I could tell my plans for getting to Kirk Creek were unlikely about as soon as I got going out of Monterey and opted, of course, for the longer coastal scenic route instead of Highway 1. There’s an apparently famous stretch of road there called the 17-Mile Drive. I hadn’t heard of it but then again I’m not one of California’s super rich.

On the way there there was a lighthouse, Point Pinos, so of course I stopped by, the building was open but not the tower. Still it was fun to poke around and I think the docent liked getting to talk to someone who knew something about lighthouses and the lenses. They had on display the old clockwork contraption used to regulate their old signal of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Theirs is a third-order Fresnel lens, though the building was designed for a larger second-order. The place is notable for being the oldest continuously operated lighthouse on the west coast, since Feb 1 1853. It also had a female head lighthouse keeper for a number of years.

I also tried visiting a nearby butterfly grove, where monarchs hang out during their migration, but a groundskeeper told me it was still too early.

The 17-Mile Drive was certainly pretty, all along the bay. My route book calls it “possibly the most famous stretch of road on the California coast”–guess they’re not counting Laguna Seca! Lots of rocks just off the coast, perfect for the waves to break against and also great havens for birds and seals. It was slow going all through there, kept stopping to take pictures or just watch the waves.

17-Mile Drive boasts a grove of the oldest and largest Monterey pine trees in existence. It also contains Pebble Beach, whose motto and trademark is the Lone Cypress growing on a small island in the bay, and a sign there tells photographers that all images of their special tree are copyrighted by them and you can’t use them for commercial purposes. I’ll attach one, but remember you can’t go sell copies of if. The Pebble Beach lawyers will be onto you.

Pebble Beach turns out not to be a beach at all but a golf course. Pebble Golf Course isn’t quite as catchy I guess. I was amused to see deer running around on the course.

17-Mile Drive was really pretty, but the huge private golf courses and no trespassing signs seem at odds with the scenic beauty. For me it came off feeling like the scenery was so pretty only because the by-laws of it’s gated community demanded that it look just so. Pretty different from the totally untamed wild rugged beauty of the Oregon coast.

The drive leads into Carmel-by-the-Sea. I ensured I’d never make Kirk Creek when I stooped at the beach there, took off my sandals and wandered up & down through the surf, waves dampening the bottom of my shorts. The day was so absolutely perfect, cloudless and warm and just a bit of breeze. The sand was warm and the water cool and there were so many people there just enjoying it all.

Next I found my way to the Carmel Mission (or, in predictably ostentatious Spanish fashion, Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo). I decided, at the last minute, to stop for a look. This meant switching from a fast downhill to a steep climb while turning a tight 180. When I went to downshift from the big ring to the small one, the chain fell off. Suddenly I wasn’t moving at all, and was tipping over, and couldn’t get my foot out of it’s cage in time to stop the fall. Gravity is a harsh mistress. Neither I nor Sweet Liza Jane took much damage, my knee’s a little scraped up and her handlebars may be even a little more lopsided now.

But the Mission was kind of neat, pretty architecture and plants.

The next stop was Point Lobos State Reserve. I’d read it was a not-to-be-missed area & I’m glad I stopped. I chatted with a very nice docent about my trip and little hikes I could take in the park. I hiked past a grove of cypress overlooking the ocean, then up to an overlook where another docent waited with a small telescope. “Shame about the view” be joked as I got up there, looking out over the ocean and the waves crashing against islands and a colony of seals sunning themselves on the rock. “Yeah, and this weather!” I quipped. Through his lens I could see out to a further rock where a colony of sea lions were resting, at least 50 of them, barking away at the full sun. I hiked around on the rocks a bit further, investigating the tide pools.

I could have stayed much longer at Point Lobos but the day was getting on, I couldn’t linger. It’d be a stretch just to make Big Sur by sundown.

I probably could have done it but became convinced I’d missed the exit and went back to a little general store I’d seen about a mile & a half back to ask directions (this trip has made me a lot more comfortable doing that!). “It’s about a mile & a half that way” she said, pointing back where I’d come from. I’d been so close!

Back I went. Pfeiffer Big Sur was busy, I had to wait in line to check in. Night was definitely falling by the time I got to camp. I don’t see anyone familiar but a lot of people showed up after me, after it was already dark.

I’d planned to cook up some spaghetti but the fuel bottle seems to have leaked and the noodles smell of gas. Into the trash with them, bummer. I see what the problem was–after refilling the tank I’d forgotten to close the valve, it was completely open instead of shut. Kind of surprised more didn’t spill. Still, I chucked anything that smelled of gas–the malt-o-meal and eggs also had to go. Dinner of my Trader Joe’s goodies then, and some Anchor Steam I got at the place I asked directions.

No real idea what the plan is for tomorrow. Just south!

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Vets Memorial Park, Monterey

Sadly, oh so sadly they have a 1-night limit at New Brighton State Park. I’d been all set to stay put for snorkeling with Claire, and I was pretty sure I could get her on board with my blueberry pancakes plan, but it was not to be. But still we had a nice morning, she made us coffee and then I made us hash browns & eggs. Then we packed up and I headed south and she north.

The day’s riding was easy & pleasant, another gorgeous sunny day. Most of it was on small country roads through vast agricultural fields–cabbages, lettuce & artichokes, but mostly strawberries filling the air with their aroma. After riding past miles & miles of strawberry fields, watching workers out harvesting, I stopped at the first road-side stand I saw for a basket and ate most of them right there on the spot, they were so sweet and flavorful.

A really nice bike path made for a welcome retreat from Highway 1, running through Seaside and all the way into Monterey. I was unsure about the route at one point and pulled out my route book, and another cyclist zipped past me and called out “You probably want to come this way!” I followed & caught him and he told me the route to take. In Monterey I met another cyclist who was actually riding the other direction, away from Monterey, who turned around & rode with me for a bit into town and showed me the (totally unlabeled) turnoff for the park, and pointed out other things around the city like the library, a bike shop (my bike continued to make loud clicking noises with every rotation, something to do with the left pedal), and the Trader Joe’s. So nice! He explained he’d done a couple of long tours & was always helped by other cyclists and now tries to help others around his home town.

I took Sweet Liza Jane into the recommended bike shop and they tightened the cranks & pedals, for free! And it totally fixed the problem! I’m really liking this town.

After that I set out to investigate the wharf, but was quickly sidetracked by a brewpub. I found an outdoor seat by an electrical socket and recharged the phone while snacking on Monterey Bay calamari and sampling their beers–decent enough, and terribly amusing that the waitress kept saying “heifer-wize-en”

I continued to check out the wharf, very touristy but there were ice cream parlors–I got a waffle cone of mint chip and wandered more. I saw a bunch of seals in the bay, 2-3 dozen. There were a bunch of huge pelicans too.

I wandered back to my bike, running into two other touring cyclists I’d previously met. Then to Trader Joe’s, where I saw some familiar bicycles already parked. I got a few groceries & started up the giant hill to the park. Several people had already warned me about this hill, it starts kind if steep, levels off, and then just gets steeper & steeper. But I made it just fine, legs feeling pretty fine after such a relatively short day.

Got into camp to find a crazy guy who babbles to anyone who will listen, or just to himself, some kind of stream of consciousness, familiar words but not in meaningful phrases. Performed at a poetry slam it would probably be perfectly in it’s element, but difficult and weird in a conversation. But also some familiar faces–Bettina, Don & Omar, who were all at the same camp as me last night. And we’d all stopped at Trader Joe’s and stocked up on snacks, so we made a little pile of them on the picnic table and had a feast of wine, chocolate, cheese, pita & hummus.

The park here has free hot showers, what luxury! I could not resist another very long hot shower.

Though the park here is a ways from the bay, I can still hear the seals barking. And the crazy guy.

Tomorrow may still be a vacation day, I at least want to see the aquarium here, then may stay another night here or might try & put in the 60 miles to the next site, it’s supposedly rustic (no showers, not even potable water!) but terrifically beautiful.

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New Brighton State Beach

After the difficulties of yesterday, today’s easy riding was such a treat.

The day was beautiful. The tent was wet when I woke, I think just from the damp ocean air. it was a bit cloudy but looking to the horizon it was easy to see that good weather was in store for the rest of the day. Got an early chat in with Julianne, a nice way to start the day. I had a simple breakfast of a banana & a cliff bar.

The roadway was excellent today, a nice wide shoulder for almost all of the way to Santa Cruz. I stopped at a few state beaches along the way to have a look around. At one I was walking back to my bike & noticed a scurrying, it was a little lizard, exact same color as the sand.

Also along the way I stopped at Pigeon Point lighthouse. It’s another that has a gorgeous first-order Fresnel lens, visible more than 20 miles at sea. But its not actually used anymore, the Coast Guard installed a more modern beacon in the ’70’s. But lighthouses just aren’t really that necessary anymore for maritime navigation, and Pigeon Point has fallen into disrepair. The public’s not allowed up in it anymore.

I reached Santa Cruz in the early afternoon, it was really starting to get warm & sunny. The bike path diverged from highway 1 onto twisty surface streets right along the harbor. It was confusing but nice. I came past the surfing museum but sadly they were closed on Wednesdays. I did see a lot of surfers enjoying the long, slow waves.

After another brief Safeway stop I got to the state park here, it’s again so near the beach that I can hear the waves crashing against the shore. I chatted with the other cyclists–an older fellow who had been at Half Moon Bay this morning, we’d leap-frogged all day long. Also two young guys from Portland and a woman from England (from Cornwall, very near Lizard Point!) named Claire who’s riding north on a cute but quaint 8-speed. She’d just come back from a swim in the ocean. There was still sunlight, and apparently the water was nice so I got out my swim trunks & headed down. It was great splashing around in the ocean. It was cold-ish, but nothing like Puget Sound. While I was swimming around I noticed a sea lion eyeing me, maybe 30 feet away. We regarded one another for a minute & then it disappeared under the water.

I swam for a bit & then sat on the beach watching the sunset, happy I hadn’t decided to try & push for Monterey.

Getting back to camp I had a shower (amusing in that there were no temperature dials or anything, you put your quarters in and water of fairly random temperature comes out) and made dinner–more spaghetti. It was quite tasty.

Then Claire came over & we chatted for a couple of hours, had a really fun conversation, shared a large bottle of beer and watched the full harvest moon come up. We spotted a raccoon and a skunk prowling around the campsite. She’s planning to stick around here another day and offered me snorkeling lessons (she’s been carrying a snorkel this whole way!) if I stick around too. We’ll see!

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Half Moon Bay State Beach

Half Moon Bay on a (almost) full moon night. Nice.

Today was mostly San Francisco tourism day. It was great and disappointing and difficult and delicious.

I tried semi-successfully to creep out of the hostel, most of the guests were still asleep. I got a recommendation from the guy at the desk for a place to find blueberry pancakes, I remain all tasted up. One placed looked ideal, it was just off the Embarcadero and kind of on the way to Anchor Steam. After struggling to get the bike & panniers back down to street level I was off. I wanted to find a bicycle shop first though–after all of the bike theft horror stories I wanted to arm myself with a decent U-lock before leaving Sweet Liza Jane on these mean streets. The iPhone again to the rescue, there was a shop right near the pancake place. It is amazing how much easier it is to navigate a foreign city with this technological marvel.

The bike shop, Warm Planet Bikes, was so great. They just laughed when I told them about my cable lock & showed me one they’d caught someone sawing through–it’d taken the would-be thief all of 10 seconds. I also picked up a new pair of bike gloves–I’d somehow lost one glove during my stay at the hostel. Of course, immediately after buying the new pair, taking the gloves off the cardboard hangar & tossing it, the missing glove showed up.

But the really awesome part about Warm Planet Bikes is that you can leave your bike with them in safe, protected storage or, for free!, you can leave just your panniers & not have to worry about someone making off with them. Sounded great, I unloaded for the day. The very friendly staff also gave me some route advice for getting to the brewery and then across town to Golden Gate Park. And they were very interested to see Sweet Liza Jane–she’s a Soma Saga, a fairly new model from a San Francisco manufacturer.

Sadly, by this time I didn’t think I had time for pancakes. I got near the brewery & looked up nearby cafes, found a promising one on Portreto Hill & headed there for a muffin & a cappuccino. Then to the brewery, for massive disappointment–I don’t know how I got this in my head, but I was absolutely sure that the tour was at 11, but got there, all excited, to find it had actually started at 10. Oh so sad.

I left dejected and upset. I needed ice cream. And I was near the Mission, and the San Franciscan I’d met the day before had recommended a place there. So, using Jay’s hand-drawn map and then my iPhone, I found the Bi-Rite Creamery for an amazing treat of little scoops of balsamic strawberry, creme fresche, and brown sugar ice cream. “For here or to go?”–I decided on a stroll, and the ice cream guy explained that “here” food is taxed, as the establishment is providing a service, but “to go” is not. I savored the flavor combination as I strolled through Mission Delores Park.

I was also near a bakery that Jay had recommended, a place called Tartin. I dropped by there for another cappuccino and a small tart. The cappuccino was incredible. The tart was great and all, but the coffee was really superb. While I was enjoying them, seated outside at a sidewalk table, two others asked if they could join my table. We got to talking, turns out that they had just been on the Anchor Steam brewery tour! And they said it was great and fun. The fellow was a German but lives in Oakland and his friend was also from Germany on her first visit to the States.

After that I headed out to find Golden Gate Park. Margaret & I had ended up there on our day in San Francisco so many years ago (I seriously do not recall just how long ago that was–10 years?) It’s a huge park & houses a number of attractions. I’d strongly considered visiting the new science museum (though it’s geared more towards a younger crowd), but was drawn in by the museum across the way, the de Young museum. There were big banners out for a new exhibit of Van Gogh, Gaugin & Cezannes, but it turned out that the exhibit doesn’t open for 4 more days. San Francisco & I just seem to have timing problems. Still, the permanent collection was really fun to take in, especially the Art of the Americas section–ancient Peruvian, Mexican, Inca & Maya art, and also Eskimo art and some very powerful post-slavery paintings. There were also American modernists, a west African exhibit, and a section of fascinatingly odd New Guinean art works–similar concepts to other art cultures, important people and spirits and ancestors and ritual objects, but all angular and spooky and weird in a way that’s so dissimilar from the Western tradition, something so very different about it.

I also re-explored the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Margaret & I went there on our last visit, little has changed but my recollection was so dim.

One of two errands I wanted to take care of in San Francisco was to get another memory card for the camera–I’ve taken so many pictures, and more storage is so cheap. The iPhone led me to a Radio Shack right near the park where I got a new SD card.

Near there I noticed a building labeled “Brewery”. As I got close I noticed the familiar smell, that malty sweetness, a warm grape-nuts smell. I could not resist, I got a glass of their koelsch and a small but very tasty salad. Upon leaving there I saw a bakery & thought it would be nice to take some baked treats with me on the road, I got a still-warm cheese roll, a corn meal blueberry muffin, and two cookies. They even gave me a discount for being a bicyclist!

By that time it was definitely time to wrap up SF, collect my bags & get moving. Rush hour traffic was already starting and I needed to get all the way from the west end of town to the east, then all they way back again to start heading south. About 10 miles total, but being rush hour in a foreign city really stretched out those miles. San Francisco is actually really very bikeable, but doing it at rush hour, vaguely lost, was tough. Plus after finding my way back I remembered my other big-city errand: find an outdoor gear store to restock my cooking fuel supply. And there was an REI right in the neighborhood! Perfect! I stopped & shopped & then conversed with another cyclist about my trip.

By the time I’d gotten all the way out back to the Golden Gate Park (and to the huge Dutch Windmill on the western end of the park, one of my clearest memories of my last visit to SF) it was already 6:30, and 30 more miles to go to get to the campground. It would be another late night.

It turned out to be a very difficult night of cycling. I hoped the full moon would be a great boon, and it was for much of the night, but also tonight I had to come over the Devil’s Slide. This tricky section of Hwy 1 was everything I didn’t want: a long climb, very dark, in a slide area, with rocks and underbrush taking up whatever marginal shoulder there had once been, very windy, twisty…it was like a pentafecta of trouble. At some point, fearlessness and recklessness collide, tonight was probably one of those nights when I really should have just found a hotel. Bit I persevered. Like I do. Pulling as far off the road as possible for almost every passing car. Using every moment of light from cars passing me to study upcoming road conditions. Having night vision destroyed by each oncoming car. It was really difficult cycling.

But eventually I came over the summit, lived through the powerful gusts of wind battering me around at the top, and came out to the state beach & found the hiker-biker sites. It’s a nice area, just a few hundred feet from shore–the waves are crashing & wind continues to roar. Setting up the tent was tricky, it kept wanting to blow away. I’m happy to be back in the tent after a few days living in hostels. It is at least my very own space. And after tonight’s ride it’s just nice to have arrived safely. It was great to have a nice chat with Margaret after that to close out the night.

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Pacific Tradewinds hostel, San Francisco

Today I crossed the Golden Gate and made it to San Francisco!

I amazingly slept late in the hostel and headed down to make myself breakfast. They had free coffee so I grabbed a cup and set about transforming a potato into hash browns. Also in the kitchen was Bob and another woman. They were sharing stories of divorce, the necessity and pain and ultimate good, or at least hope of same. A bittersweet conversation to overhear. Breakfast of hash browns & eggs was great, a camp classic but so much easier on a real stove. I poured myself another cup of coffee but it went cold, I was already too jittery.

I packed quietly, trying not to disturb the one guy who’d slept later than me. As I was leaving the hostel I met the San Franciscan, Jay, who’d given me the hostel recommendation, and we proceeded to chat for a long time, mostly him telling me about places to check out in SF. He drew me a pretty conceptual map and wrote out a huge list of fascinating places, he clearly loves this city. Yet he was up at the hostel for the weekend getting away from it all, family and job and technology.

I hadn’t been sure about the plan for the day, but knew (from having been up there twice so far) that there was a docent-led tour of the Point Bonita lighthouse starting at 12:30. It was already late, I decided to go for it. I got up there early & had a little time to spread out my tent to let it dry in the slight sun and wind up top.

The tour was nice, mostly a guided tour of the lands and approach to the lighthouse, first a tunnel through a mountainside, then a bridge so old that only two people were allowed on it at any one time. The lighthouse itself was not part of the tour, but you could see it’s second-order Fresnel lens (somewhat smaller than many I’ve seen along the coast, the sort of thing useful, as here, at the entrance to bays).

Then it was time to make the climb to the bridge. Crossing the Golden Gate was super fun. Yes, it was full of other tourists, pedestrians and lots of cyclists on rental bikes. The occasional cyclist trying to actually get somewhere. But still pretty epic. A significant milestone.

Bridge finished, it was time to try & navigate SF. I tried following a detour to downtown sign, but just wound up at the very busy 101. Back I went & mostly followed other cyclists along a path right along the water. The map I had used the same color markings for both the bike paths and the trolley paths, and I’m pretty sure it was the latter I attempted to climb up on the way to the hostel, and for the first time ever on Sweet Liza Jane, I was defeated by a hill. Had to get off her and push her uphill. Even that was difficult.

But I found the hostel. Next challenge: it was on the 4th floor and they have no bicycle parking. I had to carry her up 3 flights of stairs, bags and all, before there was a place to leave her.

But the hostel is fine, full of and staffed by young kids. All of the beds are given names, people or items with connections to SF: I’m in Emperor Norton, a reference I only get because of Sandman comics.

It’s dorm style bedding again, my little room has three bunk beds, and I guess it’s co-ed. Being out on the road, around total strangers I’ll never see again, helps lower my modesty threshold significantly.

I had some time before meeting Kelly so wandered to a nearby supermarket to restock on some essentials: eggs, dried berries, another potato.

Kelly & I then met up outside the hostel–it’s quite near her job. It was great reconnecting, lucky timing since she’s moving back to the Midwest in 10 days. We headed out for drinks at a nearby bar, a great, dark, wooden place, then out for Chinese in nearby Chinatown. It was amazing: fried calamari, a whole fried crab, mu shu and fried rice. I was so hungry we made short work of it and now my tummy is doing a happy dance, I haven’t eaten such tasty food since leaving home.

Then I had time for a long chat with Julianne, as I roamed the streets and got quite lost and the amazingly found my bearings again. Wasn’t too worried what with the iPhone.

So far SF had been great, a really fun city. I’m still a little worried about the bike tomorrow, everyone I meet–everyone–tells ms how they had a bike stolen here, and my cable lock would provide futile resistance to the pro thieves here.

Kind of odd to be in a city again, the limitless possibilities, even after the sun goes down. I could get used to it!

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Marin Headlands Hostel

A night indoors feels kind of odd.

This wasn’t exactly the plan. I woke late & took my time making breakfast–more malt-o-meal, a banana and coffee. During breakfast I chatted with Glen, a retired San Francisco bike messenger, and Bob, a 60 year old ace tourer, who’s done several long tours and, being single and self-employed, finds it easy to make the time. After breakfast I also tried to clean my tent as best I could, just getting some of the sand & grime off.

Though I started out the day camping in the redwoods, I hit civilization quickly, and directions got more complicated than “Go south on hwy 1”. Also out today were a number of pleasure cyclists zipping past me. A pair on a tandem caught me & asked about my trip, then offered some helpful advice about the upcoming tricky descent. I tried just following them down, but they cut through the air a lot better than lumbering old me and quickly outpaced me.

I followed my guidebook, bike route signs & my nose through little outlying San Francisco suburbs. In Larkspur I stopped at a bike shop to ask about a clicking that I get in every stroke. It only happens under load, they weren’t sure what it was. But they did oil my chain and adjust my front dérailleur (out of alignment, I suspect, from back when I crashed). While they were working on my bike I was very amused to hear one employee patiently explaining, to an older couple in full cycling kit, how shifters work & the very idea of gears.

From there I knew I was close to another brewery I wanted to visit, Marin County Brewing. It took some navigating to find, the street I had to cross to get there, just a line on my map, turned out to be an 8-lane elevated highway. I persevered & was rewarded with a tasty calzone and some very fine brews.

Back on the road in Sausalito a fellow cyclist pulled up to me & asked where I was coming from. Turns out he was out on his bike commemorating the 1-year anniversary of finishing his own 6200-mile tour from Florida to Seattle to San Francisco. And he said that was not only his first tour, it was his first time on a road bike! Then he warned me that two days after completing the trip, his bike got stolen in San Francisco. Julianne lost a bike to this city as well. Must be wary.

It wasn’t too far to Marin Headlands from there, though the hills and uncertain directions kept me from getting here until just as the visitor’s center (where I was supposed to check in to get a permit for my free–yes free!–camp spot) was closing. Though they’d just locked the door, they opened back up for me & I discovered that the camping spot in question was up a long, tricky, gravel mountain bike trail. There was another more accessible site possible, but it was seven miles back from where I’d come from. Or, they said, there’s a hostel just up the road, with showers & laundry. I went for the hostel.

At least I tried to head to the hostel, I got on the wrong road & ended up heading up yet another big hill to a viewpoint overlooking San Francisco Bay. I could see the Golden Gate bridge, obscured by fog. I enjoyed the view for a bit before heading back down & finding the sign towards the hostel.

Bob and Glen are both here as well, pretty amusing to see them again. We’re sharing a large room, us and about 5 other guys. I suspect it will be the first night I’ll need those earplugs.

I took advantage of the laundry facilities, washing almost everything, including the sleeping bag and, stinkiest of all, my cycling gloves. Very exciting.

I also took advantage of the hostel’s kitchen, it was quite nice to be able to cook up a plate of spaghetti over a real stove. I washed out my food bag, still smelling a bit funny since the yogurt spill. And washed my water bottles. Cleanliness has become such a treat.

I connected with my friend Kelly, an old Macalester chum. She lives in Oakland & works in downtown San Francisco. We made plans to meet downtown tomorrow for dinner & whatever else we can find. I don’t actually know where downtown is, but that’s a trifle.

That plan to meet Kelly for dinner wouldn’t really work with staying another night here at Marin Headlands, it’s just too remote. I chatted with Bob about another hostel he’d heard about, and while we were chatting another native San Franciscan overheard us & suggested somewhere else that’s closer to downtown. I wanted to give them a call, but somewhat amusingly, though I’m so very close to San Francisco, I can’t get cell service here. In order to call the hostel I had to get back on my bike & climb that hill again. It made me chuckle, sitting on the ground out in the chilly fog, perfectly content, when I had the option of being warm and dry in the hostel.

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