Marin Mountains is the 200k installment of the SFR Adventure Series. It’s been run as a brevet for a couple of years, and it was definitely on my radar last year, but I ended up being a bit under the weather the week it rolled around and decided to pass. Rain on the day of the event further reinforced my clarity about that. I was still interested in riding the course though, and when we ended up having an unusually dry winter I got some folks to join me in riding it as a perm the first weekend of January.
Yeah sorry, I hope I didn’t give anyone a heart attack from shock of thinking I’d gotten a ride report out in a day. I was actually trying to get this out BEFORE the brevet yesterday, but obviously that didn’t happen. Going through the pictures and whatnot did make me excited (and a little nervous) about riding the route again.
That time of year it was dark at the 0600 start at the Marina Blvd Safeway. Roll out past Crissy Field, up to and over the bridge, down through Sausalito and over to Tam Junction. Highway 1 then start up Mt. Tam on Panoramic Highway.
15 miles in the dirt begins. The fire road to the right of the fire station. Hey this is new to me. I’ve been to the left of the fire station, for a little ways, up to the tank MMWD has there. Didn’t know this other road was here. Cool!
After a bit turn on to Old Railroad Grade, which I have been on before. As the name implies, it’s a gentle climb. Very pleasant, and accompanied by the fade into daylight and some great sunrise views over the Bay as we gain elevation.
Pass the West Point Inn and continue upwards and back to pavement of East Ridgecrest Blvd. I notice later the cue sheet has a note about it being the highest paved road in Marin County. Which, duh, Mt. Tam is the county high point, but I’m not sure the road factoid would have occurred to me.
More excellent views and a bit of swoopy descent on the pavement then back to dirt. Here we go with a couple of steep kickers. up up UP. At least they are mercifully short. We roll past Potrero Meadow, and Carl busts out the word scarp talking about the geology of the area. Wow, word-of-the-day already? What are we going to do for the next hundredish miles?
Bumpy downhill, someone loses a bottle, then the first flat of the day. We all stop while it gets fixed, I take the opportunity to eat something. Yes, calories, that would be good. It has warmed up since the sun came up, but we’re stopped in the shade, so it’s nice to get moving again in fairly short order.
Unfortunately it doesn’t last long, as it turns out to have been a delayed double flat. Apparently they’re a different tire that came highly recommended. They don’t seem to be impressing at this point.
On to Rocky Ridge, another new to me road. Yes, I can see why they call it that. Good times on the Viaje.
And flat number three. There’s more downhill, also rocky, and almost everyone else has been descending faster, so I continue on this time. Lower down it does smooth out a bit, but I still take my time. Bon Tempe is still and shiny in the morning light, and there’s a beautiful egret at the water’s edge. A few others have also chosen to come down, and we chat as the rest of the group arrives.
From here it’s across the dam and out to pavement again, past the Sky Oaks Ranger Station and on to the Bolinas-Fairfax Road. Right, downhill, coffee shop… heh. Nope, left, up, headed for more dirt. Past the golf course, gosh it really is a pity about the views. First ridge, instead of continuing on the pavement down to Alpine Dam we right turn onto Pine Mountain Road.
Fire road, that would be. Rideable at the start, then oh yeah here’s the steep rocky section that I don’t think I cleaned the last time I came this way and that was on my mountain bike NO THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS up up up UP. um right. That only gets me so far. I have no pride though. Off and walking. Keep moving.
Whew, alrighty then. San Geronimo Ridge. More bumpy bump bump. Oh there’s Repack off to the right. Not today. Gosh it’s been how long since I’ve been up here? So beautiful! Bit of roller-coastering and someone’s got a little stick in their front tire. It still seems to be holding air, and Max is concerned about getting to the receipt control in Marshall on time, so we press on.
Steep downhill off the ridge, more new stuff and then we pop out in Woodacre. OK, I know where I am now. Cool. (Both the knowing where I am and seeing the real world for a little bit more of the map.)
Pavement again, up the hill past the golf course, start down and UHOH, the sticked front tire has gone flat. Little bit of swervyness but Brian manages to come to a controlled stop. Tag team on the flat and we’re back on the road within minutes. Continue on past Nicasio, the Cheese Factory and out Hicks Valley.
When in doubt, take the hard way. At the T intersection we take a left to go over the wall to Marshall. It’s a splendid day and there’s quite a few other cyclists out. Have a nice chat with a woman on a cool colorful Land Shark. More awesome views.
We make the control at Marshall with twenty something minutes to spare. Whew. Doesn’t mean we can relax though, we’re still a few miles short of half the mileage. Gah, don’t think about that.
At least the next bit is some flatish pavement down Highway 1 along Tomales Bay and then out Sir Francis Drake Blvd onto Pt. Reyes. Of course the regularly scheduled climbing portion of the program returns with the jaunt up Mt. Vision. Patrick hangs back at chats with me on the way up, providing pleasant distraction. From the top is another new experience for me, the revelation of a dirt single track (mostly) descent. Who knew? Super fun. Some fire road and then out on to pavement.
We ride past a section of young trees so thick they look like a hedge. Regrowth since the fire. Carl has another word-of-the-day serrotenous, referring to the bishop pine cones, meaning they only open and release seeds when exposed to the heat (of a wildfire) that melts the wax sealing the scales. Not just a ride, but an educational experience.
The road is two lanes, incongruously wide and smooth. I forget the story now – some long ago planned (and defeated) subdivision, or federal funds or something. Whatever it is, makes for a screaming fast yippee yahoo descent. Quite restorative.
Back out to Highway 1 and receipt control at Olema. We’ve made up a bit of time, and are about 40 minutes before the closing time. An ice cream sandwich and some coffee really hit the spot. Chat about other rides, Carl is planning a traverse of the Sierra, giving us yet a third word-of-the-day, batholith. Oh so tempting to make a lithp joke. If only I could think of one.
Keep moving, keep moving. On to the next dirt. And some serious upness. Randall Trail. Someone says we should stick together on the climb so no one has to wait too long at the top. That lasts a hot nanosecond. Have fun storming the castle, boys. Brian notices I’m off the back and slows down to my pace for a bit. Sweet, but his bike has a creak, something in the bottom bracket, which is getting on my nerve. I convince him to go ahead before it drives me mad. OK, back to blissed silent suffering. This can’t last forever.
They are all waiting for me at the junction at the top of the hill, ready to roll. Some comment about how I don’t get much time to rest. Fine with me, if I stop I’ll get cold. On to the redwood roller coaster sweetness of Bolinas Ridge. We’re getting in to the magic light now, I’m tired but it’s beyond fantastic.
We get to the section with some breaks in the trees as the sunset is starting. WOW! Everyone stops at least once to admire it and/or take pictures. At one place Patrick and some of the others are stopped, I roll by. Oh it’s just the sunset he says, it’ll happen again tomorrow.
Start to wonder if the State Park gates will be closed. We roll out onto the pavement and no they aren’t. There are folks parked along Ridgecrest also enjoying the sunset. OK, time for us to light up.
Climbing Ridgecrest in the almost dark. Ready to be done. But not back to the end. Circles circles. Ugh. Eventually what goes up, goes up and up some more and where is it OK here’s the road to Pantoll. Whee downhill brr. And not so brr, then brr again. It’s amazing there’s some almost warm pockets of air we pass through on the way down the mountain in the dark.
Back onto Shoreline and retrace our outbound through Tam Valley and Sausalito, up and over the Bridge and back to the Marina Safeway. I am having serious soup fantasies, even though I’m pretty sure it’s too late. Yes. I need something warm though. Starbucks across the street seems like way too far to go to. And I have to get something at the Safeway anyway, it’s a receipt control. Some chicken nuggets and potatoes. Omigod I’m tired. And cold. Now that I’ve stopped. Holy *expletive deleted*.
Fortunately I only have to drive to another spot in the city. A group of us are doing a tandem ride in the East Bay the next day, test ride for the Populaire, so Max and his family have graciously agreed to let me stay over. I take a hot shower and get warm. Max’s wife asks if (homemade) lentil soup is OK. No, it’s not OK, it’s totally awesomely PERFECT! I’m not sure whether to cry or kiss her. It’s been a long day. So I just say yes please! Thank you! Best. Soup. Ever. Max’s older daughter has finished her dinner and he’s reading Tintin to her, in Italian. I’m gonna be feelin’ that ride tomorrow, but for the moment, dang, life is good.
Ride date: January 4, 2014