Carlos, of La Ruta fame (or is that infamy?) has also concocted a kinder, gentler mixed terrain populaire – El Paseito Mixto – that has been added to the SFR calendar for a dual populaire day in the late summer for several years now. Riders can choose between El Paseito and the traditional Lucas Valley route, both ending at Crissy Field for the after ride picnic. Of course I’d been intrigued, but one thing and another never got a chance to ride it until last year.
There was a bit of last-minute juggling to get food and supplies stashed for the finish, and a start location change due to another event going on, but it all got sorted out, and we were soon on our way into the beautiful day. It was clear and sunny, and the WOWs just kept coming as we climbed up Conzelman Road away from the Bridge. Such amazing views! And one of those ridiculously splendid erm Native American summer days of late September that the tourists shivering in their shorts in the fog in the middle of June think they are going to have, it being California and all, but don’t.
We went up to the tippy top (well, tippy top of the road anyway), which was new to me on a bike, and then – after a view break – down Poop-Your-Pants (WBP)* Hill. Which was also new to me. It’s a steep, somewhat twisty descent, if you were wondering what the name refers to. Super fun – at least on a dry, sunny day with working brakes.
From there it was a jig-jog on the gravel roads out onto the peninsula past Battery Mendell, back and past Rodeo Lagoon and the Marin Mammal Center on pavement and then out and around past Battery Townsley on gravel again. The out and backs were a fun chance to see other riders, although eventually most everyone got ahead as I kept stopping for pictures and view enjoyment. Amazingly this bit was all new to me – well, at least on the bike – and I could not have asked for a better day for it.
We then headed inland on the Miwok, Bobcat and Marincello (can you believe they were going to put a housing development there?!) fire roads and eased back onto pavement through Strawberry and out to Tiburon. It was fun to chat with some other randos at Cafe Acri, and Eric and I enjoyed affogatos.
After the fortification we continued rolling around Paradise and off to the big hill for the day – Mt. Tam. The climb up Old Railroad Grade is a fire road, but as the name suggests it never gets too steep. It does go on for a while though, and by this point the day had gotten rather warm. The first part is nice and shady but then it gets exposed. I started to feel a little off in the heat and sun, but the gentle grade allowed me to soft pedal, and we eventually reached the spring, which was still flowing. I dunked my head under, which was super refreshing and made the rest of the climb up to West Point Inn go a little better.
From there it was all down hill! (Effectively) There was a bit of dirt descending on Old Stage Road and then we were back on the pavement of Panoramic Highway. It was still warm, if not hot, and I decided a popsicle break was in order when we got to Mill Valley. Or maybe it was that we stopped for fluid rearrangement and then realized there was an additional opportunity. Whatever it was, popsicles were had. Even though there were only two of us, and Safeway only sells whole boxes of popsicles, it did not end up to be a problem.
Following popsicles (difficult, but yes there is life after popsicles) (and yes I just like the word. popsicles POPsicles popSICLES popsicles!!!!) we had the usual bike path and Sausalito fun, but then there was a last new-to-me route twist of going around past Fort Baker rather than climbing directly up Alexander to the bridge. Huh. Who knew?
With all my lollygagging we were among the last to the party, but it was still going on, fueled by the exceptional weather and super tasty food by Angela. It was Angela’s first time as picnic host, and she had some big shoes to fill, taking over from Kimber’s many years of most excellent feasts, but Angela did a bang up job. Big Thanks to Angela and all the other volunteers, Carlos for another fun route and Eric for being such an awesome riding buddy.
The dual populaire will be on a Sunday this year, and a little earlier – mark your calendars for August 6, 2017!
Ride date: Sep 25, 2016
*Words by (The)Potis (TM)