The weather in England had some part to play in my willingness to take off for California almost sixteen years ago, and the prospect of long cold, dark, wet winter months remains an impediment to thoughts of returning. But there are certain weathers I miss: piled up clouds, barely moving in the wind, a softness to the light with occasional spring sunshine. Crossing the bridge on Wednesday morning, my fourth decent ride in ten days, I saw an approximation of that around Fort Baker, colours glowing even at the promise of sun.
There are a few natural boundaries in my bike riding: getting across the bridge is one, since in adverse conditions it can seem like a daunting barrier, and I will tend to stick within city limits, and enjoy a couple of hours of good riding. Others are Stinson Beach, from where going north means a lot of work to get back, one way or another; and Fairfax, which is a gateway to great roads, but again, means committing yourself to at least four hours and a handful of hills. On Wednesday I made it past Fairfax and over White’s Grade, happy to see it had been repaved since I was last there. Not just the west slope, which had a good and newish surface anyway, but the miles past Woodacre, Spirit Rock and to the San Geronimo golf course. The drop down to the Lagunitas watershed is long and steady, lovely in the direction I was going, a slog the other way. A new surface can make such a difference in terms of the effort of rolling resistance, and a feeling of safety, being able to hold a line around corners without worrying about holes or bouncing around over bumps (the section closer to Samuel Taylor state park was a real example of this, as well as the Camino Alto more recently).
This time I turned up towards Nicasio, and then along the Lucas Valley Road, well short of a further boundary, Point Reyes Station, and the road from there towards Petaluma, beyond which, in my cycling geography, there is only the Marshall Wall, to be attempted only when in much better shape than I am now.
Lucas Valley was lovely, the shift of light through the redwoods, the stretch of meadows, then, on the rise to the big rock, the little ravine that always reminds me of clear mountain streams seen from the window of a train in deepest France or Spain. I remembered the thoughts I had been contemplating the last time I had ridden up that way, probably ten months ago, and how the unfolding of that situation still unsettles me. There were flowers on that section of the climb, not just the lupins and poppies so prevalent at the moment, but wildflowers familiar to me from Tassajara – blue dicks, baby blue eyes, red larkspur.
That climb to the big rock is similar to White’s Grade, gentler from the west, more twisty and steep on the east, and I misjudged several of the first downhill corners, my body memory not that strong for this section.
As I worked my way south again, I could feel myself getting tired; the wind was slightly in my face much of the way, adding to the pain in my legs. There is really only one way out and back for the first and last hour of riding, which makes for some monotony, but it also means that once I hit the bike path north of Sausalito, no matter how tired I feel, or how much the wind blows off Richardson Bay, and then the headlands as I grovel up to the bridge, I can comfort myself in the knowledge have got myself home previously, feeling much worse.
Old pictures from Tassajara – baby blue eyes