The Last Hurrah in California: Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching

Gualala To Jenner 60 kms
Jenner to Samuel P Taylor State Park 82 kms
Samuel P Taylor State Park to San Francisco 50 kms

So we made it to San Francisco, 1946 hilly kilometres cycled since Lund where we lifted the boat out of the water and began our journey.

Unbelievably, my skinny capris still don’t fit! If that isn’t evidence of my family tendency toward fat metabolisms I don’t know what is :-0 However, I am much stronger and I am enjoying feeling that way. I am positive I did lose a few pounds (no scale here in the hotel room) but not what I was hoping for.

There were no flat sections on these last rides except for a very short section of trail into Samuel P Taylor State Park and maybe 15 kms of trail and bike route through Fairfax and other northern San Francisco suburbs on our very last ride. The hills after Gualala, before reaching the Russian River at Jenner, were switch-backed cliff rides and the most spectacular coastal scenery on the whole trip, which, given the scenery we have enjoyed, is really saying something.

It was a combination of wind and the cliff rides that had us stop in Jenner instead of carrying onto Bodega where we knew there was a campsite. After splurging a couple of nights on the upscale California inns our credit cards were beginning to smoke. We checked with the visitor center in Jenna for motels between Jenner and Bodega and there were none…only more and more expensive resorts and inns. But after climbing 500 feet on one hill and a whole day of lesser but strenuous ascents and descents, I called it and we decided to really splurge in Jenner. We ended up renting the only thing available, a vacation house. Let’s just say we could have been lodged in Thailand for the same dollars for an entire month…

The house was fun though, a turn-of-the century building with wood plank floors and exposed beams, boho-Victorian-inspired funky décor with a Jacuzzi and hot tub. And at least we didn’t go out for dinner…

After that splurge we were determined to make it to a campground and I know that Ian especially was hoping for one more hiker/biker campsite where we might meet another cyclist given it would be our last night on the road. The ride was long from Jenner and ended with yet another steep climb, this time off of Highway 1 and inland. Ian and I were both grumpy from dealing with traffic yet again on what was touted as a bike route (Sir Frances Drake Boulevard) when we finally stopped at what we thought might be a respite, a trail marked ‘bike route’ close to the campground. But the signage did not match our guidebook and there was no map or other indication as to where the bike route went. Just as we were about to continue down the busy road, Ian discovered he had a flat tire. We were grim as he began the repair.

Traveler serendipity kicked in and a local cyclist stopped to see if we needed anything. He assured us that the trail would take us to the campground and he stayed to chat while Ian fixed the tire. In ten minutes of conversation our spirits were renewed as we chewed through American politics, our cyclist friend articulate and funny as he confirmed a lot of what we have thought about Mitt Romney, the Republicans, and the failure of the American education system to produce an electorate that has the critical thinking skills required to make democracy function. How else to explain creationists and Richard Mourdock, the Republican senator candidate from Indiana who this week proclaimed that woman’s bodies have a way of dealing with pregnancy when they’ve been raped (yeah the Republican blooper of the week).

There was no one else at the hiker biker site when we arrived and given it was dark soon after that we resigned ourselves to sharing it with the raccoons who came out after dark and whose eyes were visible in my camp headlight as they stalked us and made their plans for a raid once we were in the tent. We were putting our food panniers into the metal lock-up that keeps the little buggers out when Mitch pulled into the campsite in the dark, headlight on and pulling his trailer.

Mitch, 21, had ridden from Wisconsin and is headed to L.A We had dinner together and climbed into our respective tents just in time to avoid getting soaked by torrential rain, monsoon style, that continued until 6 in the morning. When we all compared notes at daylight we discovered that both tents had leaked, inevitably, and we made jokes as Ian sang “nothing but blue skies” while we packed up our soggy gear.

The ride into San Francisco was euphoric as the day turned out to be gorgeous and we were ecstatic to be on bike routes in the burbs where the traffic moves at a reasonable pace. After the Golden Gate Bridge we headed down to a trail on the waterfront that took us to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a short ride up Columbus to get to Broadway and our hotel where we left Mitch as he was carrying on to San Mateo.

Ian and I spent our first evening in San Francisco checking out our favorite haunts (beer at Vesuvios, tacos at a close-by Mexican joint) and marveling that we had arrived here on our bikes.

And as we head into our second day here, except for the bikes in our room, it already seems like a bit of a dream.

We leave for Vietnam on Sunday and the cycle adventure begins again.

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