Sunday, May 10, 2015

Best kept secret in Marin County, Bear Valley Inn

In Search of Bike Riding Bear and Sand Andreas Fault 

This latest adventure got my wife Laurie and I traveling further away from Silicon Valley then before on board of our bikes in search of some new approaches to the Bike Expeditions. Upon reading an article in the Bicycle Times Issue #29 about Amanda Eichstead, her involvement in bike advocacy as a President of League of American Bicyclist and her B & B Bear Valley Inn in Olema,
This was a spark for this grand two day tour that was created. Once I worked out all of the important details of the logistics and present the idea to my Wing-women, Gipsy Wife, soul-mate and best traveling buddy, she was on board. Unlike in our previous traveling’s with bikes, this time we were not planning to camp outside but instead we decided to stay at Bear Valley Inn. This decision alone helped with the fact that we did not have to carry our Tent, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping pads, pillows and rest of the camping kit, as we would normally do. This lightened our load for up to 15 lb between two bikes.

What we did take was our clothing, small amount of food, just enough for roadside lunches and evening post ride snacks. Also we had a bottle of wine with us, this is now becoming a new custom for us, but it is also a great conversation starter when we meet people on the road.
First leg of the trip for me was catching Caltrain ride from Lawrence Station in Santa Clara CA, at the end of my workday Friday.

 Since Laurie works in Redwood City, further up north along the Northbound Caltrain Laurie was waiting in Redwood City. While I was traveling in her direction she used her time to purchase some sandwiches from Eric's Deli as our dinner on the road.

Our Train ride finished in San Francisco where we jumped on our bikes and pedaled along the Waterfront Bikeway toward Ferry Building at the end of Market St. We arrived just in time for our ferry that took us from San Francisco across the Bay to Larkspur. The whole trip was less than 30 minutes long, and it was exhilarating to be on the upper deck of the ship felling wind in our faces and watch 10 foot "Rooster Tail" behind the stern.

Since the ferry was designed for daily commuters it had a bike storage section built on the second deck with plenty of seating for us and others. Most of the people on board were not nearly as excited as we were, since this was most likely a daily occurrence for them. I must admit that with advent of Clipper Card embarking on different modes of Public Transit in Bay Area was a breeze and a lot more pleasant than sitting stuck in traffic on any of our local roadways.

One on shore in Larkspur we quickly had our dinner while soaking the early spring sun that was steadily sinking westward toward looming Mount Tamalpais, also known to locals as Mt. Tam. Closely following the instructions from Bear Valley Inn's web site on how to get to the Olema from the Ferry Building was easy and exciting, since it navigated us along some of the nicest and quietest neighborhoods, propels avoiding busy roads such is Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Our ride was steady slow enough to enjoy the surroundings, yet hurried enough since setting sun was bringing darkness and knowledge that we would be on unfamiliar roads riding in darkness was on our minds. We stopped in San Anselmo at the The San Anselmo Coffee Roastery, as it was politely suggested in our navigational "Charts, for a cup of great coffee.

Soon we passed through the town of Fairfax where our instructions directed us to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard right where road rises up to cross over Whit Hill. The climb was steep and stiff 15 mile per hour head wind didn't help at all. Completely drained and tired we reached the summit where we start smelling the costal air, sweetened with salt and seaweed sent.
Decent in to San Geronimo's Valley was long and pleasant, allowing us time to recover from the climb up the White Hill. Soon we passed a golf course on our right, next was small town of San Geronimo followed by famous little town of Lagunitas that most of beer lovers recognized as a birth place for good and strong Ale named after the town and creek that runs through. This creek had become our traveling companion on our way to the coast.

We quickly descended in to Samuel P. Taylor State Park. By now the last light of day faded away and as we entered in to grove of redwoods even stars disappeared from our view blocked by thick canopy of these gentle giants. Traveling through forest has awakened our senses, sound were clearer, sent were crisper, the time was nonexistent.
Just as I was starting to enjoy this new mental state we exited on the other side. Trees disappeared and were replaced with rolling hills covered with pastures.

 Full moon showed up over the eastern hills and now was lighting our path. Thanks to the strong moonlight all of a sudden our surroundings become more vibrant. We become aware of cows quietly grazing along the side of the road; deer’s were everywhere cautiously following our ride with their silent gaze. a whole nature around us was awake and we could see and witness something that we normally don't get the chance to experience.
Miles were passing quickly and soon we found our self’s climbing the Bolinas Ridge, short and steep hill that stood between us and small town of Olema. We crested over quickly and demented safely in to the valley where small and now sleeping town was located.
Bear Valley Inn was on our left and we cautiously pulled in to a large gravel parking lot. Lights were on and we navigated our way in to lush frontward passing through an small and beautiful archway.
Following our hosts instruction that we received via e-mail we accessed house key and at once we were inside a cozy and warm living room.

Time of our arrival was 21:15, we were tired, a bit cold and wind whipped but happy and in good mood.
Our directions and room key was on the dining table with some of the simple instructions and directions. Our room was on the second floor of the house and it was a warm and pleasantly decorated. Quick change of clothing and hot shower was in order before we sat around fireplace with our wine and post ride snack. One thing that we enjoyed the most was the lack of TV; we did have a strong and free Internet access for our Pandora Radio as well as for the Social Media access. Another benefit geared toward Bike travelers was a covered bike storage at the back of the Inn
Next morning we were awakened by the singing birds and distant noise of someone working in the kitchen on the first floor. Since we were hungry from the previous night ride, Laurie and I went downstairs were we were treated by a wonderful breakfast spread on the table consisting of freshly squeezed juice, fresh butter, Milk, fruits coffee, and homemade granola and yogurt!!

Moments later a lady emerged from the kitchen with a basket full of freshly baked muffins whose aroma was wafting throughout entire house and our mouths were watering. From my previous research in to this trip and photos on the Website I recognized this lady as Amanda Eichstead.
We struck a quick conversation while savoring our breakfast, we went over different subjects, from bike infrastructure, culture, sightseeing in the area.  During our conversation, Amanda’s husband Ken who was an avid cyclist, traveler and Inn’s repairman, joined us and  we got more pointer as to where should we go for a day ride, where to stop for some great food and such from this very warm and enthusiastic couple that was full of life.
Once we had our fill of food and coffee, Laurie and I quickly pack our kit in to bike bags and headed to Point Reyes National Shoreline Headquarters and Visitors Center in Bear Valley.

We first stopped at the visitor’s center where we were surprised by the diversity of animals and plants in the area. Afterwards we walked the Earthquake Trail where we still could see the remaining evidence of 1906 Earthquake that destroyed San Francisco and that was one of the strongest earthquakes in history of human kind. Being that it was a beautiful spring day there were a lot of people visiting.

We spent some time exploring and educating our self's about Flora and Fauna in the area as well as geological forces at work that shaped our planet and California's gorgeous geography.
Once again we jumped in to our saddles and headed north-west in search of a good see food along the road to Point Reyes. we found what we were looking for at the Saltwater Depot. This place is a Must for a true Foodie that passes this way on their way while visiting in the area. Once we had out belies stuffed with all that great food we headed back to Olema, butt his time we took Sir Francis Drake Boulevard all of the way to Bear Valley Inn.

We spent another quiet evening by the fire resting our bodies at this wonderful Inn. Our conversations was about future trips, past adventures, people me met and places we visited since our adventures started. During the night it started to rain and the present sound of rain drops hitting the trees and roof, rolling in gutters was relaxing and we drifted in to a restful sleep.

Next day we woke up to the sound of rain and fresh cool air that carried in aroma of nearby ocean. Once again we were treated with most tasteful breakfast, and warm hospitality of Amanda and Ken. We packed our kit with an efficiency of Roma Legion on move and all of the bags were packed and strapped.

We were hanging back taking photos and hoping that the rain would end for our ride, and sure enough, and as by command it stopped just as we climbed in to our saddles.
First place we stopped was Olema Post office to send our Postcards. Climbed out of the valley up to the Bolinas Ridge was short and steep, but we were accompanied by a small group of cycles clad in colorful racing bibs and jerseys.

Descent on the other side of the hill was fast and exhilarating,  at the bottom of the hill we merged on to Cross Marin Trail bike path that was built on the place where and old railroad track use to connect a small paper mill town that one stop on the ground where today's Samuel P. Taylor State Park is today.

Laurie and I decided to stop in the picnic area of the park to have our lunch. First order of business was brewing some coffee, than we opened cans of smoked trout, sliced some Turkey Salami and cheese with flat bread, we enjoyed our lunch in the shadows of Costal Redwoods that were teaming with life...

After we finished our lunch we continued our ride onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard following our rout in revers joking, laughing and general taking our time while enjoying our surrounding. We arrived in the Larkspur just in time to catch our ferry back to San Francisco.

We could not resist to be on San Francisco's  Fishermans Wharf and not to stop for dinner at our favorite restaurant Alioto's. Trained home was pleasant and we were reminiscing on past weekend promising our selfs that we will do this again. Convenience of Caltrain combined with ferry services opened a whole another area for us to travel to and explore with our bikes. I hope that this post inspire some of you reading it to take up bike traveling and to enjoy the pleasure of road trips.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Making the Case for Complete Streets

Making the Case for Complete Streets

Return of S24O Adventures

Back in the saddles again 

As most of you know we love to travel, and we do it a lot. In recent time we did a whole lot of traveling but I neglected to document all of the  trips that we had taken. Now I'm back at my writing table, that also serves as our family dinning table, arts and crafts table and more often that not a political pulpit.

Our most recent trip was a Bike Overnighter to Uvas Canyon County Park, and René Martinez joined us for his first experience on an S24O. Original plan was that we would take the Light Rail near our home and travel all of the way to Santa Teresa Boulevard where the Light Rail ends, and from that point we would ride. Considering how nice the day felt  a quick decision was made that we would ride the entire 40 miles (64 km) on our bikes. Laurie's and my kit,  was our "standard" S24O gear that we used in our previous adventures.

René had a Bike Planet Eco Rack installed a couple of day's before we went to this trip and he also used Detours Panniers.

René also used REI Minimalist Bivy Bag instead of his backpacking tent to sleep in, since the weather was warm and no rain was in the forecast.

Half of our ride was just urban ridding along my regular commute path, that I normally would ride to get to work. Once we got to Santa Teresa Boulevard we stopped by for lunch and Coffee at my favorite coffee shop, MoonBeans Coffee

We also stopped to purchased some Raisin-Cinnamon Bread and Almond & Honey Butter from a local Farmers Market, that is open every Saturday on Kaiser Permanente's parking lot next to the Public Library.

Once all of our supplies were packed safely in to our panniers we continued along Santa Teresa Blvd. Scenery quickly changed from Urban to Rural once we passed Santa Teresa Golf Club on our right. We were surrounded by open farm land with its full glory.

Being that it was late winter in Northern California, everything was a pleasant green color. Wind was in our favor, pushing us at a pleasant speed as well as providing a cooling effect. Mood was reflecting the general feeling of happiness and enjoyment!

Once we reached the Willow Spring Road we entered a narrow canyon that was surrounded with rolling hills where California's happy cows were grazing while keeping a curious eye on us cyclist. Car traffic was so sparse that we didn't have to worry about taking over the whole lane, had we needed it.

René was constantly ahead of us for the most, acting as an outrider, scouting what was ahead of us and bringing the news back. Laurie and I were less focused on the speed and more taking it all in and having fun while riding.

Once we crested the ridge, Willow Spring Road was all downhill Chesbro Reservoir, at the intersection, we went right onto Oak Glen Avenue that followed the reservoir.  It once was full of water, now its just a large grassy meadow with a small stream trickling through.

Dire state of California's drought was more that apparent to anyone that has seen Chesbro Reservoir during normal years. Back in the days the shore was lined with fishermen, as well as there would be a small flotilla of sports fishing boats moving up and down the lake in search of good fishing locations. Today the only thing floating on the surface of the small pond near the dam was a flock of geese. I couldn't help but wonder, how long is this drought going to last? How much worst will it get? Based on dismal snowfall during the winter months this year was going to be even worst than past.
We were not the only cyclist on the road, there were a solid number of weekend worriers dressed in tight nylon coaching & mimicking the professional riders that were traveling up and down the road. Some of them would nod their heads in silent acknowledgment, some on the other side of spectrum would watch us with bewilderment. Not sure if there were admiring us or if they were disgusted with this band of Gypsies on the bikes slowly climbing the many hills we encounter. Regardless we were happy and content in our endeavor.

We soon arrived to the Uvas Road where we merged to the left, and we were greeted us with is first hill that was not steep but just long gentle rise in the topography. Scenery has changed, trees on the side of the road were gone and we were surrounded with green pastures and more rolling hills.
I was enjoying the surroundings, so much,  that I didn't even noticed that Croy Road was ahead of us on our right side. René was there patiently waiting for Laurie and I to arrive. Croy Road almost immediately become a steep climb, the pretty much set the stage for what was to come.

Croy road proved to be our biggest elevation gain and the curviest section of our trip. On the other side it was nicely shaded and cooled down by continuously babbling Uvas creek,  that despite the drought was still flowing with decent amount of water in it. Our energy was now running low, and our conversation was about the dinner and glass of wine that we were looking forward to. However Croy Road was not yielding to our wishes to end. Narrowing more with each turn that we took
the sun became a rare site, and as René pointed out this became thee longest 4 mile for all three of us.
Eventually out of nowhere we arrived to "Sveadal", Swedish American Patriotic League Private resort. At this point Croy Road become a single line road with ridiculously steep grade that at several point we were practically crawling up the hill burdened down with our camping gear.
Finally after all of the struggling we arrived at Uvas Canyon County Park, and to my big surprise there was a lot of people visiting. Parking lots were full of cars, picnic areas were busy with kids and adults enjoying this warm winter day.

Our Camp site was # 13, conveniently located next to the Restrooms and showers, yet far enough for all of the pedestrian traffic into the facility was not a problem. We quickly set in to our camp & set up as per our usual routine tent up, cheese, carrots and wine were on the table, we were eating our early dinner and talking about day behind us.

 René and Laurie went for a refreshing shower while I made some tea.
Sunlight faded quickly away and night enveloped us of just a brief  moment. A full moon quickly jumped up on the eastern horizon lighting the entire area. With night come the cold air that eventually motivated us to crawl into our sleeping bags for a well deserved nights rest.

Morning almost came to soon and we were lingering in our comfortable sleeping bags as long as we could justify, eventually coffee closely followed with an excellent breakfast that was prepared and consumed in short order.

We quickly broke down our camp site and packed it all away in to our panniers

With promise of another great day ahead of us we climbed in to our bike saddles with knowledge that for at least a while our ride will be all downhill. In no time we left Croy Road with Uvas Creek flowing down the hill behind us. We made a quick climb on Uvas Road and soon we passed by Uvas Road and Oak Glen Avenue intersection. By then all three of us were ready for a lunch on the side of the road.

On the menu was smoked trout, cheese, pita bread and red wine. We enjoyed our lunch while sitting in the shade of an Oak tree growing on the side of the road, while number of weekend warrior cyclist passed by. Some nodded their heads in our direction as a greeting. Some of them slowed down to make sure that we were OK and some just passed by focused on their ride not even noticing us.

Laurie and I were clinging on every little thing throughout the day, in order to prolong our mini vacation, knowing well that it could not last forever and that unavoidable end was closing by with every push of the pedal and every turn in the road.

Sunday turned out to be even warmer than the previous day, with a good steady wind from North-Easterly direction.

 Unlike the day before,  that same wind that was aiding us with our progress, was slowing us down significantly sapping our energy almost as much as the Croy Road did the day before. We agreed that the perfect way to finish the day would be by stopping by Rock Bottom Brewery in Campbell for an early dinner and refreshments.

In short our trip was an excellent opportunity to become more familiar with parts of our County we seldomly visit. We had taken the full advantage of a warm late winter day for our first S24O of 2015. Our equipment proved to be as reliable as our bikes did, and we managed a good number of miles without any incidents or malfunctions.
I can only suggest that anyone who likes to camp and to bike try this short two day adventure, since it is a perfect marriage of two great hobbies.