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.