Was pondering a “Mount Hamilton, Take 2” for the weekend, to try another ride on our “other” Bay Area iconic mountain and actually reach the top. . . . then on Friday eve, my buddy Kurt put out an impromptu ride on the bike club email list, and i couldn’t pass it up.
Here’s the listing:
I’m calling an impromptu TM ride as follows:
*Sun Jun 5* *4/TM/70* *A cool ride for hot weather*
Leader: Kurt D
Meet at 9:00 am for a 9:10 am start
We’ll ride around the Embarcadero and the Marina and loop through Presidio and GG Park before crossing the bridge and climbing Hawk Hill in the headlands. Then down the back side and through the tunnel before descending into Sausalito. Continue to Tiburon via Belvedere and back around Paradise Drive and over Camino Alto before heading back across the bridge. Route will look something like this:
Bart from East Bay arrives a few minutes prior to 9:00. Please RSVP via my email. If its a small group we’ll forgo rout sheets. All riders welcome but expect to be able to maintain 12 MPH pace over this distance and elevation.
By Saturday evening, it looked like just four of us (Grizzlies Kurt, Anne S, Wallace W, and myself), plus a possible pal of Kurt’s from Oracle, Mark B.
Here’s how it played out: Got myself organized the night before (water bottles & secret weapon home-made pickle juice in fridge, CamelBak w/ bladder filled with ice, and a sandwich of roasted peppers, melted pepper jack, toasted Milton’s 9-grain bread, mustard & arugula wrapped in aluminum foil and a ziploc nestled inside the CamelBak (outside the water/ice bladder), all keeping cold overnight in the freezer. Bike kit, wallet, spare tube, snack foods all laid out in the back of house.
Sunday morning prep uneventful, and i got myself to BART well early enough ahead of time for the 8:02 train. Grizzly Carla shows up, but going on a different ride, with the “gals”, and sure enough, when we transferred trains at MacArthur (where the fella I recognized as Oracle Mark also boarded), Grizzly Lenore was also already on that train…. all headed for Embarcadero for our respective rides.
At Embarcadero, elevator to BART exit full with bikes, including Mark and an elderly couple and their tandem, plus maybe a few others, so i happily wait for the next one.
Once up to BART exit area, processing ticket “out” and catching the elevator to Street pretty painless. Easy ride along Market the few blocks, and through Justin Herman Plaza to the Ferry Bldg, where I see Carla, Lenore and a gang of gals right in front, and Mark B somewhere in the distance. Carla offers to watch my bici while i head inside for the Restroom. (for “security reasons” the restroom at BART are not available. WHAT!?).
Mark comes along on bike out of the Ferry Bldg. with his hot java in a lidded paper cup about the same time i’m exiting the Ferry Bldg from my bathroom break. A few minutes later, here comes Wallace, and then Kurt arrives, most likely from the same train. We learn Anne decided to do another, shorter, closer-to-home ride to meet afternoon obligations, but Susan J is coming, as well as Jill N (whom I’d met the week before on the Marshall Wall ride). I’m happy to know Susan is back in the saddle after her untimely crash on wackly pavement last week. What a trouper! We catch Susan (or vice-versa) along the Embarcadero, and she has the suggestion to take Bay Street to avoid a bigger hill later on.
I always trust local wisdom, and Kurt has also lived in the City in earlier years and agrees (plus I’ve travelled on Bay Street on the bike a few times, and so I have no objection). The five of us continue along Bay for a bit, then hook right onto the Marina at Webster….The plan is to pick Jill up enroute along the Marina path. Which we do, and then our little “6-pack” is complete.
But then just before we get near the GG Bridge, we peel off uphill through the Presidio (seeing Lenore, Carla and troup along the way). Then we wind up and around through all kinds of beautiful Marina district neighborhoods, up the the Palace of the Legion of Honor, then down through the Golf Course for a regroup and restroom break, before touring a few beautiful, toney 1% of 1% neighborhoods then up and out over Lands End, the Great Highway, Ocean Beach and finally jaunting left and returning through the GG Bridge through GG Park. Lovely! This portion is 16 miles.
Crossing the GG Bridge, two things stand out. It never gets any LESS windy going around the two sets of Suspension cable pillars. I simply unclip and hobble around to the straight section again. The other thing is the number of rental-cycle tourists going too slow, too far in the middle, stopping just “wherever”, etc. I proceed cautiously and eventually end up a few minutes behind my group.
Jill has given me very sound comparison advice, upon hearing that i’ve never attempted Hawk Hill or Conzelman Rd on the bike and don’t know what to expect: she says that the climb is somewhat like Marshall Wall (east to west), but not quite as hard and that nothing compared to what we are all used to. That sounds fine. I’ve been up the headlands in a car several times over the years, just never on the bike. I’m excited! We wait at the stop sign for an opening between up and downhill motorized traffic, finally get a break and shoot a clean left up the hill. I find i’m about in the “middle” as far as how many people I pass, and how many blow by me. So far so good. My peeps are never more than about 1/2 a turn in front of me, always within sight and almost within earshot.
At the top of Hawk Hill, where one-lane, downhill only Conzelman Road begins (http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/hawk-hill.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/), we take a short porta-potty break, savor the views each direction, snack on pocket food, and then a detour through the old fortification/tunnel, to catch the views down toward Rodeo Beach and Point Bonita and beyond. Fog is just about clearing, and the day promises to be sunnier but never “hot”. I have come with summer-weight knickers, a short-sleeved GPC jersey, neck gaitor and arm-warmers, happy for once not to have “overpacked” (although you wouldn’t know that from all the stuff in my quite full pockets!) (Note: while my companions change in and out of jackets and vests during the day, I never unwrap my nylon windbreaker from where it lives below my saddle, even on the blustery return over over the bridge later in the day). Then we’re ready to roll and continue our journey. The top of Conzelman Rd has a sign that warns “Use Extreme Caution, 18% Gradient” and visually just drops off immediately.
Everyone but Susan and I have taken off and and I’m ready to experience the steep descent I’ve only been on in a car before this day. Susan calls me back, because a red mini-van has just begun its descent. She knows my ride will not be fun if I end up riding the tail of the van the whole way down. So I happily and obediently wait a few more minutes until Susan clears me to start. She heads out a second or so before me, then I have the road clear to myself. Oddly, it is not the white-knuckler I’ve been anticipating. Views to die for, but I just feather my brakes, proceed with care, take my time and occasionally “let it go” and enjoy the ride immensely. I don’t catch the red mini-van until almost the bottom where the bridge crosses the stream and you start back up with a climb. There’s enough room to pass the van on the left and I do so. The driver and passengers of the white SUV which has been stopped for a out-of-vehicle photo-op catches up when i’m in the uphill, but they pass courteously and safely.
The group is assembled at the next point, and we decide to go to Point Bonita Lighthouse for the overlooks.
After that, it’s back along the road toward Baker Beach and then down Alexander Rd, through Sausalito, past Mill Valley and on to Tiburon / Belvedere. Kurt takes us up some roads through the middle which eventually drop back down toward town and the waterfront park. At some point, Wallace powers on ahead, and we all comment he must be hungry. Sure enough, when we arrive in downtown Tiburon, there he is finishing up his sandwich at an outdoor table at the Italian Caffe’/Gelato place (Acri Caffe’). We follow suit. Sandwiches look good, pastries even better, and coffee drinks perfect. I settle on a spinach salad and figure I can save my homemade toasted pepper/cheese sandwich for a quick post-ride refueling snack. The salad does not disappoint.
Then we make our way around Paradise Loop the opposite direction (counterclockwise) from the few times i’ve done it, and back to and through Corte Madera. Up and over, then finally a mobbed Sausalito, and the final grind up Alexander Rd to the bridge. Return trip over the Golden Gate has that characteristic blustery, fierce headwind with the fog layers streaming through. The tourist-bike scene is even more obnoxious in the afternoon than it had been in the morning. But soon it’s done, and we’re quickly back to the Presidio and Marina side of things, detouring off onto side streets to Bay for the final, quick sprint back to downtown San Francisco and BART. Susan leaves us at Bay & Laguna, announcing she’s going to do another loop before heading home. Tough cookie, that gal (I’ve seen her do this on several rides, just can’t seem to get ENOUGH of the bike ride! no wonder she’s so strong!).
Our group has rubber-banded back and forth in size at various points, but by the end of our trek back along Bay Street and to the Embarcadero, the four of us (Kurt, Mark, Wallace and me) are riding together in a nice line.
Uneventful BART ride home (if you ignore the broken ticket machine that delayed Kurt and Mark a bit (happily, my trusty, never-leave-home-without-it TransLink card has allowed me to pass through the gate). Three of us catch an eastbound train, Wallace waits for the next one. I transfer at 12th Street and bid adieu to Kurt and Mark when I see the sign for the Richmond train advertising a short 2:22 minute wait and an almost empty train arriving on the other track.
Painless transfer (and a clear spot to lean bike up against the foam-wrapped pole), and I’m home by 5:30. A great (and challenging) adventure and an overall excellent day on the bike shared with some damn good folks! (and I ‘almost’ kept up!!). It may not have been “hot weather” but it most certainly was a very, very “cool” ride!
Thanks so much to Kurt for putting forth this highly scenic, entertaining, challenging and elucidating ride. In a short 71 miles, our nice little six-pack of 5 Grizzlies + 1 went “everywhere”!!!
Several firsts for me:
1.) 16 mile counterclockwise loop in the city to various “1%” environs, Land’s End, the beach and Great Highway before sauntering back through the park to the GG Bridge and across to begin the rural portion of the ride.
2.) Hawk Hill up and Conzelman (mostly down) to Point Bonita on a bicycle.
3.) The hilly innards of Tiburon to our lunch spot, a cool little bike-friendly Italian cafe/bistro (Caffe Acri on Main Street: eggs/breakfast served til 2:30, yummy sandwiches, salads, pastries, gelato, coffee/espresso drinks)
4.) Paradise Loop counterclockwise (previously only clockwise for me, and that eons ago).
5.) Camino Alto from very near to my old home in Costa Madera (a brief 6 mos in 1986) tired me out but didn’t hurt as much as I’d remembered, and the descent southward wasn’t scary anymore.
Thanks also to both Jill and Susan (as well as Kurt) for lending invaluable “hints” about what to expect in their “backyard playgrounds” both in SF, Marin Headlands and Tiburon. And to all for not completely dropping me (-;
Finally, special thanks to our other two riding companions, “strong rider dudes” Wallace (GPC) and Kurt’s pal Mark from Oracle for hauling this somewhat slower old MamaBear over hin and yon on a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday adventure.
Suffice to say, I look forward to seeing this ride in future in the “regular” (WT) GPC ride schedule. Soon even!?