Losing My Bike Touring Virginity

I’d never done an overnight or multiple day bike tour before and had been a bit jealous of hearing the adventures that my friends Liz, Erika, and Arianna would have on them (minus when Liz and Arianna both had the flu in Ireland). My friend Chris organized one for last September and I said that I’d do it if Liz came out for it. Liz, of course, was in along with her boyfriend Nic. Okay, I’m committed now one way or another!

I had two bikes and neither were outfitted for bike touring. I talked to both Erika and Kevin about options. Erika suggested some large removable saddlebags, but I didn’t really like the idea of that bouncing around behind me along with the very limited weight and size restriction. Kevin suggested altering one of my bikes for fitting a rack on it, but the information I found online was kind of confusing. He suggested that I go to REI since at least they sell panniers. I talked to the bike mechanic at REI who said that there was no way to fit a rack onto my bike without drilling into the frame. WTF? Even I know that’s incorrect! I resisted the urge to throw my Orbea at him and instead went to my bike shop, which is where I kind of knew I should have gone to in the first place. My usual mechanic, Mike, knew exactly what rack to get, which came with the adapter to fix it to my bike. I’d be able to pick up my bike in about 3 days after he got the parts and installed them. Yipee! I borrowed a pannier from a very pregnant Arianna so I was good to go now. πŸ™‚

Our overnight was scheduled for September 8 – 9, 2018. Liz and Nic were flying in from ABQ a couple of days before and staying with Arianna and Matt in Berkeley. We were all meeting up that Saturday morning at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park and the plan was then to ride down to Pescadero via Half Moon Bay and a lot of time on Highway 1. I packed the bare minimum I’d need to try and keep my pannier as light as possible. I didn’t ride the Orbea much anymore since it’s an aluminum frame so the heavier of my two bikes. Since it’s my first bike though, I’m never getting ride of it! Now it’s my official touring bike. πŸ™‚ I opted that morning to ride from my house to GGP even though we’d be riding right back past my place on the route. This added 15 miles and 1100′ climbing.

Ready to roll

Day #1 – SF to Pescadero

I was glad that this was going to be a small group and I already knew everyone. Erika was supposed to join us, but opted not to. She still drove out for the start with her wife Terri, who was riding with us. Erika would drive and meet us in Pescadero for dinner and spend the night. Chris, Terri, Liz, Nic, and I took off towards Ocean Beach to start our ride with the first stop being in Pacifica. Chris’ intent was to make this as leisurely a ride as possible so she had lots of stops scheduled all the way down, which is different then my mentality of more or less “keep moving!”

We had just come up and over the hill on Skyline Boulevard in Daly City past the water tower when a van driver who was turning (?) got upset with Nic about something. The driver turned towards us and started yelling at Nic. It was unintelligible on what he was so angry about, but I was afraid that he’d get out of the van or worse, pull a gun out on Nic (a sad reality today). Nic was just like “I don’t know what your problem is man.” Terri went into full Mama Bear mode and was yelling at us to just keep going and leave her with him. I’m half-expecting her to yank him out of the van and start beating him with her bare hands. Terri is a tall and very lean woman, but trust me that she’s solid muscle and I wouldn’t want to f*** with her. A couple of minutes later Terri rejoins us and tells us to just keep going.

Terri, Lizziekins, and me

We catch up to Chris and make our first stop at the Chit Chat Cafe. Some grab a belated breakfast and/or coffee and there’s a lot of photo taking outside. We seem to spend way too long there for being online an hour into this ride. Next stop is Half Moon Bay for lunch which is less than an hour away too! After much dillydallying, we get back into the saddles and peddle off towards lunch, which I’m actually really looking forward to.

I’d never ridden the new Devil’s Slide bypass. I saw the flower beds and thought that if it was an old Liz/Kelley ride then we’d have definitely stopped there for taking photos (as Liz likes to take a lot of “oh pretty!” photos). The bypass is super nice and didn’t have a lot of pedestrians there either. We got a surprise coming down the South side of it though with Erika waiting for us! She wanted to surprise us (okay maybe just her wife) on the route and we’d almost blown right past her.

I missed Liz’s personality

We rolled into Half Moon Bay shortly after. Lunch was ironically at a place that I always think of as where I’d had lunch with a high school BFF Michelle when we cut class to go to the beach (sorry Dad). I’m glad it’s still there and more or less looks the same as when I was in high school. After a fairly unhealthy lunch of a lot of fried seafood and fries, we head back off south.

Chris had lost a golf club the last time she’d been at the Ritz Carlton in HMB so she wanted to go by there to see if they had it. We traversed through the hotel property and got to the walking trail right along the coastline and in front of their restaurant. There were a bunch of people walking along it and Chris said that she guesses we should walk our bikes. I look at the distribution of people and say “I can make it.” I go relatively slow but there’s no way that I’m pushing my bike up that uphill walkway. I get through just fine without freaking out any pedestrians and I think Chris had decided to try riding up it also. We wait for the other guys to join us. I’d noticed that there was a wedding party taking photos a short distance away and gee I really hope we ended up in the background of some of those photos. πŸ˜›

Chris looks at the map and figures out last time where they’d done some off-road to which I say a hard “no” on riding my bike on even “hard packed dirt.” I really am pretty lazy when it comes to cycling so the less work I have to do, the better. We snake around the various side streets before getting back on the main highway with the next stop being all the way down in Pescadero.

Terri and I are the fastest riders in the group and both of us like to regroup every so often. With only 5 of us on Highway 1, I don’t want us to get spread out so far especially if something happens to one of us (flat tire, car, etc.). We definitely regroup at the top of any long climb or set of climbs. I know from Liz that Nic isn’t in the best cycling shape, but he wanted to come with us regardless. I’m happy to accommodate as I like Nic and just glad that he wanted to join us to spend the time with us. Terri is wearing her usual head-to-toe black ensemble which always amazes me that she isn’t roasting in it. I’ve only seen the woman’s naked legs and arms while she’s been riding once.

Made it!

I get excited when I see the sign that we’ve made it to Pescadero! I’m not sure where the lighthouse is that we’re spending the night or what the plan is so I wait to regroup for Chris’ instructions. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that we were going to stop at Arcangeli Grocery for artichoke bread (gee there’s a lot of eating on this ride!). Erika’s there waiting for us and also to transport any breakfast groceries to the hostel we’re staying at. We migrate to Downtown Local a couple of doors down for a little bit before heading off again to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse where we’re spending the night. I’m glad that I let Terri take the lead since the lighthouse hostel was at the start of a long straight descent, which would have meant that I’d have blown right past it and never even seen it!

Catching up with my favorite cycling partner Liz while watching the sunset

We get checked in, unpacked, refreshed (some partake in a little hot tub time), and then it’s off to dinner. Nic admits that he was so tired that he didn’t even want to get back on his bike after Pescadero so he’d almost asked Erika for a ride from there. He tells us though that he’s so glad that he’s gotten to know us since Liz talks about us all the time and he sees why we’re so special in her life. Aw! ❀ The 6 of us pack into Erika’s car (one of us is stuffed in the footwell behind the driver’s seat) and head to a quick dinner at the Highway 1 Brewery. Afterwards we retire to our rooms for the night with Nic and Liz in one room and the rest of us in another.

Sunset in Pescadero

Day #2 – Pescadero to Palo Alto

I wake up at my usual o’dark thirty time and lay in bed for awhile. No one else is awake and there was some confusion where all the keycards went yesterday so only a couple of us have a key to the room and I’m not one of them. I do the best I can to entertain myself until at least someone else is up. Erika wakes up second and I thought she had a card with her so I figured I could finally escape the room. She didn’t have hers though and the door got accidentally closed. I needed to go back in for something so unfortunately this involved trying to wake up Terri (aka “I don’t do mornings”) to answer the door. She finally answered it after several minutes.

Everyone else finally gets up and start making breakfast. I had actually been moving away from having breakfast and doing my morning workouts in a fasted state (more on that in another blog post), but these guys were into a very leisurely and good spread Sunday breakfast.

We’d finally cleaned up, repacked, suited up, and checked out by 11:00 a.m. I’m a bit worried about the late start and afternoon sun, but nothing I can do about it. We say bye to Erika who decides to just go back home to Berkeley instead of meeting us in Redwood City later. There’s the Santa Cruz ironman happening and our path goes along their cycling route for a few miles. Their officials let us continue our route since we don’t really have any other option to get up and over back to Redwood City.

(L to R) Chris, Nic, Erika, Liz, Terri

We turn onto Gazos Creek Road which is nice and shaded. I have no idea where we are though as I’ve never been in this area despite growing up not that far away. We climb up Cloverdale Road and I wait for everyone else to meet up. We continue on and Chris and Liz jokingly call my attention to what’s in front of us. I see a short but steep climb and immediately yell out “WHAT THE F***?” I have a real love/hate relationship with climbing. It’s getting warm in the day and I definitely notice every extra pound this Orbea has between its frame and the pannier.

I stop at the junction of Cloverdale and Pescadero Creek Road as I’m not sure which way we’re supposed to go and I want to regroup with everyone. Terri and I wait for Liz and Chris to arrive. Chris immediately turns onto Pescadero Creek Road pointing for us to follow her. I don’t see Nic though and don’t want to leave him behind as he wouldn’t know which way to turn either. I take off to catch Chris and tell her that we need to wait for Nic. The 4 of us wait back at the junction and no Nic for several minutes. Liz can’t call him as she has both their phones in her saddlebag. We backtrack to find him at the side of the road changing a flat. His tire had caught a crack in the asphalt which split his tube several inches. We discover too that not only is the tube flat, but the tire is ripped also. We put a dollar bill into the tire to see if that’ll hold the rip and then continue on.

Not your average flat tire!

We head up the long climb of Pescadero Creek Road (my quads are hating me and it’s now officially “hot afternoon”) and drop down to the other side. The idea is to meet up at the La Honda Market for lunch. I’m following Terri as she knows the way supposedly. The other guys are taking longer than expected to catch up to us, but at least we know that they’re together. They finally get to the market about 20 minutes later. The dollar bill didn’t hold and Nic got another flat. This time they put in a BART ticket as that’s a lot sturdier than regular money paper. I asked about the rest of the ride and Chris says that we have one more climb (La Honda Road) but it’s not as bad as Pescadero Creek Road (thank goodness).

After lunch we head up La Honda Road which is a very easy 6 mile route up and we get there no problem. The BART ticket continues holding for Nic’s tire and it’s awesome to see him and Liz get to the top together. πŸ™‚ We take a couple of photos outside of Alice’s before dropping down Woodside Road to start heading back to Palo Alto.

Introducing Nic to Alice’s Restaurant

Somehow if there’s going to ever be a car honking at me incessantly, Terri is going to be right behind said car. This day was no different where a very angry Prius driver (yeah I know) was the one who apparently decided that I was ruining her day doing only 36 mph down Woodside Road on a busy traffic Sunday afternoon. I always seem to get honked at around the “Share the Road” signs too ironically. I stop at the bottom of the descent as I’m sure the others won’t know to turn there to get to Sand Hill Road. Terri said she’s glad I didn’t pull over for that jerk. I actually couldn’t hear her honking nor would I have moved anyway since I’m just trying to get home in one piece too jackass and share the f***ing road like the sign says.

Chris and Liz are taking longer on Sand Hill so Terri hangs back with them. Nic and I go to try and make the 4:00 p.m. train and I stay close to Nic the entire time since with his tire problems, there’s no way I’m leaving him by himself. We get to Cal Train with plenty of time, but don’t see the others. They end up showing up about a minute before the train pulls into the station and we all make it into the bike car.

Nic and Liz have to return their bikes too at the Sports Basement in the Presidio but at this point they’re tired and not sure how they’re going to get them there. I’m pretty sure I can make 2 bikes and 3 people fit into my car so I volunteer to try this. We say bye to Chris and Terri at the my CalTrain stop and part ways. I leave Liz and Nic at the station while I do the longest ride ever (literally, this took 16 minutes and is closer than the BART station that only takes me 11 minutes to get home) up my street to get home to get my car. It works getting everything in my car! We get their stuff returned on time and I drop them off at BART where they’re off to spend the night at Liz’s friend’s house before they head back to ABQ the next day.

So I lost my bike touring virginity in the best possible way with a very small group of close friends. I’d do it again in a heartbeat with them as it was a lot of fun. Keeping the group small worked well as we were all already friends and got to spend some quality time with each other during the weekend. It wasn’t like a big miscellaneous bike tour with a bunch of people you don’t know and many who you won’t ever see again (and some who you never caught their name to begin with). This trip was just like what it’s always been about with them, first and foremost we want to spend time together and secondly we love cycling. And bonus that we got to know Nic a bit more too. πŸ™‚

Taking off on Sunday morning. Photo by Erika Rowen.

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