Next morning things looked better. I wake up and have time for a walk before picking up the bike from Dubbelju’s. The Bay Bridge is the first one you see, and it is a cracker. San Fransisco is a dream of a city. Water on three sides, skyscrapers, those crazy steep streets. The only downside is the weather. I was lucky to have blue skies – but it was cold! Mark Twain apparently said ”The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” And I wasn’t really kitted out for cold.
Checked out of the Hotel and wandered over to Dubbelju on Bryant & 5th Street. They were just opening up when I arrived. But they were expecting me, and had my bike waiting. It was a White 2012 GSW. And it was beautiful. (But it really should be for $1200) I spend ages signing forms and then backing the bike in the way I wanted. Dubbelju have storage for your left luggage so I tried to travel light.
And then it was time to get moving. There is an REI on Bryant & 7th and I rode into the carpark, getting some envious glances at the bike and dropped several hundred dollars on camping gear (MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent, Thermarest Neoair, nice cheap new Leatherman Wave, Headtorch etc.)
I have an r1150gs at home and this was my first time on the water-cooled r1200. It is lighter than the 1150, and easier to handle, but what is going on with that clutch? I found it very jumpy, and the gearing seems odd. I particularly noticed it on the very steep SF streets. Second gear too high, first gear too low. I did have a mild panic thinking I hope I’m not going to hate this. That did not detract from how brilliant San Francisco is by bike. Wide streets, filtering legal (California is the only state in the US where it is) but rarely necessary, and stunning views in every direction.
After an hour of hooning around the city and spotting locations from Vertigo I stopped at the Coit Tower and spotted the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s hard to resist that – so I headed for it. In terms of route planning I had a long list of places I would like to see, but no real plan. Why spoil a good adventure by planning?
So the Golden Gate Bridge set the direction. It is a breathtaking bit of ironwork. I suppose it is as much about its iconic status, and its location – the Golden Gate is the name of the narrow inlet from the pacific ocean into the San Fransisco Bay – with the city on the south side, and the forested mountains of Marin County on the other. Riding over it, standing up on your pegs you can’t help grinning. And the sun is shining, but the wind is blowing and it is cold!
Once over the bridge take a left onto old Route 1. It is a fabulous stretch of twisty tarmac, with the added bonus of cliff top views, vast ocean panoramas, crashing waves on white sandy beaches and giant redwood trees, oh and enormous tectonic fault lines. After a couple of hours of joyful riding I stopped for a look at the San Andreas Fault at Point Reyes. It’s hard to envisage this gentle ruler straight valley, with sheep grazing on pastures in wooded glade being the source of lethal earthquakes. But it is. And when you look you can almost see the two tectonics plate straining against each other, just waiting to jolt. The other reminder of how serious geology can get is the square blue signs with a stick man running away from a wave marking the Tsunami Evacuation route. This way to higher ground. Because you don’t want to run in the wrong direction.
There is a lovely campground here, sheltered and sunny and I thought about stopping, but you know how it is. It was only late afternoon and I’m loving the ride. So back on the bike and head north. It is amazing how sparsely populated Californiais, even along the coast. Now Route 1 heads inland for a stretch. It is still lovely, but I start to feel the cold a bit. Then back towards the coast and I reach the brilliantly named Bodega Bay. I’m famished, but I want to pitch my tent before it gets dark. A bit of searching on Google Maps and I spot a campground with a stunning location on Doran Spit. My only concern is that it is really blowing a gale and this spot is quite exposed. It is really early season here – and there is hardly anyone at the campground. I find a site behind a tree and pitch up in the sandy ground right near the beach.
My new tent is very impressive – very small and light, but with an innovative (and slightly complicated) pole design that makes it very spacious for the pack size. Takes me a while to get it right, but once you know what you are doing it is very straightforward. Beautiful. Now for food. I just hope the tent hasn’t blown away by the time I get back.
The guy at the campsite kiosk recommended the local fish and chips, which sounded perfect. So after a detour via the headland to watch the sunset, and clambering around on the rocks trying to get a perfect picture while huge waves crashed, I arrived at a very simple fish and chip shop called the Boat House. The food was made fresh but quickly and served with salt and vinegar – what is not to love? The fish was battered in small chunks, and the chips were crisp but greasy. I’m reading California novels on the trip too. And so it is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck with my tea.
The tent is still there when I get back but the wind has picked up, and I fear it could be a noisy night. But I am clearly knackered and fall straight to sleep.