If our last ride was dedicated to avoiding the heat, this one embraces it; it's a final hurrah to summer, taking in some spectacular coastline and a lot of sunshine.
Distance: 40 miles
Route map: http://goo.gl/maps/8ExE1
Strava version: http://app.strava.com/rides/19092646
Good and Bad News
I'm not going to lie: this ride is not for everyone. There is a lot of climbing to do; we reach the ranger station at 1,500 ft. Large portions of the climbs are exposed; Steep Ravine and Shoreline Highway are treeless. Weather near the beach can be hot by San Franciscan standards. There are cars; weekenders in convertibles will be zipping past us while we struggle up the hills. And to top it all off, the only public restrooms at the beach are, well, public restrooms at a beach; they're gross.
Despite all that, this ride highlights the variety in California terrain: we'll start off in the fog, descend into pleasant weather, climb up through a forest, descend to a beach, climb up seaside cliffs covered in chaparral, and then return to our shrouded city. There are several beautiful vistas, at least one long glorious descent, and hopefully, a decent lunch in the middle. And as always, this isn't a race; there's no minimum pace, and we'll take things as fast as we can while having fun.
- We'll cross the bridge and head through Mill Valley, stopping at the Old Mill Park for a quick breather.
- We'll head up to the Four Corners via Marion, which is our first steep climb. It's a residential neighborhood covered in trees, and is very quiet.
- The tree cover evaporates as we take Edgewood and Panoramic. The climb gets more brutal here, as we work our way past the various Mt. Tam trailheads. We'll take breathers as necessary, or as convenient to enjoy the views - it's called "Panoramic Highway" for a reason.
- Eventually we end up in the forests of Mt. Tam. You are rewarded for your climbing efforts with an uninterrupted 10-minute descent down to the beach. The cars can't even keep up.
- We'll stop and have lunch in Stinson Beach. More on that below.
- We climb out along the scenic cliffsides near Steep Ravine. This is classic California Coast, with dry scrub tumbling abruptly into the ocean via sharp cliffs. Again, we're exposed to the elements, and the climbs aren't fun, but the views are great.
- All that work gets thrown out the window, because we end up descending back to sea level by Muir Beach.
- We begin the totally un-scenic climb out on Shoreline Highway, which is my least favorite part of this ride, but hey, whatcha gonna do?
- Finally, we re-join the Mill Valley-Sausalito path, and return to SF.
- Bring sunscreen - even if it's foggy at the bridge, it'll likely be sunny on the ride.
- Bring two water bottles - there are plenty of places to fill up on the way in, but once we pass Stinson, we're dry until we climb back into Mill Valley.
- Bring snacks - climbing takes a lot of energy. Don't run out.
- Be one with traffic - find your zen spot that lets you ignore the two-ton steel beasts rumbling by a few feet to your left. Don't ride abreast and do check over your shoulder.
Stinson Beach can be cramped, but The Lunch Box seems to be able to handle it fairly well. They serve a decent array of salads and sandwiches around the $8 price range. We can eat there, but they don't have restrooms; we'll have to use the facilities at the park next door.
If you have dietary restrictions, or otherwise want to pack stuff that you can't carry yourself, contact me. I am happy to accommodate your stuff in my panniers.
- Convene at the GGB plaza, in front of the Bridge Cafe.
- Look for this guy.