Friday, April 27, 2012

(Bike) Tour the Bay Area

Don't wait to go cross country, go overnight, says Bike Overnights. A long bike tour is my dream vacation. A day will dawn, when I will ride the open road in front me over thousands of miles. But until then, I will have be content with overnight bike tours on weekends.
The SF Bay Area is blessed with gorgeous scenery and pleasant climate that make many bike tour options possible.

I wrote about my first bike tour, Santa Cruz – Monterey – Carmel, last labor day weekend, which was published in Bike Overnights. This route takes you through the farmland and sand dunes of central CA coast. Public transit is available from SJ to Santa Cruz and from Monterey to SJ. It is generally a good idea to go south as the winds tend to be from the north. Veterans park campsite is the best option for a night stop on this trip.

SF to Santa Cruz is a fine touring option too. We started at the SF Caltrain station and followed the waterfront, first due west and then south till we hit Hwy 1, which takes you all the way to Santa Cruz.
The trip is about 90 miles. We stopped for the night at Pigeon Point lighthouse hostel, a fun and affordable place right by the ocean. The hot tub overlooking the ocean is pretty sweet. The hostel has a fully furnished kitchen where you can cook your meals. It's a great place to meet other fun people. And the elegant white lighthouse on a the rocky coast makes for a postcard picture. The scenery along the route, as with all of coastal CA, is beautiful. Farmland, small towns, hills, dunes and beaches. And Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, with its delicious food and honor payment system is a must visit. Don't forget to catch some surfers in action near the lighthouse in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz to SJ bus service is a convenient connection to the south bay to complete the loop.

The SF – Bodega Bay – SF tour takes your through the rolling hills and farms of Marin and Sonoma counties. We headed north through Fairfax and Nicasio, east of Three Peaks in Marin county.
I loved the cozy and rustic feel of the small towns in Marin County. It is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area. Cows and sheep grazing on the verdant hills make it perfect picture. A stretch of road through a redwood forest calms the soul. We camped at Doran City Park, a basic but comfortable campsite that has showers. The next day, we headed south along Hwy 1 until Stinson Beach, took the Panaromic Hwy to cut across east to Mill Valley and onto SF. The ride along Tomales Bay and Bolinas lagoon is quite spectacular. And the Panoramic Hwy needs to be given due respect for challenging every muscle and sinew in my body. All in all, a hundred and fifty miles of unending bliss.

Soak in the wine country as you pedal through the storied vineyards of the world famous Napa Valley.
Our tour started with a trip on a ferry from SF to Vallejo. We then headed north towards Napa and hit the Silverado Trail. Miles and miles of bright green vineyards, interspersed with beautiful wineries. Bothe-Napa SP makes for a good stop for the night. It has a hiker/biker site and all facilities. Day two took us east over the hills into Santa Rosa. Hop on a Golden Gtae transit bus to get to SF. This 65 mile trip is great way to see one of the most famous wine producing regions in the world.

Big Sur, a bit of heaven on earth. I had blogged about the Big Sur bike tour with Almaden Cycling and Touring Club. I didn't do this ride as a self supported bike tour. It might be a little too strenuous to bike this loop on a fully loaded bike. But the brave souls who take this one on, will be duly rewarded. Big Sur is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Take it all in at the relaxed pace of a bike ride.

Some useful tips for aspiring bike tourists. Map your ride using Ride with GPS. This website gives elevation profiles of your route. Your pace will be much slower on a hilly terrain as compared to a flat one. Also check for wind directions as a strong headwind is like a continuous uphill not followed by a downhill. Gear includes a touring bike (or a road bike with a metal frame), panniers, tools and camping gear. I have a Novara Safari touring bike with Ortileb panniers. Go discover the Bay Area, one weekend overnight trip at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment