The Home Stretch

August 5, San Francisco Odometer: 944.4 miles

View of the Pacific Coast near Elk, CA

The last few hundred miles ride down the California coast has confirmed my connection to cycle touring. I’m getting stronger while losing weight slowly. I have also learned a bit about where to stay. Hiker/Biker sites are available in many, but not all State Parks. This is where many cyclists are sharing a single campsite. They do not require a reservation. Cyclists or Hikers arrive and share a single site. This is not at all preplanned. This is the core of the cycle touring world, as I understand it.

The people you meet here are what connects me to this mode of travel. I’ve met a Ph.D. Student and his three year old daughter traveling by tandem on a ten mile overnight. Another father daughter tandem team, Charles and Gabby, I spent several days with. Traveling over hundreds of miles together. This is their annual trek down the coast. They knew which are the best campgrounds. They had friends in Sea Ranch, CA who fed and entertained us then put us up for a night. I definitely benefitted from their hot tub.

Stoker position for a 3yr old.
Charles likes to tell stories. He has a good relationship with Gabby, his athletic 16yr old daughter

Traveling together over several days creates a bond, these bonds form networks. Here some of the travelers are northbound, some are southbound. As a loosely formed group, we southbounders can travel together over days and hundreds of miles. We can get to know each other. A group can add or subtract members as we do not all travel at the same speed, or stay at the same place. Reunions are good. We compare notes on where we’ve stayed. Get a wider knowledge.

Of the northbounders, I only get a glimpse. We interact only at one meeting. We can exchange knowledge on what lies ahead. Smoke from a distant Oregon fire was of concern to the northbounders. I had seen some of it, but not much to worry about.

I met Steve, a high school teacher from Portland. I was explaining my plan of meeting up with two Belgians near the end of the trip, but that they were a day or so behind us, which I had determined by emails we were sending. Steve was certain he had met them earlier on, as they had told him of their plans to meet me. As the Belgians got closer, I got a few updates from southbounders that had seen them.

Steve leaning on an exhibit at the mountain bike museum in Fairfax

I got to the final campground at Samuel P. Taylor State Park on August 3, and realized that I had arrived there a day earlier than I had agreed to meet the Belgians. They were not behind, I was ahead. Oops! Ok, this is an easy problem to correct.

The next morning I dropped my panniers in the bear locker of the campground with a note that said I would be back to collect it latter that day. My plan was to escort Steve out to the Golden Gate Bridge, then return to S P Taylor to stay a second night and meet the Belgians. It all worked.

Hein and Wouter (left to right) at the same exhibit one day later

Wouter and Hein are now my guests, staying at my place in San Francisco. When they return to Europe on August 8th, I plan to be on the same plane, starting my European tour. So, we joke that they are training me to be European. When I asked how long this would take, they pointed out that the British worked on this for many decades without having much luck.

I am very lucky to find these two. They have been touring Europe and Asia for decades. No kidding, dozens of trips. Though they both have full time jobs in Belgium, they can go on extended tours of months at a stretch. In one case it was one year continuously. Things like the details of prepping a bike for air travel is all second nature.

They are careful to point out differences in European travel. For instance, campgrounds in Europe do not have picnic tables. It would be best to carry a folding camp chair, because of this. Or, in Europe there are not meals with all ingredients in one box, like American mac & cheese, or a can of chili. It would be best if I could travel with them in Europe for a while and learn more. Unfortunately, they will need to go back to their jobs.

When we got close to the Golden Gate Bridge, it became clear that it would be a foggy crossing. This is not dangerous, just not very memorable. I pointed out that they could get a better crossing by taking a ferry from Sausalito. For these two, the thought of not crossing the bridge was not to be considered.

Tim and Wouter prepare for a foggy crossing of the GG Bridge

I get it that when your friends ask, ‘Did you cross the Golden Gate?’. The answer had better be yes, even if it was kind of a dull crossing. The following day, we did a walking tour of San Francisco that was more fun and less fog.

Wouter and Hein board a vintage street car at Castro Station

In the afternoon, we met up with my cycling buddies at The Zeitgeist pub in SOMA. Beer, tall tales of past victories, and failures, some good natured ribbing, as well as some commiserating on the issues of dealing with an aging body. Jim Kern said something I really liked. ‘The process of aging is not for wimps. Get with the challenge or just go home’.

It was a good welcome home and send off for me. It has been a long time since we all got together. I have nothing further to write, and I have to finish packing up my stuff for the flight to Amsterdam tomorrow…

Beer at the Zeitgeist in San Fran. Clockwise from the lower left: Wouter, Tim, Chris Eisenbarth, Graham Pollock, Jim Kern, Hein

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