TR: a week's visit to the Bay area from NY
I flew into SFO and rode single for a few days and then Sharon arrived and we rode tandem over Memorial Day weekend, with the aid of a rental car -- and we had a great time.
I’m posting this report as advice for future visitors (including myself on another visit hopefully) -- and so local cyclists can correct any misinpressions, or add more ideas: “Since you liked X, next time you should try Y”.
overall -- Wow, I was very impressed. All our previous trips like this were in western Europe, but northern California lived up to some of our favorite riding in Europe.
seaside -- some of the great “mountains + sea” loops in the world.
* Mill Valley - Panoramic - Stinson - Muir beach + woods loop: we did on Sharon’s first morning (in “full tourist” mode with walking on the sand + waves at Stinson and the rocks of Muir Beach Overlook, walking thru the big redwoods in Muir Woods).
* San Francisco city - Golden Gate park + bridge - Sausalito - Mill Valley - Paradise - Tiburon ferry loop: we rode that afternoon. (bike rentals available in SF, though we started from Mill Valley).
* Carmel - Aguajito Rd - Monterey bike path - 17 Mile Drive (inclu longer Pebble Beach south extension) - Carmel (inclu south beaches) loop: we rode the next day. (bike rentals available)
* Occidental - King Ridge - Meyers Grade - Coleman Valley loop: not ridden by Sharon + me because had too many steep hills when I checked it out by car, but the sea views made me hope I’ll get the chance to ride it myself next time.
The inland portions of these loops were also interesting (e.g. houses in the redwoods of Mill Valley, residential streets in Carmel, inland ridge crest on Meyers grade loop).
* Berkeley - Oakland ridge: world-class water views on Skyline + descending Tunnel Rd. To get up there, I climbed Centennial (with a stop at the Lawrence Hall of Science viewpoint), but I think Spruce to Grizzly might work as a less steep way up to the ridge.
* northwest Marin + southwest Sonoma counties -- some great horse + cow farms. (and I'm a long-time lover of our great farm country riding in the mid-Hudson valley and eastern Pennsylvania, who is almost never impressed by farmland when we ride other regions.)
* Pleasants Valley - Winters - Vacaville loop: horses + cows (also an ostrich), lotsa quiet nice roads, some walnut orchards. Only drawback was the grass was colored yellow-brown instead of green. Not what we’re used to around New York.
wine -- Dry Creek was the best we found. Least interesting for the bicycling itself was Napa valley. (For us what was missing was little side roads paved thru the vineyards like in France)
steep climbs -- some of the best in the world:
* Bohlman + On Orbit: key for me is that the climbing on these very steep roads near Saratoga is interesting, with variations in steepness, and curves -- also some views. lat/long = (37.249546,-122.03933) [descrip on Western Wheelers]
* Marin Ave in Berkeley: Super-challenge made interesting by variations only in steepness (no curves). If only it could be longer. (37.891857,-122.269592) [descrip on Ride Bike]
(also interesting nearby:
. Hicks + Mt Umunhum: Unfortunately it started raining so I turned around at the gate, so I missed out on the highest. Good challenge but not quite as interesting as Bohlman. (37.182031,-121.867175
. Alba Rd: Seemed like the steep + interesting climbing I would enjoy, but it was raining so this time I checked it out only by driving. (37.096881,-122.107201
* San Francisco streets: Ultra-steep challenge, and 5 out of the steepest 9 are close together. I did them around midnight after I got off the airplane and assembled my bike. Steepest I ever climbed -- up to over 30% grade. Glad I did them at night. Progression of steepness . . . started with
* Fillmore St + Webster St (37.794762,-122.435052), then the two
* Jones St blocks (37.800069,-122.415869), and the steepest
* Filbert St (37.800239,-122.418401).
(Finally a victory lap on famous Lombard St curvy steep block next to Filbert.)
alpine climbs --
Sonora Pass was amazing -- in the same league with the famous climbs of Europe for scenery -- dramatic rock formations by the road up the West side -- and riding so soon after the road opened, snowy mountains above. lat/long = (38.324622,-119.751921). And with all the snow around, the (shorter) East side starting from Leavitt Meadows (38.324942,-119.553308) was also great -- the climbing itself perhaps more interesting than the West side.
Exaggeration: Some websites and road signs give rather inflated claims about the steepness of Sonora Pass. I measure the two sustained-steep sections on the west-side road as around 11-14% grade for 350-450 vertical feet each. The two steep sections on the east side are shorter.Too bad Tioga Pass (37.912344,-119.257836) wasn’t open yet this year. It’s such a long drive from San Francisco to Sonora, so it would have been nice to have something else spectacular to do nearby.
Perhaps a bigger difficulty factor is altitude acclimatization: Sonora is higher than any paved-road pass in Europe. But for steepness challenge, the comparable sections of Bohlman + On Orbit in the Bay area are 2-3 times bigger than the steep sections of Sonora.
* Krebs cycle maps : I used North San Francisco Bay + South San Francisco Bay.
* Ride Bike! : route ideas with detailed descriptions
* John Nagiecki and Kimberly Grob book: Road Biking Northern California.
* Undiscovered Country Tours [www.udctours.com] : (website has lots of creative ideas for tours, but for some of them would need to use vehicle support to make them work well)
Actually Sonora pass is a closer drive then Tioga pass in Yosemite.
Probably a better ride anyway since Tioga pass once open the traffic can be bad especially on weekends.
If you do go toward Yosemite, I recommend the killer climb of Old Priest Grade on HWy 120 just west of Groveland. Gives Boleman a run for its money.