On the Road With the Bearded Bikers (Part 4)
Part 4 of an autobiographical, collaborative 10-speed odyssey from Seattle to Frisco undertaken by my dad and his friend in their late teens.
“We’ve Got a Small Problem Here” (Fortuna to San Francisco)
Day Fourteen, Wednesday, July 5th
It was a wonder we could even stand up the next morning, considering the amount of sleep we were able to get.
First there were the animals. All through the night, I kept waking up to the sound of mice rustling past my ears. The fish were jumping, and the predatory birds were going after the jumping fish. A large bird sat in a tree across the river from us; and for five solid hours, it let out a blood-curdling screech every fifteen seconds — four times a minute, 240 times an hour, for five hours!
The highway noise made a nice background din, but the bird refused to depart in silence until a train roared through at 3 in the morning. It sounded as if the whole mountainside was coming down! At 6, another freight train came by from the opposite direction.
To top things off, the fog and dew came in, so thick that you could feel it falling. We took the tarp from beneath us and threw it over our inert forms, remaining thusly until it was time to pack and leave.
Having a few more crackers and marshmallows we moved on, the famous redwood groves ahead. We rode into Rio Dell and bought breakfast.
The day before, back in the park, the girls had warned us of the large hill outside Scotia. The hill we encountered took us five minutes to climb. This experience answered a question we had had in our minds: Whether or not they were out of their minds.
Some fast miles brought us to another stretch of freeway. We stopped once to check a map of the upcoming sights. There was still some doubt in our minds on whether we should take the freeway or the Avenue of the Giants.
Not really caring how far we travelled this day, we cruised along at an easy 10 mph pace. The first exit for the Avenue of the Giants came up, but we didn’t take it. Suddenly there is front of us, though, was a sign reading: No Bicycles Allowed On The Freeway.
Then we understood. When there were no other roads to travel on, one could use the freeway. When there were alternate roads, one had to stay off the main highway.
The change in noise was fantastic, but nice. We pedaled along in silence, no cars daring to disturb our solitude.
While we were stopped at one tourist attraction, we met two guys from North Seattle who were also speeding to S.F. We traded some humorous anecdotes and then continued, sure we would never see them again.
It was Steven who suggested we stop at Redcrest and send home a few postcards. When we had finished writing them, we realized that we didn’t know the zip code for the California town. Asking the lady, she pointed to the wall behind us; and in big white letters was the zip code, plain as day!
On and on at a leisurely pace we traveled, observing wonder after wonder. We came up with a strange paradox: It was a real shame, we said, that people breezed by on the freeway and missed the quiet splendor of the redwoods. But of course, if everyone traveled on the road we were using, we’d have to fight the traffic and no one would enjoy the sights then, anyway. Oh well…
It was now just after noon, and we had been riding along an inviting river for several miles. It was too beautiful to pass up. Going down at the first opportunity, we went for a swim. The water was marvelously warm, and we lolled around like the tunas we are.
“Oh damn!” I yelled suddenly. “I forgot to take my wallet out of my pocket!”
Jumping out, I laid the wallet’s contents on the hot rocks to dry. When they had, I shoved the wallet into my pant let of my jeans and went back to swim.
Later, after washing away our cares, we crawled out of the river like two walking catfish; and without drying off, jumped on our bikes and rode, letting the wind dry our bodies.
Stopping in Miranda, we checked out a shop advertising redwood burls. Figuring a shop putting up a sign that weird might possibly have a Handee-Dandee Bullshit Grinder in its possession, we went inside. When we came out again, we knew a burl was a small ball of roots from a redwood tree, and realized that finding the HDBSG was going to be a little difficult.
Passing through Phillipsville, we hit the end of the Avenue of the Giants and were on the freeway once again. We had gone about three miles down it, when I suddenly knew why my conscience had been bothering me for the past hour.
“Oh shit!” I screamed, clapping my hand over my back pocket, “I’ve lost my wallet!”
We stopped and pieced the story together.
When we’d stopped to swim, I’d put my wallet in the leg of my jeans. After we’d gotten out of the water, I hadn’t put on my long pants again (remaining in my cut-offs). As we rode down the road, the wallet must have fallen out of the pants (which were strapped onto the head of the bike) without my knowledge. I checked a map.
“And that was 15 miles and two hours ago!” I sighed. “I figure it’s too late and too damned far to go back for it.”
“How much was in it?” asked Steve.
Having taken the contents out to dry, I knew without even thinking hard. “Three, ten-dollar traveler’s checks, $14 in cash, and all my identification,” I moaned.
“I’d call that a spot of bad luck, but not as bad as it seems.”
“How do you figure, Steve?”
“Well, the checks can be replaced when we hit a bank,” he told me, “and the cash was most of the gift from your grandfather. And the I.D., well…”
But I remained inconsolable. At a death-march pace, We lugged up a hill into Redway and stopped for something to drink. The thermometer outside the store was almost to 100 degrees; and by the chart on the wall, showing past temperatures, we knew it wouldn’t be too much longer until that daily temperature was achieved.
As we walked back towards the beverage section, Steve asked, “Do you have enough money to buy something?”
“Of course!” I snapped, rummaging through my pockets. “Ah, hey Steve…can I borrow a quarter?” I had cashed a traveler’s check earlier in the day, but now I had no small change.
Steve bought me a Doctor Pepper, which tasted like the mood I was in, and we rode on in the rising heat until we reached Garberville.
I still had some cash and sixty dollars in traveler’s checks, so I was not hurting for money. However I did wish to get my missing checks refunded, or at least reported missing. Unfortunately the Bank of America is town was closed, so I was out of luck for that day. Heading out of town, we crossed over the freeway and parked ourselves near the on-ramp.
I just didn’t feel like riding, so we picturesquely held up our ‘South’ sign. The two types of reactions we noted earlier in the quest were still in effect, so oddly enough we didn’t get anyone to stop.
As we were standing there, a car drove by and a passenger inside threw a used sundae out the window. At that point, the vehicle pulled a big U-turn and headed back into Garberville. We stood and gave them a standing ovation for the tactful toss. They were not impressed. Later, they came by again; and as they went onto the freeway, the guy driving gave us the finger out his window.
After a half an hour of no luck, we thought we’d better be continuing. I mounted my speeder and let out a rip-roaring “Gypsies, let’s ride!”; and with that, we were off. Climbing out of Garberville over a much-needed hill, we barreled down past Benbow Lake and the famous Benbow Inn.
The freeway ended, and we rode along a rutty two-lane road paralleling a river. Exhausted and mickle pissed-off, we pulled off the highway and elected to sleep on the river’s bank. An apathetic search revealed a way down, and we settled in for the night.
Once again we were starving, because of our failure to buy something in Garberville. For a bit of excitement, Steve took a wade in the river. The sun fell from the sky like a paralyzed falcon.
“Do you think there are any fungo bats around?” I asked.
“Good question,” said Steve. “I saw one or two yesterday evening. There is one way of finding out, though…”
Picking up a small rock, he flung it out over the river. Sure enough, out of the trees over our heads flew a fungo, following the pebble until it splashed into the slow-moving current.
“If you get a dumb one,” explained Steve, “he’ll sometimes follow it right down into the river.”
We spent the next forty-five minutes trying to bag a sucker fungo that way. Soon however, they began to tire of our little sport and stopped coming.
Sporting my best stereotyped Spanish accent, I called, “Hey fungo…”
“We need something to attract them!” exclaimed Steve, throwing his arms over his head and wiggling his fingers. He whistled a long, flat tweee.
Magically, a fungo swooped out of the tree and buzzed us while we lay in our sleeping bags. Then suddenly another.
“Hey, not too shabby!” I said.
“Of course not! Watch your nose, though, Young’ fungos like to attack noses.” I pulled my sleeping bag up to my eyes.
“Oh wow, “ I cried, “I’ve got a great idea!”
Steve nodded. “What have you got in mind?”
“White wanted a unique gift from California, right? Well, why not bag us a fungo and send it home to him in a plain envelope?”
A look of delight flamed in Rutledge’s eyes. He started the fungo call and picked up a handful of rocks. We waited and waited and waited, a half an hour going by.
“God, my arm has gone to sleep!” I said, and put the rocks down. Just as I did, one of the little mothers flew right in front of us, hovered for a few second, and flitted away. I threw a late shot that missed by quite a distance.
They never showed themselves long enough again for us to get a good shot, so we gave it up and went to sleep.
Jesus! Outwitted by a few fungos!
Day Fifteen, Thursday, July 6th
Steve woke me, explaining that it was past our usual eight o’clock starting time. I shot back, “Hey Steve, pound sand, will you?”
A couple of well-placed pivot kicks roused me from the sanctuary of my warm sleeping bag and out into the coldness of the morning air. Speeders packed, we headed to the nearest town for breakfast. Richardson Grove was the place, where we downed our necessary quart of chocolate milk and a berry pie.
We planned to return to the ocean this day; also, to get onto U.S. 1 and off of 101. Because of my lost traveler’s checks, I wanted to reach San Francisco in three days instead of the four days we had originally counted on. Steve said okay, so we set a faster pace.
The road began to climb away from the river and soon we were quite a distance above it. The view was impressive, the climb was not! Halfway to the summit, we stopped for rest and drink. I opened my canteen, took a big swig, and with a threatening amount of English asked who had put the muskrat in my water. It tasted and smelled as if something had died in it.
By thinking back to the last time I had filled it, we figured the algae in the river had caused the water to sour. My canteen was no good until I could sterilize it, so I bummed a drink from Steve and we continued the upward climb.
Several exhausting and precarious minutes later, we had reached the top. There was a tourist attraction at the summit called Mystery Hill, but we figured the only mystery was why God had put the hill in our way.
We rested a minute, I took a last drink of water, and we continued our tourist-trap hops. The road began to drop, and it was soon afterwards that we entered the city of Leggett — meeting-place for U.S. 1 and U.S. 101
While I downed a snack (guess what?) and checked over my speeder, Steve called to reassure his parents that he was still alive.
As we were coming into Leggett, I had suddenly gotten the feeling my bike was having problems. It felt as if the rear brakes were rubbing. I had looked back, but they seemed to be in order. Nor was the tire going flat. It was a complete mystery. I filled the tire a little fuller and that appeared to solve the dilemma.
With Steve back, we headed west on 1. From the start it was a fast and curvy downhill course. As we blasted along, a sports car tried passing us. After a bit, he managed to squeeze by me; however, he found Steve a harder challenge. Rising to the occasion, Rutledge stayed ahead through several fast curves. The look he received when the car did go by could have dropped a moose at forty paces, but we loved it.
The time for our gaiety was numbered, though as we crossed a bridge and started up a hill. Around each corner we expected to see the top, and around each corner was more disappointment.
We rated the hills on our journey by the number of stops required in getting over them. The monster we were on now turned out to be a five-stop hill (not counting the stops for traffic bumps and reflectors).
“It’s many a long kilo to the big S.F.,” I puffed, as we neared the sierra-like summit. We hoped for an altitude indicator, but no such luck.
We started the downward run after a breath-catching rest, sure the ride would be a wild one. It was!
We were jetting down our lane of traffic when a car went by us. Not to be outdone, we pulled within spitting distance of the vehicle’s rear bumper. The woman driving looked in her mirror, spotted us, and tried to pull away. No dice — Steve and I could do better through the corners and thus kept up. Every time the woman made a move, we stuck like glue to her bumper. We realized that this wasn’t the safest thing we could be doing; but after all the hassles we had suffered from the hands of maniacal drivers, who was going to blame us for what we were doing?
Actually, the only incident which could have been serious was when Steven took a corner too fast and had to swing into the other lane of traffic. Had there been a car coming around, Rut would have been dead meat for sure.
Finally, the road flattened out and the car moved too far ahead of us to validate trying to catch it. We figured we must be in a valley, since the road and hill hadn’t gone far enough to take us to the ocean. We sincerely hoped the valley would continue down to the Pacific, so we wouldn’t need to climb another hill.
Again though, our luck failed. The road rose, and we climbed and climbed. Although not as bad as the first hill, we were much more tired, and the rise was not so easily as a hill that size should have been.
A fun time was awaiting us on the other side, though. Again the road dove downward, and again we pulled behind a vehicle: this time a truck. Staying on the truck’s bumper, we got the driver so pissed that he tried passing the car in front of him. By doing so, he almost became a second party to a head-on collision; so we dropped back just a bit; far enough back so as not to be suspicious, but close enough to show that all bikers weren’t going to take guff!
Then, with a burst of light and speed, we broke out of the hills and there was the ocean again. Tearing down the sloping grade with no hands on the handlebars, we gave each other “five”. There would be a few drivers who would think twice in the future before they hassled another ten-speeder!
To our obvious delight, the wind was blowing out the north; and we cruised along above the pounding surf. It was like coming out into another world, because in the mountains we had not seen a single biker. Now they were all over the place, including such diversified ones as the tandem ten-speeder that passed us. Our sympathies went out to the tunas heading north, though, because of the winds we were so familiar with.
About ten miles farther found is in Westport, where we stopped to rest and eat. We met two people from San Francisco and got talking to them. Their car had had a flat tire, and their two companions had gone to get it repaired. As it happened, they came back just as we were talking about them; and they pulled out, amidst a flurry of honking and waving, after easily replacing their tire.
Again we were back to our up-one-side-and-down-the-other style of riding. Nothing can outdo the California coastline, though so the ride was worth it, in regards to the scenery. Sixteen of these scenic miles brought us to Fort Bragg. It was now getting to be late in the afternoon; we were tired and just a bit grumpy. At a gas station, we used the facilities and then worked over the speeders.
We both tightened the forks on our bikes, and I told Steve about my speed losses. It had happened again: not only near Leggett, but at the bottom of the first hill on the way to the ocean. Steve confessed that he couldn’t figure out why I would be losing speed, so I trusted the bike to hold up and on we went.
Looking for a place to sack out, we were hoping for a spot on the beach — like Orick and Dry Lagoon. Riding all of seven swift miles-per-hour, we traveled several miles before we spotted a likely turnoff. As we went along, there was a sign saying that were heading towards some Fuchsia Gardens. In my weariness (will they buy that?) I pronounced it ‘Fusion Gardens’.
Our likely turnoff didn’t lead anywhere, so we went back to the main highway. We did this several times, never able to find a suitable site to spend the evening. One of our off-road tours led us through the town of Caspar, which we found to be another haven for artists (as many coast towns were). Standing in downtown Caspar, we scoped a place to stay on the other side of a gorge. Regaining the highway, we crossed a bridge and Russian Gulch and found a campsite on the bluff. There was a beautiful and inspiring view, and we could see up the coast for miles.
This spot had several campsites, of which only ours was in use. We set up camp and then relaxed by reading. We took a walk around and through a neighboring graveyard, before hunger suddenly beset us. Lighting a fire, we cooked the wieners for all of ten seconds before descending upon them like a pack of crows.
As the sun set, Steve and I sat watching. That was 11 minutes of our life well spent, for it was a beautiful sunset. Unfortunately Steve had run out of film for his camera, so the view was not recorded for permanent pleasure. The sun sank into the Pacific with a splash of light and brisk, chilly wind came up. We climbed into our sleeping bags, the fire dying out into red cinders. Finding niches among the rocks, we both dropped into deep sleep.
We had not been asleep for much more than an hour, when we were disturbed by new campers coming in for the night. A car rounded the corner at a fast clip, and the driver very nearly didn’t notice us lying on the ground. Squeezing our eyes shut in anticipation, we listened as the vehicle just missed us. Then we dropped back into an uneasy slumber.
Day Sixteen, Friday, July 7th
I finally decided to get up. Even though it was only 8, Steve had been up for some time. Sitting up, I wrapped my arms around my knees and remarked, “What the hell is all this?”
“Oh I wish I had some film. That’s a classic pose of a dejected person if I ever saw one!” Steve took a mock picture of my dejection and then went to find some bushes.
The morning was slightly foggy, but we paid it no mind as we packed and moved out. Having no food left from our ravenous attack the night before, we were going to stop for breakfast at the first town. Today was going to be a big day, for we needed to put on many a kilo if we were going to make our three-day deadline to S.F.
After climbing out of the valley we had slept in, we came slowly downhill into the quaint, little town of Mendocino. Mendocino sits out on a small peninsula; and when viewed from the surrounding hills, the white-colored houses are a pleasing contrast to the blue ocean. It was another artist’s town, and we found it one of the nicer stops on our journey.
The store and most of the businesses opened about 20 minutes after we arrived. Of course, we had our chocolate milk and berry pies. Steve bought some film and then we pulled out, on the road yet another time.
“Let’s go, Sam,” I said.
“Right on, Master Frodo!” returned Rutledge.
On and on we rode, the miles blending into one huge spear on our memories. The road was not unlike the Monterey Peninsula: Up one side and…
One thing that would happen was this: You would be riding along, happy as a clam, and you could see the road out in front of you. Then a sign would point directly left and the highway would drop out from beneath you. There would be a little canyon — only a quarter of a mile across — but the Highway Department wouldn’t put up a bridge across it. Instead, a road would be run downhill and inland until the bottom of the canyon was reached. Then the road would climb up the other side until it was even with the original level of the highway. These sudden detours played havoc with our average speed, our time, and our patience.
We stopped in Elk to rest, eat, and relieve ourselves (not necessarily in that order, of course). Checking the map, we figured that our speed was up to what we had expected to be doing. I had yet to find a Bank of America open when I was around, so, on we went — next stop, Point Arena. As we pedaled the 19 miles to Point Arena, I did some quick calculating. Steve asked what was on my mind.
“Well,” I told him, “our average speed on this trip has been about ten miles-per-hour, right?”
“About that,” he said.
“All right, then,” I dictated. “When Jim Ryan runs his four-minute miles, he’s doing about 15 mph. That means he’s going 5 mph faster than we are!”
“Does Jim Ryan go 80 to 100 miles a day?” Steve asked.
He was right, but it didn’t make me feel I was going any faster. The miles to Point Arena went by without anything else happening to make the reader marvel. After all, every mile can’t be a thrill a minute. This story is already too unbelievable as it is.
By the time we reached Point Arena, we were firmly convinced that the distance between Fort Bragg and Point Arena was only ten miles as the crows fly. But with all the curves and switchbacks, the mileage ended up the 30 miles the map showed.
We sat outside the local store eating our usual, and Steve propositioned a truck driver for some fresh produce. (No, I’m not going to try explaining that!) Anyway, I was just taking a big slug of chocolate milk when Steve slugged my arm — causing me to suddenly look like a Roman fountain.
“What?!” I sputtered.
“Look! A Bank of America” he explained. We took off for the establishment.
And were we two sights to behold! Neither of us had really washed since the time in the river; we had not had a comb for several days; and the grease and grime on our bodies could have been used for camouflaging tanks. Looking like a couple of war refugees, we walked into the bank and up to the counter.
The girl working behind that counter looked up and asked if she could help us. (!) Steven, flashing one of his more moronic grins, stepped up and said, “We’ve got a small problem here…,” and left me to do the talking.
Small problem, indeed. Well, my problem was small, compared with the one the girl was about to receive. I quickly explained the loss of my wallet and traveler’s checks. She took out a form, and with pen poised asked, “Now, where did you lose your checks?”
By this time we could not remember, so Steve went out and retrieved our map. “Okay,” the girl asked, after we told her the approximate location of my loss. “What were the numbers of the missing checks?”
“Ah…er…,” I stammered. “that’s the problem: I don’t know which checks I cashed and which ones I lost.”
This stumped the teller for a few moments, but then she jotted down the first three serial numbers of the checks in the series I had on my receipt.
“Okay,” she said, “do you have any identification?”
I explained that all my I.D. had been lost with my wallet. The girl then told me I would have to fill out a special form, and off she went to get it. She came back with a perplexed look on her face.
“I don’t seem to have that form here right now,” she told me. “If you could come back tomorrow, I’m sure we’d have it then.”
We explained that we were on bikes. That sent her into a tizzy. “Well then,” she said, “we’ll just have to call the president!”
Steve and I exchanged knowing glances, and Steve went out to check on the speeders. A few minutes later, the bank’s president stood before me, scratching his head.
He said, “I really don’t know what to do. I guess you can just issue him the checks; and if there are any problems, we can take care of them later.”
The teller began filling out the form. She couldn’t seem to understand the legal mumble-jumble and where certain figures were supposed to go.
“I’ve never done this before,” she told me, exasperated. “Nobody ever loses his traveler’s checks!”
“Nobody ever loses them like I do,” I said helpfully.
“If there’s any problem, I’ll pay it out of my own pocket,” the girl said. I gave her my address and told her to write me if there was. Then I left. I had been in the bank for just over 45 minutes.
Steve, in the meantime, had been talking to a couple of chicks who were heading north from San Francisco on speeders. When they had asked Steve what we had been eating, he told them chocolate milk and berry pies. They were mickle sick to their stomachs.
We took off, going as far as the first gas station, where we cleaned up. When we had, we headed south in one of our best moods of the quest. We felt good enough, in fact, to cover the next 15 miles in one half-hour. The road was the same, but our pace wasn’t. Hill after hill fell before the speeding onslaught of our bikes.
Climbing out of another switchback, we entered Anchor Bay. We stopped to use their local facilities and then continued south, to chalk up as many miles as possible before sundown. But our spirituous riding had worn us down, and our pace slowed. We breezed through Gualala and continued down the coast.
As we rode, we noticed the hillsides were dotted with houses resembling unpainted barns. By their shape, we knew that they were new; but the color somehow gave us the feeling the houses had long since met their maker. This was Sea Ranch Estates, a sign told us. Steve took several photos of the ‘futuristic’ houses as the next eight miles went by.
“Look,” I said, “there’s another one!”
As it turned out, this one really was a barn. Steve took a shot of it for comparison and on we pedaled.
It was nearing the end of the day, so we began looking for somewhere to stay. However, all the land on either side of the highway was government-owned and had signs posted stating: No Trespassing.
“Let’s stop in the next town for food,” said Steve.
I checked our map. “That’ll be Stewarts Point.”
We had gone the right distance to get us there. Barreling down a hill, I spotted the store off to the right. Yelling to Steve, who was in the lead, I pulled off. Steve kept going down the hill, though. I sat down, awaiting his return; and several minutes later, he puffed back up the slope. Livingston, I presume?
We bought more wieners and went on. Passing several spots where one could picnic, but not camp, the next 11 miles went by. Then, as we came around a corner, we saw a sign telling of an upcoming state park — Salt Point. Pouring over our map, we could find no sign of any park by that particular nomenclature. We did pull though.
There was a real turkey working as a ranger, which was not all that surprising. He informed us that there were no campsites left, with running water or electricity. But, he said, we could stay on the bluff near the ocean, for a reduced rate — but with no facilities.
We took it anyway and headed down to the ocean. When we saw where we would have to camp, we were mickle unimpressed. Looking back up the hill, off to the left, we spotted a small stand of trees. Packing our bikes up the slope, we camouflaged them in the grove, setting up camp around them. We had to be careful to conceal ourselves and speeders because there were signs all over saying that there was to be no camping away from the designated camping areas.
Where we were staying there were the remnants of an earlier fire — which was also forbidden. The wind was blowing so hard, anyway, that we couldn’t get a flame kindled, so out came the campstove. This proved to be a mistake, also, for the wind blew the gas smell onto our food. We ate cold wieners that night.
After dinner, Steve took leave of our shelter to nab a couple of sunset photos. As we sat talking about the past, the present, and the future, the sun went down and things quieted. Voices were carrying easily on the wind.
One of the mysteries surrounding our friendship was just where Steve and I first met each other. We figured it had to be back in junior high school, but we weren’t sure. For some sordid reason, the conversation turned to school. I made a passing reference to something I had done in my eighth-grade Language Arts class. Then it clicked — Steve was the guy that had helped me do it! We both had had the same L.A. class, and there we had met!
The campers far below us must have been wondering what was going on when the following floated down on the breeze: “Hey, all right, Rut! Give me five!”
Our beds turned out to be sloped downward at about forty-five degrees, and all night I had to keep crawling back up the hill (which wasn’t too easy with my lower torso shrouded in a sleeping bag!)
The stars were shining bright, promising a beautiful tomorrow.
Day Seventeen, Saturday, July 8th
Today was the big day: San Francisco by sundown! We were up at our usual eight o’clock.
“Stay down!” Steve hissed. “Ranger!”
We watched the truck pass by, pick up the garbage and return to the upper level.
“Let’s go,” Steve said, and we quickly packed our bikes. Checking for suspicious characters, we started won the hill to the road. We were about halfway there when the ranger’s truck came back down the hill.
Steve just stood there and I fell against the slope, trying to make like I was admiring the scenery.
It seemed almost too much to hope that the ranger hadn’t seen us, but he continued down. We doubled it to the road. Just when it seemed that we would make good our escape, the truck pulled to a stop beside us. Resigned, we stood ready to meet our doom.
This guy seemed willing to fortify our opinion of most rangers: “Ah, you guys were up on the hill, weren’t you?” he asked.
“Duh! Oh? No kidding! Really? Do say! No!?”
He gave us a long lecture and asked us if we would ever do such an evil deed again. We told him no; anyway, we would be Frisco by the end of the day.
Nodding, he turned to go. Steve, however, had throw in one parting shot. “Oh! By the way,” he said politely, “there are the remains of a campfire up there — not ours, of course!”
We rode off, leaving a very dumbfounded ranger to think over his life. Regaining the highway, we started towards Fort Ross and breakfast. When we reached there, though, we found that the store didn’t open until 10. That was too long to wait, so I glanced at our map. The next town was Jenner: ten twisting miles away.
And what a long ten miles they were! The mountain we climbed over didn’t help, of course. We rose higher and higher, until Point Rayes shimmered far on the horizon. The summit was finally topped and we cruised down the other side.
During part of our downhill race, we hit a run of road that cut back seven or eight times on itself, as it brought us down into a valley. On our way down, we flashed past a painter at the side of the road; and at the bottom, when we looked back up the slope, he was only a colorful splash against the brown landscape.
As we were entering beautiful Jenner-by-the-sea, I eyed two other bikers loading their speeders into the back of truck. For a moment I didn’t recognize them; but then I remembered the Seattle bikers we had met in the Redwoods. We had met again, after all! We had our breakfast, despite the storekeeper who wouldn’t cash our traveler’s checks.
Heading over the Russian River, we plowed into a strong headwind, as we climbed out of the valley. Luckily, the wind was only blowing below, and we continued on un-hassled. Off in the distance, Point Reyes beckoned us on: for we knew San Francisco was just beyond.
Near Ocean View, we ran into several groups of antique car buffs, who were motoring to Seattle for the annual auto show. When we found they were from Frisco, we inquired into the state of the upcoming roads.
“Curvy,” they replied; “San Francisco will not be gained unless you go over some large hills.”
We thanked them for their great news and pulled out. I informed Rutledge that our next rest stop was Bodega Bay.
“Bodega Bay?” quizzed Steve. “I thought that only happened in the movies.” We stopped at a store in town and guzzled several cans of soft drinks. Our pace had been good this morning.
We went past the Bodega Bay Boat Basin and kissed the ocean goodbye for the next forty-seven miles. For some moronic reason (maybe it wasn’t moronic to a Californian), the Highway Department chose to run the highway inland for some 17 miles. In straight distance, we figured that their detour caused us to ride an extra seven to ten miles. Not only that, but we had to pedal uphill and into a 25 mph headwind.
As we wound up the valley, side-gusts would literally blow us right off the road and into the drainage ditch. We had a great fear of being blown into the path of a car or truck, but it wasn’t as great as our fear of having a car or truck blown into us. To top all of our sorrows off, our ‘mileage man’ (the mileage meter) kept coming loose and ripping into Steve’s spokes.
But not even these things could slow us down. Seven miles up from Bodega Bay, we hit the turn-around point and entered Marin County — which meant S.F. itself! But, all those things being taken into account, the climax of the entire portion of road was the 1000-mile mark.
One thousand behind us and only 50 ahead!
Marin County is known for its hills, of which we saw many. It also seemed that whichever way we turned, the wind was right in our faces.
There were two things we noticed in abundance, the closer we got to Frisco: ten-speeders and Volkswagons. About three out of every four cars were VWs. Bikes were thick, too — almost as thick as the cars. All the riders had cycling equipment on and they looked very professional. It wasn’t until later that we found out they were training for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.
We stopped in Tomales for something to eat. (God! What a coincidence!) This time I had a slight variation on the chocolate-milk-and-berry-pie fare: I had a strawberry milkshake and a couple of Hostess cupcakes. Somehow we attracted the attention of a tourist, and he came over.
“Hi there, “ he said. “A couple of bikers, I see!”
I smiled through a mouthful of cupcake. Steve did most of the talking to this tuna. We found that he was a ten-speed freak, too, and had taken a trip from Coos Bay to Los Angeles. The only differences were: there were 23 other people with him, they stayed in motels, and they always had a car behind them, carrying snacks and spare parts.
Then he asked about our trip. He seemed impressed by the fact that we were from Seattle. He asked us how and where we slept, what we ate, and so on; and then he went into a long-winded spiel about the 250 miles he rode during each day of his tour. I watched an empty Budweiser Beer can being blown down the dusty street by the ever-increasing wind.
His voice broke into my dreaming. “…and you’re not even wearing protective helmets!” I asked why we should.
He answered. “Well, we lost two guys in L.A. — hit by a truck! The two guys without helmets were killed, while the others involved escaped with only minor injuries.”
He made it sound so interesting, just like a war: “We lost two more men today, sir, but the war is going well!” We let him ramble on.
“And you haven’t got riding shoes, either. Boy! You guys really are roughing it!
That’s right, fella!
We talked for a few more minutes and then pulled out. We were becoming a bit behind our planned schedule. And the wind, it seemed, wanted to keep us that way. Several times it blew so hard that we were stopped dead in our tracks. Finally, though, we beat through to Tomales Bay.
Something had sure gone wrong with the weather here, because there was fog along the water and the temperature was around fifty degrees. Despite the lack of heat I found myself trying to sweat, probably we figured, because I had not had much water intake since my canteen had passed away. To relieve this uncomfortable situation, I stripped to the waist and so allowed myself to be air-cooled. It worked, but some of the stares I received!
Down the bay we went: through Marshall and into the town of Point Reyes Station. A swift check of our map showed only 30 miles remaining until San Francisco, and much to our surprise, it was only three o’clock. For the first time, I really began believing that we were going to reach S.F. before sundown.
Continuing on, the road began to become hilly, as we climbed away from Tomales Bay. The wind was now at our backs and we cruised along easily. Suddenly, as we passed the southern outskirts of Olema, Steve whipped out his camera and announced that he was going to take an ‘inflight’ photo of me riding along. Coasting down the busy highway and sighting over his shoulder, he clicked the shot. Just in time, too — A V.W. buzzed down the lane a second later!
We continued our upward climb for several additional miles, before the road finally began to slant in a more favorable direction. Passing down the winding highway, we burst upon Bolinas Bay. Pedaling along the bay brought us to Stinson Beach.
Stinson Beach, being one of the ‘in’ places to go for Bay Area residents, was crowded beyond belief. We stopped at a store for one final snack before the push into S.F. While Steve was feeding his face, I took his camera and recorded a realistic picture of him chug-a-lugging his chocolate milk.
To get back at me, Steve recounted what he heard a girl saying to her father: “’Gee, Dad! I want a green ten-speed!’” (Steve’s speeder was green and mine was blue.)
Listen, sweetheart: if you want a green speeder, I can give you a great deal on Rutledge’s!
Finished eating, we headed out of town and quickly rose from sea level to nearly one thousand feet. The road was carved from the hillside, along this stretch, allowing a sweeping view for miles upon miles. After several steep and twisting miles, we succeeded in completing the climb. Looking south — we could hardly believe it! — we sighted San Francisco, glistening whitely in the late-afternoon sun. The road then dropped into a valley and we plummeted downward. At the bottom, we began following the signs towards S.F., faintly hoping that we would not have another climb ahead of us. But climb we did.
The sun was setting. Steve wanted a sunset photo from the Golden Gate Bridge, so, on we pushed: sometimes riding, sometimes walking up another set of rolling hills which someone had the intelligence enough to name Mount Tamalpais.
We cleared the top at last. We were both stripped to near-indecency, but we were still sweating mightily from the unusually hot weather. (The next day, the temperature in Marin County reached a record-breaking 115 degrees!)
We blew down the hill and into Marin City. Coming down the winding switchback road, Steve remarked that the only way he knew I was still behind was by the squealing of my bike’s brakes. We pulled into a gas station for a refreshing pause in the action.
When we pulled out again, we ran into a confusing dilemma: The road we were supposed to take into Sausalito had become part of a freeway exchange. Of course, it was off-limits to bicycles. We rode back to the gas station and tried a different tack. This time we found that our road no longer existed. Again we returned to the station, where the situation had become mickle confusing.
“Now where?” asked Steve.
Poring over my outdated map of Marin County, I said, “I guess there’s only one other way to go — over to the Marin County Heliport.”
Passing beneath the freeway, we headed there. The road panned out at the heliport, leaving a single set of railroad track as the lone trail going south. We were ready to risk a run down the ties when we spotted the path — bike path! It led, we soon discovered, right into downtown Sausalito.
We braved the traffic — both vehicular and pedestrian — and continued down Bridge Way, past the yacht harbor, and Sausalito Point. We stopped and surveyed the San Francisco skyline, blazing white and only a handful of miles away.
After two or three pictures, we continued, trusting ourselves to the bike lanes. Oh yes! Whomever designed those bike lanes must have also designed such other lemons as freeways, reversible lanes, and one-way streets, because following these lanes was much like attempting the FBI agents’ maze test. You’d be going down one side of the street and suddenly the bike lane would be on the opposite side of the thoroughfare. After braving traffic to reach the lane, it would continue for several hundred yards and then appear again on the original side of the street.
We quit Sausalito and its sadistic bike lanes and gained the highway that was supposed to eventually lead Steve and I onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Ahead of us, through was another of the famous ‘No Bicycles’ signs. I quickly consulted the map; the sun was setting, like a curtain on the final act of a play.
“Quick, through the fort!” I exclaimed.
The ‘fort’ was the Fort Baker Military Reservation, a relic from WWII days. One road through the fort took a circuitous route and merged onto the bridge from a different direction than the main highway. After wandering aimlessly along a myriad of nameless streets, we regained the highway and started onto the Golden Gate Bridge.
Finding the pedestrian (western) side of the bridge closed, we picked up our loaded speeders and lugged the motorless mothers under the span, by means of the walkway that someone had thoughtfully built for our arrival. On the eastern side of the structure now, we rode out over the Golden Gate.
When we had reached the middle of the span, we stopped and Steve attempted his picture-taking routine. In resemblance to a picture-postcard scene, a large freighter was steaming into San Francisco Bay. Steve couldn’t take his picture, pleading that the sun was still too bright. Steve and I stood, unmoving, soaking up the splendor, the thrill and the satisfaction of accomplishing our goal. Finally, I broke the silence.
“Well, we’ve made it!”
Steve let out a sigh. He said, “You know, it’s not what I expected.”
“What’s not?” I asked him.
He made a sweeping gesture with his arm. “The bridge,” he said “It’s not even gold!”
One thousand and fifty miles and that was all he could say! Somehow, though, I couldn’t help but feel the same way…
We continued to the toll plaza. By our coming down another pedestrian walkway, we wormed-out of paying the 50 cent toll. As we left the bridge, the clock on a nearby wall clicked to exactly eight o’clock. The next job was to find my Aunt Alice’s house.
We knew that she lived in the Sunset District, near the ocean. It wasn’t going to be hard finding the district; but when I had lost my wallet miles back, I had also lost my list of addresses. I would have to remember where Alice’s was by thinking of the last time I had visited.
Off we went down Lincoln Boulevard, high above Bakers Beach: graveyard for many a ship. Taking 25th Avenue, we soon entered Golden Gate Park. Near Spreckels Lake, Steve suddenly took off, camera in hand, through the bushes. As he returned to his speeder, I calmly informed him that he was under arrest.
“Huh?” he coughed.
“You aren’t supposed to go running wild through the bushes,” I explained. “Oh yeah, by the way! Did you know that San Francisco still has police officers patrolling this park on horses?”
“Really?” Steve said. “Bacon on the hoof, huh?”
If someone could get arrested for stupidity…
We continued through the park and exited on 47th Avenue — the street I know that my aunt lived on. Southward we pedaled. Seven or so blocks later, I proclaimed, “This is it…I think…” Picking a likely looking house, I went up and knocked on the door.
It was a very surprised Aunt who answered the door. “I didn’t expect you two until later next week!” she cried.
We were ushered in and our speeders stowed in the basement. My uncle was awaiting us upstairs; and while we talked to him, Alice went to make us some dinner.
Later, we set up headquarters downstairs. After all of the weird places that we had slept, the cement floor felt strangely comfortable. Steve and I talked over our future plans and then dropped off to sleep with but one thought running through both our minds:
THE BIG S.F. WAS OURS!!