Friday was an early morning wakeup in Veterans Memorial State Park high on the hill overlooking downtown Monterey. The day’s itinerary had us riding a mere 45 miles into Santa Cruz for a presentation and lunch with a consulting group called Ecology Action and then a free afternoon to enjoy the beach and bike-friendly glory of Santa Cruz. We rolled up camp and saddled up by 7am for a breezy downhill start. The weather was clear and a bit chilly but generally perfect riding weather. In downtown Monterey we picked up the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail which followed the coast halfway to Santa Cruz. The trail was packed with riders commuting and training in giant peletons. This was a new experience for us to encounter busy bicycle traffic and made the otherwise peaceful path much more exciting! The path ended in California’s strawberry belt, and the rest of the day’s ride took us on farm roads through fields bursting with giant ripe red strawberries and artichokes. A few more miles of riding past sleepy beach towns and we knew we’d arrived in Santa Cruz when bike lanes and cyclists were visible on every street.
|Monterey Bay Coastal Trail|
|Overflowing strawberry fields|
We headed downtown to the office of Ecology Action in time to meet
Kira Ticus, their bike safety specialist, and a group of school kids
that were getting some bike education that morning. We gave an informal
lots of excellent questions, and quizzed the clever group on bike safety
rules of thumb. Ecology Action treated us to a
delicious lunch and Kira led us to the local gourmet ice cream shop
around the corner for Mushroom, Burnt Cinnamon, and Whiskey flavors.
Kira also gave us a recommendation on a great shop to pick up some
artwork to memorialize our trip, so we headed there next. Darlene and
Jeanie already had
designs in mind…
|Penny Ice Cream|
|My turn on the table|
|Darlene getting emblazoned|
But truly the best stop in Santa Cruz was the home of
Joan Leitner and Steve Elston in the sister town of Capitola. If you’re a
loyal reader of this blog you’ll remember Joan and Steve from our
overnight in their airplane hanger in Pahrump, NV. After our second
night with them they were unanimously our favorite hosts of the trip.
Joan and Steve have created an urban oasis on a compact lot a few blocks
from the beach, complete with a beautiful home, spacious patio, hot
tub/sauna/outdoor shower, “bike cave” with a full shop and at least ten
bikes hanging (where five of us girls slept), and lush garden. Our
evening at the bike oasis just kept getting better after we arrived – we
toasted a few Fat Tires, hit the hot tub, settled down on the patio for
salad, grilled artichokes, and sweet potatoes, and then a creative
variety of crispy pizzas began emerging from the wood-fired oven. Greg
McPheeters of the Silicon
Valley Bike Coalition (and a few other bike coalitions) joined us for
dinner and shared some local bike news and stories with us. Joan and
Steve kept the pizzas coming until we were stuffed, and we topped it all
off with some delicious chocolate from Greg. As the night wore on we
were reunited with the team dad and husband Steve, who arrived with
Jane’s great friend from grad school, Jean Hayward. With the whole
finale gang finally present we had a short briefing on the next day
before settling in for the night. What a terrific evening – no better
way to spend our last night together before the big finale ride!
|Hot tub! Had to keep the newly-inked ankle dry...|
|Joan and Steve and PIZZA!|
Saturday morning we awoke to coffee, Joan’s berry
smoothies, and Steve’s blueberry pancakes. Seriously. Amazing. Hosts!
Unfortunately we couldn’t linger long over breakfast but had to get
moving to pack all of our bikes in the van and head out by 8am.
Fortunately though, I hope to pay Joan and Steve and Capitola another
visit sometime soon! We motored about 30 miles up the coast, putting us
only 50 miles from our final destination so that we could stay on
schedule with our growinggroup. We had arranged to meet up with another
repeat team member Peter Schuetz – who rode with us on day 4 in Miami
and was in the Bay Area visiting a friend for the weekend – and to be in
town by 3pm to pick up a few more riders for the final miles. We
started riding from Pescadero State Beach along the Pacific Coast
Highway for another scenic morning through Half Moon Bay to Pacifica.
The only challenge of the morning was a very narrow section of US-1 that
consistently slides off into the Pacific and was under construction as a
tunnel was being finished to replace that stretch. The traffic was
heavy, the road was steep, narrow, and winding, and both sides of the
hemmed in between concrete barriers. It was exciting but we managed to
squeeze through without a major incident. As Darlene had become fond of
saying – “this is extreme sports!”
|RASR with Steve and AJ|
|A perfect weather day|
|Eight tough ladies - Darlene, Steph, me, Chels, Jane, Jean, Kaitlynn, and Joan|
|Joan, Jean, and Kaitlynn cresting a solid climb|
|New tunnels will make riding this section easier!|
Our friend Peter from Miami and his local friend Brian picked up with us right before we stopped for lunch, in the midst of the worst section of road, so we could finally relax and catch up with him when we stopped for lunch. It was really incredible to have so many people with us at the end, and especially folks that had been with us so early on! After a quick bite in Pacifica we continued up the coast and started to hit south San Francisco neighborhoods. We knew we were in the city when we hit our first real "San Francisco hill". A right turn on Skyline Dr had us heading uphill at a steep grade, with each bend in the road it seemed to get steeper. We crested the hill after about a mile at 15% grade and got our first glimpse of the city skyline and the top of the Golden Gate Bridge! With a rare clear, sunny, and warm day in San Francisco the city was packed, and when we turned away from the coast into Golden Gate park we met a new challenge - dodging the weekend crowds. We were so thrilled to be in the city that we just soaked it all in and enjoyed the sights.
|Lunch stop in Pacifica|
|Golden Gate Park|
|The Painted Ladies (houses in the background) overlooking the SF skyline|
We weaved our way down to the bay and met three local bike advocates - Dave Snyder, Executive Director of the California Bike Coalition, and Matt Dove and Brian, Program Director and Educators for the Presidio YMCA's YBike Program. The guys led us for our final 2 official miles of our cross country journey to Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge! It was an emotional finish after more than 5,000 miles to arrive at our final destination, and felt almost surreal to be at the end of the road. The moment was made particularly special by the presence of Darlene, Steve, Kaitlynn, Jean, and Peter. The spirit of all of our honorary team members and new friends were with us on Crissy Field, and made our trip truly memorable and meaningful to us. Thank you to everyone that rode with us, hosted us, fed us, coordinated events for us, and gave us valuable advice along the way. You are all very special to us!
|The finish with Brian, Dave, and Matt|
|The Core Four, 5000 miles together|
Although we had officially finished our journey, we couldn't skip a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge. At Matt and Brian's suggestion, we decided to ride over and take the ferry back to dinner at Pier 23 Cafe, where Dave had made reservations for our celebratory dinner. As with riding through the city it was a bit like being in a video game to ride over the bridge, weaving and dodging tourists, runners, and other speedy cyclists on the narrow side path but again we just enjoyed the ride. At the halfway point we stopped for photos and caught a rare glimpse of dolphins jumping below us! We lingered for a few minutes enjoyed the view from the bridge and then wizzed down the Marin side of the bridge into Sausalito to catch the ferry. We pulled up to the ferry terminal and found the line for passengers with bicycles wrapping nearly around the corner. Frustratingly we had no chance of getting on that ferry with our bikes, and would have to bike 6 miles back over the bridge to make dinner in any reasonable length of time. To our great fortune Matt and Brian came to our rescue and offered to shuttle our bikes back over the bridge for us so we could still catch that ferry, (and as we found out on the other side they were successful in a heroic effort to fit seven bikes in a cab - taking all the wheels off, stacking, and sandwiching them together. They even got all the correct wheels back on the bikes on the other end! Incredible!)
|We spotted dolphins!|
The ferry ride was beautiful and finally gave us a chance to sit and relax. When we arrived city-side again sans bikes we had to hobble in our bike cleats along the Embarcadero about a mile to Pier 23. Again, two gentlemen came to our rescue, this time in pedi-cabs. We hopped in and relished a mile of riding with someone else doing the pedaling. Pier 23 was a great spot for our final dinner with lots of new friends and a few old ones - Jane's friends Patti and Jill from grad school at Berkeley in the 1970's were even able to join us! Dave Snyder had also invited some of his bike enthusiast friends who shared in the celebration. We enjoyed excellent seafood and drinks and toasted to an amazing final day.
|Now that we're done someone else can do the work...|
|Dinner at Pier 23|
|Chelsea and Daddy|
And last but by no means least, (as if the day couldn't get any better!) the girls capped off the evening with a night out with some of my very best friends from college who all now live in the Bay Area. We stayed with Diga, another incredibly gracious hostess, in her beautiful apartment near the Presidio, and had a chance to catch up with Sonia, Julie, and Dom, who I hadn't seen in almost eight years! So wonderful to see them all and hear the latest on their busy and very successful lives. We hit a few local establishments and cut loose on the dance floor, knowing we didn't have to save our legs for another day of riding. A great night, an incredible day, and a life-changing trip. Thank you to all who were a part of it!!
|Reunion with my beautiful Brown Water Polo teammates!|