The art of travel involves many things. Chief among them is a desire for adventure and a lack of fear of getting lost. Before Frodo set out on his journey from the Shire, he already had a taste for adventure. By the time his journey became a Quest, he had his cloak on and was standing in the portal before asking for directions.
I left Mission Terrace on my Koga bicycle this morning under clear skies and a bright sun, already committed to the southern route down to Lake Merced and Ocean Beach. But lurking in the back of my mind was finding the passage to Mill Valley. I’d crossed the Bridge before and ridden to Tiburon a few times. But that route is easy to track as long you keep the water to your right going in. Finding Mill Valley is a little more difficult, though maybe not so hard as say Bolinas.
I knew I’d have to leave the bicycle path that parallels Highway 101 just past Sausalito and find the road winding through the redwoods into the heart of town. I’d seen solitary bicycles on that route and guessed that was where they were headed. There is no bike lane, the two-lane road is very narrow and the sunlight stabbing through the trees plays havoc with one’s vision. But the trip would be worth it, for me. The town square at Mill Valley is the starting point for the Dipsea Race, a foot race that makes its way up 673 steps over the shoulders of Mount Tam and through streams, forests and grasslands down to Stinson Beach. It was my favorite race for some years though it absolutely kicked my ass.
A road traveled by bicycle looks different by car. It take a few passes to appreciate it, but you look for sewer grates, pavement cracks and gutter debris that you would hardly notice in a car. Sometimes the prudent thing to do is choose a different route than you know by four wheels. That was the case today. But it was fun, detours and all. I wore my Giants baseball cycling jersey and coupled with last night’s marathon playoff win over the Washington Nationals, I made friends every 20 minutes.
So I rode. I wandered. I found the town square and a nice sidewalk coffee stand with seating and an awesome music playlist. I could stay here until my battery died, but I’d have no music for the ride home. And there is a big hill to climb out of here getting back to the bridge. But as I coasted in, I saw a solitary cyclist coming out on a road I’ve never used before. I will have to look for it on my return trip.
Update: The route back was a “short cut” through old Fort Baker. This former military installation is not part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In the day it was a training post and the site of the Coast Guard lifeboat installation, those hardy men and women who go out to the bay and sea to aid and rescue people who get themselves in over their head on the water. Lucky for us, they are still there. So is Cavallo Point, a five-star resort nestled into a pocket of the Marin headland. If you have enough money to hire people to sail your boat, you stay here when you visit Marin.
Anyhow. the route out and up is steep but much shorter than climbing out on Alexander Avenue from Bridgeway. And y0u are spared the insult climb on Conzelman Road to get back to the parking lot and access to the sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge. To find it just keep the water to your left as you approach the bridge.