The Hawk Special: pack up your bike the morning of, and jet out of work on it, headed straight for the Marin headlands. On the way, stop for the biggest burrito you know about and head into paradise. Once you're across the bridge, the golden hills beckon, the campsite a beacon nestled in the trees at the top of a big hill. Watch the sun set while you eat your burrito with friends, drink whiskey with your friends and sleep under the stars (or fog). Awake with the chirping birds, treasure the rising sun with your coffee, then bomb down the hill, cross back the bridge and go back to work.
Reserving a camp site six months out is a gamble. Six months out it is hard to know if you'll be free. Six months out on the California coast you can't know if the weather will be fabulous or atrocious. Fitness? Who knows! These questions are immediately deemed irrelevant by putting the option of an escape to a new place on the calendar. In the end it didn't matter - we were free, the sun shone bright, our legs got us up the hills and back again.
I had the good fortune to get back to my old stomping grounds of the Pacific Northwest, and the better fortune to still have a great group of friends ready to get outside and see the world. With the winter winds a blowing and a generous amount of snow on the ground, the best thing to do was to strap on some skis and see where the took us.
Getting ten great friends for a weekend away is always a good idea. Even better with a sublime location - this time around, Sea Ranch. A humble community on the Sonoma Coast, a few hours north of San Francisco, unified by a distinct and striking architectural style, with minimal services and gaudiness, Sea Ranch is a gorgeous destination. But this was to be no standard beach weekend. No - this was a epic bike weekend, as the time on the coast was the be bookended by the 120+ mile ride from San Francisco to Sea Ranch.
Sometimes for a true vacation you need to get away from everything, even the things you love the most. With our plans to backpack The Lost Coast jolted at the last minute, my buddy Ari (a climber) and I found ourselves up in Tahoe for a week with neither climbing gear nor bikes.
Summer may have officially just begun, but in California it feels as if it has been in full force for months. Though we've been getting out camping and spending longs days in the sun for a while now, that didn't stop a celebration of the year's longest day - and consequent shortest night.
Aaron, like a true historian, is thorough and digs deep, rarely content for casual chit-chat and one word answers. He sparks the type of conversation that can make the two hour car ride to Guerneville seem to short. Luckily we had a day on the trail to come. We loaded up on citrus and hummus from the farmer's market; and bread and snacks from the pastry mecca that is Wildflower Bakery in Occidental and made for the redwoods.
Living in San Francisco, the best things are within shockingly easy reach. When holiday weekend temperatures in a rain-filled winter hit 75, there is nothing to do but enjoy every possible minute of it. Spirits soar as skin darkens in a land where the profound natural beauty accentuates every bit of laughter and cheer.
I went three years without touching ski to snow - the longest period of the time since the four of five years that passed between my birth and the first time I laid eyes on the endless expanse of white that I'd learn to love as a winter wonderland.
The first rain in what seems like years brings fresh perspectives as much as it refreshes the land around us. With serious rainfall, daylight savings time and cooler temperatures, it seems like the endless summer might actually have an end date.
The man who ran the hotel in Kinsarvik was a mountain biker, but he understood cycling as a whole; the bliss of the journey, the enjoyment of pedaling, the thrill of speed. The biggest downfall to road cycling is the necessity of sharing the road with cars, but our hotelier had a solution. If we were to start our day with a ferry ride across the fjord, most of the day's journey would be on much smaller roads with m much less traffic. As always, little trumps local knowledge.
There are different kinds of good days on the bike. Some good days are just that, effortless excursions filled with vistas, friends and food. They blend together and while you can't pinpoint exactly what was so good about a certain one, you look back fondly and with a smile.
Day 3 was the other kind of good day; the kind that throws so much at you that your jaw hurts from dropping all day. The kind where new never ceases and limits seem infinite. The kind you can picture from beginning to end without hesitation or doubt.
Its technically fall, but you'd never know it here in California. The sun continues to shine strong, the optimism of warm weather has mostly kept the fog at bay. Warm mornings keep leading to warm nights, despite the dwindling hours of daylight that grace our skies.
What does modern storytelling entail? It appears we've long since passed a time in which words play a greater role than photos. The root of this is the much talked about decline in attention span, and the concurrent increased demand for instantaneous and a constant stream of new content.
I'm lucky to come from a family that sees the appeal of getting lost in a foreign land. We knew we were in for some hard miles and majestic scenery, but beyond that had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, the bicycle is the perfect vehicle with which to see the world - fast enough to cover enough ground but slow enough to engage with the surroundings. Traveling on two wheels affords the ability to interact with the landscape, the roads, the people, animals and scents. It gives a sense of small towns and large cities, busy byways and deserted backroads. It's freedom encapsulated, human powered and enjoyable every mile.
Over my few years of relatively decent travel, one of the countless things I've learned is that less is more. I remember dragging my ninety liter duffel bag, bike box and a backpack through the Milanese summer streets in agony. Why bring so much stuff if it will only cause me pain?
As we sit down to dinner at Pizzeria Delfina I say to Paul, "I love this place, the pizza is glorious." He smile and chuckles, remarking that frequency with which that word crosses my lips. It should come as no surprise though, its just the right word for a life full of stunning scenery, delicious food, close friends and family, and a lot of cycling.
Many rides in San Francisco, even in the summer, start out grey and misty. The temptation to stay in bed, or to roll out the door in a jacket, tights and winter mitts is understandable. But San Francisco favors the optimists, those who have faith that it can only get better.
In a world that turns from grey to sunny, and from damp and foggy to warm, it is key to find the perfect combination of clothes that will keep you warm and dry in the fog but won’t fill up and weigh down your pockets as soon as the sun shines its triumphant rays upon the world. There’s no need to look any further than Sportful, who makes the perfect kit for the optimist.
I vaguely remember today's alarm going off - a weak beep helpless against the crushing force of a deep sleep following a long, yet not entirely taxing weak. Blankets, sheets, the bed itself formed a cocoon so seemingly unbreakable that the inevitable wake up seemed elusive for a moment.
The fourth of July may be about barbeques and beer but its also about the thread that runs through all of America; liberty. Liberty is well fueled by the three Bs of course (barbeques, beer and bikes) and what better place to indulge than the great outdoors. With a cabin in the family, Tahoe was undoubtedly the destination.
There's no denying the absolute prominence of Mark Twain as literary influence in the upbringing of American youth, especially outdoors inclined males. The well-loved, well-cited, well-read standards The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn teach that the world is a place to be explored, and the independence as well as friendship have generous rewards to be heaped.
Highs and lows seem to go together. When things are so good, you've got to come back down to reality. Similarly, the perfect moments and average moments are intertwined, it often requires the latter to set up, prepare for and provide scale for the former.
This day last year I was on a plane bound for Rome, the gateway to a summer in the Italian Alps, Budapest and Berlin.
By this time last year I had traveled to the East Coast, to Canada, and all around Washington and Oregon.
This year, I've been in Boulder for two days, and haven't really left the Bay Area in five months.
How things change with a job.
Spoiled rotten in California, bad weather isn't quite as imposing as it can be across the country. The sun may hide behind the clouds, the fog may devour everything in sight, but the temperature never really drops below something hospitable, especially at this time of year.
We normally expect great rides on roads with stunning names. California is full of roads with names like sunrise, panoramic, paradise, alta vista and more. But it doesn't take an alluring name for a road to be well worth a ride. Just as a book has more than its cover, a road has much more than its name.
At 10:00am I roll up to a red light, fully kitted up. A guy commuting to work looks over in clear envy and says "isn't it a little early for a lunch ride?" This is no lunch ride man, Monday is my weekend - and it is a brilliant day to have off.
It was supposed to be the first race of the year. Rolling green hills, punchy climbs, and sunshine. Instead it rained all weekend. As a team we decided it wasn't worth the drive, the danger, the misery. The racing world seems to agree, it appears only one guy finished the race in our field that day...
Growing up in California, I've been surrounded by some of the best cycling in the world just outside my front door. Yet I've developed the tendency to ride the same ten or so routes over and over again thanks to their joy and accessibility. It seems counter-intuitive right, to drive to a ride?
Someone once told me that solitude was nothing but a glorified word to describe loneliness. It is lucky that i don't remember who; as upon reflecting it is one of the most idiotic things I've heard.