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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you're living the good life, a lot of good opportunities can be thrown your way, and for some sad reason, you can't have them all. Last weekend I had to choose between some sweet social occasions and reunions, or a mountain bike extravaganza in the national forest outside of Santa Barbara. It was a head scratcher, but adventure called. Actually, it screamed. I've been working in the city now, and at times it is claustrophobic. I needed an escape.
We can't fly because we don't have wings, but instead we have wheels, so bikes are the next best thing. The flapping of wings and the turning of pedals equates to a certain freedom that resonates with our primal core. Bike touring is the extension and the realization of this freedom. Worries of work, media and obligation are traded for the instinctive focus on food and shelter. The cyclist controls his route, pace and trajectory. He carries all he needs with him on his bike. His enjoyment is his livelihood and his purpose, at least for a time.
Setting out in different directions carries certain mythical implications. Westward movement speaks of manifest destiny and relentless exploration, while going North carries with it a sense of rugged adventure, for the North is accompanied by images of mountains and more savage landscapes.
There's not too much that's more exciting than seeing a pretty girl leaning up against a nice bike maybe an old steel Peugeot or a flashy fixie. Budapest is full of sites like these. But as with any city the question must be asked, is it really a good place for cycling. I took to the streets, the only way to find out. For maximum ease, I used the Bubi bike, Budapest's bike sharing system. It is not as extensive as the vélib in Paris, but it has many bikes and frequent stations. My time in Budapest was too busy for proper cycling, so it was relieving and exhilarating to be back on a bike.
Sometimes life puts you in interesting company. This holds especially true as a guide - the company you keep often hits an interesting margin between friends and clients. Sometimes I'm just there hanging out, sometimes I'm a babysitters, others a coach and a role model.
It's hard for the riding around here to not be epic. Nature in all her glory of tall trees and jagged mountains, coffee and tiramisu and pasta when we stop, and extreme amounts of elevation gain.