Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019.
Wednesday 14th August: Traveling from Ukiah to San Rafael, California, USA: Truck
The only two places we found driving out of Ukiah were Mexican Mini Marts, stocked with cheap salsas and decaying vegetables. We decided to suck it up, keep going and find somewhere else to eat.
The 101 deviates slightly inland from here, following the Russian River. We were heading into wine country, the vineyards starting to line the hills on both sides of the road. Here in Sonoma County, they are also famous for a couple of other things. In Santa Rosa, our next port of call is the well-known Russian River Brewing Company, maker of the famous “Pliny the Elder” beer, an American Imperial IPA that can be elusive. I’d only ever read about them, so I was looking forward to finding one somewhere down this way.
Also famous down this way is the Charles M Schulz Museum, home to your favorite Charlie Brown and Snoopy characters. Shazz and I made a beeline for the museum and spent a couple of hours learning about Schulz and his famous cartoon strip. There are literally thousands of cartoon strips to read, each one a reflection on some aspect of the irony of life. Some I could remember from the newspapers when I was a kid, but many were new to me. The way Schulz brought his characters to life would be copied time and again after his death and become something of a standard in the world of comic strips.
From Santa Rosa, the freeway is wide and fast. Traffic entering from the right doesn’t hesitate to enter the fray. I found I had to be right on my toes to avoid any collisions. Not everyone was treating it as seriously, though. On more than one occasion, we were warned that Californian drivers are the worst. They certainly haven’t heard about indicators. They’re obviously optional down here!
The towns were much closer together as we entered the more populated areas of northern California. The exit ramp for San Rafael was a welcome sight. We slowed and turned under the freeway towards Francisco Boulevard and the Travelodge Hotel. The grumpy receptionist immediately made me move the truck as he reckoned it was too big to park inside. It only looked big, though. Compared to the other cars, it was pretty much the same length. I wasn’t happy leaving it out the front overnight, but at least it would be off the street. Since arriving in California, the number of vagrants and shifty-looking characters had increased remarkably. I wouldn’t be happy until we returned it to U-Haul tomorrow morning. Fortunately, it was just down the road.
It didn’t take long to find Pier 15, the local watering hole down at the marina. We had a couple of beers and some food at the bar as we chatted with the Mexican barmaid and some locals who had boats docked there.
Thursday 15th August: San Rafael to Mill Valley, California, USA: 18kms
Ride Time: 1hr 37mins / Ave Speed: 6.8mph
Today was all about putting ourselves in a position to get through San Francisco and over to Alameda without too many hassles tomorrow. We didn’t want to be too far away because we need to start our housesit tomorrow.
We set out along the Cal Park Hill Pathway, heading south alongside the 101. We stopped at Trader Joe’s for a cold drink and a rest. We had a short distance today and plenty of time. From there, we crossed underneath the highway and turned left onto Tamal Vista Boulevard, stopping again for a coffee, this time at a Starbucks in a Safeway supermarket.
After following the highway for a time, we turned off into the back streets of Alto and down to the hotel we’d booked for the night. Unfortunately, the receptionist wouldn’t let us in as check-in wasn’t until 2 pm. It was only about 11 am, so we had about 3 hours to kill.
We rode our bikes back down the road a bit to the Shelter Bay Cafe and got some sandwiches made up for lunch. It was hot and windy, so we grabbed a couple of chairs and sat in what little shade we could find.
That only killed about an hour, so we pedaled over the nearby footbridge to the other side of the highway and headed to a large shopping center. We passed a service station cleaning cars in its driveway on the way. About two dozen Mexicans were swarming over about three cars with soapy rags. I wondered if they were all illegals and figured Trump would have a field day here.
We found another Starbucks and a seat outside the shopping center under the verandah. We got ourselves a coffee and sat down for the wait. Eventually, we headed to the Safeway next door and bought some beers and something for dinner before returning to the room.
This time we were successful, but we had to lift the bikes and all our gear up to the second floor!
Friday 16th August: Mill Valley to Alameda, California, USA: 30kms
Ride Time: 2hrs 43mins / Ave Speed: 6.9mph
Our final day of the bike trip. We chatted with an older couple at the motel who were very interested in our trip. Then we headed back along Hamilton Drive to pick up the Mill Valley – Sausalito Bike Path. The path took us through Bothin Marsh and was busy with mainly joggers.
At the edge of Sausalito, we stopped to grab a drink and check out all the floating homes built around several piers. Many of them looked like boats and were quite whimsical. It would be a nice way to live with direct access to San Francisco Bay.
Here we picked up Bridgeway, the road that would take us onto the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco. We stopped to look at the boats at Sausalito Marina before continuing on to the main area of town, which was full of tourists. As we were ahead of time again, we walked around, looking at the shops and all the fancy restaurants we couldn’t afford to eat in.
From Sausalito Point, we headed towards the bridge. Fortunately for us, it was a perfectly clear day, a rare one according to our friends on the west coast. As if to remind us of our journey to get here, we were confronted with a long, steep climb up to the viewing area of the bridge.
The viewing area was packed with tourists taking selfies with a perfectly visible, big red bridge in the background. Having seen it destroyed in many movies, I was still a little surprised by how large it was. We had a direct view along its massive deck as hundreds of cars and trucks and buses seethed over it like a giant, glistening worm.
After half an hour of getting our pictures, we walked the bikes down to the bridge and set off over it. Riding wasn’t easy as so many people were on it, including numerous bicycle tours and idiots who thought it was a good idea to don the lycra and see how fast they could get over it. All they did was frustrate themselves while cursing everyone holding them up.
It was slow going, like trying to ride through the crowd at a rock concert. We had to stop constantly to let others through and get around numbnuts who just stop in front of you for no reason and stare into space!
We made it across without incident, though. On the other side is another viewing area where you can get a different view of the bridge. You can also see the city skyline in the distance. We stopped and got more photos, then headed around the bay towards Fisherman’s Wharf.
We followed Mason Street up to Crissy Field East Beach and sat down with lunch and a beer we had bought to commemorate the finish of our trip. We could see the bridge and most of the bay area from the small seawall. We could also see Alcatraz, it seemed so close.
As we approached Fisherman’s Wharf, we had to dismount as the crowds had thickened up once more. We walked the bikes down to Pier 41 to the Alameda ferry and waited for it to arrive. The sheer number of people made us want to leave there as soon as possible. The ride over to Alameda, on the other side of the bay, just below Oakland, was quite nice, though, and we made friends with another local cyclist who gave us one of his beers – a nice bloke!
All that was left was to ride the final few kilometers across the island to our new housesit and meet the owners. The Alameda streets were thankfully less crowded. Lined with old Victorian-Style Century houses, our area was quite pretty. We rang the doorbell, met the owners, and brought our bikes inside, ending yet another two-wheel adventure. This one we’d had started in 2018.
Our Trans-America trip was at an end. It had taken us two attempts to do it, but we were finally across and had a chance to see some of the Pacific West Coast as well. We now know, with a little bit of training, we can climb mountains. The Rocky Mountains crossing was something we were immensely proud of. At our age, we never quite know what we’re capable of. So, while we still have the ability to peddle a bike, we will. There is so much more to discover, going slowly down the road.
A big thank you to each and every one of you who helped us along the way. Your hospitality will never be forgotten. To all you guys in RVs and pickup trucks who don’t think a bicycle is worth moving over for – you can Fuck Off!
Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019. And if you are interested in our 2018 Cycle tour across America, you can find it here – North American Cycle Tour – 2018