I'm presenting the account of Our Very First Bicycle Tour (please, hold your applause) in three parts. Mostly so as not to overwhelm you with awe, but also so that you can focus more intently on the details which carried our trip from the just so-so level of fun up to the more elevated, grand level. We definitely achieved the highest level of fun.
First so we're on the same page about what exactly it was that we did, let me say that our trip was a bicycle tour, with camping. Not bike camping, but a short trip with camping accommodations and cycling every single day. Bicycle touring generally refers to traveling by bicycle over some distance, with the emphasis on the journey, while bike camping is just biking to your camping destination in order to camp. In both cases, the rider carries all belongings atop the bicycle, though on a tour, one may opt to sleep in hotels, houses, hostels in addition to camping. In my mind, the inclusion of the word Tourism helps to emphasize the leisurely pace of travel, the emphasis on sightseeing and the ambitious nature of such plans.
We left mid-morning on Sunday with our sights set on a small campground outside of Santa Rosa which would be our home for the two nights of our three day excursion. Mostly so we could leave some of our weight behind the second day and tackle more countryside. In addition to regular bike clothing, extra socks and a toothbrush, we also carried with us a full outfit of camping equipment: one tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 sleeping pads, 2 aluminum plates, a 2 qt. pot and a small stove.
All of this was carried by way of a handlebar bag for each of us, and a set of panniers for each of us; in fact, my set had been whipped up in a frenzy only 12 short hours prior to our departure. Like magic!
John gets full credit for devising our route, which was concocted from a combination of Google maps, Mapmyride and the various county bike maps available in pdf on the internet. That way we were able to investigate the route accurately and with an eye for safety, in order to make it ultimately the most enjoyable. Because it's much more fun to obviate potential arguments over traffic situations, it was worth it to spend plenty of time perfecting the cue sheet and double checking the size of a road's shoulder.
Our route began with a short 9 mile warmup ride up to the El Cerrito del Norte BART station, where we caught a bus across the Richmond Bridge and into San Rafael, CA.
And really we were off to a good start. We met John's ghost of cycling future in San Rafael, who rode with us a good three miles or so. A man of 60 or so who shared John's facial bone structure, cycle enthusiasm and hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. The coincidence was eerie. In spite of all the interesting similarities, we failed to snap a picture of the man and so he lives on as a mere figment of our imaginations. Instead, we got a shot of how the man might remember us:
From there we took a scenic route to Santa Rosa, via Petaluma. This leg involved a great valley, a big hill and a small redwood forest.
John wasn't always way out in front of me, but he was some of the time. Especially when we were headed uphill. We did manage to arrive at our destination together. We made camp quickly before the sunset and were so tired we didn't even have a campfire. This exhaustion turned quickly to lunacy; somewhere between setting up the tent and sleeping inside it, we all but lost it, as evidenced by that wink. I couldn't stop winking! The wilderness works in mysterious ways.
62 miles down. Stay tuned for How to Keep On Going, the next installment of Our Very First Bicycle Tour.