North Bay Area Bike Tour Log

In April of this year, I attempted to bike the Katy Trail, but I forgot how unpredictable weather could be in Missouri that time of year and got rained out. While visiting with my parents waiting for my flight back to California, I decided to do a short bike tour in the San Francisco Bay Area where at the very least I wouldn't have to deal with rain.

Set out on this trip on June 21 and returned to my home in Berkeley on June 24. This is the log I kept while on the road, transcribed with minimal editing from the notebook I kept with me.

In addition to my notes, I also took a bunch of pictures which you can find on Flickr.

The Plan

  • Day 1 - 42 miles, 1175 feet of climbing (Google maps)
    • Start in Berkeley, ride to Oakland
    • Take the ferry from Oakland to SF
    • Ride up to Samuel P Taylor State Park and camp
  • Day 2 - 41 miles, 2070 feet of climbing (Google maps)
    • Ride over to CA Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway)
    • Follow Highway 1 to Bodega Dunes State Park and camp
  • Day 3 - 55 miles, 2579 feet of climbing (Google maps)
    • Ride east to Santa Rosa, get lunch
    • Make the climb over the mountains to Calistoga
    • Camp at Bothe-Napa State Park
  • Day 4 - 65 miles, 1178 feet of climbing (Google maps)
    • Ride south to Napa, get lunch there
    • Ride all the way back home

Day 1

This is abridged since I'm writing this after the fact

Rolled out @ 08:00, hit up Suzette Crepe Cafe and then Safeway for food. Got some tortillas, bananas, and Nutella. That combo makes for a killer snack!

Caught the 10:15 ferry from Oakland to SF. More crowded than expected, probably because it's summer and kids are out of school. Was on the Gemini which was a fast ride (faster that weekends).

SF was uneventful, normal tourists on their way to the bridge. The west path was closed, so it was more of a shitshow than usual getting across (with not only biking tourists, but pedestrians too). Plus it was foggy and freezing. It felt like a 20 degrees warmer after the bridge. The east path meant I came down Alexander Drive which saved the climb up the hill before Sausilito.

Got lunch at Sausilito Gourmet Deli. Had a really nice backyard seating area. Ended up taking El Camino Alto up as a challenge, wasn't too bad and dumped me right into Corte Madera.

Took (bicycle) Route 20 along the creek to Fairfax, was really nice.

Stopped on a park bench at Fairfax to rest in the mid-afternoon.

Fucking hot.

And that fucking climb out of Fairfax! Holy crap!! It was tough in the heat. While I was stopped just before the crest, a mountain biker stopped to make sure I was good. Really lifted my spirits. He mentioned a shady way parallel to Sir Francis Drake Blvd. I should have followed his advice!

Got to Sam P. Taylor alright after that.

At camp, I met:

  • Quinn - He hitched a ride via Craiglist from North Carolina to Portland, bought a bike and was riding down the Pacific Coast Highway to SF
  • Don - Last lived in St. Louis (Richmond Heights) but used to live in the Bay Area. 70 years old! Chill dude, was drinking Old English when I showed up. Used to work in the fish business.
  • French guy - was with his two sons, from Mill Valley, works as a software engineer for Salesforce.

Day 2

Departed Sam P Taylor, got the anxious feeling of venturing somehwere new (since I had been to Sam P Taylor before and knew my way there). Took the bike path to the end, then a serious climb up Sir Francis Drake with zero shoulder and a 55 mph speed limit. Yikes! The descent into Olema was gorgeous though!

Highway 1 was smooth going, shady, and cool. Nice change. Scenery of Tomales Bay was nice, got breakfast at Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes Station. Giant scone!

Biking right along the coast was really nice. Found a place on the side of the road that was shady. Took a quick rest there, almost fell asleep!

Got to Tomales, got some early lunch (lamb sandwich with feta, onions, pepperocini, and horseradish sauce, yum!). As usual, had a giant climb after the town. Bunch of ups and downs that I'll probably have to re-visit tomorrow.

Headwind from Tomales. :( I'd rather have a headwind than that oppressive heat! No shoulder on Highway 1 in many places, even on tough climbs.

Gentle coast down toward the coast, which gave me a second wind! Grass got greener, could smell the ocean breeze, it was lovely.

Decent climbs into Bodega Bay, again no shoulder, but at least the speed limit was 25 mph.

The guys I met at Sam P Taylor warned me about the sand at Bodega Dunes State Park, they weren't kidding. Nice big hiker/biker site. Lots of people wrote stuff on the food locker there, mostly names, dates, and their route (and some words of wisdom, like "count the smiles, not the miles"). Got dinner at Spud Point Crab Co. Crab roll and clam chowder. Good stuff.

Beach was a short ride away. Nice but kinda hot. Water was feezing as expected. Chilled there for about an hour before coming back to camp.

No other cyclists. At least I still have Caliban's War to finish reading.

Late, like 8 pm or so a couple showed up who were from Quebec City. They were going from Portland to SF, doing about 70 miles a day! They're getting married in the fall. That's about the extent of the conversation I was able to get out of them, they just hung out in their tent as soon as they got that set up.

Day 3

Writing this at Bothe-Napa State Park. Hot but fun day. About 2500 feet of climbing, but nothing demoralizing. Maybe it gets easier past day 2!

Woke up to it raining on my tent! It was misting and droplets were falling from the trees. Cold morning, but after about a mile had to take my jacket off.

Took Highway 1 (back the way I came) to Bodega Highway. While on Bodega Highway a truck passed me kicking up all kinds of crud and I got something stuck in my eye. Had to stop and flush it out with water, I'm sure I looked like a goofball. Tip: wear sunglasses, even when it's foggy.

Got second breakfast at a bakery (Wild Flour Bread) in Freehold. Popular place. Met some poeple on a supported bike tour coming from Tahoe.

As usual, had a big climb out of the town I stopped in. Nothing stressful though, despite the 6-8% grade according to the map. Took windy back roads after the climb. Much less traffic and amazing views. Lots of vineyards and giant homes up there.

Rode down into Sebastopol and jumped on the Joe Rodota Trail into Santa Rosa. That was super-chill, but turned into a hobo highway in Santa Rosa city limits.

Ate at Franchettis' which Jason Wilson from Dropbox recommended. Was great, but I was out of place as the smelly cyclist, hah!

Went north out of town and took the Mark West Springs, Porter Creek, Petrified Forest route. I didn't pay to see the petrified forest but made a water stop.

Honestly, the climbing wasn't all that bad. The descent was crazy though. Gorgeous and fast. I should have turned Strava on, I must have exceeded my record speed and hit 40 mph. On a touring bike no less! I had a stupid grin on my face the entire way down.

Once in Calistoga, I went to go see Old Faithful. Not that Old Faithful, just the California knock-off. Still neat, but I wouldn't go again.

Got a carnitas super burrito and a six pack of 21st Amendment's Hell or High Watermelon from a taqueria/bodega combo. Dug into that right before writing this. Life is good.

Day 4

I slept like a baby. Either I'm getting used to camping, or it was the beer.

According to Google Maps:

* 65 miles
* 1100 feet climbing
* 1500 feet descending


The elevation profile shows a nice gentle descent through the Napa Valley. Gonna be a fun day albiet maybe long.

Camp breakfast was oatmeal with peanut butter mixed in. How did I not think of this earlier?

Jumped north to catch Silverado Trail Road. It's a cyclist's paradise: little traffic, rolling hills, shade, decent "bike lane" (shoulder).

Got a pastry and cup of coffee at Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company in St. Helena. Damn good coffee.

Decent headwind, but still downhill. Awesome view of vineyeards. So many cyclists that I'm getting tired of waving at all of them.

Got into Napa at 11:00 on the dot. Nice and cool compared to Marin County! Hung out for a bit and got a couple of slices at Velo Pizzeria, which has the most legit NY style I've had in California.

Riding south of Napa is all along California Highway 29, with some side roads. The shoulder is nice and wide, but it's still stressful having cars fly by at 55 mph.

American Canyon feels like American Dream-land. Reminds me of pictures of neighborhoods from the 1950s.

Vallejo has some decent riding on trails or bike lanes near Napa River. But then it's back on CA-29. Took some side roads before the bridge, but with some annoying hills.

The Carquinez Bridge Trail is a nice, chill ride. San Pablo Ave up from Crockett is the opposite, but no traffic.

This part of the Bay Area is so weird, vastly different towns right next to each other.

  • Crockett - feels like a small fishing village
  • Rodeo - feels like a dead midwestern town. Seemed like 50% of downtown was empty storefronts.
  • Hercules - affluent, new, shiny. Good biking
  • Pinole - suburban, standard

Starts getting sketchier the closer you get to Richmond.

Starting to get angry at hills.

Google Maps is an asshole. Why does it think that Sarah Drive in Pinole is an acceptible bike route? It's like a 10+% grande. Should have followed the Krebs map through Richmond.

San Pablo Dam Road sucks. Horrible, narrow shoulder, I think they consider it a bike lane. I almost flipped catching a wheel in a grate.

Stupid hills.

I could hear the BART trains as I approached the Ohlone Greenway. Oddly soothing after travelling 200 miles. Once I hit the greenway, I played some punk from my phone and pounded out the last few miles home.