After nearly two years of initial pondering, serious mulling over, and then increasingly detailed levels of planning, our TransAmerica bicycle ride is finally a reality. Surrounded by more than 75 friends and family cheering us on, we are now on our way from San Francisco to, well, somewhere on the New England East Coast.
Sunday, May 1, was a magnificent day to start our adventure. San Francisco put on her makeup, swished her skirts, and successfully enchanted tourists with her beauty while reminding long-time residents that San Francisco is the most amazing place to be. Perhaps the City was doing its best to echo what we’ve heard from so many friends and family: “You’re sure you want to leave all this?”
The morning started early – my brother Ed, and his wife Teri drove us (plus our bikes and all our gear) from Menlo Park up to Baker Beach, a made-to-order scenic spot just south and west of the Golden Gate Bridge.Baker Beach is a Pacific Ocean-facing beach and the perfect place to take the traditional “back tire in the Pacific” photo. We look forward to taking a bookend photo of our front tires in the Atlantic five months from now. Although it was completely predictable, a surprise wave caught us as we posed with our bikes. The wave came within inches of our front panniers, which would have soaked our clothes in Joy’s front panniers and the electronics stored in my front panniers. Although everything stayed dry, after the photo shoot we spent about 15 unplanned minutes cleaning sand out of our wheels and brakes.
(click this link to watch the video)
My brother, Joy and I rode a short but steep 1 mile from Baker Beach to the Golden Gate Bridge to meet friends and family joining us for a ceremonial ride across the bridge (and back) before heading to San Francisco’s Crissy Field for our send-off party. In all, we were an intrepid group of 8 who cycled across the bridge. The views of the city as we cycled back from the Marin side into San Francisco were amazing. Too bad this snippet of GoPro video doesn’t include a shot of the City’s iconic skyline, which stood out crisp and bright in the warm sunny day – a nice change from the typical summer day when the City regularly disappoints tourists by hiding behind a deep blanket of fog. (click this link to watch the video)
We held our grand kick-off party at Crissy Field, a marvelous grassy area that runs from the foot of the Golden Gate bridge along the Bay towards the Marina.
After several hours of mingling and enjoying food from the food truck we hired to cater the food (using a food truck to cater food is an awesome idea!) , Joy and I got on our bikes and bid our friends and family goodbye. As you can see from these photos, Joy and I now have a sense of what it’s like to be surrounded by red carpet paparazzi. It’s an odd experience! I don’t think I have enough ego to enjoy having that kind of attention more than once.
We pedaled away from friends and family to start our grand adventure. Oddly enough, our first destination was the Ferry Building to catch a ferry to Vallejo.
While this sounds like an odd way to start a cycling tour across the US, it is the official cycling route from San Francisco (there’s no easy/safe way to cycle out of the Bay Area from the Golden Gate Bridge without going 5o+ miles out of your way).
Once we landed in Vallejo, we rode about 17 miles to Cordelia where we spent the night in a hotel. All in all, we rode just over 31 miles and climbed 3,200 feet. Not too bad for a first day where we spent several hours partying!
Day 2: 78.5 Miles from Cordelia, California to Rancho Cordova, California
Our second day was considerably flatter but longer. We rode 78.5 miles from Cordelia to Rancho Cordova (on the Eastern outskirts of Sacramento). This was a lot of mileage but very, very flat (only about 350 feet of elevation climb, total). Heat and headwinds were the biggest issues.
We stopped for lunch in Davis and enjoyed the ambiance of UC Davis – a rural, Berkeley-ish vibe. Just as with Stanford students, UC Davis students don’t seem to think bicycle helmets are inherently useful things. Purely coincidentally, we ate lunch across from the US Bicycling Hall of Fame. Sadly, the museum was closed.
We spent the majority of the day riding along wonderful bicycle-only paths, including this awesome bicycle path that runs right along-side highway 80 (who knew?). We also really enjoyed the Sacramento River Bicycle Path which provided lots of wonderful shade and lots of opportunity to see the Sacramento River riparian environment. All in all, a great day.