By Michael Collier
I began last week with an 82-mile bike ride that included summiting Northern California’s majestic Mount Tamalpais on one of the most summer-like days I have ever seen in the middle of winter.
This week began with gray skies and the most rain we have seen in months in the drought-weary San Francisco Bay Area.
The contrast in weather between last Sunday and this Sunday is dramatic — but just as important to me is that my big event on the bike a week ago was way more thrilling than the 48th Super Bowl.
What a snoozer of a game, although I did enjoy the Muppets and pistaccio commercials. But the ride to complete the Strava 130-kilometer challenge beat the National Football League’s non-spectacle hands down.
There is something about flying down a mountain-top at 40 miles an hour on two skinny tires — while feeling the breeze in your face and enjoyong sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean — that elevates one’s spirits in a way that a TV event will rarely, or ever, do.
Kick in the pants
The bike ride with my neighbor and friend may not have happened at all if not for the folks at Strava, the cycling and running website based in San Francisco. This year they decided to raise the bar for outdoors-seekers by creating a challenge of the month for members.
January was a 130-kilometer ride in one day. It was up to the cyclists to choose their routes. My friend’s co-worker pitched a loop around Folsom Lake near Sacramento. We decided on something closer to home — a big loop encompassing Marin County’s most scenic parts.
We warmed up on the flats, spinning through the sleepy towns of Ross and San Anselmo before beginning the climb up Tam. With the sun on us, we rode to the top of Pine Mountain, then down to beautiful Alpine Lake, up to the ridge overlooking the ocean and finally to the top of the 2,500-foot peak.
After a short break, we began our descent and were blessed to be riding on virgin pavement most of the way to Point Reyes Station, including through Stinson Beach, where we ate lunch, and Bolinas.
We stopped for a final water break at Rancho Nicasio, a cowboy bar and night club, rode over White’s Grade and back to our starting point in Ross.
The bike odyssey had a dreamy quality, one that we won’t soon forget, and filled us with the satisfaction that few spectator sports would be likely to match.