Saturday, December 20, 2014

Preparing to launch

The Internet is finding me breakfast in Fairfax.

My empty stomach, facing the prospect of 80+ miles to Healdsburg starting with White's Hill just outside town, is pulling strongly for real food. This is the edge of the Bay Area. From here, the way is hilly.

In the dozens of times I've been here, it's always been a transitory experience, always on a bike. Head down, pushing hard on some brevet out to Point Reyes or Highway 1. The height of my lingering has been coffee and Scone of the Moment at Fat Angel Bakery. Nary a sit-down meal, or a tourist experience. So what does this town offer in the way of breakfast at the start of a ride?

Fire up the smartphone, let it converse with the base station, exchange some bits. All signs point to the Hummingbird Cafe (4.3 stars) on Center Street, parallel to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

Cars take Sir Francis Drake, lots of cars, very impatient. Center Street is ten or twenty yards south, within sight of that crowded, unhappy thoroughfare. Center Street is also the bike route, so finding the cafe should be easy.

Google Maps shows where it should be. Even on a familiar street it's tough to match the outline on the phone with messy, spatial reality. After a bit of confusion and pitching back and forth, I figure out Fat Angel is no more, and Hummingbird Cafe lies just a few doors away. They have a counter; so much the better. I'm excited and nervous about the tour, free of work, ready for adventure.

Winter is leisurely, luxurious. The weather report calls for an area of high pressure after the week of rain. The morning is not young but who can feel bad about that? Bike tours do not happen without breakfast; no escape without eggs and potatoes first (or some kind of fuel).

The food comes, a scramble with cheese and bacon and onions and something else. Extra potatoes for the GF customer. All gone in short order. The service is kind and attentive, the coffee strong.

It's time to launch up White's Hill. Even with a light touring load it seems small and short. Not quite what I remember from January brevets. Nicasio is dispatched quickly. Chileno Valley, green and beautiful and quiet. A month of rain has made inroads into the drought hardpack. Wilson Hill requires the little ring, but doesn't hurt like a month ago at Thanksgiving. Something is going right...

I listen for little things on the bike that might be out of whack. Maybe the weight distribution, maybe the front brake... The Waterford is steady, quiet, humming. On downhills it is steady, handling smoothly with the baggage. Everything is OK.

No brevet also means no cue sheet with the next turn. And the Internet is your friend except when it's not; no signal, not even voice, after Chileno Valley, despite busy Tomales-Petaluma Road. This part will have to be by feel.  I remember zig-zagging. The first zig comes right away. After that, zag on Fallon-Two Rock Road and then what's the next zig? Feeling lost and helpless. A Kind bar to top off breakfast, and a spot of 3G signal helps my reasoning. Carmody Road is the mystery turn. 

The high pressure does not hold. By the time breakfast wears off completely, it's grey and cold and blowing in Valley Ford. The market there has nothing GF, nothing! A banana with peanut butter will have to do. I wonder what food challenges lie ahead. The fear of running out of fuel in a remote, small place with only sandwiches or pastries is very real. The sky is grey; a fellow cyclist reports that his group met heavy rain on the coast to the north, and he's glad to be off the bike.

But at least I know how to get to Occidental.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. We ate at the Hummingbird for the first time a couple of months ago. It used to be the Coffee Klatch. The Fat Angel is missed, but I think the new place may include the old bakery. It wasn't open early enough for us to investigate, though.

  3. I know that area - I tried the Marin traditional century in August. I made it to Middle Road and Dillon Beach road near Tomales, and it was windy, and cold, and I was just done. (I also wondered why I had skipped Wilson Hill for what was clearly a thankless slog of a ride.) I'm glad yours went better!
    Glad to see you writing here again. :)