Chapter 2. Frisco to Santa Cruz.


Photo by Gern Trowbridge.

Sunday afternoon, after the official end of Bike!Bike! the Bikerowave team went for a ride out to Fisherman’s Wharf and met up with Gern who was now behind the wheel of the Ford Econoline that would be driving them all back to LA.  I loaded all the stuff I planned to take with me (later regretting taking so many t-shirts and underwear) on my bike and gave everyone a big hug and we said good-bye.  The fog rolled in and it got real cold and the sunny weekend was over.


Photo by Gern Trowbridge

Photo by Gern Trowbridge



I took off to the Mission District (I now kinda-sorta knew how to get around).  I was going to stay the last night at David (Bennett’s brother) and Laura’s small house.  We took up a lot of space with our stuff, but David and Laura were cool with us there.  We went out for burritos and then went downtown to see “Man On Wire.”  It’s a documentary about the french wire-walker who covertly set up a wire between the twin towers of the world trade center shortly after they were built.  A pretty remarkable story.  I recommend it.

We had a lot of gear

We had a lot of gear.


Monday came around and we had an 8 am rendezvous with a group of bicyclists from Santa Cruz who’d been in town for Bike!Bike!  It was a typical grey day, the sun of the weekend was nowhere to be seen.  Bennett and I got a late start but it didn’t seem to matter too much as we zigzagged over to the panhandle of Golden Gate Park.


Eating.  Something we'd do a lot of on the trip.

Eating. Something we did a lot of on this trip.

We were some of the first to arrive and this is where Josh Stern entered the picture.  He’d been staying in San Jose with his sister (?) and was there when we arrived with his bright and shiny Novara Randonee.  We were well appointed overall.  

Josh Stern.

Josh Stern.



The folks from Santa Cruz were a rough looking bunch. Most of them were riding recycled bikes.  There was something incredibly attractive to me about them, though. I kind of felt like I was a guest granted permission to travel with a nomadic tribe.  



Waiting for the rest of the riders and talking about bikes.

Waiting for the rest of the riders and talking about bikes.


We got a health food store to open up for us just before turning south on Hwy 1.  They could only take credit cards for some reason.  That didn’t stop us from loading up on munchies.



A tough hill in  a dreary neighborhood.

A tough hill in a dreary neighborhood.

We climbed up and through a neighborhood of little ticky-tacky houses in either Daly City or Pacifica and then flew down through it.  It was my first real test of the low gear capabilities of my Surly.  I had a Shimano Ultegra triple crankset and the smallest chainring had 28 teeth, which is standard for a road triple crank, not a touring crankset.  The touring crankset would have lower gearing capabilities, basically less teeth like 24. I was really working hard to climb these hills.  This wasn’t good.  There were going to be a lot of hills on the trip and I didn’t want my knees to explode.

We would make frequent stops and wait for stragglers.  I got to chat a bit with Josh Muir, the Frances Bikes frame builder.  He was riding his cargo bike, he aptly calls the “Smallhaul.”  He graciously remained in back sweeping up.  Each time we’d see him at a stop, he would have a few more items in the bucket.  A brilliantly engineered rig.  I regret not taking up Josh’s offer to let me ride it.

Frances Bikes Small Haul.

Frances Bikes' Smallhaul.

The truly huge test of our courage, stamina and strength took place at what’s known as “Devil’s Slide.”  It’s a steep incline that reaches a coastal summit and years ago a section of road slid down into the Pacific.  Josh Stern had warned us of this narrow ascent.  There was no shoulder and that made for a tight grip on the bars, and plenty of protective prayers. Once at the top, we had the reward of a great view and another rest.

We stopped in Half Moon Bay for Mexican food and I didn’t think I’d be able to down my enormous burrito, but surprise, I got it all down along with a Mexican imported bottle of Coke. They still use real sugar south of the border. Not that nasty corn syrup used here in the states.

I didn’t document it, but there was a lot of road kill all along the way.  Okay, maybe not that much. It could be that we just saw it up close, passing by at an average of 12 mph.  Like the dead deer a few yards before the deer crossing sign. Maybe if that deer had crossed the highway just beyond the sign instead, where the forewarned drivers would be prepared for this crossing.  He (he looked like a buck) might still be alive today. I never hit anything myself, but came close to flattening a portion of a garter snake outside of San Luis Obispo.  I also watched helplessly as butterflies and dragonflies got nailed by passing vehicles. A tiny dog almost lead to a deadly accident when he ran so FAST in front of the group of us as we were descending very fast through a neighborhood.  He ran parallel with us barking for about a quarter mile. I thought he was going to disintegrate just from the speed he was generating.  The cheetah terrier dog.

Josh S. abandoned his gear to retrace his steps and find the missing bit from one of his Ortlieb panniers.

Josh S. abandoned his gear to retrace his tracks after a big descent. He'd gone to find the missing bit from one of his Ortlieb panniers.

I was able to reach a top speed of 42.5 mph on the descent south of Devil’s Slide.  That was a sweet reward after humping up that hill.  We discovered the Achilles Heel with the Ortlieb panniers the three of us were using.  There is an adjustable plastic tab at the bottom of the bag that hooks over the lower portion of the racks.  It is easy to use and is tightened by a knurled knob.  A knob that could, and did, come loose.  Josh heard something fall off as we were flying down a hill. When we got just passed the bottom of the hill and stopped to try and find what had come off.  Right away, Josh found one of his rear panniers was hanging from the upper clips only.  Not good.  So, only having a basic idea of where it had hit the pavement, he took off back up the hill.  A few minutes later he was back with not just his, but a second Ortlieb tab!  We got his on, and assumed one of the other riders probably lost the second one in exactly the same spot.  Freaky weird.  We would always be tightening these tabs every morning before riding after that.

The Lighthouse at Pigeon Point

The Lighthouse at Pigeon Point

We all got pretty spread out on the highway and occasionally we’d pass a few riders and then get passed by others.  The three of us made a stop at a beautiful old lighthouse that was now a nationally registered landmark.  The buildings around it were now a hostel.  I logged it away as a possible destination in the future.

We made one final stop about 11 miles north of Santa Cruz.  By then we’d gone over 70 miles and I was feeling a bit worn.  The sun was approaching the horizon and we all grabbed something to eat.  I had an ice cream cone.
Bennett relaxing before the final push to Santa Cruz.

Bennett relaxing before the final push to Santa Cruz.

Bennett had some celery and peanut butter packs and finished them off.  Josh turned me on to my first Odwalla Pomegranate Limeade.  It was incredible mixed with water.  Josh would turn both Bennett and me on to the world of Gu later in the trip.  My mouth salivates now just thinking of Gu…

As our headlights came on, I was watching my odometer a bit more, anticipating that 82 mile arrival point. Josh Stern, Bennett and I were invited over to Josh Muir’s compound for a veggie soup and salad dinner.   Our final few miles were in the dark and we were escorted by the locals by taking a sweet bike path into town. We made a stop to watch some surfers in the bay as well as take in the lights of the pier and city.  

Josh’s place was great.  There were several houses on the property and all seemed to be made from salvaged material and in the back, next to the bonfire was his shop. I’m always drawn to workspaces that incorporate a home as well.  The workshop was neatly packed with all his frame building tools and supplies. Everything had the feel of a snug and cozy tree house.  I think there are a bunch of pictures of his place at his website listed in my links.

Home of Frances Bikes.

Home of Frances Bikes.

And there was my favorite bike from this year’s North American Handmade Bike Show.  His yellow and green cyclocross bike with the split seat post and gently curving seat stays.  I want one.  Will someone buy me one?  It was just hanging there.

I know it's hard to see, but I love the way it looks.

I know it's a little dark, but I can't help it. I love this bike.

We ate and it was good.  We sat by the fire and drank beer.  I refreshed the coals with pieces of an old chair.  I learned about Freegans. The three of us had to get up a hill to the hostel we were staying at, before they locked us out at 10 pm.  Although, if we had wanted, we were welcome to stay somewhere, with someone from the group.  We declined as we had reservations and all and we wanted to clean up and get some rest. There was that moment of sensing a missed moment of spontenaity. I don’t like to miss them, but do at times.  This was one of those moments for me.  

The hostel was really pretty nice and we had a private room above the office. We did some laundry and joked around, and eventually fell asleep.

83 miles total.


~ by santapakka on October 22, 2008.

2 Responses to “Chapter 2. Frisco to Santa Cruz.”

  1. Rad trip Steve, I want to do a week-long bike-camping trip but it’s getting pretty cold up here. When I was in Holland we found that the true achilles heel of that pannier attachment method is when the nut inside that the clip screws to strips… Velcro straps are good.

  2. It’s always nice to see the photos of familiar places and things from other people’s perspectives. I was at the back of the ride playing sweeper, so I missed much of the big group riding scene.

    I met a whole lot of great folks that weekend.

    Thanks for joining us for the ride down and I hope the rest of your trip went well-

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