By Jimmy Rintjema
Part two continued from Part One of Biking through San Francisco:
We biked downhill through Sausalito and on to the Muir Woods Forest, the site of the world famous behemoth redwood trees. As we continued on the bike trail, the rain began to pour once again. Not to be phased this time, we continued as if the sun were shining brightly.
We rode with huge smiles on our face, looking completely ridiculous. We passed may more brave individuals set on getting their daily exercise despite the weather. Bikers in ponchos and expensive rain gear rode passed us with eyebrows raised; some in disbelief, some in pity, some in amusement. It felt great.
As we got closer and closer to the woods, the route by which we were to get there became less apparent. The waterlogged map was falling apart in all the wrong places.
When we arrived in the small town of Mill Valley, we began to second guess our navigation, so we committed a masculine taboo. We stopped at a gas station to find someone who could help us with directions. A gruff, heavyset African American man sat at the counter munching on a bag of chips.
“Excuse me sir,” Jeff began, “could you tell me how to get to this place?” Jeff indicated our desired destination on the map.
To this day, I have no idea whether that man was just mumbling with a mouthful of potato chips or if he was speaking some strange foreign language, or if he simply didn’t care to help us in any way. He was probably upset because we didn’t buy anything. In any case, Blithdale was the name of the street we needed, and he gestured vaguely at the street outside the window. With that bit of hazy direction, we continued on.
As we biked further from the town of Mill Valley, the housing became increasingly sparse. The vehicles became more exotic and the trees became taller and redder. Eventually, there was nothing except the forest, the road, and two soaked adventurers, wet with the sweet water of victory. We rested for a while as we explored our immediate surroundings.
Moss covered everything in an eerie, almost luminous green. Ferns sprouted amidst the reddish brown decay of rotting leaves. A stream ran along the road ad crossed underneath a small bridge. The ripple of the rushing water harmonized with the distant chirps of insects and birds. In a moment where everything seemed completely alive and yet completely still, Jeff and I didn’t dare speak a word lest we disrupt the incredible peace surrounding us.
The crisp, damp air hinted a taste of fresh trees and clean water. The redwood forest was a sensory overload that I could never even hope to describe. Be assured that it was among the most beautiful places I have been so far in my travels. Jeff harvested a souvenir of redwood bark as a trophy of our accomplishment.
After a silent time of prayer and contemplation, we rode out of the woods in complete silence. As my legs slid up and down, I could feel the resistance to leave the tranquility behind more in my spirit than in my muscles. In the end, we retraced our path back to Sausalito.
As the sun descended, we realized that there would be no way to reach the bike tent before the return time of six o’clock. Jeff pulled out his cell phone and received instructions from a lady on how to go about a late rental return. We pedaled up a hill for a solid three kilometres before we were within sight of the bridge again. Our stamina was ebbing. We paused intermittently as we climbed, trying to conquer the steep hill in stages. Persistence won out and we finally returned to the Golden Gate.
By the time we crossed the bridge, sunset had come and gone. We returned to the lively nightlife of San Francisco.
Joggers flooded the lighted sidewalks, all of them thankful that the weather finally allowed them to have their exercise.
Following some cryptic directions and a soaked and wilting map, we found the drop off spot for our bikes with difficulty.
The steep streets of the city punished our endurance to the end.
We reached the nondescript garage door where we were instructed to punch a number into a key pad. The door opened. We then had to walk down into a parking garage, turn left and enter a second code into another roll-up door. Things were beginning to feel a bit like a video game. When we entered the second door, a table and a sign with instructions guided us through the process of filling out a card and leaving our bikes behind as we waved to the security camera and locked both doors behind us.
As the garage door rolled closed, our adventure, for the day, had ended. Weariness blanketed our bodies in the most satisfying way. Seldom have I felt so exhausted and so alive.
Jimmy Rintjema is from Ontario, Canada, which explains why he spells some words differently. In addition to being a writer, he is an avid cyclist and all-around adventure seeker.
*Pictures also by Jimmy Rintjema.