My theory of evolution for the mediocre cyclist is that once you get too busy, lazy, or broken to race, there are only two paths forward. One leads to downhilling, the other to touring.
Implausible as it may seem to anyone who’s ever watched me mountain bike (or more accurately, walk my mountain bike around any actual mountain biking), I really did have my sights set on option one. This is about aspiration, after all, and I want to be fast and brave far more than I want to … carry stuff. But with still-coagulating metatarsals, it finally came to this:
Day 1: Mountain View to Portola Redwoods. When I called the ranger from Skyline I learned there was only one campsite left. (“They’re going fast,” he added, “so I hope you are, too!”) Descending 7 miles and 2,000 feet with the prospect of having to turn around and go back up was grim; snagging the last walk-in, joyous. I met some actual bikepackers, who told me about getting chased by a pack of wild dogs on an abandoned Indian reservation. This made my Georgia freakout seem extra bush league.
Day 2: Portola Redwoods to Butano. Mostly just coasting down Old Haul Road, listening to birdsong and watching the light come through the trees like freakin’ fairy dust. There wasn’t a wicker basket full of wildflowers and baguettes on the front of my bike but there might as well have been.
At Butano I hiked a loop around the park to see the abandoned air-strip. It was a real bad idea on the injury front, but worth it to get up onto the ridge, to the heat and the sun and the light. There is Spanish moss on everything. Plus I saw banana slugs, an alligator lizard, a six-point buck, and all the way the ocean, gee whiz!
Day 3: Butano to Palo Alto. I had planned to climb Tunitas Creek but wimped out in favor of a tailwind-assisted spin up 84. Not sorry. On the way home, I assembled my preliminary assessment of bike camping, below:
+ You experience 50% less self-loathing for incidental pastry consumption en route.
+ You experience 75% less self-loathing for riding really, really slowly.
– Combination of the above is dangerous.
– About 50% as fun as either normal riding or normal camping: bike handles badly because it’s heavy, plus/even though you left all the glamping items at home trying to cut weight.
– In my case this included toothpaste.
– If you’re even a bit grubby, people in Palo Alto think you’re a hobo.
– Wait … am I a hobo?
+ You experience 60% more smugness when passing triathletes.
– I’m going to have to buy more gear.
– Seriously, how is possible than I have to buy more gear?
+ I love stopping to look at everything!