November 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
Day 3 – Way back in my young adulthood I got this idea to ride my bicycle across the country, which I did during the Summer of 1981. I started in San Diego, and rode North where after some weeks and some time in San Francisco, we (My roommate Frank joined me) headed North for some Highway 1 scenery. On our second day out we met a cyclist named Jim, who was riding across the country as well, however there was a difference, and that difference was that his equipment was not really the kind of cross country equipment you should be riding across, but one look at him, and you knew he was riding what he could. That was near the end of the day, and when we found a State managed biker campground we pulled in, and to our pleasure we had company. That was where I first met Fritz Knochenauer.
Some time ago I was reminiscing and glancing through my log book from the trip and I came across Fritz’s name, and thought to myself “There can’t be a whole lot of Fritz Knochenauers on social media”, and so into the search bar goes the name, and lo and behold, there is only a single hit. I reached out with a FB message, that summarized how we met, and wondered if he remembered that summer. Well of course he did! And so, Fritz and I reconnected on social media. Certainly one of the main benefits of that medium.
Fritz lives in San Mateo, and if you look at the google map, select the bicycle mode, and then look for a way to get there, it is not encouraging. We had talked that if I rode it would take me an hour at least, perhaps more to get there, and that we would meet at the trail-head for Camp Sawyer Trail. Fritz wasn’t comfortable with that because it left too much open to variability, and cell service at the trail-head may not be good enough to communicate, so we decided I would take a Cal-Train from Frisco to San Mateo, where we would meet at the station there, grab some coffee, and then head out for a ride of Fritz’s choosing.
Up early again the next morning, everything the same, except I dressed a little bit warmer this time in that I brought a hat, and gloves. I found the train station pretty easily, and figured out how to buy a ticket. Mass transit seems to be subsidized a little more in California than it is in the NY Metro area. Except for reading 6:45 first as 6:15 and walking down the wrong platform, I found myself in line at the correct platform, and while 6:15 approached it was clear from the closed doors, that the OK to allow boarding had not come through yet. Not sure what the holdup was, but it didn’t last long, and fortunately the closest car to the door is the bicycle car. Easy to use and I found a seat to watch the stations go by.
Cyclists came and went before it was my turn, and then I was all alone in the dark at the San Mateo station. I looked around, and figured Fritz would be there shortly, and then I looked around some more to decide where was the best place to be seen easily, and stay out of the breeze. It was already apparent that my decision to dress warmer was a good one, but it was still pretty cool in the high 40’s. Fritz found me and we headed around the corner to The 3 Bees for coffee and wait for daylight. We both grabbed a cup, and while we were catching up, Sundar, who was previously unknown to both of us, overheard our conversation and was interested, and so we spent the next 10 minutes with Sundar as an integral part of our chatter.
Finished with coffee, and with daylight filling the void, we mounted and rode. Down the road, a right and a left and we were on Crystal Springs riding up through the “Poor” section of San Mateo gaining elevation with every Western foot covered. We passed some pretty extensive estates before we crossed under 280, and found ourselves at the entrance to Camp Sawyer Trail. I should state that when Fritz first mentioned this trail, and I looked it up, this is the exact spot I would have shot for. Fritz however was thinking of the OTHER end of it when he proposed it, and so we would have been miles away from each other saying to each other we were both at the trail-head.
As soon as you cross the threshold of the trail entrance, the whole world changes. Suddenly you have escaped the commute zone, and are now part of an inner wilderness. The Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir, as well as the Upper, and the San Andreas Reservoir are used to store water brought down from the Hetch Hetchy a couple of hundred miles to the East and up in the high Sierras. The trail was deserted mostly except for us and a single fawn that we happened upon. We headed North along the path and chatted, and soon the Lower CSR was behind us and we gained some elevation and curved around the Dam side of the San Andreas Lake. There is a reason it is called The San Andreas Lake. The West side of the Dam lies on the Pacific Plate, and the East side on the North American Plate. Some day, that dam will be torn apart.
The trail came to an end, and we were dumped onto Skyline Blvd. a.k.a. 35 where there was little choice but head North. Shoulder was pretty wide, but I don’t think this was really on the list of approved ride-your-bicycle roads. In fact no part of it is “Green” when you enable bicycle friendly roads in Google Maps. However, 35 does make a bee line straight across Northwest a large stretch of the peninsula, providing access to The Great Highway along the coast. The only real safety concern was its interface to Route 1 where 35 at this point is like a 4 lane controlled access highway, and to stay on it means crossing the high speed exit ramp from the shoulder. A prospect I wouldn’t want to be doing on a daily basis. This is matched on the far side by having to cross the high speed merge ramp coming from Highway 1. My companion had advocated for some cycling infrastructure work on 35 because it brings a bridges across such a large swath of land connecting access to San Francisco with its southern neighbors, but that costs money.
I knew from my Monday ride that we were heading toward Lake Merced where we would pick up The Great Highway. This interface was also highly trafficked and in need of cycling infrastructure work, but we managed it and found ourselves riding the right lane and shoulder heading North. At this time of day, there was traffic, and so unlike Monday, we stopped at all the lights, which were not timed for cycling. We also chose to stay on the shoulder rather than compete for space on the multi-use path. Automobiles are a lot more predictable than joggers, and people with baby strollers.
Our goal was The Beach Chalet, a multi-use building from a time long ago that had fallen into disrepair, but has been brought back to life as a brewpub. We were simply hoping for coffee, but the business wasn’t operating yet and so we hung out downstairs for a while taking in the old murals on the walls. Fritz said we could get some coffee at The Park Service building at Lands End if we continued up The Great Highway where it becomes Point Lobos Ave and ascends into the Southwestern section of Presidio where there used to be public baths back in the day.
It had finally warmed, and I had long put away my gloves and knit cap, and we grabbed some coffee after chatting up a lovely woman while we were taking in the view. Not long afterwards I received a text from Susan “When will you be back?” which of course was special code for “Get your ass back here now!”. Goodbyes were exchanged, a group selfie taken, and promises to “ride again” were made, and I set off across the city, and Fritz departed to retrace our steps. 36 years and some months separated our encounters, but it really felt like only yesterday as we just rode along and chatting comfortably.