Intern Recommended Mildly Challenging Adventure #2

James the intern here, back again with the second edition of the IRMCA!

This week’s edition is a real cracker, but let’s take a step back. Right now I am looking out over the Bay from OutsidePR’s office. The morning’s unseasonably rainy weather is wearing off and spots of blue sky are beginning to shed some light onto the water. The morning rain has cleared the air and I can see the northern face of the San Francisco landscape with considerable clarity, and the sight reminded me of today’s mildly challenging adventure, which I took last week and think you should too. What I’m urging you to do, friends, is to bike from San Francisco to Marin County.

This adventure is far less specific and contained than my previous one. I’ll throw you some loose guidelines, but I know that no matter what exact route you take you will get the best of what the area has to offer. If you are Bay Area based you should take this adventure from a “maybe one day when the kids go off to college” to a “been there done that but I’m probably going to do it again because it was awesome” as soon as you can, and if you are not I suggest that upon your next visit to the area you take some time to mildly challenge yourself with this journey.

View of the bridge back towards the headlands from Crissy Field

Location: The city compensates for its lack of surface area by providing steep hills that will provide a workout and, depending upon your location, panoramic views of the Bay Area. If urban biking is not your style, you can enjoy the beautiful bayside succession of the Marina, Crissy field, and the Presidio as you approach the Golden Gate Bridge (which was built by my second favorite civil engineer, M.M. O’Shaughnessy). The ascent from the Presidio up to the bridge is mildly challenging, and will provide a sense of accomplishment that will only enhance the majesty of the bridge you will feel as you cross it.

Once on the other side of the bridge, you have options. Those more open to an adventure on the less mild to more challenging side will salivate at the Marin Headlands, which provide landscape as beautiful as any on the West Coast on a good day and lead to seemingly limitless miles of beautiful coastline and mountainous green terrain. The pinnacle of the area, and all of Marin, is Mt. Tamalpais  (FUN FACT: Mountain Biking was pioneered on Mt. Tamalpais by an innovative young Marinite named Gary Fisher in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s).

If you are more inclined to a simpler, shorter, and flatter (translation: more mild) adventure, keep to the right once on the Marin side of the bridge and descend into Sausalito. Sausalito is a small but crowded town, home to both OPR (stop in and say hi!) and, depending upon what day it is, an inordinate amount of tourists. If you plan your trip around peak hours, though, Sausalito will show itself to be the truly charming bayside town that it is. It also proves to be the gateway to the rest of Marin’s quaint small towns like Mill Valley or Larkspur.

Must do/see: Whether you choose to go into the headlands or to head down into Sausalito, it is worth it to take pause and explore some of the historic military bunkers that pepper the hills of the coastline. They are eerie and exciting, and when I was in second grade my friend Max and I used to go there and play army men. Continued efforts to find a superior setting for a game of army men have failed.

An abandoned military bunker in the headlands

Must eat/drink: When in Marin one should do as the Marinites do, and one thing people from this part of the world do as well as anyone is sit around and drink coffee. Thus, after your ride I suggest stopping for a nice refreshing one at Taste of Italy, a charming Italian bistro with excellent coffee situated just out of the downtown Sausalito hubhub. It is a favorite respite of like-minded pursuers of mildly challenging bikers.

Where to stay: San Francisco hotel options are numerous, but I cannot claim a great deal of knowledge on the subject because I have lived so close to the city for so long. However, if you are looking for a mildly adventurous and cheap option I suggest some of the youth hostels around the presidio (on the SF side) or nestled within the Headlands (on the Marin side).

 Miscellaneous: Many of the friends of OutsidePR who will read this are far more experienced and advanced on the bicycle than I am, and may scoff at just how mildly challenging this Intern Recommended Mildly Challenging Adventure truly is. What I see about this excursion that validates it even for a more valiant biker, at least in my eyes, is that it strikes me as the foremost example of successful interplay between man-made and natural phenomena. Before you start off across the bridge try to visualize the natural elements of your surroundings before the bridge had been build and marvel as I do at the harmony and mutual enhancement of the bridge and its surroundings.  The city gives way to the bridge; the bridge gives way to the headlands. I guess what I’m saying here is that this mildly challenging adventure is much less about the biking and much more so the intense feeling of being swept up somewhere into this intense exchange between man and nature.

I highly recommend it.

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