Tour de San Pablo Bay


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My first idea about such a ride came up when the bike path on the Carquinez Bridge opened. I thought that it should be possible to loop around the San Pablo Bay, starting in San Francisco and finishing in Berkeley, since of course it is still impossible to ride the Bay Bridge. So the last leg would involve a short ride on the BART.

What bothered me was the northern part of that ride, between Novato and Vallejo: from what I knew there was only a freeway there, Highway 37. How would I be able to ride that?

But then I heard - a bit late - about the Bay in a Day Double Century. 2005 is the first year they organize it. It attempts to do a complete loop around the Bay of San Francisco, which amounts to 208 miles in the day. Unfortunately I was not able to do it, but I realized they were doing most of what I wanted to do on the northern part of the Double Century. And apparently, they were able to ride on Hwy 37 (1).

So I decided to give it a try, with some minor modifications. Here is the result:

The first 15 miles route is a classic for nay San Francisco cyclist. Starting from anywhere in SF, the idea is to cross the Bridge, veer right to Sausalito and follow the bike path to the bottom of Camino Alto. I am not sure I understand why the Double Century makes you ride on 101 instead of going to the end of the bike path. I decide not to do the Tiburon part in cluded in the Double Century: Paradise Drive is a gorgeous road, but I know it by heart from the Different Spokes Jersey rides. So I climbed Camino Alto and turn left on Paradis Dr towards San Rafael. The ride is not the prettiest, but it has some nice views, including Saint Quentin :-)

After some not-so-nice streets in San Rafael comes what may be the most beautiful part of the ride, the San Pedro Road, around (guess what) Point San Pedro. Almost no traffic, splendid views and a scenery composed of swamps giving way to beaches.

There were some parts where you could also see Mt Tam.

In addition to that, leaving N San Pedro Rd, I was rewarded with a tour of the Marin Civic Center, by Frank LLoyd Wright.

The next few miles to Novato are familiar to people who have ridden the Marin Century. I guess the detour through Novato was not absolutely necessary, since the main point was to go back to the starting point of the Double Century, but as I was not familiar with this part, I prefered to stick with their indications.

The next leg was the scary part of the route: Hwy 37, which is a real freeway.As a matter of fact, the 14 miles on the highway were not so bad, apart from the Petaluma River Bridge, which has no shoulder. The scenery is actually quite beautiful, especially since they installed vista points to view the wildlife, at which I had never stopped when I was driving it!

A surprise was waiting for me in Vallejo in the form of a Pow Wow, but I didn't have time to check it out much longer.

And here I was, at the raison d'etre for this ride, the new Carquinez Bridge and its bike path. I was actually shocked by how little it was used. I basically spotted one family of pedestrians, and not one bike, on a beautiful Saturday afternon!

From there the route retrace exactly the steps of the Grizzly Peak Century, up to the San Pablo Dam.

The only significant climb of this route, Widlcat Canyon Rd, is where I departed from the Double Century route, to get to Berkeley and back to foggy San Francisco.

More pictures!

Detailed directions (PDF file - 37K), map, profile of the route up to Vallejo, profile of the route in the East Bay, (profiles drawn with Klimb).

Jerome - August 3, 2005

(1) By the way, I just found out that Felix Wong has done the Bay in A Day Double Century; he has a report and many pictures here

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