Mt. Tam on the cross bike

This was my high school – Redwood. Mt. Tam is such a fixture of Marin, for me it was impossible to live here and NOT want to go ride around up there.

I took a short overnight trip to my original home of Larkspur in Marin County, CA to visit my mom (and ride my bike of course).  This mountain is burned in my soul, Mt. Tam has always made me feel grounded even if the huge population around it scare me off a bit these days.  The ‘clientele’ has changed! Or maybe I have. (Smile people! You’re recreating on a weekday!!) Either way, very little has changed on Tam in the almost 30 years I’ve been riding there.  I never get sick of the miles and miles of fire roads, huge redwoods, big ocean views, loamy creeping trails, and the small(ish) town feel of the different mountain-side ‘boroughs’ of Marin.  There’s something comforting about knowing where everything is, not having to look at a map because it’s all written to your long-term memory, you just follow your instincts.

Each trail and road has a story, a memory or two, where an old friend grew up, of a party you kinda remember riding up to or bombing down from late at night, a trail where TK or NB slammed so hard you still remember that feeling… like you were going to have to carry their dead body off the mountain…all like it was just yesterday.  Home is comfortable, no doubt about it.

Blithedale Ridge. Can’t NOT take pictures without Tam in there somewhere.

I had never ridden Tam on a cross bike, so I took my all-rounder/gravel bike with 40’s on some fire roads.  One ride was only an hour long, getting that last light before sunset where I rode over to Mill Valley, up Blithedale Ridge, over to Crown Road Fire Road and down.  I tried to go down King Mountain but some dude built a freaking mansion in the middle of the trail.  So I descended into Kentfield past all the old middle and high school friends houses and just tripped out at how damn old I am now.

wake up call in Mill Valley
Wake up call in Mill Valley. Good espresso is hard to find where I live now.

The next morning I got up early and rode over the hill again into Mill Valley, stopped at the cart for some espresso and then up Old Railroad Grade past West Point Inn and up to the top of East Peak.  I had flashbacks to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  I was in this same spot 25 years earlier when I was 16 years old, having just climbed up Eldridge. I was futzing with my helmet straps when I realized the rail I had my foot firmly planted on was moving.  The ground suddenly transformed into a wave of dirt, I grabbed the railing and it moved almost a foot back and forth in my hand while I stayed vertical.  At least I wasn’t riding like the poor guy i found on the way down Old Railroad, his face bloody from the resulting fall.  So anyways, I descended down Eldridge, which is quite rocky on a cross bike, arrived at Phoenix Lake and rode back through Ross and onto the bikepath past Kent Middle School and back home before 9am.

Old Marin VW. I would love this thing.

Growing up that ride seemed huge, now it’s just a 2 hour jaunt.  How perspectives change over time. How the world seems so damn big back then.  How many times have you said, ‘small world’ in the last year?  But I still see so many places in the Marin watershed that I haven’t seen or been.  The all-rounder cross bike with big tires (is that redundant?) is the best way to see it in my opinion – hopping from curvy roads to a fire road to a trail and back, you can cover some serious miles in a short amount of time.  I’ll be back…

High Voltage
High Voltage.
Climbing out of the dark. East Peak up on the right there is where I’m heading.
Still climbing…
West Point Inn cabins.
View of the SF Bay (left) and the Pacific Ocean (right) from West Point Inn. Always a good halfway point break.
on up Old RR Grade, ocean in view.
East Peak lookout. SF on left.
East Peak lookout. SF on left.


The start of the descent down Eldridge Grade, Bon Tempe lake in the background. Not so easy on a cross bike!
Crown Fire Road view.


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