I've been meaning to share my ride story and pics from Mt. Tam in Califonia with everyone for a while now, but haven't gotten around to it until now.
That morning, Leigh (my new wife) and I went to Alcatraz (highly recommend going). I was excited about going for a ride as we had scoped out some of the route the day before. We rented a tandem and spent the day touring around the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. This was my first and last chance to climb a mountain for a while and I was jazzed. However, the weather was cold and foggy/cloudy, and I was getting nervous that I had not brought any cold weather gear (who would have thought it would be cold in California?). The sun was poking in and out and I thought since it was probably now or never, I should take my chances and go for the ride.
I rented the bike and took off with 4 and a half hours to get back to the shop before close. This was especially important as all of my clothes were left in the change room. Time would be tight, but I figured by the specs. of the ride I would be just fine for time. I rode out across the bridge and was greeted by the clouds parting and letting some wonderful sunshine through. I retraced our route from the previous day, albeit at a little bit faster pace, and I started climbing through some of the most beautiful residential streets I've ever seen. Think bridal path through an old growth forest, with a hippy feel. Well paved roads helped ease the elevation as I got to about halfway up before turning to the top and starting the main 11 km climb.
As I rose through the cloud line it was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had, traveling through the clouds under my own (admittedly modest) power was amazing. I passed through the coolest forest in the clouds, where it was raining condensation off the trees on to the most perfect pavement. I couldn't imagine a better place to ride. The imperial units on my cycle computer bounced down and settled around 11 mph (Imperial units are so dishearting) as I was spinning in my second lowest gear for most of the climb (thankfully it was a compact). I reached the top in two hours (having spent the better half of the second climbing), and I was spent. The amazing view from the top and the rest recharged me, and I headed down.
On the way down I had a great time twisting down the switchbacks and mountain passes, although I was a little chilly without arm warmers, especially going back through the clouds. I started to get a little concerned about time so I stopped stopping to take pictures, but I didn't want to test my speed judgement and handling too much on an unfamiliar bike in unfamiliar conditions by going too much faster. I only got lost once on the way back (the map was terrible), but having the road turn to gravel under me and having to retrace my steps cost me precious time.
When I finally reached civilization I stopped for a quick snack (I was really starting to feel the effects of 3 hours on the bike). When I looked at the clock in the gas station, I saw I had 50 minutes to get back and knew it had taken me 50 minutes to get there on fresh legs... I had to hammer to get back to the bike shop on time, with no gas left in the tank. I dug deep, flew across the bridge and through the downtown core, only to roll up to a Walgreens one block away from the shop at 6:28 (according to the giant parking lot clock)... 2 minutes to spare. The shop had people in it and luckily stayed open right till close.
Photographic evidence exists here (please let me know if this doesn't work)
Not sure of the stats (my strava wouldn't start without a data access), but I think my riding time was just under 4 hours, elevation was 750+ meters, and I covered around 80 km
My dad had a copy of bicycling magazine and they actually ranked the ride as their number one pick for the state of California, and I think you folks will see why from the pictures. I know it would have gotten my vote without seeing the competition, since I could not imagine anything more perfect. If anyone wants higher res. pics, or if you are going anywhere along the coast and want travel suggestions, let me know.