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Part 2 - Ranchlands
At the bottom, the trees opened to a picture perfect lake where our shaded road skirted for half a mile until crossing over a dam with a two hundred foot drop on one side and the lake lapping away inches from our feet on the other. We caught up, ate up and warmed up in the sun before riding up a smooth and consistently hard grinder out of the valley. Thirty minutes later, with the lake behind and below us, we rolled over a ridge, then another, and then another, before finally descending into Fairfax.
Twenty-five miles in, at a parking lot in Fairfax, everyone is taking stock of the day - fitness levels, the distance to go, average speed. Half of us are queued up across the street for the bike shop’s toilet, and Luke and Sebastian are patronizing a drive-thru espresso stand with a few others. Meanwhile, at the other end of the parking lot, thirty to forty mountain bikers were getting ready for a birthday party ride. That, or a Shriners function – they all wore colorful pointy triangular hats strapped to their helmets. It was a beautiful moment and the last time our group was together.
The ride out of Fairfax was steep, straight and long enough for the group to get strung out again. The road crested for a second and the descent began immediately. A mile further along, near the bottom, Ira, Cole and Jeremy blew by the left turn Murphy had cautioned us not to miss. With the exception of those guys, everyone stayed together for a collective turn onto Nicasio Valley and the next stage of the ride through ranch lands, hill country dotted with rocks, cows and sheep, Nicasio Reservoir and the Cheese Factory. At Point Reyes Station road, about half-way in, the half-day'ers split off from the main group and turned around for the ride back into the city. Led by Slate, the main group continued on to Marshall Wall and ten miles of bucolic wonderland. Just before the final three-mile climb out of the valley, Ira and gang caught the main group and blew right by, like a lost but very strong and hopelessly eager half locomotive, half Labrador retriever. The top was windy and golden and briefly flat before falling onto the best descent of the day, to the Pacific.
“The mood in that parking lot was so upbeat, it was irrational exuberance. We were all friends and talking and everyone was feeling great. What did it matter that we were less than a quarter of the way in?”
– Slate Olson
“I’m behind Aaron and Cole and we’re really putting it down, after that climb I’m so ready for it. Then suddenly, my nose is a half-inch away from buzzing my front tire. Figures, I’m feeling great and we’re all attacking off the front, playing pro, and my bars slip.”
– Jeremy Dunn, Continental Rider