Three carfree dog days adventures
SUMMER GUIDE "We definitely try to de-emphasize Iron Man trips," says Justin Eichenlaub, author of Post-Car Adventuring, the eminently usable guide to low carbon camping, hiking, and cruising trips around the Bay Area, Although Eichenlaub and coauthor Kelly Gregory want to include all fitness levels in the fun, make no mistake — they're hardcore.
The two met through a Craigslist posting for a multi-day group bike trip to Monterey and now publish guidebooks and a blog under the name Post-Car Press. They're virtual encyclopedias of info: locations of wide highway berms, how to avoid Devil's Slide on Highway 101 (incidentally, by a route bikers have dubbed Planet of the Apes Road), and the absolute best for-bikers-by-bikers maps money can buy (Krebs cycle maps, available at www.krebscycleproducts.com).
But they're adamant that it doesn't take quads of steel to master the roads — even ones to far-flung campsites — sans car with the help of trains, county buses, and the occasional ferry. Indeed, even if you're not the biking type, auto-less camping is still within your grasp. Shoulder your backpack and head out to Marin's Samuel P. Taylor State Park via the Golden Gate Transit express bus to San Rafael, then the Marin Stagecoach No. 68. The stagecoach drops you a quarter-mile from campsites tucked into a redwood grove — where walk and bike-in camping doesn't require reservation and costs only $3 per person per night.
A few tips for the road, courtesy of Eichenlaub. "Have a bike that you're comfy on — it doesn't have to be a road bike, or even have a rack, because you can stow your gear in a backpack. Realize you're allowed to go really slow and the bike will always feel lighter than you expect." Always familiarize yourself with your route before you leave, and — duh — bring a flat tire kit, pump, and bike lights. "Even if you're planning a day ride, it can sometimes turn into a dusk ride."
Here's a partial guide to three of the pair's fave summer adventures. Make sure to look up detailed directions before you roll out to recreate. Transit time and bike mileage numbers are for round trips.
MERCEY HOT SPRINGS
Public transit time: eight hours
Total bike mileage: 68 miles
"This is really a slice of California that Bay Area people don't go to," says Eichenlaub of Fresno County's desert lands, which house a natural spa center that's been around since 1912. Take BART to the MacArthur Station and bike about 1.2 miles to the Emeryville Amtrak Station. Load your steed onto a train bound for Merced — trains in California never charge fees for stowing bikes — then hop the Route 10 Merced County Transit bus (schedules at www.mercedthebus.com) to Dos Palos. Get off near the Reynolds and Christian streets intersection and begin the 33-mile ride through dry, wildflower-studded lands.
"There are few, if any, trees — only sweeping sandy plains dotted with desert brush," according to Gregory. After an especially beautiful 12 miles on Little Panoche Road, two lanes of thoroughfare where cars rarely pass — you'll reach Mercey Hot Springs, where you'll find cabins (starting at $120/night) and campsites ($30 per person/night) for your well-deserved slumber.
"It feels as though you are far, far away from the city," Gregory says. The center hosts regular yoga seminars and has a disc golf course that guests can use for free. But if you're trying to make this a quick jaunt, day use of the pool, sauna, and baths costs only $20.