Three Faces of Hawk Hill: Training Week 2

Tuesday: 20 Miles

I am getting the hang of morning bike rides. It doesn’t hurt when it’s so beautiful and sunny. Although I did snooze my 5:25am alarm, it wasn’t as much of a fight to get up. The sun already filling up the apartment. It wasn’t hard to coax me outside. It was warm…until I hit up the backside of Marin. I remembered then that the sun hadn’t yet hit the headlines.

Thursday: 20 Miles

I debuted my OrNot get up on Thursday morning! I was so psyched to wear my new bibs, sleek blue jersey and (because gloom was apparent) my windbreaker. The latter proved to be a lifesaver. The morning was the polar opposite of Tuesday’s ride…quite literally. The wind was ferocious. Despite leaving a bit later at 6am, I chased or passed few cyclists in the Presidio and over the bridge. I braced myself hesitantly as I crossed over, trying to stay upright as the Westwardly winds fought me. As if I wasn’t already convinced of the strong wind by the pure tension coursing within my body to stay upright, the faulty bridge rail’s tuning pitch chorus eerily blared in my left ear. Later Derrick said if the bridge sings, it means the wind is going at least 30 miles per hour. Yeeesh.

I was relieved to make it over the bridge, a feeling that was short lived. Cranking up the first part of Hawk Hill proved even more terrifying as wind pounded my helmet. I knew I wasn’t going down to the Headlands. But promised myself I’d at least make it to the top of Hawk Hill….until I rounded the very first corner and struggled to right myself. Fear hit the bottom of my stomach and I immediately turned around. The feeling of almost flying off the mountain is a hard one to ignore. Behind me I found a pack of men cranking up the hill. I thought I saw “quitter” in their eyes. But I didn’t care. I stopped at the overlook on the Lincoln Highway and finished my cereal bar (sticking to my learned lessons. See previous post). I was glad to be done with that hellish ride.

I pivoted my route to Lake and then down to the edge of GG Park to round out my 20 miles. The wind was still present, but not so beastly. Perspective is a wild thing. By the time I arrived home, blue skies and warm sun blanketed the Panhandle and I felt disoriented. Definitely the harshest ride I’ve had yet.

Saturday: 19 Miles

I did grieve briefly for my weekend morning routine of sleeping in. But getting up at 5:30am is getting easier(ish). My Hawk Hill route was cold, a bit wet, and slightly windy…but child’s play compared to Thursday. The back of Hawk Hill descent was a little dicey with how foggy and slick it was…but I took it easy. Adrienne and her husband are in town and having visitors is definitely a huge motivator to early rides before everyone else’s day begins.

Sunday: 52 Miles

What does bliss feel like? Training has revealed what it is for me: It’s the warm heat of the sun in the morning that heats me and the earth around me. It’s being in the middle of nature, smelling the natural oils coaxed from the rising sun. It’s the light sheen of sweat on the back of my neck as I move my body. I felt that going up Hawk Hill one (warm) day. I’ve felt it on hiking trips. I felt it on my long(set!) ride on Sunday.

We looped up and around China Camp. I took it easy and made sure to stop regularly. The last time I attempted 50 miles was Paradise Loop. Due to poor training, poor technique, and pushing myself too hard — I triggered my knee injury, which set me back months. So Sunday I was careful. It was warm and wonderful! I had to stop at a gas station to snack up (lesson learned) before going onto China Camp. China Camp was a gentle roll. The way back to San Rafael was warm, and I caught some beautiful bougainvilleas. We grabbed fries in Larkspur to salt up before going up Sausalito on the way back.

**Bonus Ride** Memorial Day: Easy 15 miles

To soak up the sun and stretch my legs a tad, we biked out to the ocean. Gust be damned, we laid out and sunbathed until we got too cold and too hungry.

Go West, Alison

“If your life was a book, would anyone read it?”

I first heard this while plopped in front of the television as a kid. It was uttered during a Navy TV spot enticing adventure-seekers to enlist. Promising excitement and fulfillment, the ad showed young Americans descending from helicopters, ocean waves licked at their heels, or jetting across the sea with faces hidden behind camouflage.

The ad failed to charm me into joining the military, but this bookworm was struck by the metaphor. Would anyone read my story? 

In truth I’m not sure my life would make much of a NYT Best Seller at this point, but I’d like to think the lands I’ve visited, paired with a talented illustrator, might lead it to fair well … at least as a possible coffee table selection.

And so, if my life were a novel, moving to California would be a plot twist.


I always felt destined to leave Iowa. Early on I became enamored with the East Coast: its bustling urbanites interwoven with the country’s history and earliest artifacts.  As my college friends picked up and moved out East, my eventual move felt even more right.

But then I got a job in San Francisco and quickly warmed up to the idea of living in a region of the US that I had not explored.  

And here we are: Berkeley, California.  Our arrival on Tuesday was relatively smooth for two people flying with four checked bags, four carry-ons and two disassembled bikes.  We utilized Uber XL to transport us and our belongings to our new apartment. Tired, Derrick and I weren’t very eager for conversation during the 20 minute ride.  The only conversation we did have with the driver occurred after we passed by an accident on the other side of the interstate.  The driver bemoaned the stupidity of drivers and the dangerous conditions on the road. It was at that moment Derrick and I realized our lane, the innermost one, was precariously small and lacked a shoulder between us and the concrete median wall. As our driver continued his brief rant, our eyes made their way to our right side where vehicles whizzed past.

If someone is texting or not paying attention and drifts over to our side, the driver continued to explain, I have no room… and BAM, an accident. 

Gulp. Just another reason we were glad to sell the car back in Iowa. 

Since our arrival, we’ve been running around the Bay Area, on errands and picking up things to help us settle in. We registered with Zipcar and went to Emeryville where we shopped (and briefly lunched) for general household items: pillows, mattress protector, ironing board. We finished off our list at Target, right next door and with our remaining time stopped at the Berkeley Bowl.

image6Although some people disagree with me, Berkeley reminds me of Iowa City. The college town vibe, the cyclists, the concern for the smallest of causes and the appreciation for all things local. No doubt, it’s also very different but the Berkeley Bowl took me right back to grocery shopping in Iowa City. 

The Berkeley Bowl is like IC’s New Pi Co-op, filled with all kinds of fresh produce and other food items…only it’s larger — both the general store and definitely the produce section. Need some apples? There are 10 different kinds. Peaches? Three different kinds. I even saw the deliciously stinky Durian, the famously funky fruit from China.

Although we’re closer to Trader Joe’s than the BB, we definitely plan to bike there frequently for our produce (and various other) needs.  

So to my readers (basically, my family): We seem to be settling in well. Despite exhaustion, we unpacked and cleaned up yesterday and the apartment already feels like home. We’re trying to soak up the dwindling days of unemployment before I begin my new job next week. Derrick is still looking, but has several inquiries he’s juggling. Unemployment may soon be in the past for him as well.