North Bay Overnighter: My First Bikepacking Trip

You have already met Bob, and you know that I have not really had a lot of experience with mountain biking, but that did not keep me from deciding to try bikepacking out as soon as the bomb cyclone had passed and we had a sunny weekend. I figured why not, since I already have a lot of backpacking and camping gear, so all that I needed was something to put the gear in and attach it to my bike and I would be good to go. I figured I could learn the rest as I went.

Bolinas Ridge Trail

What is bikepacking? It is basically the same as backpacking except instead of carrying all of your stuff on your back, you carry it on your bike. Your stuff includes a tent (unless you are going to cowboy camp, aka lay out your bedroll under the stars) and sleeping gear at the very least and can include a stove, pots, food, bike tools, extra clothes, electronics and toiletries. So, like I said, pretty much like backpacking. Usually the route consists of more trails than pavement, also like backpacking, but can be on highways, gravel roads, bike paths, logging roads, forest service roads or fire roads. 

Here is Bob, all loaded up and ready for adventure!

How did I find out about this? I have no friends who do this. To be honest, and I am a little embarrassed to admit this, I found it on YouTube. I was looking for ideas for summer hiking/backpacking and I stumbled across this channel where two regular people completed part of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) and I thought, "I want to do that!" and I started looking into it. I found a great local route that I could get to without driving and off I went. Of course, before this, I went pretty deep into a YouTube wormhole. You know how that goes. 

The route that I found can be found on Bikepacking.com and is called the North Bay Overnighter. It is an 80 mile route that goes from the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) through the Marin headlands to Samuel P. Taylor park near Point Reyes and back a different way to the GGB to finish the loop the second day. These are mostly trails that I have run on before, so I felt pretty comfortable with the route-finding aspect of the trip although this also meant that I knew exactly what I was up against in some cases, which was a little bit daunting! 

Day 1: The official route starts and ends at the Anderson parking lot on the Marin side of the GGB. However, since I live in Oakland, I decided to get there by bike rather than driving. I started off by riding my bike from my house to the BART, which I took to the Civic Center station in the city. It was pretty early in the morning and the only people on the street besides me were the homeless, the druggies and the prostitutes. This is not the most beautiful part of the city, let me just say that. From the Civic Center, I rode down to Fort Mason and then went past Chrissy Field to the end of the GGB. I crossed the bridge in the fog and wet and finally got to the official start around 8:00 am with about 9 miles under my belt already. 

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the headlands

From there, the route goes up the road to the Coastal trail, and the sun was just starting to break up the fog and I had some really nice views of the bay. I then cruised down the Coastal trail, which is a very gradual downhill, although there were a few rutted areas that made me realize that I had no idea if was best to ride in the rut or try to stay on one of the side lumps, and at one point I heard another bike behind me and I was not sure if I should pull over or get off to the side or...what the rules were! The route goes down, crosses the road and then heads back up Bobcat, which is really just one big mile and a half long uphill and is a trail I have run many times, but have never been able to run the entire uphill without walking a little. However, I rode the bike without stopping the entire time and I was so proud of myself that I stopped at the top for a snack before heading down towards Tennessee Valley. 

From Tennessee Valley parking lot, the trail goes back up the Miwok trail, which was my first experience with the hike-a-bike! Also by now it was actually getting warmer and I shed yet another layer on my way up this hill. After the uphill, Miwok is a nice gradual downhill that crosses highway 1 before going back up towards Dias ridge. Dias was my first true single-track and I had "fun" learning how to manage the hairpin downhill turns, although I did  have one slow speed fall in this section. Side note: the completely packed bike is probably about 50 pounds, which is hard to control on the curves! You live and you learn, I guess. 

Dias Ridge Trail

After going down Dias you get to Muir Beach and this is where I had to break out the GPS. The trail was hard to find, as the route takes you basically up the side of a hill in what looks like someone's backyard, but I think it is just an attempt to not make you ride on the road for that section. However, it is a little strange, as you come out at the top on the road, which you then have to ride on for about a mile and a half before you go back onto the trail again. I was a little afraid of the road as I have driven on it and seen cyclists and it seems a bit scary (it is a windy coastal road) but people were polite and the traffic was still not yet too bad. 

Getting off the road and back on the trail toward Cardiac/Pantoll

The trail takes you to Cardiac and you cross the Dipsea before heading to Pantoll, which is a parking lot, bathroom, water fountain and camping area. Apparently there is hike in/bike in camping here but I was only about 21 miles into the official 40 that I was supposed to do this day, so I kept going. From Pantoll, you ride on the road uphill for about 2 miles; again, this was with cars, but there were also a lot of bikes and the cars were pretty polite. Then came one of my favorite parts of the ride: Ridgecrest Blvd. This road was mostly downhill and is very flowy, with barely any cars AND a view of the ocean for days, and then you go into a redwood forest and it's dark and moist and magical. It is super cool! It was so SO fun. 

Ridgecrest Drive

After four miles, you turn off on the Bolinas Ridge trail, which is dirt but doesn't have too many steep ups or downs and goes on for several miles. However, the very end, when you are headed down toward the turnoff to the camping, is a lot of bumpy downhill, which was quite jarring at times. When you get almost to Point Reyes, you turn off and go to Samuel P. Taylor park, where there is a hike in/bike in campground and for $7 you can put up your tent! I got there around 5 pm, put up my tent, made dinner and then spent a wonderful few hours listening to my audiobook before heading to bed. I did this trip in January and I was the only person in the shared campsite! 

Bolinas Ridge Trail

Samuel P. Taylor hiker/biker camping

Day 2: The next morning I got up early, realized I was out of fuel, drank a cup of cold coffee, strapped on my headlamp and hit the road. Well actually it was a nice flattish paved trail at first, but very soon afterward, I went straight uphill into the fire roads again. Seriously, my first 2 miles were flat, then the next 8 miles were about 3,000+ feet of climbing. Again, I embraced the suck of the hike-a-bike, but I spent a long time wondering when the joy of the downhill was going to come. When the downhill finally came thought, at first it was not very joyful. It was very rocky and rutted and I actually had to push my bike on some of the downhills! 

View from the top of the hike-a-bike near Kent Reservoir

When I got back to the Bolinas Fairfax road, I decided that instead of going into Fairfax and then back up the hill to Tam and then down again to Tennessee valley and then up again to the start line where I would then have to cross the bridge and ride the BART, I would rather skip the extra hills and the public transportation and head back home via the Richmond bridge. So I went through Natalie Coffin park into Ross and from there I took a series of bike paths into Larkspur, where I rode out onto the Richmond Bridge. Once I got to Point Richmond, there was only about a mile of street riding before I got onto the bike path along the bay. A lot of this part of the route was on the San Francisco Bay Trail, which is a trail that goes all the way around the Bay Area. Some of it is on an actual dirt trail and parts of it are on roads and bike paths, but all together I believe there are over 500 miles! 

Larkspur bike path

View of the city from Richmond (SF Bay Trail)

Once I got to Emeryville, I had to go back onto the streets to get to Oakland, but I have to say most of them have pretty good bike paths, so it was not too intimidating. However, I was definitely ready to be done and I even briefly considered taking the BART although by this point it would not have saved me any time or even very many miles! To add insult to injury I let Google maps tell me which way to go and it took me right up a hill that I normally try to avoid (MacArthur Ave.) However, avoiding it would have added a mile probably, so maybe in this case it was really half a dozen of one and six of the other. It sure was nice to get back home though and I celebrated by taking off my bike shorts and walking around without pants for a few minutes before making myself something hot to eat. (TMI? Too bad!) 

Thoughts/What I Learned: Sometimes riding on the road can be fun. I need to bring more food next time. I am stronger than I think I am. When riding down hills, lift your butt off the seat unless you want to be sore later. Samuel P. Taylor is very beautiful. Pushing a 50 pound bike up a hill makes my arms feel like noodles. It also makes me VERY hungry. I probably need different shorts (I am wearing hiking shorts over bike shorts). A screw top water bottle is a lot of work (will bring squeeze bottle or hydration bladder on next trip). 

Comments: Bikepacking.com says that this route in 99.9% rideable with a difficulty of 4/10. I would agree with the latter, as is it mostly fire roads and there are not too many rocks or things to avoid, so even a beginner like me can do it. However, 99.9% rideable is perhaps a stretch as I don't know who can ride up the 14% - 20% grade at the beginning of day two. Maybe I am just out of shape, I don't know, but 99.9% would mean that less than a tenth of a mile is not rideable out of the entire 80 miles. 

Total Miles: 98.3
Total Elevation: 11,300 ft.
Total Time: 15 hours

Download the Ride With GPS GPX file here. I get ideas and inspiration from: Bikepacking.comRyan, Chris and his buddy Rob, John and Mira. 

Have you ever gone bikepacking? Tell me about a YouTube or internet wormhole you have found yourself deep in, and how did it turn out? 



Have you ever taken the Meyers Briggs test? I am an ISTJ; here is what the website says about that: A Logistician (ISTJ) is someone with the Introverted, Observant, Thinking, and Judging personality traits. 

Regarding friendship: Logistician friends are not spontaneous. They are not talkative, or particularly playful in their affection. What Logistician friends are is loyal, trustworthy, honorable and dependable. Others may come and go with the ups and downs of life, but Logisticians stay by their friends’ sides no matter what, with a deepness of commitment that other types may not even believe is possible.

Logisticians are a very methodical personality type, and this loyalty isn’t given away lightly. Often slow to make friends, Logisticians usually end up with a smaller circle, but they consider that circle to represent a promise to be there for the people they care about, and Logisticians’ promises are not easily broken.

I know sometimes we fit ourselves into our horoscope or other personality boxes, but I have to say, the above really does describe me to a tee. This may be something for another post, but one of the other things it talks about is integrity and how ISTJs follow through and don't understand people who do not do what they say they are going to do (yes!) so this personality description really does tick a lot of the boxes for me! 

But I digress; what I wanted to talk about was blogging. Why do people write stuff about their life that is personal and put it out in the ether for others to judge? For me, I started blogging when I was traveling around Southeast Asia as a way to communicate what I was doing and where I was to multiple people at the same time, instead of writing an email newsletter or something more tailored to a few people (here is my first blog post). My only readers were probably my parents and my grandma, who would never comment but would talk to me or email me about things later, so I knew that I had at least three followers. My grandma has since passed away, but my parents are still here somewhere (hi guys!)

I would guess that for the first few years I got a handful of comments from people that I actually knew and none from anyone I did not know. This space was more of an online (public) journal. 

Then I got my first comment from a stranger. It was so satisfying; I had made a connection! I answered them right away and was excited when they commented again on another post. I started reading their blog and commenting and they would answer me back. Back in these days, all comments from readers went into my email inbox and the way to respond to comments was to email the person back. Sometimes we would have a long private back and forth about a lot of personal things and would learn a lot about each other that was NOT put out into the ether. It was very satisfyingly. 

A short while after that, I met up with some of my online friends in real life! My other friends and family thought I was crazy, and one of them even asked me if I worried that my blogging friends may be psychos, but the trip went so well that since then I have met up with several other people that I have met online! There is something about the connection you get when you hear a lot of people's inner thoughts and you learn about their everyday life, as well as the interaction you have along the way. 

Minneapolis - September 2011

There were years when I just did not feel like putting myself out there (in 2019 I only posted once), but I have still kept the connections that I have made. This year I decided to start writing a little bit more again, and I have met many new people that I feel are kindred spirits! 

However, going back to my ISTJ personality, I am slow to make friends and I am not one to have a lot of friends with shallower or lighter connections; I like to have a smaller handful of closer connections. I find this also translates to my online connections; I don't read or comment on a hundred blogs or write just to see how many comments I can get without answering them. I like to have the interaction and the back and forth, and I have been known to stop following someone who seems to be just trying to win a popularity contest. However, some of the connections I have made over the years have resulted in friends for life and that is the coolest part of this story. I know that meeting people online now is de rigueur, but back in the day (when I walked uphill both ways in the snow) it was not as normal, but I am glad that I put myself out there back then, and will continue to do so now. 

If you have taken the Meyers Briggs, what personality type are you? If you have not, please do (it only takes a few minutes) and tell me what your result is and if you think it fits your perceived personality! 

Why did you start blogging and/or why are you here reading? Have you ever met any of your online connections in real life? 


My Last To Do List: Trusts & Other Documents

As I have mentioned before, I have a folder of all of my important docs and a list of all of my accounts and important details. I often call this list "the death list" because it is the list of things to do after I die, but this sounds kinds of morbid, so I will retitle it the last to do list. I hope that this list will not be needed for a long time, but I am happy to keep changing it if that means I live a lot longer. However, I also do feel that it is important to have your affairs in order, just in case. This post is about item one on the last to do list, setting up a trust

Before I get started, if you do nothing else or do not feel like reading this long post, at least do these two things: (1) Set up beneficiaries on any retirement accounts or Transfer on Death (TOD) designation on your other accounts. This allows worry free and probate free transfers of your money to someone else and even if you do not have a will or any other paperwork, the money will get into the right hands. (2) Complete an Advance Directive (see below for more info) form which will detail what you want done in case you are incapacitated (i.e. DNR).

But now, let's talk about why any of us would need a trust. A trust will help you to avoid probate. Probate is what happens when you pass away and the court has to approve your will and name or approve your executor. The costs of probate differ by state but in California, costs are based on the gross value of the estate and are 4% on the first $100,000 and then there is a sliding scale after that. Let's just say your assets are worth $100,000. That would be a $4,000 cost!! Also, this process can take six or nine or even twelve months, which can be a pain for your loved ones. 

The alternative is to set up a trust. I always thought that a trust was something rich people had for their spoiled kids. This is not the case! A trust is something that protects you, outlines your wishes and minimizes taxes (and avoids probate!). When you die, your successor trustee (the person you want to carry out your wishes) can start doing what you outline right away without getting the court involved. Depending on your situation, setting up a trust should not be too difficult or costly. I spoke to two different trust attorneys and the going rate is around $1,500 - $2,000 depending on your situation and the number of properties you have (in CA it costs $200 per property to change the name on the title). Of course, you could probably also just Google it and fill out something online that would work, but I wanted the peace of mind that comes with having a professional help me. Plus, my job offers legal benefits, which are similar to health benefits where you pay a little bit month. This costs me about $360 per year, so the attorney fees for setting up a trust only cost me $360. 

Additionally, not only will the attorney help with the trust, but they will also complete an Advance Directive, a will and a Power of Attorney form for you. If you have not already set these up, even if you do not have a trust, you should at least have these three things. 

Why do you need these? Let's talk about each one separately. The Advance Directive conveys your wishes regarding your health in case you become incapacitated and outlines who has the right to make health decisions on your behalf. You can easily get these documents from the internet. Nobody wants a case of Terri Schiavo on their hands. Here is an Advance Directive form that I used in the past. These do vary from state to state so you should use one for your particular state. The other things you should write down and keep with your AD are things like: do you want to be cremated or if you want to be buried, where do you want to be buried, do you have a plot already, etc.?  

We all know what a will is, so I won't go into too much detail; however, you may think that it doesn't matter because everything will just go to your next of kin, which is true. But having a will makes things easier for the people you leave behind, specifically appoints an executor (otherwise the state may do this for you) and can detail who will take care of your children, what your wishes are for your funeral etc. Again, you may think that you won't care because you will be gone, but it will make things easier for whoever is left to take care of your affairs. You can also note anyone you do not want to have anything, like creepy uncle Phil for example. This article is very helpful, and also has a free online version of a will that you can use to get started. 

The Power of Attorney tells people who can make financial decisions on your behalf if something happens to you. We all think we are invincible but what happens if you are in a car accident and can no longer make your own decisions? The other option is to add someone as a joint account holder on your accounts, which will give them the freedom to use the money to pay for your care, pay your bills etc. However, if you don't feel comfortable with that, you should appoint a POA. 

Okay! Let's go back to the trust again. Setting it up does take a little work, i.e. you do have to know who you want to get your stuff, who you want to handle your affairs etc. But once you have decided that, the actual process of doing the paperwork is very easy. For example, I had to give the attorney all of the information about my bank accounts (not numbers, just where the accounts are held), any investment accounts, any properties with addresses and any specific bequests. For who I was going to bequest anything to, all they need is the person's name. No social, no address, no phone. For anyone I wanted to give POA designation to, it was the same. So it was really not as complicated as you may think. 

Also, just like most legalese, there is always a phrase to cover you. For example, very common language goes like this: I gift my 13 inch TV to my brother and if deceased, this gift shall lapse. What does this mean? It means if he is no longer around, the gift goes back into my estate. You can set this up however you want and the "if deceased" can literally be a list of 40 people who you want to have in order of importance, or you can give everything to a charity like Warren Buffet. 

Do you have any of the abovementioned items? What steps have you taken to arrange your affairs? Do you have any tips to add or questions about the above? 

Disclaimer: The information above is solely an opinion based my own personal experience. You do you. I am not a tax and/or financial advisor; nothing in this post should be taken as investment advice. I have no fiduciary responsibility to anyone reading this post. Please consult a financial advisor for investment advice.  For my other posts regarding money, go here


Looking Back: Purging Progress Report Q1

I am a big fan of accountability. People who say that they are going to do something and then don't do it really get my goat. This can be a meetup, a big project, or even something as simple as (and this is a real example) picking up pastries for a client meeting. In this case the person attending the meeting said he was going to bring the client pastries. I spoke to the client before the meeting and talked up these pastries and then the person going to the meeting did not take the time to stop and get them after saying that he was going to, so now I look like I am not accountable. 

Listen, I don't live under a rock; I realize that stuff happens and sometimes we get waylaid, we get stuck in traffic or our priorities change. I am a realist; I get this. However, being a realist, I also try not to overpromise and underdeliver. In fact, I will often say no if I am unsure if I will be able to commit, which may make me a glass half full person in the eyes of some, but I guess I would rather disappoint people in the front end than at the last minute.

All of that blather is a lead in to my main point which is that earlier this year I talked about doing some purging and since we are now one quarter into this year, I am going to be accountable by doing a quick progress check and update. My three areas I wanted to work on for the first three months of they year were paperwork and files, go bag and kitchen/fridge/freezer. 

Paperwork and Files: The goal here was to throw away and/or reorganize old hard copy files and to update and organize my yearly electronic spreadsheets (address list, money pie list, account list etc.) Note that this gets less hard copy and more electronic as each year goes by, but I do still have hard copies of some of my home, car and medical related paperwork as well as some tax and financial items. 

How am I doing? Good! I did all of this and even went through some of my memento boxes where I keep old holiday cards and stuff and threw a lot of those away. I had a good time reliving some memories and in some cases only shuffled things around and then ended up keeping them anyway, but I do think that each year when I go through this kind of stuff I pare it down more and more. I used to keep all thank you notes and I finally threw them away after reading them one last time and taking a quick photo of any that were really sweet. I am really trying to adhere more to the "touch once" principal where instead of moving an item somewhere just to move it somewhere else, cut out the middle man and just put it where it is going to be for good (which is often the trash can!)

I love this card! (I did throw it away though)

What is next? I still have a lot of memento boxes (these are my Achilles heel), some of which are in the garage, and I need to go through them and either put them in an album or throw them away. They are not doing me any good in a box and speaking of the touch once principal, it is probably time for the final touch for some of these items. Also an extension to this category is electronic files, which I need to tidy up. For some reason before I had the cloud for photos, I saved them in several places (!) and I need to cull the duplicates. Unfortunately they do not have the same file name and so it is not as simple as just sorting and culling. I also have an ongoing task of unsubscribing and culling emails, which is something I do a few times each month. 

Go Bag: The goal here is to make sure all of the items, documents and information in my go bag are current and updated.

How am I doing? Good! This go bag is twofold - one is emergency supplies like food, candles, flashlight, etc. and the other is important docs like my passport, birth certificate, deed to my house etc. I also keep a list of all of my accounts in this folder so that if I have to leave in a hurry I will have everything in one place (this also doubles as my death list, which I will talk about in a later post). Most of this stuff is also electronic, but I do like to keep a hard copy as a backup. I updated all of the food that was close to expiration and made sure all of my batteries were in good shape and updated my folder, so I am all good here. I also started up my generator and charged my Caterpillar supercharger thingy so that they are ready if I need them. I hope that I never need to use any of this stuff, but I think it is good to be prepared just in case. (P.S. I could write an entire post about the Cat charger - it is awesome.)

What is next? The generator and Cat charger need to be started and charged once per quarter, but the other stuff is pretty much good to go unless there are any major changes. 

Kitchen/Fridge/Freezer: This involves throwing away expired items, and eating things in the freezer rather than buying more. One of my traits (faults? habits?) is that I do like to have a few extra cans of olives (or beans or tomatoes or...) laying around just in case I feel using them (I am not a fan of going to the store after I have run out; I would rather go before I need the item) so I have amassed a pretty good backup of certain items. I also like to purchase things when they are on sale rather than when I need them when I would have to pay a premium, but it is a delicate balance between being a smart shopper and being a hoarder. I am working on being more of the former than the latter! 

No more room! (Also, clearly I need to use more butter)

How am I doing? Good! In the first three months of the year, I spent approximately $575 on groceries and used up a lot of cans of olives! I cleaned out the fridge and freezer and took stock of what I have so that I can better plan my meals and grocery shopping trips. I also finally used those frozen peaches from my tree and made peach cobbler and lots of baked peach oatmeal! However, I did do one Costco run for meat (which was about a third of my grocery spending for the quarter) and caved a couple of times and bought items like tortilla chips just because they were on sale.

What is next? I will continue to do light grocery shopping and will try to use up pantry and freezer items for the next three months. I still have a lot of beans. One of my tasks for this quarter is also to go through my camping food and gear and prepare for summer trips, so I will take stock of the food I have (in a box in the garage) for that too and can probably consolidate some things. 

What is your take on accountability? How much do you spend on groceries each month? How are you doing on your goals so far this year?