Marin Headlands

Hooray, a week without errands!  After returning from Vegas, my Tuesdays were full of exciting things like dentist appointments and my monthly spinal decompression therapy visit.

Unfortunately, when it came time to leave the house yesterday morning, I realized that I felt pretty crappy.  I didn’t sleep well and I had that “maybe I’m getting sick” head fog.  Yuck!  I decided to stay fairly close to home and just do a short ride up into Marin.

Breakfast at The Depot Cafe first:

The fine city of San Francisco was doing construction along 19th Ave yesterday (for non-locals, the expressway through the city was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and now the only way to pass through San Francisco is via surface streets).  This meant that I spent some quality time sitting in traffic.  At some point, the passenger in the car next to me waved to get my attention and yelled to me that my chain was too loose.  “It’s really noisy! I can hear it!” he shouted.  This was news to me, but it worried me enough that I stopped at the large parking lot at the Golden Gate Bridge vista point to check it out.

Honestly, I couldn’t find anything wrong.  The adjustment looked fine to me; I tried pulling the chain back from the rear sprocket and definitely couldn’t pull it past half of the tooth length (my “I-have-no-tools-on-me” rule of thumb).   The chain was utterly filthy, though, so I’m wondering if that made it louder than usual.  Or maybe the guy heard my seriously cracked-out loud valve and thought it was the chain?  Who knows.

Anyway, this got into my head a little bit.  I was already not feeling so hot and since the chain was on my mind, I started imagining up phantom mechanical issues.  You know…”what was that noise?”  “was that a ca-chunk?”  “that wobble…was it head shake?” Bah!  I decided to scrap my plan for 20 more freeway miles of Marin County and instead just putter around the Marin Headlands.  They’re gorgeous, they’re very close, and inexplicably, I had never really explored them.

Heading over the bridge into Marin:

The Marin Headlands are part of the huge Golden Gate National Recreation Area (one of the largest urban parks in the world!).

Most people — myself included, prior to this ride — don’t venture very far into the Headlands, but head straight to the vista point about a quarter mile up Conzelman Road from the Golden Gate Bridge.

I continued up Conzelman this time to the top of Hawk Hill, the 920′ lookout point.  The hill is named for the annual fall migration for tens of thousands of raptors entering the Golden Gate area.  Volunteers use the Hill to track the migration with bird banding and radio tracking.

View from Hawk Hill:

After the lookout point, Conzelman Road becomes a one-way road heading down the other side of the hill.   And it really heads DOWN.  Straight down.  Well, 18% grade…but that’s close enough to straight down.  Definitely stomach-dropping when you crest the first corner.


Conzelman Road continues to hug the coast as it weaves through the Headlands (the roads in the Headlands form a circle: the coast side and the tunnel side.  We’ll see the tunnel later).

That’ll bring us to this week’s installment of “so, hey, how was YOUR Tuesday?”:

Once the road started veering inland, I started to see more and more bunkers.  There are tons of bunkers and batteries all over Golden Gate sites; dating back to the late 1800s, they were erected to prevent enemy ships from entering the Bay.  More batteries were added during World War II and missile launching sites appeared during the Cold War.  They’re all decommissioned now and are either set up for civilian use, as historical sites, or used in their historical conditions by non-profit organizations.

Posing at the bunker:


Looking back at the steep part of Conzelman Road coming off of Hawk Hill:

Did I mention missile launching sites?  A little ways down Conzelman Road is Nike Missile Site SF88.  The asphalt pad that looks like a parking lot in this photo is the launch pad, built in the 1950s and armed with radio-guided surface-to-air missiles.  It was an active launch site until 1974.

Before heading to the inland section of road, I stopped for a few more photos:

As the road turns inland, I took Simmonds Road past a number of non-profit organizations who worked out of the historical buildings.   There were also a number of residential-looking houses, but I couldn’t tell if they were lived-in or just preserved.  This one in particular caught my eye:

The road circles around inland and becomes Bunker Road.  It’s not as striking as Conzelman, but it has its own beauty, I think.

It also has a large one-way tunnel controlled by a traffic light.  The red light appears along with signs warning you to pick up a book:  “5 minute light” and “approach light and turn off engine”.

Inside the tunnel:

And back over the bridge:

And home!


Not a super long ride, but a pretty one and I had a good time.  I’m really enjoying riding in Marin this season.  I’m trying to remember that when I wake up on Tuesdays and feel stuck as to where to ride…between Mt Tam and the Headlands, Marin hasn’t done me wrong yet!

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