My first day off in many weeks

I just rolled back into bed after shachris but I can’t sleep. One would figure that after a measly 5 hours of sleep, I would be able to get right back in under my covers and conk out for a few hours but I simply cannot. My mind knows that every minute of sleep is a minute of precious daylight wasted. Today is my first day off in about 3 weeks and although I planned on taking full advantage of it, I am lying here in bed half asleep.

Back in the day, before I lived in heaven and worked in a career that I could call “something I wanted to do with my life” I would take a lot of time off. I needed the time to venture farther and farther away from home because I simply couldn’t find what I needed nearby. Now I don’t have to go to far to fulfill my needs.

For the first time in many weeks I decided to turn my phone off and not be in contact with anyone. For those who know me well, contact with me is a tough thing. I’m usually at work, hate texting and live in a different time zone than most of the folks who want to reach me. Add to this the fact that after I get done with work, I usually hop on the bike and further remover myself from contact.

It’s hard for me to find a greater feeling than a full tank of gas, two bikes on the roof of my car and a day off in northern California. I needn’t debate where to go, having recently moved to San Francisco I decide on venturing north and wandering the coastal regions of Marin and Sonoma counties. I drive or ride across the Golden Gate Bridge about 2-4 times per week and every time I do it the light is different. The fog creates a spectacular display of God’s awesomeness as it engulfs the bridge towers, yet the entire bay is clear of fog and basking in this warm sunny glow. Ships dot the water and the occasional barge can be seen. I can see Mt. Diablo and the hills around Fairfield. It’s really breathtaking this morning and even more so because I can go play in it.

Since the clock change I’ve been riding and playing in the woods a lot less. For the last two winters I’ve worked nights, but my new job is a little more civilized and I worked normal work hours. I wish I could start at 6 and end at 2, but this is not the case. When I get out even a half hour before sunset I am overjoyed at enjoying the last remnants of daylight. I fantasize about March when the sun will start setting later and until then my mountain bike lays fallow only to be ridden a couple times a week.

On Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Fairfax I find some fall foliage, I’ve been searching for and finding it here and there. In Mt. View on Shoreline boulevard there exists some super b right red and orange leaves and in Woodside I also witnessed some beautiful color. In general most of the trees remain green all year, brightening in the rainy season and browning slightly in the summer.

I’m debating where I should do my first ride (when I have the whole day there will always be at least 2 rides) and I decide on Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax which is this amazing loop ride which goes through multiple mico-climates and lots of different tree and soil types. I start off and can feel how out of shape I’m in. I nearly chopped off one of my fingertips at work the past week and that took 2 days out of riding and I haven’t ridden in 4 days (a life time in my world) I huff and puff up this pretty long climb that I normally ride really fast in bigger gears. For a normal person I am in good shape, but I measure myself against my previous self and I’m disappointed.

I ride up and up and eventually start hitting the coastal redwoods and soft soil of the west side of the loop. The forest is soggy and silent, the occasional squirrel scurries into the brush, but I am alone and spacing out. Ever since I started dating my current girlfriend my mind has been taken up with her and I really needed my mind to wander to other things. My writing has been lacking and my mind just needed to be clear of her for a day, though it really wasn’t, because the mind can’t stop thinking of her which isn’t a bad thing since the thoughts are quite pleasant.

I may be in bad shape coming up, but with the click of a button on my shake and a drop of my seat I’m flying along this ridge trail that has expansive views of the North Bay and Mt. Tam, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The chaparral is zooming by like a picket fence and every few seconds I jump off a small rock ledge. My legs feel good and I’m pedaling and screaming every few moments when I almost slip and fly over my bars to surely die in the several hundred foot drop to my right. Finally I make it to the 4 mile long downhill and I ride like a maniac.

I’m back in my car, muddy and grooving to the Grateful Dead and just driving without a c are in the world north on Sir Francis Drake to the coast, the sky is overcast near the coast, but it’s clear and there’s no fog. I pull off at a little dirt pullout and decide to take a jaunt into a place called Devils Gulch in Samuel P Taylor state park. The decaying eucalyptus leaves are making my walk into a sweet scented besomin like experience. The trees are diverse and the hills beyond the first couple of miles are bald grassy and covered with black grazing cows. Once again it’s only me, it’s a Tuesday after all and I’m enjoying my alone time with God as I converse with him about life, love, work and gratitude. If someone would have happened upon me I would have been quite embarrassed, but this was Marin after all – home of a lot of rich New Age folks who probably also had conversations with themselves in the woods.

Next it’s onto the coast, I was just having thoughts of taking a look at the green Ireland like hills of Tomales bay to see if they still had the same effect now that I was “used” to the spectacular scenery of northern California and they did. One of my fears was that I would get used to the scenery here and take it for granted. Many people I meet mistake me for a locally raised dude because I have been to more places than most northern Californians could hope to visit in their lives. I meet people who have never been to Yosemite and I myself have backpacked in Yosemite 7 times and that’s not including visits and day hikes.

I am in Tomales Bay and there’s an hour of daylight left, I feel good because I just had some pretzels with goat cheese and a bottle coconut water. I washed it down with two local apples and I feel ready for another ride. So I whip out my road bike, fill my water bottle, don my spandex and ride north on highway 1. Highway 1 has got to be one of the prettiest roads in America. Most people who come to California go to the Big Sur area, but I absolutely love the Sonoma county stretches and of course the far north by the lost coast is also quote nice and devoid of tourists and their smoky RV’s. For most of the way the shoulder provides ample riding space and there are even a few hostels along the way as well. I’ve been thinking lately of the 80 mile ride from my house to Santa Cruz down highway one with a night in the Pigeon Point Hostel. 80 miles is not the biggest of rides, but the coastal headwinds can be crazy.

I ride about 15 miles north and turn around and of course those headwinds are killing me, in the middle of my ride the sun pokes through the clouds on its way down and I decide to stop for a memorable roadside mincha overlooking Tomales Bay. Every once in a while an east facing mincha is impossible and this evening I have to face south west in order to have this shemona esrei overlooking the suns reflective rays over this marsh with loads of herons walking around it. I’m sure God will forgive me, but the kavannah is much better if I don’t face east tonight.

I hope back in my car and have this inkling for the twang of Earl Scruggs and his gospel bluegrass as I roll along towards fast the rolling green hills south toward Petaluma. I was in Petaluma once and had good feelings about it. The town has a lot of beautiful old buildings and homes and I wanted to check it out in  more detail.

Petaluma is about 30 miles north of San Francisco but it’s a completely different world. The main street has an east coast New England feel to it, nice lamps, red bricked buildings with the dates of construction at the top. As with every nice old town that attracts people to come window shopping, Petaluma has some good book stores and I happen to see a thrift shop on the main street that ends up having a mighty fine and good priced selection of used books.

This day kind of reminds me of a good day off on the east coast. I used to turn off my phone and spend the day wandering, except here I also got in two rides in the middle of November, on the east coast it would have been a cross country ski or snowshoe jaunt into the woods. It’s been sometime since I’ve been able to let go and just have a day to myself and it was quite nice and freeing – especially because the next day I went to work and did 11 hours and proceeded to work on Thanksgiving and the Friday afterwards as well.

For more torah thoughts see 4torah.com

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