"Hey, I need to know your favorite 100 yards in Marin" the email from Jim reads.
It piqued my interest, despite landing in my inbox before my first Americano had been consumed.
Typically when a prodigious long-time cycling journalist like Jim Merithew asks you such a question, it's gonna be a good time, or at least interesting, especially when you consider the difficult year we've all had and trying to have it coincide with my favorite 100 yards of riding.
As it turns out, Jimmy was onto something, taking a purely optimistic standpoint while staring the inimical face of COVID down. The whole point of this exercise was to highlight the things that make us happy, even as the persistent lockdowns increasingly made our surroundings monotonous. In this case, Jimmy wanted to highlight that 100 yards in a normal, local route that made you forget about the stresses and anxiety most of us have felt during the pandemic and to remind us that the simple pleasures in life should be, and still are, the most important part of our daily existence.
I should have prefaced this by saying the riding around my house is absolutely spectacular. Even when threats of only being able to travel within a 5-mile radius were threatened, I was still pretty happy with the terrain left open.
Yes, you have to be willing to poach the good stuff on a mountain mike, risking a hit to your bank account, or something worse. But finding a good 100 yards on a MTB, road bike, cruiser, dirt jumper, or whatever your two-wheeled proclivity is, isn't hard to do with Marin, California as your backyard.
That said, I still have my favorites. When Jimmy contacted me I'd been riding a fair amount of gravel, in the midst of training so I could get kicked-in-the-teeth, both literally and figuratively, during the looming 200 miles of Unbound Gravel in Kansas.
I'll admit every day I get to ride I recognize how incredibly lucky I am, but, damn it, I'd be lying if sometimes the thought of a four-plus-hour ride didn't seem exactly palatable. The struggle to push away from the computer, schlep into my spandex, get on the bike, and attempt to ignore the residual pain in my legs from the day before has a tendency to make me a petulant child.
This is where I appreciated Jimmy's approach; don't focus on the monotony, residual lactic acid, or the myriad of things you think are excuses to not ride today, but rather, focus on the heavenly sliver of pavé that transports you somewhere else, eschews the initial pessimistic thoughts, and allows you to enjoy your bike for the simple act of rolling along with the wind in your face.
This section, for me, is often ridden on both gravel and road rides. Though the lead-up to this strip of road changes depending on my choice of tires, it usually comes about 45 minutes to an hour into my ride, once the legs and body have warmed up, my blood is circulating, and I can stop pandiculating as my age would suggest I should. At the start of a small rise hugging the side of Mt. Tamalpais, the left flank is wide-open coastline, with a gorgeous deep blue ocean dropping off waves from hundreds of miles away along the rugged rocks below. As I hit the precipice of the rise, the entire coastline opens up to a colosseum of Northern California beauty and envelops one's thoughts, and you simply find yourself in the moment, content and happy, as your eyes drift up the coastline at the sinuous, idyllic road that awaits.
In this 100-or-so yards, I find my solace.