Berkeley to Half Moon Bay :: A Defining Peak

BART station, Berkeley

After spending weeks off of our bicycles with friends in Berkeley, CA, we decided to soften our transition back into our saddles by making our first day on the road a short one.  Our goal was to make it to the coast and camp at Half Moon Bay State Park for the evening and we knew we had some climbing ahead of us.

We skipped San Francisco, which we had visited in the past, and cut off around 60 miles of riding by taking the BART from Berkeley to Millbrae, CA, then rode through San Mateo’s gated communities and over Interstate 280, to eventually come upon the horrible ride that is Half Moon Bay Road.


Half Moon Bay Route from Millbrae, CA

Bike Path crossing 280 Freeway, San Mateo, CA

On the bike path passing over Interstate 280

My Personal Road From Hell & The Lesson it Taught

Half Moon Bay Road swiftly twists and turns from a 1% grade to a 9% grade as you climb the almost 1000 feet to where it tops off on Cahill Ridge.  For an inexperienced climber like me, with a loaded bicycle, it was intimidating.  To make matters worse, it appeared to be the road that every bus, car, trucker and SUV was travelling that day.  With no shoulder to speak of and smelly vehicles driving bumper to bumper and gunning their way up the narrow road, often getting way too close to us for my comfort, it didn’t take me long to be cursing loudly and losing my cool.

Having to pull off several times during the climb to regain my composure, I was angry.  Frustrated that I was so out of shape, that the road wasn’t made to allow for bicycles, that it wasn’t an easy first day back on the road, and that all of my emotions and lack of athletic ability were being displayed so openly to the cagers driving so nonchalantly up and over the Ridge, it became a challenging and defining moment for me.  It probably didn’t help matters that I was feeling great anxiety over leaving our friends, our last stop with people who we’ve known for years, our last “safe harbor” before heading off into the “unknown”.

Half Moon Bay Road

Near the bottom of Half Moon Bay Road

Kai, also not enjoying the traffic and how little shoulder we had, and still recovering from his illness, followed me all the way up, stopped when I did, and offered encouragement in between my rants.  I know how he loves to climb, and usually I like for him pass me on his way up, somehow being motivated by the fact that he’ll be waiting for me at the top, but that day I was grateful for him hanging in there with me.

It took all of my will to continue onward and upward that afternoon, and as I struggled up that ridge I felt a multitude of emotions and went through a mental battering of sorts.  Rocking between feelings of inadequacy, anger, fear, and righteousness, shaking and tearing up, I eventually found that internal voice of empowerment that has helped carry me through many other challenges in my life.  That voice can jump between being like a drill Sargent kicking my attitude in to shape, being like a gentle friend focusing on everything positive about me & how I can “do it”, or like a soft, slow mantra of sorts – a repeating of a positive phrase, over and over, until I get to where I need to be.  That day, it kicked my butt up and over the ridge and when I reached the top, and saw Kai smiling, and saying, “You’re awesome!”, I felt like the world was alive and that I could do anything!

Half Moon Bay Road : The fun side of Cahill Ridge!

Getting ready to fly down Cahill Ridge (and we have a shoulder on this side of the ridge!)

Here’s the great part of this story:

ever since topping that one tiny ridge, each new climb, even if more difficult than the last, has felt less intimidating and less “insurmountable”.  I know I can do it, no matter how painful it may be, and I know the world will be alive and waiting for me at each peak.  Wait a minute, this sounds like a metaphor in how to approach everything in life……didn’t I already know this lesson?!  Yes, but it’s a breakthrough for me in relation to our transition to our lives on bicycles.  And it changes everything!

Half Moon Bay State Park

After peaking Cahill Ridge it was pretty much a downhill smile to Half Moon Bay State Park.  San Mateo Road brought us straight to the park, where we found hot showers, a beautiful $5 hike/bike campsite and a gorgeous, practically empty, beach.  While we were setting up camp and making dinner, we met Raul and Marta, a couple travelling by bicycle from Anchorage to South America.  With new friends to commiserate with, what more could we ask for?  It was the perfect place to end our first day back on the road.

 Half Moon Bay Campsite

Hike & Bike sites at Half Moon Bay State Park

 Half Moon Bay

The moon looking over Kai’s bicycle.

 Half Moon Bay

 Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay : Raul & Marta

Raul & Marta

 Half Moon Bay
 Half Moon Bay

Waking up at Half Moon Bay

Catching Sheila upon waking, looking through the tent vent.

 Half Moon Bay

Lots of horses passed through the Park

 Half Moon Bay


Next Stop:  Highway 1, Pacific Coast Route/Pigeon Point Lighthouse/Pescadero, CA/New Brighton State Beach Park

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