It was a late summer day. I was on break from college in San Francisco but today, my girl friend and I had a bike ride planned and it was going to be awesome.
Like so many other things in my early life, I had my mom, ultimately, to thank for how this adventure came to be. It was her idea for me and my sisters to join the Petaluma swim club. Her first goal was, I think, to keep us busy doing something supervised and active instead of watching TV or wandering the streets of Petaluma looking for or creating adventures.
Anyway, in-between swimming all those endless laps at the Petaluma Swim Center, I developed quite a crush on a gal on the same team. I saw how she handled herself in the group, where she seemed to fit and who she hung out with. She seemed like an attractive and classy gal, but being the hyper-shy guy I was, I did nothing about it other than to watch her when I could do so discreetly and wonder how I could possibly jump the social stratas between us and actually talk to her. But this side of teenage stories are boring and those of us who went through it need not be reminded of those days — agreed? Good, let’s continue then.
Fast forward about two and a half years and this put me in San Francisco each weekday pursuing a certificate degree in electronics engineering. I had discovered that I was very good with the topic and was bringing home straight-A report cards to show off to my parents. This changed me; gave me a sense of confidence that I might actually not starve as an adult, and one day while wandering the shops near San Francisco’s Union Square — Oh my – is that her?
A bit more discreet observation confirmed that it was indeed my secret crush from those old swim club days, and (recall the note above about having more confident) I now felt fine about approaching her, reintroducing myself and asking what brought her to the city?
Another short fast forward past details I shouldn’t share without her permission and you don’t need to know anyway, and (viola!) we were now a couple, having a great time meeting up after my classes and her work in the city to enjoy the trolley and early evening dinners in the city. As it turned out, I was right, she was a very classy gal; fun, smart, disciplined, interesting and a delight to be with. We got on great.
So, with the end of a summer break approaching which would bring the need to knuckle back down into my studies, we had one last weekend to share before the fall and responsibilities resumed. I offered a bike ride and she readily accepted the challenge.
Thanks for the great photos found at Marin Mommies.
and their article about the Marin Cheese Factory.
Since my childhood, I recalled my mom often deciding that it was again time to pack up her tiny people and haul us south of Petaluma via D Street for about 10 miles, through the yellow rolling hills, ancient oak trees, ranch lands and short mountains between Petaluma and Point Reyes. Mom know well that there was a not- well-known place called the Cheese Factory where you could buy cheese (of course) but also take a tour of the factory where it was made, then buy some with other great deli products and walk over to the picnic and play ground area with its large duck pond and make a day of eating, playing and being outdoors. For her grammar school-aged hoard, these were magic days and we hated leaving.
As I thought of possible destinations for our bike ride date – this one easily won out and the plan was approved. The only part I worried about were those small mountains along D Street going south where it turned into Point Reyes – Petaluma Road.
For the moment, I settled on, we’re young and tough and for all the work of getting to the top, we get that long high-speed chance to coast down the other side — on a steep, small two-lane road — with no bike lanes — and no railing to keep us on the road should we drift too close to the steep cliff edges. . .
And you can stop looking at me like that right now. You know you would have gone with this plan too. The overall possibilities were simply too good to pass up and besides this was well before the whole bike helmet craze and I could just imagine her; hair waving wildly as we barreled down the mountain side, maybe screaming in fun at a few of the sharp turns I knew were coming. All great stuff. Besides, I could protect her from them — um somehow. . .
So, the morning was just warming up as we left my parents home near Grant School. The ride was great. We had the roads mostly to ourselves and wound our way south on D Street past the city limits and into the ranch lands of south Sonoma County, heading for the border of Marin County. There was plenty of sun, no scorching heat or fickle head-winds. We were comfortable in our light tee shirts and sweat shirts as we rode through the foothills.
The bikes both behaved but I had my little bike tool kit ready should an untoward malfunction surface to ruin our day.
I had ridden this route before and knew those mountains were going to be the hardest part of the trip — but the coast down the other side which would be wonderful.
We struggled with the steep climb and by the time we crested the top, we were both looking a tad sweaty and winded, which somehow looked great on her and disgusting on me. Why does it work that way?
She did not look like she was enjoying the workout, but the coast down the other side should fix that, so over the top we went. As we picked up speed, I glanced back and was surprised when I did not see the look of shear joy, but something that much more resembled abject fear. Hmm . . .
It was time to do something clever to salvage the experience, and as I returned my gaze to the road ahead, I saw the answer — blackberries — a very large bloom of them right along the road with a big turnout for parking. Ahhh!
I called back to warn her we were going to slow for a stop and we did. This was just before the tightest turn which I regretted not flying through, but knew now that she would not have enjoyed the two-wheeled brush with the speed of sound around that turn. Instead, we took about 30 minutes to harvest handfuls of wild blackberries and wrap them in one of those large western style neckerchiefs one of us were wearing. She had the chance to catch her breath from the climb up the mountain and reset her expectations about coasting down the steep part. This made all the difference and except for not giving her the memory of nearly sliding too far to the edge of the road where she could have slid down the steep edge to some canyon ranch a mile or so below, we instead had a nice coast down at a much slower speed than I’d hoped for. Retaining her both alive and happy more than made up for my loss.
It’s a short ride from the bottom of those hills to the Cheese Factory parking lot where we could now smell the nearby Marin County bay trees (ummm) and once there we bought and enjoyed our lunches by the duck pond.
I recall in grammar school, Mom trying to get me to taste and enjoy the classic brie cheese from the Cheese Factory, but in my early years I was not a picky eater, I just knew (and wanted) what I liked and that did not include a gooey yellow substance surrounded a moldy shell that did not look like any cheese I’d ever tasted on a burger, but by the time we arrived at the Cheese Factory that day, I was much more willing to give it a chance and between the two of us, we happily dispatched a nice box of crackers and a whole round of that brie which pared nicely with our fresh blackberries. Was that enough to queue your own memory of this amazing cheese?
Okay, I’ll admit it, after the ride the the Cheese Factory, a great lazy lunch with a gal I was so proud to be with, we both wished that we had a car to drive back in rather than climbing that steep hill again on our bikes to get back to Petaluma, but we finally pushed out way back over those hills, were even more careful about the steeper coast down the hill into the Petaluma going north on D Street.
All said, done and survived, could there be any better way to make memories like this than growing up in the Petaluma valley with rides like this right outside our front doors to treasures like our iconic Cheese Factory?
Well, now I want a fresh round of Cheese Factory Brie for lunch.
Sorry if you don’t have some near by because I do. . .