There is a hunt for that which lurks beneath our noses. It’s the unending quest for novelty, for variety, on the ever-present Road to Nowhere. It is the very essence of cycling – repetition. Repetition of a task rooted in the journey, not the destination. Only the chosen ride the Road to Nowhere. The enlightened. Riding the road to somewhere is the rat race existence, the exemplification of the belief that if only A will occur, then B will happen, and happiness will follow. It is a mindset that obscures the real value of the monotonous, driving rhythm of the cadence of the pedals.
The irony of craving the journey is that the more we practice it, the faster it comes, an exercise in hyperlapsed mindfulness. The result? Seeking out more journeys, more Roads to Nowhere. This Road to Nowhere is aptly known as Vision. Climbing Mt. Vision just inland on the foggy Point Reyes seashore, the road leads to a mostly neglected FAA navigation beacon. In the era of fly-by-wire and GPS, it’s a derelict relic in a modern context.
Mt. Vision has its own past, its own story, like our own as humans, as cyclists. It is a story of its own Road to Nowhere, of fire, destruction, cleansing, and rebirth. It is the cycle of riding, too. A crash. An illness. Stress. An interloper into our daily sequence, interrupting the fitness we’ve worked so hard to achieve. And again, we get on the bike, rebuilding, becoming stronger in the process.
In September of 1995, Mt. Vision was engulfed by inferno. A wildfire of massive, intense proportions, capable of rendering aluminum molten. Started by a campfire improperly extinguished, it has left the summit strikingly bare, denuded of the foliage typical of the heavily wooded Inverness Ridge that Vision lies on, even 20-plus years after the blaze. 45 homes, creeping up the backside of the ridge from Inverness Park, met their ends in the fire. The fire scorched 50 square kilometers and took 13 days to extinguish, consuming an area from the top of the peak down to the craggy shoreline, and south past sleepy Limantour Road. Now, in 2016, evidence of the fire has all but vanished to the uninformed, with little obvious clues remaining, aside from the bare hilltop. Vegetation has grown back. Animals have repopulated. The scars have vanished. The cycle has repeated.
The climb to Mt. Vision is painfully deceptive. Rising 365m in 7km, it is like most climbs in Marin County. It’s relatively short, but beautifully punishing with an undulating rhythm that never quite settles in. The most aesthetically striking aspect, the five switchbacks near the beginning, are also the hardest. Ramps between 10-15% make it difficult to fall into a sense of secure pain, instead stinging around every turn. As the road peeks out of the switchback’s elegant corners and coastal forest, it straightens and mellows, discovering moderation on the upper inclines of the mountain and proffering sweeping vistas behind to the mighty Pacific Ocean. As Vision crests Inverness Ridge, exquisite views to the east, down into the Sonoma Valley and past reveal themselves. On a clear day, rumor is that Mt. Shasta is visible 370km to the northeast. The grade continues to ease as the summit approaches, and as the saddle of Mt. Vision present itself, the half-abandoned navigation building looms on the right. The intrepid can continue forward, on to a short, technical section of singletrack, connecting to Limantour a few kilometers further. For the dirt-averse, Mt. Vision truly is a Road to Nowhere, simply terminating, offering only a U-turn and a resplendent return to the bottom dominated by a panorama of breathtaking margin.