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Photograph by Eric Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

No Sign of Bolinas

By Eric A. Carlson


"I have to remain anonymous."

--Mr. X


Finding the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge in Frisco is almost as challenging as finding Bolinas. Neither one is marked by sign, arrow or yellow brick road. The prospect of getting lost in blighted San Francisco is so unthinkable that I usually divert far to the north, but I knew Bolinas was on the coast--somewhere--and it would take too long to circumnavigate. Besides, my GPS-equipped Acura would guide me through Frisco and thwart the efforts of the Bolinians--who have removed all signs leading to town. Bolinas revels in its inaccessibility. Doug McConnell, of Bay Area Backroads fame, once opined in a San Jose daily newspaper, "They don't like people going there." Indeed, Backroads was denied permission to film in Bolinas. Now that is panache.

I would go to Bolinas. A search on the web revealed very little information. I found a site for Smiley's Schooner Saloon & Hotel, and information gleaned from the Online Guide to California's Nude Beaches warned, "Punishment for nudity can include a $50 fine and a month in jail." Bolinas is clearly not the town to get caught in with your britches down. Thirty days for exposed buttocks seems harsh, but it depends on the buttocks, I guess.

It's not like I was going to be a tourist; I had a reason to go to Bolinas. A bona fide invite from Tom Reier to attend the First Annual Bolinas Cycle Car Run. I made plans to meet Tom and other members of The Bolinas Cycle Car Club next to the tennis courts on Brighton Avenue, in picturesque Bolinas.

After driving Highway 1, through what appeared to be Scotland, I arrived. And it became clear why outsiders are not welcome. There is no parking. None. I maneuvered as far as I could maneuver, cursed the damn tourists and their vehicles, and cursed more when I found out I could not turn around--but was funneled to the beach, where, sweating and fazed, I turned back, behind some other poor SOB who was forced to turn back, and we returned--to no parking. Forgive me, Bolinas--for mocking you. I understand your pain. And folks, stay the hell out of Bolinas. Give these good people some peace.

Mr. X (who insisted that his dog remain anonymous as well--we will call the pup Nipper) explained that parking was once so congested--in large part due to 40-foot Winnebagos--that a group of locals formed the Bolinas Border Patrol, whose stated mission was to tear down signs leading to Bolinas. This they did in the dead of night. The signs would then be dutifully replaced by the Highway Patrol--and the process would repeat. Finally, the Highway Patrol set up a camera and caught the scofflaws. At this point things got interesting. It is a federal offense to remove such signs, and the system was set to turn the screws on these stalwart young patriots. Fortunately, the town threw a benefit for the heroes and hired activist attorney J. Tony Serra (a Bolinian, and a story nigh unto himself), who not only won freedom for the scofflaws, but also finagled permission from the Federal Guvment to keep the signs down--permanently. All parties came to concordance that it is, indeed, not a good idea for people to go to Bolinas. The only signless town in America.

Riding in Riccardo Gale's three-wheeled Triking at something in excess of 70mph, several miles out of Bolinas, I noted a sign for a town--Dogtown. There was no sign of buildings, and I have been unable to locate the town on a map. It occurred to me that this was the opposite of Bolinas--a Sign without a Town. North of Frisco gets very weird, very fast. And the cycle-car people fit in perfectly: gear-heads who appeared calm on the surface, but had wild gleams in their eyes--thinly veiled lust for speed and/or immaculate handling. Wonderful people. We enjoyed a splendid lunch in Point Reyes Station at the Pine Cone Diner; motorcycle people eyed us suspiciously.

Final Note: More will be forthcoming of Tom Reier's amazing 135 mph three-wheeled Scorpion, Mr. X and the Bolinas Cycle Car Club.

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From the August 9-15, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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