With a collection of beers on tap, the German Tourist Club is the preferred destination for thirsty Marin Headlands hikers. It is also fast becoming my favorite weekend bike-camping destination.
The Tourist Club welcomes the public during daylight hours. To stay overnight though, you’ll have to befriend or become a member of the club, which is the San Francisco branch of the world-wide Nature Friends organization. Members get beers half-off, as well as $5 overnight accommodations in the charming Gingerbread-style chalet. There is also an unofficial, but still members-only option for camping in an adjacent meadow.
Happily, our crew of 6 bike-campers were invited to camp in the meadow by Nature Friends member Justin D. Arriving after dark, we hastily threw up camp and headed for the bar. Normally, last call is 5pm but we had slyly brought our bartender with us. Justin poured pints all around and took us to the back patio. We settled into chaise lounges and watched the stars come out over Muir Woods.
As Justin tells it, membership takes an extensive sponsorship and work-volunteer process. As a result, the club is tight-knit, gregarious, and prone to accosting strangers after dark. We hadn’t been sipping our beers for long when a member came to shine his flashlight at us. He had sipped a couple more beers than us, and gruffed, “You planning to stay here all night?”
Here, I learned it is good to have friends in beer-y places. After a couple tries, Justin convinced him we were guests and not dirtbag interlopers. At once, the man became outright ecstatic to see his old buddy again. “Justin, I love you man,” he gushed. It turned out that the man had been one of Justin’s sponsors for Nature Friends membership. For the next 20 minutes, he regaled us bike-campers with tales of our bartender’s feats in rebuilding the bar and doing all the crown molding in the tap-room.
The next morning, our bike crew awoke to fog and mist streaming through our camp clearing. Our bartender turned barista, leading the caffeine deprived to the club kitchen for fresh-brewed coffee.
Post-coffee, the two Justins, Carrie and I continued our bicycle weekend by riding out of the fog onto the flanks of Mt. Tamalpais. Justin #2 (notable for his feats of non-animal consumption) led us on a dirt klunk on the Hoo Koo E Koo trail back to Fairfax. We inhaled bratwursts and ice cream before returning to San Francisco by way of the Larkspur Ferry.
Thanks to all my friends in bike-y, beer-y places. This klunk and camp out made for a classic Bay Area Bike Weekend.