Coping with coronavirus, week six


With the coronavirus spreading and the public ordered to stay home, these are unusual times in West Marin. Now six weeks into a shutdown of all nonessential activities, people are doing their best to enjoy themselves within the limitations of the shelter order. Alongside our coverage of the pandemic, the Light is offering windows into the lives of our readers. This week, we talked to a cyclist and a surfer.

‘Go a little slower'

Mike Varley, who runs the bicycle shop in Point Reyes Station, has cut down on the frequency and distance of his bike rides in an attempt to lead by example. He’s dismayed by the cyclists who come from a long distance, stopping in the stores and putting workers at risk. “Here in Marin, it’s like training season: ‘I’m not at work, so I’m just going to ride all day,’” he said. “That’s not the spirit of the law to me.” Some riders see that biking is allowed, so they think that gives them permission to do what they have always done on rides, like stop at the bakery or the market, he said. This gives cyclists a bad reputation. Bikers should shorten the lengths of their rides, avoid groups, bring everything they need for the day and finish at their homes, he said. “Instead of going out head down and hammering, sit up and look around and go a little slower. Appreciate what you have been allowed to do,” he said. Besides his four-mile commute to work from Olema, Mike hasn’t been riding much. He rides in the Limantour area, which has been wonderfully quiet without cars buzzing past him, although he still keeps to the right side of the road out of habit. At his shop, Black Mountain Cycles, the doors are closed except for appointments. Legally, bike shops are considered an essential business, but Mike’s most frequent visitors are there to just look around, and he wanted to be able to control his interactions. Online business is booming: He received a shipment last week of 75 frames from his manufacturer, and now he is sending them to customers all over the United States and Europe. Since Mike lives and works alone, the isolation has not affected him very much. “I’m perfectly fine being alone, without being lonely,” he said.

'Not this year'

For anyone hoping to rent a surfboard in Bolinas, “You are out of luck,” said Drew Reinstein, owner of 2 Mile Surf Shop. The shop, deemed inessential, closed after the regional shelter order first came down. Drew is doing his best to keep busy; he is applying for financial assistance, making sales of existing inventory by appointment only, and reconsidering the layout of the store and his business model for a future in which the shop can open its doors again. “I don’t think we can or should teach a lesson to over six people, likely not this year,” he said. “We do big groups. But big groups of people being together doesn’t seem right or feel right.” Finances are grim, but Drew managed to pay his bills for April and remained hopeful that assistance would arrive; all of his employees are furloughed. There are “some roller coasters of emotion,” Drew said, but overall the pandemic has made clear to him what matters most: “My priority is to protect the business and the staff that works here, and to still be respectful of the town and the sport of surfing.” He said he is used to facing criticism from some for helming a shop that draws more tourists to town, but for him the business has always been about providing access to the ocean. Still, with an older population to protect in Bolinas and with Marin’s new orders against car access to open space, now is not the time for that. “People seem to be getting it: you can’t be here, don’t surf here,” he said.