Fog is the Loneliest Number

We had our first tule fog of the season this morning, most likely an after effect of the intense rain we experienced earlier in the week.

Tule Fog, from Wikipedia:

Tule fog is a thick ground fog that settles in the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley areas of California’s Great Central Valley. Tule fog forms during the late fall and winter (California’s rainy season) after the first significant rainfall. The official time frame for tule fog to form is from November 1 to March 31. This phenomenon is named after the tule grass wetlands (tulares) of the Central Valley. Accidents caused by the tule fog are the leading cause of weather-related casualties in California.

When I ride in the fog, I often experience a feeling of isolation, even loneliness. The not unpleasant “bubble of light” sensation that we year around commuters experience while riding in the dark is taken further, to an extreme level, while riding in tule fog. It’s an almost dreamlike sensation that reminds me a bit of swimming underwater after dark in a dimly lit pool. I always feel a little relieved when I arrive at my destination after a long commute in heavy fog.

15 Responses to “Fog is the Loneliest Number”

  • Emma J says:

    Lovely, lovely photo. What camera do you use?

  • Alan says:

    Thanks, Emma. That shot was captured with a Canon G10. I also use a Canon 50D at times.


  • Larey says:

    If you start hearing creepy music, don’t go into the tunnel.

  • Sharper says:

    Funny, that; I feel quite calm in a fog enclosure.

    Unfortunately, my commute this morning was later than usual and through the surface streets than along the American River trail, so I didn’t get to enjoy the calm feeling of the grey void.

  • Alan says:

    I suppose it’s awareness of that last line in the Wiki entry that overlays a subtly sinister aspect to my fog riding experiences. I grew up out in tule country and I’ve heard way too many stories about bad accidents in the early morning tule fog to enjoy riding in it.

  • Adrienne says:

    I miss the thick, pea soup fog that used to come to San Francisco. As a child, I used to fly down Judah street in it and pretend I was the Headless Horseman : D San Francisco has not had that fog in years, certainly not with any regularity. i used to love how it made the whole City disappear so you could rediscover it foot by foot as you walked through it.

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    Beautiful photo, Alan. Cycling in the fog is an anxious time for me, in large measure because I’m as worried about being hit as hitting something myself — pothole, crack in the road, a parked vehicle in an unexpected place. Eerie and dangerous. For true isolation, though, paddling a canoe or kayak in a pea-souper can’t be beat. Where’s the land? For that matter, where’s the surface of the water?

  • Michael says:

    What are the lights that you are using?

  • Josh says:

    I took amtrak from Oakland to Sacramento this morning. There was a little fog over the water in the bay and throughout the delta. I was surprised to see fog in Sacramento. It made for a nice bike ride through midtown though. The afternoon ride back to the station was delightful as well. I love this blog btw.


  • Alan says:

    Thanks, Tamia. The nice thing about paddling in the fog is that you don’t have to worry about “sharing the road”.

  • Alan says:


    Those are Fenix L2D Flashlights. Click here for more info.

  • Alan says:


    It was quite a contrast from morning to afternoon. After the heavy fog north of Sac this morning, it was 80 degrees and blue skies on the way home; about as nice as it gets for riding.

    I’m glad you enjoy the blog.


  • Tamia Nelson says:


    “The nice thing about paddling in the fog is that you don’t have to worry about “sharing the road”.”

    Ah, but you wouldn’t think that if you were paddling in some waters during a fog, such as the St. Lawrence River, or the lower Hudson River, or in San Francisco or San Diego Bays. It’s alarming how quickly and quietly a very large vessel can materialize out of the fog, even if you and they are lit up.

  • Scott Wayland says:

    I deal with this fog on the southern end of the valley. I live in the mountains at 4,000 feet, so our home is above the fog–thank goodness. When we hike on the mountains above our home, we can look down on a vast ocean of white filling the valley as far as we can see.

    About once a week, I ride from home to work in the valley, about 50 miles one way, and take the bus home. It’s a fun, pleasant work out and a little slice of adventure. But when the fog settles in, things get sketchy–and so dang cold. The route involves a drop of over 4,000 ft., so lots of high speed riding :) But I descend from the bright perfect sun of an early mountain morning down into the damp icy grip of the fog, all magnified by significant windchill. Even with the best kind of layering, it’s an unpleasant experience. Then, as I cycle in the soup, heavy moisture builds up on my glasses such that I’m better off not wearing them at all.

    In general, I avoid commuting in the fog!


  • David says:

    I love riding in dense fog. The early morning sounds of the ferry blowing the fog horns in their journey back and forth to the mainland gives an air of mystery to the Island.

    Two weeks after 9/11 my oldest daughter and I did a 4 day tour up Cape Cod on our tandem. She was 8 years old at the time. We had planned the ride months in advance with reservations at B&Bs along the way. The first two days the weather was over cast, drizzly and dense fog. We stayed mainly to back roads to avoid as much traffic as possible.
    At one point on the first day we came to the end of a small rough paved/dirt road and had planned to ride a paved secondary road for about 4 miles. The traffic was very heavy, and fast. Not very inviting so I pulled out the maps. I saw on the maps what appeared to be old cart paths criss crossing through a major conservation area strait across the road from where we were standing.

    I asked my kid if she wanted to take a ride in some enchanted woods and she said OK.

    So we packed up and headed off into the woods along the bumpy ancient way. The boles of the trees were all black with water constantly dripping down upon us. Tendrils of fog were weaving their ways through the nearby trees fading into a dark gray mass in the distance.
    It was kind of like a cathedral and in reverence, you didn’t want to speak over a whisper.

    As we bumped along my daughter though she could hear the faint sounds of music. It got louder and louder as we went along and it was indeed music, the sounds of bag pipes. It was eerily sounding but the more we heard it the more we had to find it’s source.

    Finally we came to a clearing, a cross roads of two old cart paths. There we saw a young woman who was marching back and forth as she played the pipes. We had stopped on the edge of the clearing to watch and listen. She was quite good and it was a quite a few minutes before she realized we were there.

    She stopped mid tune and seemed somewhat embarrassed. I apologized for our interrupting her wonderful playing. She said that she came out there so as to give her neighbors a break.
    I told her how amazing it was to hear her so faintly in the distance not expecting anything like this to happen.

    We soon parted ways and after a bit we could hear her music start up again.

    I stopped the bike and said to my daughter that we could of stayed on the paved road, dealt with the rain and fog with the cars speeding by, but instead we took the road less traveled and will have these wonderful memories the rest of our lives.

    I love fog.

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