|Catching the 8:09 train|
So last week I asked some of my girlfriends to join me on what I would describe as a ride that nurtured my soul and lightened my heart. With our bicycles in tow, one girlfriend and I boarded the 8:09 train to San Francisco where we met two other friends who were saving us seats in the bike car. They are much more savvy about taking their bikes on public transportation than I am, but this is my third or fourth time on the train, so I'm getting the hang of it finally.
The dedicated bike car was filled with an assortment of bikes -- road bikes, mountain bikes, recumbents and folding -- some caked in mud and others clean as a whistle. I love being among young commuters, especially the techie types who roll on with their bikes and plug in their electronic toys for a solitary commute. An hour later the four of us arrived in the city and disembarked the train at Fourth and Townsend and headed out to the street to begin our ride.
It takes a focused rider to navigate the busy city streets, especially at rush hour when everyone is in a hurry and moving quickly in various directions. There are drivers anxious to get through the yellow light before it turns red, and jaywalkers running to catch the bus. As a cyclist it's important to keep your wits about you, look in all directions before crossing the street, and avoid tire-puncturing debris and nasty potholes that jar my fragile neck. City noise drowned out my friend's voice as she called out directions from the front, so I followed the others and took up the rear.
Another good friend, who lives in Marin County, brought her bike over on the Larkspur Ferry and was waiting for us at the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero where we stopped for coffee and looked at the map to see how we were going to ride to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Loaded with sufficient caffeine, we headed north along the waterfront and tried to avoid the construction in preparation for the 2013 America's Cup. Just past Fisherman's Wharf and after Aquatic Park, I shifted into low gear and pedaled slowly up a steep grade that eventually led us down to Fort Mason and along the Marina Green.
I'm always struck by how much detail one can observe while riding a bike that you don't see from a car. Although I've driven by this spot many times, this was the first time I saw the Marina Green Fitness Court, an outdoor exercise platform where people were doing workouts normally reserved for an indoor gym.
Along Chrissy Field, we came across a "baby brigade" with a dozen carriage-pushing mommies jogging toward us on the paved path. I couldn't get my camera out fast enough to take a picture, but instead shouted out, "You go, girls" at the top of my lungs and one of them shouted, "You go, girls," back at us. We probably wouldn't have seen this maternal parade if we had been riding in a car.
|At photo op at the Warming Hut|
|Golden Gate Bridge on a perfect day|
A potty stop and a photo-op were well timed at the Warming Hut which has a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Owned and operated by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, this cafe and bookstore provides hot drinks and baked goods for joggers, walkers,
bikers, and wind surfers, as well as books for people who want to know more about the ecology of the area.
|Note directional signs on the walkway|
|No explanation needed|
Another sign on the bridge really shocked me. Since1937 when the bridge opened, approximately 1500 people have jumped to their deaths. In an effort to reduce the number of tragedies, the Golden Gate Bridge Authority has put up signs along the walkway aimed at desperate individuals who think suicide is the only solution.
After navigating steep Alexander Avenue, we rode into the waterfront town of Sausalito with spectacular views of San Francisco across the bay. Here again, biking enables you to observe little things, like small but highly visible signs in every block, each written in a different language -- French, Italian, Spanish and German -- asking people to use receptacles for disposing litter.
|snowy egret in the Marin marsh|
|A tidal inlet off San Francisco Bay|
|The Blue & Gold Fleet|
As a qualifying senior I paid $6.25 for a one-way ferry ticket to San Francisco via Angel Island where we picked up a bunch of noisy seventh graders returning from a field trip, and via Sausalito where a dozen or so tourists boarded with their rental bikes. We were sure glad we didn't see them when we were riding on the bridge.
|A view of San Francisco from the Tiburon Ferry|
When we docked at Fisherman's Wharf around 3:30 pm, the sun was pretty low in the sky and traffic was coming at us again from all directions, but I felt relaxed and calm knowing what to expect. We hopped on our bikes and rode a couple of miles in heavy traffic to the station where we boarded the 4:19 train heading south.
What a wonderful adventure (27 miles and 950 ft. of cumulative climbing), perfected by outstanding weather, beautiful scenery, and, of course, my girlfriends who made this a very special day.