Monday, November 19, 2012


There are many different kinds of bike rides.   There are solo rides for contemplation and renewal.  There are club rides with route sheets and a destination.  There are multiple day rides where your luggage is carried in a SAG vehicle, and you ride from inn to inn.  There are fundraiser rides for a notable cause that offer good food and excellent road support.  There are slower rides on flat terrain when you are just getting back in shape, and harder rides with hill repeats that aim to make you stronger.   I love them all, but especially when I do them with my girlfriends.  

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. 
Bike Geek

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.  
My Girlfriends

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
Riding your bike across the Golden Gate Bridge is very exciting and a lot of fun, especially when you have perfect conditions like we had -- a bright blue sky,  only a little wind, very few pedestrians, and almost no tourists on rental bikes.   Collisions between walkers and cyclists have been known to happen, so the Bridge Authority has painted signs on the sidewalk designating where pedestrians are supposed to walk and cyclists are supposed to ride. 

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
My bike computer said we had ridden about15 miles when we left the main road and shifted to bike paths and trails that were just beginning to dry out from a high tide.   We stopped on a small wooden bridge and saw some rowers on one side and a snowy egret feeding in a tidal marsh on the other.

A tidal inlet off San Francisco Bay

The Blue & Gold Fleet
We rode another ten miles into Tiburon where we had lunch outside and marveled at how lucky we were to have such beautiful day for a November excursion.    With the ferry terminal right in town, we checked the schedule for our return to San Francisco, and then said goodbye to our Marin friend who had ten more miles to bike home.   

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.  

No comments:

Post a Comment