With a few days layover in San Francisco on my first overseas trip, I had the urge to go bike riding. I did observe that most bike riders on the Streets of San Francisco did not wear helmets, but most did ride in the defined bike lanes.
All psyched up. Even packed my bike pants just for the occasion. Fronting up to the bike hire place right on Fishermans Wharf there were hundreds of bikes on offer. That one looks nice. And that. I think I will have that one please.
As a novice traveler, I didn’t know how this overseas purchase stuff works. Credit card for deposit please. Nope, credit card is back in my hostel room, secreted in my pillow case. How about your passport? Not that either. That is even more securely stored in my hiking socks. How about lots of cash? Not got that either. Anyway, it looked like rain so I gave up the notion of riding that day.
Next time I will come prepared. I thought I was prepared today?
They had a crazy rule back in October 2007 that you only need a bike helmet if you are under 18! Obviously older heads are both wiser and harder.
When I fronted up on my second attempt to the bike shop, I said I wanted to get a helmet with my bike. Have a quick look at the photos in this post now. How old am I you reckon? The shop assistant sidled up to me and said “are you over 18”! I politely laughed out loud and pulled out a few Australian grey hairs for her to keep.
In defiance, I decided I was not going to take this helmet off at all during the day – lest I be taken away by Police and driven back to school.
The most popular tourist bike track goes over the Golden Gate Bridge, and what a beauty it is. The bike tracks along the foreshore to the Golden Gate Bridge are wide and well defined, but also busy but that is to be expected considering where you are. There were lots of tourists doing the bike thing so it was really pleasant. Even though I was riding alone, it felt like you were in a group.
The Golden Gate Bridge is really high. I am not good with heights, so I had to focus hard on the path 1 metre ahead of the front wheel. My peripheral vision did pick up bits of what is said to be fantastic harbour views from the Bridge. Pity I was too chicken to really have a good look. At 3 kilometres long, I ended up with neck strain from being head down for too long.
On the north side of the Bridge and harbour, the bike track gave way to a few kilometres of on-road riding, including a great downhill run into the village of Sausalito. This village is a collection of brightly coloured, mostly weatherboard houses, lining bays and inlets. A beautiful place for the beautiful people no doubt.
In Sausalito, the local Fire Department were doing dive training on the foreshore. I had a great chat with the Chief about local fire issues as well as where the last major fire was (Oakland in 2002, 1200 homes lost). The fuels look simple, but apparently this “chaparral” grows in desert and drought which means there is always fuel.
After Sausalito, I took a side option to go up to the Mill Creek area which has forests that have the oldest and largest Redwood trees in the world. I did not quite get to the trees, but certainly found the coffee shop.
Riding through a park between Sausalito and Tiburon, I raced passed a lemonade stand run by kids! Am I in a movie or what? I did a u turn and went back to them. I just had to take a photo. I also bought a Barack Obama badge. Barack Obama – who in Octoboer 2007 was a relative unknown. Damn – I did not keep that badge.
I took a wrong turn coming in to Tiburon and ended up going past some very nice waterfront houses, some showing “Sotheby’s International” for sale signs. Speaking to a local later on, I found out that those places are the most expensive in western United States!
In Tiburon I did the predictable thing – found the Tiburon Fire Department pretty easily. The guys had nothing better to do so they walked up to the wharf, got the fire boat going and started hooning around the bay much to the delight of themselves. Co incidentally, 300 people were waiting for the ferry back to Fishermans Wharf – so they had a captive audience.
With only about 15 minutes to the ferry, I made my way to the wharf, expecting to be one of just a few riders going back. Just a few! There must have been 150 bikes lined up waiting for the ferry to dock. The trip back gave you a very different perspective of San Francisco, with great views of Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Fisherman’s Wharf area.
A very nice few hours. Relatively easy riding. Well marked routes. A must do.
Read another post about bicycling in San Francisco.