Tuesday, September 23, 2014

San Francisco Day Two

As we walked past the tourist tat along Fisherman's Wharf yesterday, we noticed several bike rental companies advertising 'Bike the Bridge!': ride the bike paths across the Golden Gate Bridge and return via the ferry from Sausalito. It seemed a good way to see the sights (and earn a meal), so after pastries and coffee this morning we made our way to Blazing Saddles and rented a couple of hybrids. We normally ride road bikes, so the upright posture was just plain weird; we vacillated between missing cleats (less power on hills!) and being very, very glad we could just take a foot off the pedal and put it on the ground. That last was essential, what with pedestrians and people taking selfies (I saw someone with a camera-onna-stick to make an even bigger ass of himself) and a lot of people who foolishly believed they had not forgotten how to ride a bike over the last 30-odd years.
A. at the start in  Fisherman's Wharf, looking almost keen.

It was another glorious day.

We stopped at the fort under the bridge to appreciate the view of San Francisco

Then headed uphill (BOO! lack of cleats) and across the bridge on the Bay/east side, packed with people (YAY! lack of cleats, also bell on handlebars. I have never used one in anger before.) We stopped halfway for a celebratory Haribo (a candy beloved by European cyclists) and decided that rather than head down to Sausalito and the ferry, we'd head west onto the Marin Headlands in search of landscape and views.
Clearly there would be some climbing involved, but nothing ventured, nothing gained...
Ha. Some climbing indeed. I cursed our keenness as A. disappeared up the hill. I flipped the gear lever time and again, hoping that another, lower, gear would magically materialise. I sweated copiously, I danced on the pedals, I sat on the seat… nothing made it any easier. Stopping was good. At least my lowest gear was low enough that I could start again from standing. I had to stop to take photos, right?

Eventually we reached Hawk Hill, where our persistance was rewarded by an encounter with the coolest, most beautiful bike I've ever seen, and its owner, Jack,  who was also rather cool.

Yes, the frame is wood. Fiddleback maple, wenge, and zebrawood. I had to stroke it: that shape demands to be appreciated by hand. Look at the time-trialling shaping where the frame envelops the back wheel  … utterly gorgeous. Jack organises the Pacific Coast Century Ride from San Simeon to Carmel, and by the time we parted (he went downhill to Rodeo Beach, we wheeled our bikes through the tunnel to walk up to Hawk Hill), we were almost regretting we didn't live near enough to ride it.
We admired hawks and rocks

I think this is radiolarian chert, a deep-sea sediment contorted and raised high above sea level by the earth movements associated with the assembly of California: a series of exotic terranes ramming into the coast, one after the other.
We split a Mars Bar for a sugar high, then rather tentatively attacked the long descent back to the bridge. I have never ridden a descent that long and steep, and was awe-struck by the bikers racing past us. Practice makes perfect, I suppose, but on this first attempt I just worried that the disc brakes might melt!
We returned the bikes, then headed uphill and west again, walking along Chestnut into the Marina district to find Fleet Feet so I could buy new trainers. My old favourites, which have seen me through many adventures – pounded miles of London pavements, walked through several SOARs, post-holed early snow in the Sierras – are very nearly dead. I hope to deliver the coup de grâce in Death Valley, but needed to have their successors in place. Chestnut is one of the streets that becomes too steep for cars:

The road stops dead and steps allow pedestrians to ascend or descend to the next level. Cars have to go the long way around. And then we bought unguents to soothe our sunburned arms (at least we'd remembered to put sunblock on our faces and necks), ate an amazing dinner of Chicago pizza at Cabo's, and retired back to the hotel to digest it.
Tomorrow we head east to the foothills of the Sierras, to spend a day or so with good friends. After that, a tent-cabin in Yosemite! Further reports as and when we next have have wifi.

Monday, September 22, 2014

San Francisco Day One

Another day of Memorable Food! Yesterday proved unexpectedly long and stressful, as our flight south did not leave Victoria until after the time at which it was supposed to land at SFO. The wait to collect our bags and Customs clearance (they didn't object to the seaweed), plus rental pick-up meant we didn't find our way onto 101 into the heart of SF until after dark. Not fun driving a big vehicle (even a mid-size SUV Jeep is big by comparison with our cars in the UK) on the wrong side of the road after dark. But I'd practiced it on Google  Earth, had a map and GPS on the phone, and we made it to the hotel on Columbus  a bit stressed but without major problems albeit about 3 hours later than planned. Late enough that we were grateful BurgerMeister was still open (lovely chicken club sandwich and Anchor Steam), although they were cleaning up as we ate.

This morning probably dawned bright and promising, but we were not awake to appreciate it; I woke at my normal 0500, but went back to sleep. At 0800 we headed north to Fisherman's Wharf to begin a meander south to the Ferry Building to meet FOAY friends. The weather was still bright and promising, and remained so all day (colour us sunburn red :)

A. looking north to Sausalito at Fisherman's Wharf.

We walked through acres of tourist tat – shades of Oxford Street! (but more fake jade and candy) – before things became more interesting, with the refurbished cargo terminals and a giant cruise ship, a floating apartment complex looming over us. There were striking artworks around the Exploratorium, not to mention someone using a Segway In Real Life. We arrived at the Ferry Building  with time to spare, sitting in the shade outside Frog Hollow eating nashi pears and fresh bread from the Acme Bread Co. before returning to meet the people we were there to meet (you know who you are!). 

We hugged, we talked. We talked about fibre.

We split into parties to gather food.

We reassembled in the park across the street to eat the food and talk more (hungry work, this talking).

(We travelled all the way from England to bring that Waitrose bag to SF). There was superb bread and cheese and salted pig parts and olives and FRESH FIGS . 

There was laughter and talking and quite a lot of running in circles (although that was mainly the younger contingent). There was an adjournment for affogato and more talking and spinning (the strange group of women sitting in a row doing things with sticks and string will feature in various tourist photo collections: we were photographed several times). One by one people left until eventually it was me and him and Pat, and then it was just us. We walked, found the Levis building (and bought jeans) and walked, found Tony's Pizza (decided against waiting 90 minutes for a table) and walked, and found North Beach restaurant. Another Memorable Meal! With a Zinfandel from the winemaker whose California Chardonnay blew the French away. And then we walked back to the hotel, and bed.

The view from our teeny tiny balcony,

Good night!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On the road again

It's been some time since I had anything to share as well as time to share it, but we're about to embark on a journey with ample opportunity for adventure, not least the trialling of different blogging software. I may end up migrating to Wordpress, because Google seems so very keen on preventing me from using anything but their proprietary software, er, protecting my account from unauthorised access. (Since I am an ancient curmudgeon distrustful of The Cloud, Google doesn't actually hold anything I regard as important. You kids Get Off My Lawn!)

At any rate, you join me in YYJ, Victoria International Airport, en route to SFO. We had a lovely walk along  the beach this morning,

and while meandering along the shore I decided to try to create a woven piece documenting this adventure. (Hence the collection of driftwood, seaweed and stones.) I hope US Customs doesn't object to it entering California (I'm sure oranges and seaweed have no diseases in common. The SFO flight is delayed, so no more adventure this afternoon: I shall spin!

Bak son :-)