Sunday, July 10, 2005

Cycling the Golden Gate

I go into The City (San Francisco) most Saturday mornings for hapkido, and then I like to take advantage of being over there and hang out for a bit. So far I've cycled around Golden Gate Park and seen the bison, played tourist at Pier 39 and been to SFMOMA (museum of modern art). One of the items on my list was cycling across this:

Isn't that a great rendition of Golden Gate Bridge? Our cleaning lady's daughter drew it for me.

So anyway, on Saturday I decided that is what I would do. And I took my camera along as blog proof, of course.

Here is my bicycle at the BART station.

All the BART stations (BART = Bay Area Rapid Transit = metro / underground etc) are on high alert since the London tube bombings, as you can see (or not - the red writing bit) in this photo. Well, the main effect seems to be that they've closed all toilets at BART stations. I was going to make some humourous comment there about not being able to plant bombs until you've gone wees, but it doesn't really seem all that funny. Sorry.

Anyhoo, I went to the city and did a couple of hours of hapkido training. Like this:

Yep, do that one all the time. Actually, I do have proof of my hapkido training in the form of some rather interesting bruises. Here is a sample. I suppose in theory those they could be from something else, but I can't think what.

So, after hapkido I had some lunch and then set out for the bridge. It was a windy day. I started having second thoughts. From Fort Mason the Golden Gate Bridge was still a loooooooong way away.

Then I saw a group of tourists on these. These aren't the actual people I saw, but they looked like just this. Five of them in a row, funniest sight.

So I finally got down to the marina and it was really windy here and I was cycling against the wind. At this point I decided I may as well just stop on Fillmore and find a cafe and tackle the bridge another day. But then I thought I may as well go as far as the Presidio, and then go back and find a cafe. Even from the Presidio, the bridge still looked really far away.

But then I realised it couldn't really be that far, because I was already underneath an onramp made of bridge material (there's a special name for the colour, but I can't remember what it is).

I considered the fact that my destination so far seemed to be a pet cemetery - quite a pretty one, but really, I'd cycled all this way, and a pet cemetery under a bridge didn't seem like the ideal ending point to my adventure. So I continued in the hopes of finding a cafe...

... and found myself on the bridge. I was told once that almost all suicides are from the city side of the bridge, and that it was a mystery why. Well, it's not that difficult to figure out - the bicycle path is on the far side, and the pedestrian path on the city side. And it seems to me a suicider is unlikely to cycle there. I've also heard that one guy jumped off the bridge twice. The first time he miscalculated in heavy fog and landed on the fort. He broke both legs, but as soon as he could walk again he went back and got it right.

So, I did it. I cycled across the bridge. Back in '98 I actually walked across the bridge when I was a bona fide tourist, and I remember it being quite boring. Cycling was much more fun, especially the huge gusts of wind when rounding the pillars.

And here is proof that I made it across. Well, proof that my bicycle did, anyway.

According to this guidebook I have, it's all downhill from here to Sausalito. Liars! But it wasn't too bad. And so I arrived at the pretty little town of Sausalito. Its sister city is Vina del Mar in Chile, where I once walked into a bollard and got a huge bruise (I do bruise easily, I admit). We stayed the night in a cute little guesthouse and visited Valparaiso and Pablo Neruda's house at Isla Negra... but I digress.

I had an iced coffee* sitting outside at a cafe (yay, finally, a cafe!) and found myself sitting next to two uniformed motorcycle police officers. I looked at the badges on their uniforms, and yes, it said CHP! They were CHiPs! OMG!

Then I wandered around and looked in the shops, and then, because it seemed to be the thing to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I had an icecream. Icecream makes me breathe funny, but it was a very nice icecream (I had butterscotch pecan, in case you're wondering). And this view back towards San Francisco and the Bay Bridge made it even more enjoyable.

And then the ferry arrived and it was time to head back. What, you didn't think I was actually going to cycle all the way back, did you?

The ferry took me back to Pier 1 and the BART took me back to the East Bay. Here's a map (thanks, Google maps!) of where I cycled, more or less. It's about 8 miles, so not really all that far. Being a satellite image, you'll find if you squint really hard you'll see me cycling across the bridge!


* an iced coffee in America is unfortunately not the same thing as what you'd expect in NZ and Australia (and possibly the UK?). To Americans, an iced coffee is just black coffee with ice in it. Not the wonderful dessert in a glass incorporating caffeine, cream, icecream and sometimes a chocolate fish. But I've discovered that asking for an iced soy latte, while it makes me sound pretentious, does somewhat deliver. And while on the subject of coffee, I've only just discovered (after living here a year!) that a long black is an americano. Duh!