Back again! Still attempting to catch up on the blugging (yes, I am writing to you from the future). The next chapter of our saga entails the tales of our San Francisco fails, and our, uh, prevails…ing. I swear I can write.
So, the day begins like any other, except with us waking up IN A REAL BED, IN A HOUSE, WITH A KITCHEN AND, LIKE, COFFEE. On account of that, we may have snoozed a bit. There were only about 45 miles to go to get to Watsi so we felt okay about taking a bit of time to chill out/max/relax all cool in the morning. We chatted with some other folks staying at the Airbnb, who were from Italy, and whom we may have disgraced by admitting that we tend to consume our coffee by the cupful straight from gas station countertop carafes. They took pity us on and made a lil extra Turkish coffee to put in Timmy’s thermos for the day (which turned out to be awesome) (good coffee is good) (sometimes you forget).
When we finished packing up and getting the last bloop of cell phone charge in (and the last use of a real restroom), we rolled out the door and back onto our true love, the one and only, the one, Highway One.
…For like a mile, then the real adventure of trying to navigate into a mega-metropolis began, benignly enough. We took our directions seriously at first, dutifully making all the correct turns, being rewarded with nice rolling hills of green, usually a good shoulder, and respectable enough car traffic.
We started to ignore them as we got into more urban areas, with Google advising, “Here, try and take this unmarked bike path! Turn left at some point! Try it! It’s FUN”. We stuck to our road, and felt quite content.
After a good 20 miles, we stopped at a little grocery market in Fairfax and picked up some goods (snacks, mostly snacks), then I went out back and picked out some other goods from some bads in the dumpster. A couple slices of rye bread (unspoilt by coffee grounds) and a whole box (minus the red ones) of Swedish Fish, carelessly tossed out by some purist fanatic. We dusted them off and enjoyed our rewards before getting back to work.
Our next task was to get across the Golden Gate Bridge, which we planned to do purely by ignoring Google’s pleading voice to please take a sideroad, and to just shoot for the 101, which had never failed us in the past. We wound through suburbia until reaching a handy onramp, and, ready to join the traffic whizzing by, looked up and saw a large sign banning us cyclists and other fellow non-motorized-car folk from the road.
We can take a hint.
We back tracked, and found one of those innumerable bike paths and hopped on, Google feeling quite triumphant and I’m sure gloating in it’s weird 5th dimension cyberspace head.
The path turned out to be great. Through open wetland areas and along beach fronts, we rolled, at our own pace, content on the hard packed gravel.
Google, why do I ever mistrust you? (Note: Google can and should be mistrusted. There are many times when it has tried, and succeeded, in waylaying we weary wanderers)
As we climbed the final hills to Vista Point, families with rented bikes walked down the steep descents on the other side of the road, no doubt wondering why they thought it was a good idea to rent a bike in one of the hilliest places around…
And finally, we were rewarded with the site of the great orange beast itself, the top obscured by fog, and the traffic from 101 endlessly streaming through it’s towering gates.
The sidewalks were full of sightseers, taking photos and, well, mostly taking photos. We wove around them and passed over the bridge, a few photos of our own snapped along the way.
Upon reaching the other side we had more directions to puzzle out, but quickly found our bearings (I mean, once we literally let Google take the wheel, er, bars, by turning on navigation mode and popping in an earbud to hear). We biked along the waterfront for a bit, reveling at the fact that the ground was flat, but then turned off into the undulating streets of San Francisco. It was fun to bike through the city, where you need to be alert and aggressive to fight for your space among the cars. It’s a nice contrast to biking for miles on end through the countryside, but I wouldn’t know which I prefer more. As we charged along, I chatted a bit with a bike commuter, who wondered where we were from and going (the baggage on our bikes isn’t particularly sleek or inconspicuous).
After a few more turns (and climbs) we reached the Watsi headquarters, sweaty and red faced as always. We buzzed in, had a heck of a time getting both the fully loaded bikes into the hallway, then ascended the stairs to greet the friendly folks that keep the non-profit running smoothly. We knocked on the door and were greeted by a puzzled face, as I’m pretty sure we looked like two lobster thugs, lobster mobsters if you will. But then we were recognized by our contact, Grace (who endures my many emails), and were ushered in and offered all sorts of snacks and cool beverages.
Timmy and I stood around awkwardly talking about the bike trip, self consciously stinky, sunburnt, and silly in a clean sleek office environment. Then, as folks were ready to get back to work, Grace let us borrow a computer to do some last minute planning (such as, finding a dope vegan restaurant for dinner, and finding a place to sleep that night… in that order). We scoped out like fifty potential meals, and sent out a blast of emails and texts to folks on Warm Showers (the reciprocal bike tourist hosting website thingy). Quite quickly we got a response from someone who said they wouldn’t get home till nine, but that we could certainly stay at their home!
Hurrah! Mission accomplished! We said awkward good byes and back pedaled out the door, hands full of snacks and bubbly waters.
We walked our bikes a bit down the road to the a giant grocery mart we had seen that reminded us of our beloved Winco Foods back home. Foods Co was …something special alright. Timmy and I took turns, one of us standing sentinel over the bikes (in a lovely corner reeking of urine), while the over scoped the deals/mayhem that embodied Foods Co. It was overwhelming so we didn’t come out with much more than some coated peanut snacks and some applesauce, but it will probably haunt my memory for years to come.
After that, we hopped on our steeds and headed to the nearest vege eat, which perfectly enough, happened to be a vegan burger joint in a food truck pod, which meant we could wheel our bikes right in and take over a picnic table while we wolfed down our burgers in seconds flat. We sat there for awhile, killing time before nine by listening to the live bluegrass music, writing, and starting wistfully at the empanada truck offering five different vegan options, but at the steep price of $5 a pop… (which was a good deterrent, as we were already feeling full to the brim, almost at the critical Endless Fries Potato Belly level that we had so dangerously toyed with before).
At 8:30, we headed out to the address from the Warm Showers profile, ready to entertain our host, and get the aforementioned warm shower out of the deal. Timmy and I climbed some steep hills, but I distinctly remember saying, “Wow, San Francisco hills aren’t actaully as bad as I always imagined!” which inevitably cursed us. We got to the address and knocked, with no answer. Timmy checked his phone and the person had texted saying they’d be a few minutes late, so we sat on the stoop and entertained ourselves by eating a buncha skittles. When we got the message that the person was now home, we were confused, but went up to knock at the door again, and that’s when I noticed through the window the little old lady sitting inside on the couch… Hmmm.. We quietly backed down the stairs…. I was about 98.9% sure that we were the target of a rather elaborate prank, a fake Warm Showers profile, complete with even faker raving reviews. HOW COULD SOMEONE BE SO CRUEL?
Tim had better sense though and called the guy up…Turns out we’d mixed him up with another Warm Showers prospect… and we had just gone to the wrong address. Our real host, Tim (now don’t get confused), lived a few miles away, and we were still welcome. He said the good news was that San Francisco was small! (Sure, just after I had just been saying the place seemed huge compared to Portland). So, what else to do but get on our bikes and head to a home on a street quite menacingly named Grand View Ave.
This is where the real spirit of San Fran showed it’s colors, as we backtracked and pedaled up steeper and steeper hills till we reached the complete top of the town and it was there that I knew we’d have the best host in the world, because, unfailingly, the best hosts always live atop the highest hill around. We reached his door and gave him a ring, and out came Tim and he was a delight. He lead us around to a garage that we could store our bikes in and then up inside to his one bedroom apartment overlooking the whole city.
We settled in and he offered us a couple tasty beers (Racer 5 IPAs) and we all sat down to some of the most enjoyable conversation we’ve had on this trip. Within the first five minutes, Tim had showed us how to use a slide rule (he’s a physic, and obviously had one sitting out on his shelf) and explained all about slide rules. He was genuinely interested in us, and us him, and we peeked around the room seeing artifacts from years of bike racing in insane places, like Death Valley. He said to come through again some time when we weren’t on a time crunch, and he’d take us around the city to see the sights. He even had an ancient bottle of Solarcaine (my new favorite thing in the whole world) laying around in one of his old emergency kits for the bike race support teams.
(Solarcaine, if you don’t know, and I didn’t, is a magical cooling potion that you can just repeatedly and thickly slather on your crispy burnt skin. Tim gave us the whole bottle. We’re coming back to visit him again. DEFINITELY)
After healing our wounds and offering a ridiculously comfy futon and any food we wanted to eat, he headed to bed for work the next morning. We promptly headed to kitchen for midnight snacks, and then passed out ourselves.
AND THAT’S THAT.
Stay tuned, we’ll see you next time on WITHIN BIKING DISTANCE: THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES