Saturday, July 26, 2014

san francisco - wednesday p.m.

Angel Island. 

I was skeptical. 
It was about 12:30 and the last ferry departs the island at 3:45. 
Would we get stranded somewhere on the island and miss the ferry? 
Even if that didn't happened, would it be worth it to go over there just for a couple of hours? 
Oh well, I decided to live dangerously and agreed to go.

We got off the ferry and found the steep uphill bike path that leads to the Perimeter Road, an excellent paved road that circles the island, passing the old fort, the old immigration centre and other historical buildings.

From pretty much any spot, the views are amazing.

 There were some decent hills -- both up and down.
And it was nice and shady, so even on a warm sunny day, we kept cool.

Once again, we made it back to the ferry landing with time to spare.


   Ours were the first bikes on the ferry -- and the last ones off:
 I was glad we went.

san francisco - wednesday a.m.

Let's try again for the Golden Gate Bridge. 

That's what we said after breakfast Wednesday morning. After all, we're in San Francisco. We've rented bikes. You can't rent bikes in San Francisco and not ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

And so we made our way back down to the Bay Trail, which even at this rather early hour, was busy with cyclists and pedestrians. 

It's not easy to ride to the Golden Gate Bridge on a warm and sunny July morning.

There are the slow-moving crowds -- tour groups on bikes, couples on bikes, families on bikes...

There are the Trail Blockers -- people who stop smack-dab in the middle of the trail because they want to take photos or because they need to discuss their plans or just because they can.

And then there's Obama. Yes, I mean President Barack Obama, who just happened to be in San Francisco at the same time we were, and who just happened to be heading to a luncheon fundraiser at a private home at the same time we were heading for the Golden Gate Bridge.
We had to stop, but this was something worth stopping for -- the full motorcade, with motorcycles and fire trucks and sirens and multiple limos, followed by VTOL aircraft taking off in front of the bridge. Sadly, I am not a videographer, and while I thought I was filming the whole thing, apparently I was holding up my camera and watching the procession on the LED screen. I did get one lone photo:

After this excitement was over, the Park Rangers opened the trail and we rode onward and upward. Once again, I was ridiculously pleased to be the first to reach the top of the hill. 

This time we followed the right people and found the entrance to the bridge without any difficulty. But, if we'd thought the trail down by the shore was busy, we had to find another word to describe the multi-use path on the bridge. Very busy just doesn't cut it.

When we came here last time, about 12 years ago, it was October. We were not alone on the bridge by any means. There were some other tourists. But it was nothing compared to now. The path was so packed with people, we both agreed that we didn't even want to walk across, let alone try to ride a bike. 

Proving that you can indeed rent bikes in San Francisco and not ride across the Golden Gate bridge, we turned around and headed back down.

Being big fans of Alfred Hitchcock movies, we had to visit this spot from "Vertigo" -- the place where Kim Novak jumps into the water, to be rescued by a bedazzled Jimmy Stewart.

 And one more shot of the bike path and Hubby forging a trail through the crowd.

san francisco - Tuesday

Of course, the day began with a trip to the Bike and Roll rental shop. And of course the guy working there had no idea why no one answered the phone when I called the day before. But he was sweet about giving me a different bike, complete with a flat repair kit, and we rode away happy.

Hubby and I had different ideas about what would be interesting, so we decided to split up for a couple of hours. He'd go his way; I'd go mine. Funny enough, last night as we walked back to the hotel after dinner, I heard another couple making similar plans -- she wanted to go shopping while he was going to some museum. It's always nice to know you are, in some ways, like your fellow man, right?

What I wanted to do was just ride my bike around, exploring the streets, looking at shops, watching the people. So I ventured a little off the beaten track and rode up and down some hills and somehow ended up at the Crookedest Street. Another overrated sight. We went there last time we were in San Francisco, and it didn't seem so bad, but that was in October. This time it was so crowded, a person could barely walk. I had to walk the bike down, as it would have been insane to try to weave my way through the pedestrians. This street is the approach to the Crookedest Street:

 After lunch, we decided to take the ferry to Sausalito and ride up to the Golden Gate Seminary area. My friend from Wisconsin attended this seminary many years ago, and she told me that this area is a must-see. 
So we rolled the bikes onto the ferry and rode across the bay.
Alcatraz, seen from the ferry
The bike route in this area is simply amazing. First, there is a wide multi-use path that winds along the shore, past some charming houseboat-type cottages and crane-inhabited marshes. That would be crane as in bird, not the construction cranes we see all over Edmonton. 
Houseboats, Sausalito-style
hello, Kath! I made it here!
 The Seminary Road is not a dedicated bike path, but traffic is light and it's marked as a bike route, so we felt safe and comfortable riding there. We stopped for a photo at the entrance to the seminary grounds, but hubby declined the option of riding uphill to the actual building. The road winds around, up and down hill, turning into Strawberry Road, and offering a great view of the bay or whatever water is down there. My favourite bit along this road was when we passed "The Club at Harbor Point" where the sign for the Nourish Grill says, "Public and Bicyclists Welcome." Unfortunately, the timing was wrong -- we were not hungry or thirsty at this point. But it was tempting to go just in response to that sign!

It's always a bit hard riding in places like this as a newbie, as you don't know exactly how long it will take to get back or what awaits you on the trail ahead. Being cautious in nature, I tend to play it safe and often wish I could go back and do it again, stopping along the way, or taking that side road that I passed up. It was like that this time; we headed back to the ferry landing earlier than we needed to --  sort of wish we had gone on to Tiburon. But maybe next time we're down that way... It was an amazing ride, nonetheless, and I felt a wee bit envious of the many road cyclists we saw, who can enjoy that route any time. 

And this made me laugh -- reminded me of the shared pathway I ride on my way to work each day. It was the second shopping cart I saw along here.
While waiting for the return ferry, we struck up a conversation with a family from Flanders who are taking three weeks to tour California, Nevada and Utah. Their English was excellent, and the teen girl told me they study it in school from age 14 on, but that the real secret of their success is English TV and music! Her little 9 year old brother, she told me, can't really speak English yet, but he can understand quite a lot. Who says TV isn't good for anything?

san francisco

When we left for San Francisco on Sunday, I knew we were planning to rent bikes. Having visited the city before, I also knew that there are lots of steep hills. Oh well, I thought, if the hills are too hard to ride up, I'll just walk the bike. No big deal.

glad to see he's working on it

Our flight was delayed (yes, it was as bad as it looks and took almost 3 hours to fix!) and the ride from the airport took longer than expected, so it was late afternoon when we finally got settled in our hotel, and we decided to pick up the bikes the next day. On foot, we visited Chinatown and had dinner at the Mona Lisa restaurant in Little Italy.

I wish she'd quit smirking at us!
Early Monday morning, we headed (uphill) to Bike and Roll to pick up our Trek Verve Comfort Hybrids. I had never ridden anything quite like it -- even my Trek FX 7.2 step-through has a less upright seating position. But it turned out to be a pretty decent ride.

It was raining. A light rain, but steady. Not exactly what we expected, but ah well... it's just water. We set off (downhill) to the bike trail, thinking we'd ride up to the Golden Gate Bridge. As we rode, the rain increased until soon it was a steady downpour. The fog was so dense we couldn't even see the Golden Gate Bridge, so we were pretty sure that we wouldn't be able to see anything from the bridge. It was wet and cold and miserable. We stopped in at a sporting goods store, where Hubby bought some cycling gloves,  and then we turned around and rode back to the hotel, hoping the rain would stop.
After downing some tasty Louisiana shrimp at Bubba Gump's (we chose to eat here because one of my students absolutely loves the movie "Forrest Gump"-- and because, even in the fog, it offers a nice view of the bay) we started out again.
foggy first full day in San Fran
The rain had stopped and the sky was clearing, so after a detour to Telegraph Hill and the Coit Tower...
halfway up to Coit Tower
 ...we decided to try again for the Golden Gate Bridge.

It's a bit of an uphill climb to the bridge, and I was quite pleased with the bike. I tackled the hill as if it was one of the River Valley climbs and found myself passing everyone else. When I reached the top I felt good and not even out of breath.

We weren't sure exactly where to go from this point, so we followed some loud-mouth guy who sounded as if he knew what he was doing. He probably did, but clearly he had a different destination in mind -- NOT the bridge.

Up another hill, around a bend, and this breathtaking vista was before us...
I caught my breath when I came around the bend...
We didn't know exactly where we were, but it was a marked bike route and beautiful, and we could see that we had left the bridge behind us...
Our goal -- behind us! How did that happen?
... so we decided to keep going. Finally, thanks to some friendly natives and our less-than-adequate tourist map, we ended up on the road to Golden Gate Park.

In my opinion, this park is overrated. It's pretty, with gorgeous flower gardens and large exotic-looking trees, but it was so crowded with cars and pedestrians that cycling was not very pleasant. The bike lane is placed between parked cars and the sidewalk, so that people who wanted to reach their cars had to cross the bike lane, often in large groups with strollers, kiddie bikes, etc. So I was not altogether sorry when I saw the Dutch windmill on the right, because I knew that marked the westernmost edge of the park. Pretty lousy shot, with the street lamp right in front, but oh well...
the Dutch windmill
Now it was time to ride along the ocean front -- fantastic! We saw a lot of surfers (wearing wetsuits) and I was almost tempted to stick my feet in, but as it wasn't very warm out, I thought I'd hold off.
too cold to swim
Another fairly decent climb awaited us, and then another. Hubby was not impressed when we hit the second climb so soon after the first! I think it reminded him of riding in the River Valley.

And then, downhill -- and a flat tire for me. Somehow I managed to ride over a long, twisted, rusty nail that went into the bottom of the tire and came out on the side. Bummer.

But - the guy at the bike rental shop had assured us that if we got a flat, all you have to do is call and I'll be there... Oh, wait, I'm getting it mixed up with that James Taylor song. But he did say they would come to the rescue.

Problem: we didn't have our cell phones. Taking out our not-so-trusty map, we discovered that fortuitously, we just happened to be at an intersection shown thereon. And, it was just a short walk to a more or less main drag, where surely there would be some place we could make a phone call. Maybe there'd even be a bike shop? If nothing else, we figured, we could catch a bus.

It was about four or five blocks -- amazingly not up or down hill -- to California Street, where there was a gas station  on the corner. Not much else, though, and certainly no bike shop. But the gas station attendant was friendly and helpful and made several calls from his own phone. First call -- to Bike and Roll. No answer. I left a message on the voice mail, but didn't have a lot of hope. Next, he called two different bike shops, but both were closed.

What about the bus, we asked? He was only too happy to tell us how to get back to our hotel by bus, and an equally friendly customer confirmed the directions. The bus stop was nearby, so that's what we did. We had to take two different buses; both bus drivers were super helpful with the bikes and with directions, and we made it back with no trouble.

I have to confess that after this, I was a little discouraged about the whole bike idea. But we decided that when we took the bike in to get a replacement, we'd also ask for a flat repair kit. That way, at least we wouldn't be stranded if we had another flat. And of course, as any Murphy's Law adherent knows, as long as we had the flat repair kit on hand, we wouldn't get a flat tire anyway.
from Telegraph Hill

Friday, July 18, 2014

yet another reason to ride

In my ESL class on Thursday, I was given yet another reason to keep riding my bike. We started the class with a 15-minute writing assignment. I wrote a few adjectives on the board and asked the students to write about one or more people who could be described by one or more of the adjectives. This type of assignment is always well-received. Since it's just a brief time of writing, the pressure is minimal; students know perfection is not expected. To be honest, I am not sure how well I would perform on such a task, but the students always do a bang-up job.

One of the adjectives I wrote was "energetic." I was surprised when a student from Ukraine  began to read, "My teacher Jane is a very energetic person..." As evidence, she cited the fact that I ride my bike to work every day, even in the winter, adding that I inspired her to start cycling, too.

Immediately after she finished reading, the Sri Lankan student stepped in. As a Buddhist monk, he is responsible for the spiritual guidance of his community. He said that he often uses me as an example to Sri Lankan-Canadians who complain about winter. He tells them about how his English teacher rides her bike all winter, even when the temperature is minus 40. 

Needless to say, I was had to blink back a few tears. When I first started bicycle commuting, I never dreamed that I would become a legend!

In reflecting on this, I remembered something that struck me when I read the Anne of Green Gables series while pregnant with my second son. 

Anne and her then-friend Gilbert are discussing their hopes for the future, and these are Anne's words: “I'd like to add some beauty to life... I don't exactly want to make people KNOW more... though I know that IS the noblest ambition... but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born."

My primary goal as an English teacher is of course to help students KNOW more English, and I've always felt lucky to have such a rewarding job, but if, from time to time, I can help people to be a little happier as well, I will consider myself extra lucky. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

seen on the dog walk

 Sometimes the dog walk is just a walk. Other times, it's a magical experience.

 The city has built a couple of new ponds right near our house, so we like to take Maggie down there. Both ponds are home to families of loons, muskrats and of course geese.

 I experimented with the low light setting on my camera, with tolerable results.

River Valley East

Since Hubby and I had been stymied in our efforts to get past Wayne Gretzky Drive a couple of nights ago -- we weren't sure about the best way to go -- last night we decided to drive all the way to Capilano and enter the River Valley from there.

We went later in the day, and it was hot, hot, hot. 27 C with Humidex of 30. There was not really any wind to cool us off. We rode up lots of hills, which made us feel the heat even more. But it was a good ride.

First we rode east to Rundle Park. Not exactly pleasant on a hot Saturday afternoon -- there were so many people on the trail, we felt like we were a nuisance.

So we turned around and rode west to the Cloverdale foot bridge and then back up to Wayne Gretzky Drive. This time, we had our map, so after looking it over, we decided to climb out of the valley on to Ada Boulevard, following that as far as the Rundle foot bridge. From there it was back to the parking lot and the air conditioned ride home.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

i take what i can get

It really is true -- you can't have everything in this life. 
Hubby outright refuses to ride the country roads -- range roads and township roads -- with me. But he is happy to drive into the city and ride around in the River Valley. So that's what we did. We spent about 3 hours exploring various trails -- some old, some new. Up Emily Murphy hill, up Forest Heights hill, up the hill to 142 Street. Lots of downhills, too.

It was a warm evening, sunny, but sort of hazy. I had to stop at this lookout point in Forest Heights park and take some photos. 
I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful place, even if the weather is like the girl with the curl: 
When it's good, it's very, very good;
But when it's bad, it's horrid.
Fortunately, right now we are having quite a long spell of the very, very good, and I intend to make the most of it!

Friday, July 11, 2014

riding but not writing

I've ridden a lot during the last couple of weeks, but haven't spend a lot of time at the computer -- except for lesson prep. Time for a few photos from recent rides...

I arrived at work Thursday morning to find this little creature enjoying the broadleaf weeds that had been left on the lawn.

 And here is a pic from my "new" trail -- when I ride through here I feel as if I might be not far from my Laotian student's jungle village.
 And from my most recent country ride, looking down towards Spruce Grove...