A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 3 – 28 July 2014 – Part 1 – Biking the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito)

Posted: January 31, 2015 in Biking, Fitness and Health, Full Life, Memories, Travel, Travel Resources, Vacation
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Panoramic photo from the northwest side of the Golden Gate Bridge
We woke to bad news on day 3 of our visit to San Francisco. Wendy’s health issue had worsened during the night. She was experiencing significant pain and even though she had some idea what the problem was and had been told it was not life threatening, she was feeling quite a bit of understandable anxiety. There was no way she would be able to enjoy herself until she knew that everything would be OK and could get the pain under control. So we made some tough choices. Dave and Wendy would go to the emergency room of a nearby hospital while Jenny and I went ahead with our planned bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. If all went well we would meet on the other side of the bay for lunch or dinner before taking the ferry back to San Francisco.

We walked down the hill to the bike rental shop. I had pre-purchased the bike rental at half price on Groupon during the final planning for the trip. The deal was for the bike rental company Blazing Saddles. Although I’m no longer a big fan of daily deal sites, I do sign up for deal emails when I’m traveling to a “touristy” place. Although this saved us money, Dave and Wendy were unable to use theirs, so it was a wash overall. That is always the risk when you prepay using a daily deal site. The remaining Groupon will never expire (this is because of a California law), but I’m not sure when we will ever use it.

Blazing Saddles has a very efficient operation. They started with a brief and a video describing the ride we were planning to do. They provided optional Ferry Tickets for the return trip that we could use or return with our bikes. That saved us some time later. The bike issue area was also very efficient, and was well staffed with helpful folks. They helped adjust the bike and helmet to smoothly get us ready to ride. We were out the door very quickly and they reminded us on the way out how to get to the bike trail. We were told to walk our bikes down the hill past the Hyde Street Cable Car turn about, then a left on Jefferson would put us right on the San Francisco Bay Trail. The route is fairly well-marked once you get on it. Although it is mostly flat there are a couple of hills to deal with. The first hill came much sooner than we expected, about a half mile from where we started riding. Although it was a small hill there were several people walking their bikes up it.

Riding up the first small hill on our Golden Gate Bridge bike ride

Since everyone else was stopping at the top we decided to make a short stop to check out the view…

View from the first small hill on our bike ride

There were low clouds covering the top of the bridge. Although this a very frequently the case, I never tire of this view!

One of the good things about this bike ride is that there are very few times that you are actually sharing the road with cars. There are a few stop lights though. I took advantage of one of the stop lights to snap a quick picture of Jenny with the Palace of Fine Arts in the background.

Stopped at a light on our bike ride and snapped a picture of Jenny and the Palace of Fine Arts

We were familiar with much of the rest of the route to the bridge because of our last visit to San Francisco in 2012. Crissy Field has awesome views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Today we rode most of the way through this area but couldn’t resist stopping for one picture under a small group of trees near the beach.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field on our bike ride

We realized when we were planning this ride that the ride across the bridge would be only a small part of the bike ride, so we were open to opportunities to see other things along the way. Before we headed up the hill to cross the bridge we decided to take a small detour to Fort Point, a Civil War era fortress built to defend the Golden Gate bay entrance.

Taking a short detour to Fort Point on our Golden Gate bike ride

The Bridge is actually built right over the top of the fort, preserving a unique and interesting bit of history. We actually didn’t decide to go into the fort right away. Jenny got this picture of me on the rocks just outside the fort. The rocks protect the seawall from erosion by the rough waters near the entrance to the bay.

On the rocks near Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge

We got an update from Dave on their progress (slow) and decided we would have time to do a quick walk through of the fort. Fort Point is run by the National Parks Service. It is completely free to enter the fort and all the activities there are free as well. We headed right for stairs to the top-level of the fort for the best views. There is a large courtyard in the center of the fort and several cannon mounting points on the bay side walls. On the back walls there are more mounts that were raised to provide even more firepower.

View of the courtyard and perimeter walls of Fort PointAs we walked around the top of the outer walls there were terrific views in every direction.  A seagull flew overhead just as I took this picture in the direction of Land’s End.

A seagull soring away from Fort Point toward Lands End

We also had a nice view under the bridge toward the Marin Headlands where we had gone the day before.  It looked like the low clouds might be completely covering the highest parts of that area today.

View from Fort Point of the Marin Headlands obsured by low clouds

There was also a unique view of the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge passing over Fort Point

I had Jenny get up on the most northeastern cannon mount to get the picture.

Jenny standing on a cannon mounting location on top of Fort Point

Even though I already had so many shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, I couldn’t help taking and apparently can’t help sharing this image of the flag over Fort Point with the bridge in the background!

View of the flag pole atop Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge

There was also a very nice view of the bay and city to the east.View back toward the city from the top of Fort Point

We headed back down the stairs to the second level and did a quick walk through of some of the rooms.  I snapped this picture of the Hospital Stewards room/exhibit before we made our way out of the building.

Hospital Stewardsroom and exhibit in Fort Point San Francisco

We will definitely return to Fort Point for the views and hope to spend more time there next time learning about the history of the fortress.  For now we had a bike ride to do!

It was short ride back to the longest uphill section of the ride. The hill up to Battery Park is steep, windy, and you share the road with cars.  Near the top we stopped at a clearing for some more views of the bridge before riding across.  The weather was a bit cloudy, but we could see some sun hitting the other side of the bay.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County from the East Battery Trail

We walked around for quite a while in this area, but eventually headed up toward the visitor’s center. There were tons of people there, so we got off our bikes to walk, but made a beeline toward the gate to the bridge’s east sidewalk. The day before, when we were heading back from the Marin Headlands, bikers had been on the west sidewalk. It would have been a lot less crowded, but the view would not have been what we were hoping for. For a schedule of which sidewalk is open for bikes and pedestrians see this link.

Once we got through the gate, the sidewalk was crowded. There were north and southbound pedestrians, runners, and bikers all sharing a fairly narrow sidewalk.

Crowded at the beginning of our ride across the Golden Gate Bridge

We were able to ride most of the way through this crowded section, but had to get off the bikes once when an emergency cart (half the width of the sidewalk) came along. The views of the city…

View toward the bay and city from the east sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge

and of the bridge…

Approaching the south tower on our ride across the Golden Gate Bridge

made the crowds seem less important. Most of the people were very polite and everyone seemed to be willing to share the road (sidewalk). We had to get off our bikes as we approached the south tower because the sidewalk narrows and curves around the towers. There also seemed to be more people congregating here also. The center section of the bridge, between the towers, was much less crowded. It was in this part of the ride that we actually got to experience “riding a bike” across the Golden Gate, not just dodging other people. It is obviously less crowded in this picture near the midpoint of the bridge.

Midpoint of the ride was less crowded

A little past the midpoint we decided to pull over to get pictures “on the bridge”. As I pulled over I finally met one rude guy. I looked over my shoulder before I moved to the right, but as I pulled over a guy behind me yelled, “Hey watch where you’re going.” I didn’t say anything as there was no collision even though he had flown by on my left at a pretty good clip. However, he wasn’t done. He managed to stop about 25 feet further along the bridge. He looked like he had just teleported in from the Tour de France. Expensive road bike and corporate sponsors on his shirt. Obviously he was in the middle of training for his next time trial. I guess I should have been thankful that he was able to take a few minutes out of his training to give me some pointer on watching where I’m going. I’m a pretty polite and calm person, but in this case I decided to exercise the “F*** you” technique. He would yell something about watching out for other people and I would simply yell back those two words. This went back and forth several times. He would lecture me on how to ride my bike and I would exercise the technique! Eventually the technique worked. He went back to training for time trials on a busy little sidewalk, and I got my picture “on the bridge”.

Stopped for one picture on the Golden Gate Bridge bike ride

The least busy part of the bridge was just before the north tower.

Approaching the North tower of the Golden Gate Bridge

Once we passed that tower (we had to walk around again), we started to have more pedestrian traffic from the other view area on the north side of the bridge. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the north is different, but no less impressive than the view from the south.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the north visitors lookout

This viewpoint is a favorite for tourist buses and cars driving along the 101. The first time I stopped here was in the late 1980’s. I remember it vividly, not because of the view, but because my oldest daughter was a baby at the time (almost 2 years old), and we had a little scare with her shortly after we left this view and drove north a few miles. She had a low-grade fever that day, teething maybe, but it was only about 50 degrees that evening so we bundled her up to get out of the car. When we got back in the car we only planned to drive a few miles before stopping for dinner and it had gotten chilly even in the car, so we left her bundled up. We stopped and parked on the east side of the 101 and walked across a pedestrian walkway over the 101 to get to a Sizzler. I checked on Google maps and the walkway is still there, but the Sizzler has been replaced by another restaurant. We left Monica bundled up and I carried her over the bridge to the restaurant. I remember it being cold and windy outside. When we got in to the Sizzler I held her away from me so I could loosen her coat. She was completely limp and unconscious. I set her on the counter to check her out, and could not detect any breathing. As I started CPR, the lady at the counter asked if there were any medical people in the restaurant. After just a few seconds of doing CPR I felt my knees give a little. I was very scared, in fact I’m getting a little emotional writing about it more than 25 years later! Luckily there were two EMT’s who came over to help. They moved her to an open table, removed the coat and other warm clothing we had on her and continued the CPR. She started breathing and regained consciousness very quickly which was a huge relief. We thanked the EMT’s then went up the hill to a nearby hospital to have Monica checked out. The doctor was pretty sure it was a seizure caused by her fever being held in by all the warm clothing, but felt she would be fine and we should not have to worry about this happening again. About 6 months later we were contacted by the local Marin newspaper for pictures. The two people who helped us were getting a civic award and they wanted a picture of Monica for the paper. A lasting memory and a valuable lesson for young parents – be careful about bundling up a baby with even a low fever!

On this visit to the Golden Gate, thankfully we had no scares, just a relaxing bike ride to enjoy. The hill to Sausalito is steep, curvy and is also shared with cars. Most of the way the road is wide enough to comfortably share the road, but it narrows just as you enter town, and so you have to really watch what you are doing on this stretch of the trip. We have been to Sausalito once before, during our honeymoon in 2012. We expected this visit to be much different. That time we had driven to Sausalito fairly late – almost 10 PM, and the town had lived up to its reputation as a sleepy little town! We had trouble finding a place that was even open so we could eat. Riding into town in the middle of the day was completely different. It is a bustling tourist location during the day. People drive here, are delivered by the bus load, take the ferry, and apparently a lot of people ride their bikes here – based solely on the number of bikes in the bike rack we used.

Large number of bikes parked in Sausalito

It reminded me of the bike racks I had seen in Copenhagen when I spent one day there a month earlier. The first thing we did was message Dave and Wendy to see how things were going. We wanted to see if they would be able to make it here for lunch. Unfortunately things were going slow for them. It was likely to be a few hours more. We decided that we should have lunch, check out some of the shops, and then continue our ride to Tiburon. When we returned to pick up our bikes there were already people lining up for the ferry back to San Francisco that would leave an hour later. These lines made continuing to Tiburon seem even more appealing.

Since Biking to Sausalito and taking the ferry from there back to San Francisco is an option, I’ve decided to put the rest of our bike trip in a “Part 2” post. If we had never been to Sausalito, we might have decided to stay for dinner and then ride the last ferry home. On this day the crowds were more than we were looking for, and we had the urge to keep riding! That is one of the things I like most about touring an area on bikes, your plan can be fluid and you can go where your spirit moves you!

Previous post in this series: A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 2 – 27 July 2014 – Pier 39 and Marin Headlands)

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