Archive for the ‘Biking’ Category

On day five of our trip to Maui, we had scheduled to do a bike tour down from Haleakalā crater. This had been on my list of things to do since I lived in Oahu in the early 90’s. We had bought a “Things to do in Hawaii” VHS tape with the plan to visit the other islands while we lived there. I hate to admit it, but we never visit one of the other islands. We were there 4 years, but expected to be there a couple more years. Our tour was cut short when my billet went away during the downsizing of the Marine Corps after the first Gulf War. So this was my chance to do something I had wanted to do for quite some time.

The tour company, Maui Mountain Cruisers, got us to the top of Haleakalā well before sunset. Since we all got up very early it was a quiet trip. A few lucky folks even got in a nap. I rested, but was awake for vans sprint up the curvy road. Just before the park the caravan of vehicles pulled to the side of the road to disconnect the trailer with our bikes. We would be returning to this point, just outside the park to start our bike ride down the mountain, after a visit to the crater to see the sunrise. At the crater, everyone got out quietly, stretched and visited the restrooms in the visitor’s center. It was dark and cold, but calm. We had separated with no designated rendezvous location, so it took a few minutes to reconnect. Even though there as a large group of people around, the calm quiet and dark surroundings gave me a sense of peaceful loneliness and other worldly isolation. Once we reconnected, Jenny and I looked for a good place to observe the sunrise. All of the spots close to the crater were 3-4 people deep, so we headed up hill to find a clear view. Although it was very dark around us, the clouds below us were bright with the pre-dawn light.

Haleakalā crater at sunrise

This picture shows some of the people waiting for the sunrise. We had separated from Dave and Wendy. They were likely down closer to the rim of the crater.

Watching the sunrise at Haleakalā crater

After getting several photos of the clouds we decided to move down closer to join the crowd. Just before the sun rose above the clouds was the best time to get a good picture.

Sunrise above the clouds at Haeakala crater

I took a video of the sunrise. A couple of ladies led a Hawaiian chant as the sun rose. The chant definitely added to the experience, so I’m glad I took the video. The audio is much better than the video, so I won’t likely post the video. I did pan around the crowd of people watching the sunrise and happened to find Dave and Wendy finally in the crowd

People watching the sunrise at Haleakala Crater

The video stopped right as the sun rose above the clouds.

Sunrise above the clouds at Haleakala Crater Maui

After the sunrise the glare from the sun made it difficult to get a good picture. This one of the crater was one of my favorite.

View of Haleakalā crater

The pictures I took of people didn’t turn out very good. To much back lighting. This one of Jenny and Wendy with the crater in the background turned out the best.

Wendy and Jenny bundled up after just after the sunrise at Haleakala crater

Once the sun was fully up, everyone took advantage of the restrooms one more time, then we loaded back in the vans to head back down to the trailer with the bikes, just outside the park. Apparently several years ago, the park changed their policy about bike tours and all of the biking companies now have to start their bike tours from locations just below the entrance to the park. Only people who bring their own bikes up to the crater can ride from the top.

There are several options for tour companies. Some allow you to ride down at your own pace, but we chose a company that guides you down. The main advantage of that is that a van with a trailer drove behind the last bike in the center of the road so cars would not be able to pass us without warning. Every few miles we would pull over to let cars pass. This was much safer and let us focus on the road ahead and the view. This arrangement also allowed anyone who was not enjoying the steep downhill curves to opt out and ride down in the van. I can’t imagine doing that, but if you are not sure you will be good with this ride, this gives you the option to at least try.

At one of the most scenic pullouts, we did a few poses for the camera.

Eric and JeJust before the sunrise above the clouds was the best time to get a good picture. nny on the ride down from Haleakala crater

Dave and Wendy on the ride down from Haleakala

Although this was not my favorite thing I did in Maui (snorkeling with the turtles gets that prize), I’m glad we decided to do this tour. It was definitely a unique experience. There aren’t many other places in the world where you can watch a sunrise over a volcanic crater above the clouds and then ride a bike 20+ miles downhill.

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

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In Part 1 of our bike ride we had ridden from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. As we left Sausalito we realized that the map the bike shop gave us was missing a few details when it came to the rest of the trip. We stopped at a Vons to get water and snacks, to ask for better directions, and to come up with a plan. It was still pretty early in the day and we wanted to make the most of it. There were actually two different routes/destinations on the biking map: Old Mill Park in Mill Valley slightly to the west, and Tiburon. We decided there would be time to visit both if we hurried. Old Mill Park is not a big park, it was actually a little bit of a letdown for us, but I think that is only because we did not have time to explore our options from there.

Old Mill Park

If we had wanted to (and had time) we could have hiked up the hill above Old Mill Park on a combination of roads and trails to the larger trail system in Muir Woods. It is only about a mile walk from the park to the edge of the Muir Woods National Monument area. Although that sounded very appealing to me, this was not the day. We would be meeting our friends for dinner in a couple of hours, and that did not leave enough time to take a hike.

Our route from Old Mill Road to Tiburon was a little less direct. Highway 101 gets in the way, so we had to loop back south to cross it. We cut through a nice neighborhood to get out of Mill Valley, and then across a park, which was fairly nice although the bike path was not well-marked through the park. The next mile we shared the road with traffic on fairly busy roads beside California 101. This was our least favorite part of the trip. We were glad to get back to a less busy route on the other side of 101. At this point the marked bike trail took us on a small road that runs parallel to Tiburon This was our least favorite part of the trip. Not far up this road we came upon a sign for the Richardson Bay Audubon Society and Sanctuary.

Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary

We decided to stop for drinks and snack, and because the Audubon Center had a very inviting gate…

Very inviting gate into the Audubon Center

we decided to take our break inside the fence. The grounds were large and there were large areas of natural vegetation. There was also a very cool house…

House inside the Richardson Bay Audubon Center

and a great view to San Francisco across Richardson Bay and the larger San Francisco Bay beyond the house.

View to San Francisco across Richardson Bay

We enjoyed our break and the views. I took lots of pictures. However, it was eventually time to continue our ride. Dave and Wendy were done at the emergency room, were back at the condo changing, and then would be driving over to meet us in Tiburon for dinner. If you do the ride to Tiburon, I would recommend stopping here for the unique views. The place seemed fairly deserted on the day we visited, but there may be days when there are more things going on. Regardless it is a beautiful place.

Just a short ride further up the smaller road that runs beside Tiburon Boulevard and we came to a bike path that runs near the water beside Richardson Bay.

Bike Trail to Tiburon

The day had turned into the perfect day for a bike ride. Not too hot, not cold, and we could see well across the bay. The tops of the Golden Gate Bridge towers were visible across the bay as we rode along the path.

View of Richardson Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from the bike trail to Tiburon

The bike path eventually moved closer to Tiburon Boulevard, and then joined with it a couple blocks from the ferry landing. We got there ahead of Dave and Wendy, so we locked up our bikes and checked out the options for dinner and the ferry schedule. The view to San Francisco from the ferry landing in Tiburon was amazing.

View to San Francisco from the end of Tiburon Boulevard

There were a few options for dinner that were right on the harbor. We decided to check out Sam’s Anchor Cafe while we waited. It was a casual place, and we got seats on the back dock overlooking the marina. We were hungry, but wanted to wait for dinner before getting food, so we decided to have a couple margaritas while we waited.

Margaritas at Sams Anchor Cafe

The view of the marina was surreal in the early evening lighting.

View of the harbor and San Francisco from Sams Anchor Cafe

Although we were very relaxed at Sam’s, we thought the view would be better back at the place nearest the ferry landing, Guaymas Restaurant. We were more in the mood for Mexican food and we wanted to be sure not to miss the last ferry. It was a relaxing dinner, the food was good, and Dave and Wendy seemed much more relaxed now that Wendy had been thoroughly checked out. We were not rushed, but we also weren’t quite ready to leave Tiburon when the ferry pulled up to the dock. We had no way to carry the bikes back other than the ferry, so we grabbed our bikes and boarded the ferry for the trip back to San Francisco.

The ferry from Tiburon heads toward Sausalito first. The sun was getting lower causing more shadows on the shore, some pale red light on the island behind us, but it was still high enough to light up the scattered clouds above us.

Ferry from Tiburon to Sausalito

The view of the Golden Gate Bridge was still from a distance, and the unusual lighting made it tough to get a good clear shot. It looked much better in person!

View of Golden Gate Bridge on ferry from Tiburon to Sausalito

We had plenty of time to check out the views while we were docked at Sausalito. A couple of other ferries passed by and there were several other boats in the area too.

View from Ferry at the Sausalito dock

As we pulled away from Sausalito the marine layer was coming over the ridge line. The road we came in on earlier in the day is visible in this picture too. We hope to spend more time in Sausalito on a day that is less busy.

Ferry pulling out of Sausalito marine layer coming over the ridge

Even though the sun was lower, we were much closer, so I was able to get a better picture of the Golden Gate Bridge as we headed toward San Francisco on the ferry.

View of the Golden Gate on the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

The sun was low enough in the west that the clouds had turned red in the skies above San Francisco bay.

Red sky on ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

Although I took many pictures on the ferry, not very many of them turned out. It’s hard to take pictures when you’re moving fast, the ride is bumpy and very windy, and the light is very low. I did get one more that I like – this shot of the moon behind a cloud over Alcatraz.

Moon over Alcatraz on ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

It was completely dark by the time we got to the dock in San Francisco. We unloaded our bikes and carefully road back to the bike shop. They have a fairly straight forward after hours turn in process. Then we headed down to the Hyde Street Cable Car “end of the line”. The line was reasonable, so we waited and road the Cable Car up the hill toward our condo. We got off at the Cable Car Museum and had just a one block walk to our condo.

Riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge had been on my bucket list since our visit to San Francisco in 2012, when we did not quite have enough time to do it. We’re really glad we were able to get it in this time. There are lots of other things we would like to do in San Francisco, but I would not hesitate to do this again.

We had one more day in San Francisco to look forward to before heading to Lake Tahoe for a few days. We decided to explore on foot and on the cable and streetcar lines. I’ll cover that in the next post for this trip.

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)

Southern California Beach sunset

My Wife and I have six busy children. Actually they are all adults now and four of them have significant others We also have one very young and unbelievably cute grandson. It seems like we never see enough of them, and only rarely do we get everyone together for more than a few hours at a time. So when we started looking at vacation options that might be able to include most or all of them we decided a staycation would be the best way to include as much of our family as possible. Technically a staycation would include staying in our home, sleeping in our bed, and driving to local attractions/events. However, we want to attract our kids to stay over night. We have a terrific house, with plenty of room (ok – not 7 bedrooms), and it is in a great location with terrific views. However, we want something that will draw our kids in to hopefully stay multiple days. We aren’t planning to “go to attractions”, we’re expecting the beach house/condo to be the attraction.

Although we are planning to spend most of the week on the beach or water, we don’t want to just sit there cooking in beach chairs. At least that isn’t what we want to do all week, but that sounds great for at least one day. I guess not “cooking”, but at least being very lazy, sipping some tropical drinks and watching the sun (hopefully) shimmer on the water. But that leaves us 5 more full days!

Our search for a place to stay covered an area from San Diego to Newport Beach. Our ideal place would have been: not too close to home, not too far from home, on the beach, and large enough for everyone. We didn’t find the ideal place – at least not at a reasonable cost, but we did find a condo with 3 bedrooms that sleeps 8 and is right on a park that is right on the beach. It is also close to restaurants, bars, and other entertainment, so we’ll have access to a reasonable night life. If there is one thing I wish was different, it would be the size. A 5+ bedroom house that could sleep everyone would be better, but also more expensive! Because it is close enough to home, we expect our kids will rotate in and out, but we’re also bringing some comfy air mattresses so we can expand if necessary.

So on to a list of things to do:

1. Swim. Although the water in Southern California is too cold for my taste, I expect we will spend some time in the water.

2. Walk on the beach. Walking anywhere is one of my favorite things to do. Walking on the beach is pretty close to the top of the list.

3. Throw the Frisbees on the beach – one of my favorite beach activities

4. Drive along Highway 1. Put the top down and enjoy the beauty and perfect weather!

5. Bike along Highway 1.

6. Sailing. There is a marina nearby where we can rent a boat. I just need to find my credentials or go by Fiddlers Cove to get a copy of them.

7. Kayaking in a harbor, lagoon, or bay. There are several great places to ocean kayak in Southern California under the right conditions.

9. Horseback riding. There are stables nearby. Although I don’t think we can ride on the beach, riding near the beach sounds like fun.

10. Visit with family and friends. This is what the whole week is about!

Golden Gate Bridge view July 2012

We are planning a long weekend in San Francisco in July. We’re meeting another couple their, friends from way back, so planning will include agreeing on activities we all will enjoy. I have several bucket list things I want to do in San Francisco, but I know some of them are not going to work, but I hope we can check at least one thing off my list.

There are several sources of information when you search Google for things to do in San Francisco. Many of them either sell tours, or offer links to tours. I’m not big on guided tours. There are times when they are useful, especially when visiting historical places, but I don’t generally enjoy being led around places… I would rather do some planning and explore on my own.

We spent a couple of days in San Francisco in July 2012 on our Honeymoon following our wedding and stay in Big Sur. That trip was a road trip and we are planning to drive again, but we are not planning to drive from San Diego to Big Sur again this time. We’re taking a week off, but plan to spend half the time in San Francisco and the other half in Lake Tahoe, so no time for a long coastal drive on this trip.

We’ve arranged for a condo for the four days we’ll be staying in the city through Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO). We’ve used this website for several trips and have always been very satisfied with where we stay. Be sure to look at the reviews before renting. I avoid places that have no reviews even if the pictures look terrific. It is too easy to make a place look good in pictures even if it has issues. In 2012 we stayed in a Hotel in the Market area, this time we will be a little closer to the center of things in Nob Hill.

We also want to do new things and things we didn’t have time for in 2012. So here’s the list so far:

1. Ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had considered taking our bikes with us, but we are taking our car instead of the Jeep, so we will rent bikes if we do this one. There are several places to rent bikes, and we’ll be watching the local living daily email deal sites for bargains. When you are planning a trip it is a good idea to sign up, several months in advance, for emails for the places you are visiting from sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Goldstar. this one activity gives you a chance to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, get unique views as you cross the bridge, visit Sausalito for lunch, and the ferry ride from Sausalito to San Francisco should give us plenty of great views of the city from San Francisco Bay.

2. Visit Alcatraz Island. The site of the famous prison is now a National Park. Anytime I visit a National park I start with a visit to the appropriate National Park website to the Plan Your Visit section. In this case it helped me avoid a lot of tour companies selling this tour in combination with other tours to get more money. The National Park website pointed me to the official tour company so I can get my tickets directly and skip any additional fees.

View of Alcatraz July 2012

3. Wine tasting day trip! We considered spending an overnight in wine country. This would likely be a good idea when sampling wines from multiple vineyards! But this part of the trip is short so we will make it a day trip and someone (likely me) will volunteer to be the DD. There are almost too many choices. I could do an entire post researching and planning even just a good day trip to this area. Since this will be my first visit to this area I think I’ll suggest the easy way out. We can start at Sonoma Plaza (about an hour drive from San Francisco), do some wine tastings there and then visit a couple wineries in the hills nearby. If we take a few bottles (or cases) home I’ll still get to have the full effect, just delayed a couple of hours!

4. Hike in one or more of the National Parks and Recreation areas in and around San Francisco.

  • Muir Woods. This park has a wide variety of trails from paved to challenging. This would be a great place to hang out for a longer visit on a future camping trip!
  • Marin Headlands area of the Golden Gate National Recreation area – In addition to the National Parks site the Golden Gate National Parks ConservancyGolden Gate National Parks Conservancy organization site is a good information resource for this park. This is my top choice for a hike with a huge payoff – views of the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco.
  • Mount Diablo is on my bucket list, but it is most likely for another less urban focused trip!

5. Take a scenic drive. The closest drive would be the Reyes National Seashore drive, but it is mostly through rolling hills but the first section to Stinson Beach looks amazing. If we do this one it would make sense to do it at the same time as a visit to the Marin Headlands area and to plan to do another couple few short hikes to lookouts like the Muir Beach Lookout and maybe a section of the coastal trail. The much longer drive to Santa Cruz would be gorgeous, but would take us away from San Francisco for too long and this is a visit to San Francisco…

6. See the 16th Avenue Steps. If we get ambitious maybe even walk up them! If we get really ambitious maybe continue up the steps to see the view from Grand View Park! Looks like a nice climb and I’m a sucker for a grand view!

7. Eat some terrific food from Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and maybe some of my favorite Italian dishes in North Beach. We can also take time to explore these areas before and after we eat!

8. Cable Car Museum. Of course we’ll ride one, but this might be a cool place to check out too.

9. Explore the Nob Hill area on foot. Since we are staying in this area it makes sense to check it out. The area has Grace Cathedral, Union Square, several historic hotels, and lots of high-end shopping…

10. Visit the James Lick Observatory. This is a bit geeky and probably for a future trip, but wanted to capture the thought here, because I would love to check this place out. Might be good in combination with a visit to one of our newest national parks Pinnacles National Park.

View of St Peters and Pauls Church from Lombard Street July 2012

San Francisco is one of the great urban areas in California. It has a unique location, a unique history, and a unique population. We are looking forward to spending time exploring the city and finding even more things we have to do next time.

The more I research things to do, the more I wish we were spending more than 4 days in San Francisco. I’m sure we will be very busy, have a great time, and that we’ll be ready for at least one day of rest and relaxation when we head over to Lake Tahoe for the rest of the trip. However, there will be tons to do there too, not to mention Hot August Nights going on in nearby Reno while we are there!

Posts for the trip:

A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 1 – 26 July 2014 – Cable Car Museum and Dinner on Nob Hill)

Lifting a bike on newly installed Racor Bike Lift

This would hardly qualify as a weekend project if I was only going to install 1 bike lift, but the plan was to install four. There’s a cool factor to having a bike lift, but “cool factor” can lead to “buyer’s remorse” so I bought one to try it out. I found the Racor 1-Bike Ceiling Mount Bike Lift on the Home Depot website. Unfortunately, they did not carry it in the store, so I had to wait several days to have it shipped. I choose to have them ship it to the store to get free shipping. I have a Home Depot less than a mile from my house.

Installing the bike lift was easy. I used a stud finder to find the joists in my garage ceiling. The bike lift is designed to be attached to a single joist. I choose to put it near the back wall of the garage, so it would be out-of-the-way. My garage ceiling is higher than most at 11.5 feet. I was hoping the bike would be suspended at least 6 feet up, so I could walk under it without worrying. I could tell from the product picture that the bike would not be right against the ceiling, so I was not positive it would be high enough.

Threading the pulley’s, especially the part that went through the automatic stop/release was the most difficult part of the installation to follow in the plans. Line diagrams made the path of the rope hard to see. Even though it was difficult to follow it was pretty easy to figure out; you just bring the line straight through…

Threading of rope through the clamping mechanism

and it works like a charm.

Operation of the clamping mechanism

It is a little awkward to connect a bike for the first time, but with a little practice getting the bike connected is fairly straight forward.

Racor Bike Rack with Bike Lowered

Lifting the bike is easy. If you let go of the rope at any point the weight of the bike causes the clamping mechanism to engage and the bike just hangs there.

Racor Bike Lift with Bike Raised

There is a metal tie down point to attach to the wall, but it doesn’t hold the weight of the bike under normal circumstances.

Once I got the bike up, I was still unsure if I would get more than two lifts that could both go right along the wall. The second row of bikes will be about 3 feet from the back wall and in the way if they are not high enough. When I first put the bike up the bottom of the tires was at about 5’10”. I noticed that the seat was up quite a bit, and could easily be lowered with the quick clamp on the post. Once I lowered the seat the bike was high enough in back, but still a little low in front. Moving the handlebars is not a good solution, but it will be possible to connect the hooks in different places, or create a lower clamping location. I stood under both wheels to check the wheel height.

Front tire is not high enoughLowering the seat makes the back wheel high enough

If you decide you want to get this kind of bike lift, ensure you have tall ceilings. To get a rough estimate of how high the bottom of the bike will be add about a foot to the height of the handle bars and then subtract that from the height of the ceiling. If this will not be high enough you may be able to raise the bike about another 6 inches if you can connect the hooks lower on the front of the bike in some way.

I decided to get 3 more of these bike lifts. I’m certain I will be able to hang the bikes so that they are at least 6 feet above the floor. I found an alternate source to buy them on Amazon.com for about 6 dollars less per bike lift and ordering 3 qualified for free shipping to my house.

Update Aug 20 2013: Here’s a picture of 3 of the 4 bike lifts installed. No fourth bike to hang yet. The bike in the front row is several inches higher so there is no problem walking under it.

three bike lifts in the garage

I see at least one other project in the picture… need to fix the legs on the beer pong table!

\Rafting the Payette River 4 July 2013
We woke up “relatively” early on the 4th of July. The plan for the day was rafting the Payette River, head back to Boise, bike along the Boise Green Belt to the Ann Morrison Park to relax and watch the fireworks. Dave had already completely packed the Tahoe and was ready to go. We packed our stuff, picked out some water shoes (we didn’t bring ours), loaded up and hit the road. We got to the “put in point” around in the early afternoon, inflated the raft, and launched the boat.
The river is rough above the launch. The South Fork of the Payette river joins the main channel just above the launch. I hope to raft the South Fork one of these days. We drove along it on the way back from Stanley, but that’s for the next post.

Looking back up toward the launch Point into the Payette River

Below the launch point the water is calm for a bit. The valley is tree covered and steep. It makes for some gorgeous scenery along the river.

Looking down the Payette River just after launching the raft

Notice that we all have hats at the beginning of the trip…

At the top of the Payette Raft Trip

Unfortunately our hats don’t stay with us all the way down. Fairly soon into the trip we got to a rapids called “Go Left”. Although I’ve done this part of the river several times, I’ve never made it through “Go Left” without spilling. Dave had a new raft though with a different configuration and he promised his wife Wendy that they we would not spill, at least not intentionally. Anyway, this time we managed to stay, just left of the large hole that had gotten us every time before. We went through a couple of more fairly large rapids without problems… just fun. It was a very small rapids that finally got us. We were all taking it pretty lightly, barely paying attention. I was sitting on the front of the boat facing backward. We hit the hole dead center. Although it was a small one, and the boat did not capsize all of us except Dave (and the cooler) were thrown from the raft. It happened so slowly it almost felt like we had a choice. I think if we really had a choice, we would have stayed in the boat! It was a hot day and the water actually felt good. There were a couple more small rapids just down river and we ended up floating these outside the boat. My life-jacket road up a little and I got a couple mouthfuls of water, but I enjoyed the adrenaline rush of being in the water.

We pulled over to the side to reload the boat and decided it was a good place to have lunch. Just down the river about 100 yards on the right was a large rock that is a favorite jumping/diving spot for Dave, so after lunch we floated downriver a bit and had some more fun. I had never jumped from this rock before, but my wife brings out the adventurer in me. I jumped a couple of times and loved it.

Once with Dave’s son Kyle (he’s behind me)…

Eric and Kyle jumping into the Payette

And once with Jenny. She followed the instructions to turn, smile, and wave a lot better than I did. I was kind of focused on the water…

Jenny and Eric taking the leap

We also had a couple of show-offs… I mean divers. Dave dove several times. Really got some air time on this one.

Dave getting out there diving into the Payette River

And right before we left Jenny went for it!

Jenny Diving into the Payette River

There were three or four more rapids before the take out point. At one of them a photographer was hanging out under a canopy with his website name on it. We got downloaded these pictures later.

At the top of the rapids named mix master. Yes there are still all 5 of us in the boat. I’m in front and about to get pretty wet!

Top of the mixmaster rapids on Payette River

Near the middle of the rapids, through the biggest of the white water.

Having fun in the middle of mixmaster on the Payette River

Quite a rush… and we all managed to stay in the boat.

Near the end of mixmaster on the Payette River

After we pulled the raft out of the river and packed up, we headed back to Boise for the 4th of July Celebration. We biked along the Boise River on the Greenbelt to dinner and then back to Ann Morrison Park for fireworks.

Boise Fireworks July 4th 2013This was the closest I’ve been to fireworks in quite a long time, maybe ever. The show was also synchronized to a musical program that was played over loud speakers. We were so close that we got covered in ash by the end of the program. There wasn’t just one finale, there were several timed to match the music. I don’t get as excited about fireworks as when I was younger, but it was a pretty awesome show.

We had a full day and were ready for a good night’s sleep by the time we got home. We would be heading to Stanley Idaho in the morning, but I’ll put that in my next and last post for our trip to Idaho.

Next Post for this trip: Idaho (Part 3 – Stanley Idaho – 5-6 July 2013)

Room Panorama San Francisco
For the last part of our honeymoon we decided to spend a little time in the big city – San Francisco! We had reservations for a high room in the Union Square area with a balcony and views of the city.

We had spent the past 3 days in Big Sur (2-5 July). We got married in Pacific Grove on the 3rd of July and spent the rest of the day hanging out in Pebble Beach and Carmel. On the 4th of July we went on a couple hikes in Big Sur, and drove California Highway 1 on the spectacular Big Sur coast. But now we were ready for a change of pace.

View south from Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point LighthouseWe left Big Sur early on 5 July so that we could arrive early and have at least an extra afternoon in San Francisco. We did stay along the coast on the way and stopped to check out the Pigeon Point lighthouse about 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay. The lighthouse is in decaying condition and has cables that hold it upright. However, the views of lighthouse and the surrounding area are terrific. We decided to stop in downtown Half Moon Bay for lunch and had a couple of terrific sandwiches at the Garden Deli Cafe in the San Benito House historic inn. There is a nice little garden area beside the hotel, so we took a seat at a table and enjoyed our lunch. Half Moon Bay looks like a great place to spend a couple of days.

The drive, with traffic, was a little longer than we expected and we arrived around mid-afternoon. After getting settled in we headed out to check on bike rental places by Fisherman’s Wharf. A search of “Things to do in San Francisco blogs” had produced several blogs that highly recommended biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and riding the ferry back from Sausalito. After a quick check with the Hotel Concierge to get directions to the nearest public transportation and the Ferry Schedule, we headed out with at least a little hope of taking a bike ride.

F-Line Trolley to CastroUnfortunately a bike ride wasn’t going to happen on this trip. We were already running late, then the San Francisco public transit let us down. From our location in Union Square the transit ticket booth recommended a F-Line Trolley car as the fastest way to Fisherman’s Wharf. They were probably right on most days, but on this day it would be over 30 minutes before the first overcrowded, barely able to get on, not even going all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf trolley car would arrive.

Another F-Line Trolley to Castro in San Francisco

Trolleys heading in the other direction toward Castro passed us every 5-6 minutes. The line of people waiting to get on grew, and we were concerned we would not even get a spot on the next car. Some how we squeezed on, but it was tight, uncomfortable, the ride was jerky, and the conductor kept talking and laughing at his own jokes. The speakers were not very good so I could only understand one word out of five. It may not sound like it but I’m glad we decided to ride on the trolley and I’ll do it again. There was an interesting plaque on the inside wall of the car. It gave a history of the style of car we were riding on. It also said that the trolley car we rode in was painted with a San Diego exterior paint design. I had seen a San Francisco Railway Museum on the attractions list but it hadn’t interested me. After seeing the variety of paint designs, and reading some of the history of trolley cars, I will add this and the Cable Car Museum to a list of things to do next time.
Trolley to Pier 39 with San Diego Paint design

Even before we arrived at the bike rental stand we had decided it would be more of a fact finding quest. The guy at the desk agreed, it was too late to head toward Sausalito with plans to ride the ferry back. We’ll add riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to the bucket list and make it happen next time. Luckily we had plenty of other things on our list. We decided to get a bite to eat near Fisherman’s Wharf and then see some of the other sights on our list.
Cable car on Hyde Street San FranciscoThe start of the Powell-Hyde cable car line was very close to Fisherman’s Wharf on Hyde Street and we knew the other end of the route was near our hotel, so we decided to try that out next. It was a very busy/crowded day in San Francisco and the lines for the cable car were extremely long. Waiting an hour or more to get on the cable car didn’t sound good so we decided to move to the next thing on the list, the “crooked” section of Lombard Street. This is where our luck finally started to change, of course first we had to hike up a very steep Hyde Street toward Russian Hill. It is only 5 blocks from the start of the cable car line to Lombard Street along Hyde Street, but is is one of the steepest 5 blocks you’ll find anywhere. We watched a couple of completely full cable cars pass us by on the way up. If the lines were not so long, the Cable car would definitely be the way to get up this hill. When we got to the top we decided to walk down Lombard Street. The views of Lombard Street from the top are not as impressive/classic as the ones from below, so back down we went.
Cars coming down Lombard Street San Francisco

Riding a San Francisco Cable Car up Hyde StreetWe had not given up on riding a cable car so we walked back up Lombard Street to the cable car stop. There were only a couple people waiting there and we figured that there would be at least a few people getting off each cable car to check out Lombard Street. We were able to get a couple spots on the next cable car that came along. I definitely recommend the top of Lombard Street as a good place to catch the cable car. The cable cars are crowded, so stand on the running board instead of sitting if you can. If you sit someone can and probably will stand in front of you which will spoil the view of the city. Keep your hands in the car, there will be temptations to point, but the cars from the other direction come up fast and close! My wife pointed at a bad time and only a quick warning from the Gripman on our car saved her from getting hurt. He followed up with a dirty look but we were grateful for the timely reminder/warning.

Once we got back to the Hotel we decided to drive out to the Golden Gate Bridge, and cross over to Sausalito for dinner. The sun was setting by the time we got to the bridge and I was worried that we wouldn’t get good color in the pictures because of the lighting. My new camera’s low light capability came through again and we got a few really nice pictures of the bridge and of us.

Eric and Jenny Rial at the Golden Gate Bridge near sunset

Sausalito is a cute little town at the first exit on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It has a lot of options for shopping and food, but it also closes down early. We were down to one option by the time we got there, but enjoyed the meal and walking along the bay. I took an interesting picture of the moon rising above San Francisco after dinner before we headed back for the night.

Moon rising over San Francisco from Sausalito

On the 6th of July we had a sailing tour of San Francisco Bay planned for the early afternoon. This gave us time to sleep in… it was a honeymoon after all. We decided to drive to The Presidio, and after wandering around for a while we parked by Crissy Field. My favorite picture from the Crissy Field area was at the Lita Vietor View point. Lita Vietor was the wife of John Vietor, an heir to the Jell-O fortune and founder of the San Diego Magazine. The Golden Gate Bridge is “in the clouds”, but I love this picture.

Lita Vietor View

We left our car parked at Crissy Field and took public transportation back to Pier 39 for our Sailing tour. We sailed with the San Francisco Sailing Company and thanks to Groupon we got a great deal. The Captain and crew were friendly and it was the most fun that we had during our time in San Francisco. I sail small boats in San Diego harbor, but this was a whole different thing. The Captain said it best… “an average day in San Francisco Bay would be considered a raging storm in San Diego.” I don’t think he was exaggerating. Although it was over 70 on the pier, the jackets were essential on the sail boat. Although my camera’s battery died early into the trip I got some great shots on the way out past Alcatraz.

Sailing tour view of Alcatraz

After the sailing trip it was time to make our way back to the car, by way of “that cool dome that was in Bicentennial Man, you know the park where Sean Connery meets his daughter in The Rock”. Well I didn’t really know, but my wife did and this place was at the top of her list. I was clueless, I had seen both movies, but didn’t remember seeing this place. She was right it is a very cool place, the Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition. The paths around the reflecting pool are a great place for a walk. The park is well laid out to have a picnic with a veiw, and the dome in the center of the structure defies description. I’ll just say that the dome is so much bigger than it looks in pictures. The scale of this place is over the top huge, built to impress. It succeeded!

Palace of Fine Art San Francisco

We had dinner that evening with family at the beach. It was a relaxed place and we had a great time. Travel and bucket list stuff is good fun, but family and friends are what life is all about. The next morning we got up and headed back home on Interstate 5, a long hot drive, but it was the fastest route. A few things were different when we got back… we had a lot of great memories, several hundred pictures to sort through, and we were married!

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures from San Francisco:

Sitting back enjoying the ride on San Francisco Bay

Sitting back enjoying the ride on San Francisco Bay

Sailing toward the Golden Gate Bridge

Sailing toward the Golden Gate Bridge

Jenny and Eric Rial in front of Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Jenny and Eric Rial in front of Pigeon Point Lighthouse

The largest Bougainvillea I have ever seen

The largest Bougainvillea I have ever seen – about half way down Lombard Street

Finally, not the “best” picture, but I love it:

Jenny came out clear but everything else is a blur

Jenny came out clear but everything else is a blur

If you get a chance check out the two earlier posts for this trip:

Post 1: Road Trip – San Diego to Big Sur (July 2012)

Post 2: Big Sur and Carmel California – Wedding, Hiking, Dining, and Driving (July 2-5 2012)