Biking Adventures in San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco is a favorite travel destination for most people travelling in the United States and one of the best things about Los Angeles is being able to visit the bay area without too much hassle. Most times we choose the 5 highway running between the two cities because it’s so much faster (5-7 hrs. driving), but if you’re down for the pleasure cruise the Pacific Coast Highway 1 is one of the great American road trips everyone should take once.
For myself the latest visits have usually been based in the East Bay — Oakland and Berkley areas — because several of my closest friends from school have decided to settle down in this biker, vegan, left-wing haven. A lot of times they don’t want to take the effort to go into the city when we’re there, but I was hell bent on going in at least one day the last weekend trip because as many times as I’ve visited SF I had never actually made it out to the Golden Gate Bridge. A crime if there every was one as a visitor in the area. Luckily, I made the trip with my crazy-biker friend Jeanne (she’s into bike touring and such) so we spent essentially the whole time biking around the East Bay with out friends and then Sunday in the city.
Exploring the East Bay
Biking is honestly one of the best and most fun ways to get around the bay and if you’re on the east side you don’t have to deal with the steep hills the city is infamous for. First stop Saturday morning, and our only reason (jokingly) for making the spontaneous trip, was to grab some vegan cinnamon buns from the critically acclaimed Cinnaholic. Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, these mouth-watering creations will knock your socks off. They are some of the best cinnamon buns, vegan or non-vegan, combined with your option of over 20 toppings from cookie dough and oatmeal crumbles pie to shredded coconut and strawberries. Talk about a heart attack of deliciousness!
After that we spent the day biking around with no particular destination in mind, the best way to explore if you’re not a tight schedule. We swung by Lake Merritt in Oakland to collect another friend and spent some time there chilling by the lake and watching the capoeira roda that was going on; it made me miss Brazil and hearing people speak Portuguese everyday. Our friend Max, who was ‘guiding’ us, had promised to pick up produce for his house so we stopped by the Berkley farmers’ market. If you are ever in California, or any place that has them, they are just about the best place to get fruits and veggies. When I was living in Wellington, NZ I used to love going to the one by Te Papa Museum to pick up my snacks for the week. There’s quite a scene around the Berkley market and you can buy handicrafts, eat, or listen to music while hanging out. For the rest of the day we spent a very pleasant time going around the San Leandro Bay, only getting lost once in some industrial area along the way, and then ending up on Alameda Island. We ended up biking through the Posey tunnel at the Alameda Portal. There’s the narrowest of paths and a railing that separates you from the cars speeding by below. By the end of it we all felt somewhat claustrophobic and dizzy from oxygen deprivation.
Biking the Golden Gate Bridge
I can finally check off biking across the Golden Gate Bridge after about five years of living in California. Jeanne and I were so committed to the cause that we woke up around 5am to take the bus from Oakland into the city — for some reason we thought we could catch the sunrise. There was all sorts of confusion about where the bus actually stopped around the Ashbury metro station and the bus we meant to take had actually stopped running and we only found one because a bus driver told us if we ran really quick we could catch the other one that would be across the way in about 5 minutes. So much confusion!
We did get on the bus though and despite missing the sunrise we arrived Sunday morning in a nearly deserted city and high-tailed it to the bridge on our bicycles. Despite having done the ride on multiple occasion Jeanne wasn’t exactly sure where to go, but we made it up all the hills with surprising ease (here I must note that I had been biking around 16 miles/day in Los Angeles for several months in my work commute). Biking across is, of course, one of the things that’s difficult to describe. There’s no words that can give anyone the experience… it was slightly breezy, but warm enough that it wasn’t unpleasant and the mid-morning light practically set the bridge into an orange-red flame, true to its name. I wondered vaguely how many bikers are out there every morning; there must have been at least fifty in the short time we were there.
Chilling in Dolores Park
Unfortunately weekend trips to San Francisco end very quickly and after biking to across the bridge and through the National Cemetery (well, walking because no biking allowed there) and peering out at Alcatraz Island we didn’t really have all that much time left before we needed to drive back to LA.
So we stopped by the famous sandwich shop Ike’s Place for some lunch — all the biking makes you really hungry! — and we went to another favorite hangout in the city, Dolores Park, to people watch while we were eating. No matter how many times you’ve visited SF, or even if you live there, Dolores Park is always a good time. You never know what people will be doing there. There were plenty of yoga sessions going on and the normal groups of youngsters smoking joints and enjoying the afternoon, but the most entertaining part was the large group of Spanish-speaking zorbers. We watched them running around and bumping into each other with the ridiculous, yet extremely entertaining, plastic balls they were encased in for the better part of the hour.
We spent the entire next week in LA complaining about how much we missed the bay… happens every time.
Furthermore, I believe I could trounce Stephen Colbert in Lord of the Rings trivia.