The Golden City Part II

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For our second full day in the city we wanted to go and see the Golden Gate Bridge, but rather than drive over we wanted to do it up close and what better way to do this than by bike. There are a great many places which hire bikes in the city and as they’re all roughly the same price, we picked a firm based in Haight-Ashbury as it was just a quick cab ride away from our digs.

In the 60s Haight-Ashbury was the centre of the San Francisco flower power and counterculture movement in the US and once this passed, the area evolved during the 70s to become one of the first acknowledged and recognised gay quarters of any US city. A great many reminders of its key roles in the development of modern societal attitudes remain to this day and can best be seen in the psychedelic murals and messages of peace, love and harmony.

We chose electric bikes again as having driven the streets the day before we knew that there were some really punishing hills to tackle and as we wanted to see as much as possible, it made sense to give ourselves some extra power. Our route took us along the edges of Golden Gate Park and then down to the Presidio, which until the late 80s was a US Army base but following the end of the Cold War it was been decommissioned ownership passed to the National Park Service who now manage it as an urban parkland with its sweeping views of the Bay, Bridge and city.

At the bridge we paused at the gift shop and included with the usual tourist tat there was one gem which caught our eyes and was a genuine contender for purchase. In tribute to their local climate, instead of snow-globe they sell a fog-globe of the bridge, which when shaken clouds the bridge in an impenetrable fug which slowly clears. Genius!

With our eyes and senses overloaded from having out tatometers turned up to 11, we pedalled away and onto the bridge. It was quite slow going to start with as in addition to the many pedestrians who were making their way along, the wind was gusting to 50mph and seemed to be coming at us from every direction. This made steering and speed control a tad tricky as just when we thought we would never get moving a gust from behind would shove us briskly along before a side blow would buffet us expletively close to the railing and a potential free-fall entry to the bay with an ensuring loss of deposit on the bike, at best. Once on and into the middle though, it was worth all the effort as the views towards the city and over the bay were superb.

Once on the other side we went into the pretty old fishing village of Sausalito where we sat on the sea wall, had our picnic and watched the sea-lions and herons vying with each other to catch fish. Lunch done we cycled back over the bridge and down to the promenade which leads back to Fisherman’s Wharf. Here we paused for refreshment and to watch some of the very brave souls who were swimming in Aquatic Park, which is a specially sectioned off part of the harbour (“sectioned” seems a very appropriate word…) It was all uphill back to Haight-Ashbury from there, however as we had plenty of battery power left, it was plain sailing for us on the bikes and we covered the five up and down miles in 20 not at all exhausting minutes.

The following day was our last, so after tidying up and checking out we headed to another SF highlight, Lombard Street, which with a gradient of 31.5% is reputedly the steepest street in the city. Sensibly, given the 2,500 tourist vehicles which drive down it every day, it’s a downhill one-way street, but even so extreme caution and a good set of brake pads are essential as every one of the 8 hairpin bends is tight and hair-raising.

We finished our day with Sourdough Boule Chowder at Boudin again and a cracking mint-choc-chip from the Baked Bear Ice Cream and Cookie shop – only the brave (and very hungry) go for the ice cream cookie sandwich which features 4 vast scoops of your flavour choice stuck between two 20cm cookies – if you’ve got ‘em, bring your fat pants.