Realization Dawns Too Late

November 17, 2017 § Leave a comment

Day 2. As I said in Catching The Monday SFCC Train, I had plans to get together and ride with an old acquaintance on Tuesday, so I didn’t make any real attempt to figure out where the Tuesday SFCC ride actually started. The web page for SFCC says simply

TUESDAY – FAT CAKE HEADLANDS // 0615 GGB PLAZA

and when I google GGB Plaza, expecting to get some kind of public square somewhere in the city, google drops a point right smack in the center of the Golden Gate Bridge, which I then reasoned, was wrong.

What I had seen on Strava, was that when I had been searching for activities in the SF area and found the Monday ride leaving from Baker and Fell, there was an entry for Tuesday that week in which that rider had met at the same location on Tuesday, and left at 0601 or something like that. I found this confusing, but since I had made the Monday ride 15 minutes early, I would simply do the same thing again on Tuesday.

I left some important details out. Fritz and I decided to suspend our ride until Wednesday, allowing him to better decide how we should meet up, so that left me with the ability to ride with SFCC again on Tuesday.

However, following all that I had done the day before, and arriving at Baker and Fell once again by 0600, this time I found myself quite alone, with no one riding up to say “Let’s go”. I was on my own, and I held out some remote possibility that where ever they started from, I might still meet up with them, if I could only find my way to the bridge.

The last time I rode my bicycle to The Golden Gate Bridge was in 1981, and so that basically meant, “I had no fuggin idea how to get there”. However, it was 2017 and I had my iPhone, and I looked at Google Maps and I mentally noted the basics of what I needed to do next until I would need to look at the map again. That basically was to start out just like Monday and head for Golden Gate Park, where I would then hang a right and work my way to Arguello Blvd which would take me into the Main Post section of Presidio. This worked out quite well, and there I found a bike path. The street wasn’t busy, and I could hear all the traffic on Highway 101, but I consulted Google again and enabled the “Bicycling” so I could see the approved routes that are considered safe for bikes (at least relatively safe). This confirmed that it didn’t really matter if I took the bike path or stayed on the road, I would find my way to the bridge.

Find the bridge I did, and what did I find when I got there? A Toll Plaza. GGB Plaza. No the cyclists didn’t gather at the toll plaza, but there is a Welcome Center with a parking lot and clearly that is where they met, and thus the person who I tracked obviously met someone at Baker and Fell on that day, and rode over to the plaza to meet everyone else. Doh! Clearly I would never see this group, but that didn’t stop me from continuing.

In 1981, there used to be signs, as I recall, that prohibited riding across the bridge using the pedestrian walkway, but those signs have been removed. So, I rode across the bridge northbound and after passing some commuters going in the opposite direction, found myself on the North side where I simply needed to figure out what to do next. My destination was Conzelman Road, but when you egress off the bridge bike path, it appears that Alexander simply dumps you onto Highway 101, so I went a little further down towards Sausalito where I came to the next intersection which was Bunker Avenue. Bunker had a sign which I could make out, that described a tunnel, and I don’t really like tunnels during the full light of day, and so at night, this time of the morning, I wanted to avoid that. A closer examination of Google Maps, and I realized it was back up Alexander, under highway 101, and there I would, and did find Conzelman Road.

My first impression was interesting. Remember, that it is 0630 by this point, and being the week prior to the loss of Daylight Savings, Sunrise wasn’t for almost an hour, so it is still quite dark, yet looking ahead of me, I could see points of light, mostly flashing rear red LEDs, scattered along what was in fact a fairly long climb. It looked very cool to me, and so I set off to follow. The grade wasn’t too bad at first, but I quickly hit a few ramps where I needed to shift up. I am glad the rental bike had the gearing it had. I needed every gear. It was clear from the beginning that though I could not really see that well ahead (I can see the road because my forward LED light does a good job of illuminating the immediate road), I could see very well that the nighttime views of downtown San Francisco were going to be treats all the way up this climb.

Halfway up the climb a circle is encountered and still the lights were scattered up the remaining hill ahead of me. I had made up some ground on a rider in front of me, and so I set out to finish the climb. The higher you get the more fantastic the view of the Golden Gate gets, and with it the view of San Fran. I nearly caught the rider in front of me, but I will admit, I didn’t really want to overtake him/her. It was better having them as a carrot ahead of me.

On top the view was awesome. There were other cyclists up there, but not the group I had been hoping to meet up with. After taking some photos, I was aware of a rider on the phone whose bike didn’t look right. Upon further investigation, the rim of his front tire failed catastrophically at the tire/rim interface. Most wheels are made of aluminum, which is a good stiff, but brittle material. As long as no cracks develop, it makes a good material. The problem is if a crack develops. I didn’t look at the manufacturer, but most of us buy pretty decent equipment, and so I give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was a manufacturing defect that eventually reached a failure point. Maybe the crack started months ago after he hit a pothole. I don’t know, but normal clincher tires, when inflated push outwards on the rim. This is why you never find clinchers with PSI maximums much over 100 unless the rim and tire are explicitly designed for it. Anyway, an entire section of the bead lip tore completely off his front wheel just after he started to descend an 18% grade. Lucky for him he was not going that fast, and that he didn’t crash over the edge of the road and fall down the steep grade.

He helped me understand what was ahead, and I set off down the steep and narrow road deeper into the Marin Headlands. I rode my front and rear brakes hard most of the way down. Sure it was a one way road, but it was also only one lane, and my sight lines were limited, and my familiarity was nil, and my age is old, if not cautious. Conzelman ended on Field where I knew I needed to make a right, however going left would take me to the access to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, and I thought that would be pretty cool to visit. I rode over the access trail, and the signs said “No Bicycles” which I probably should have ignored since the sign was probably there for daytime traffic when there would be actual pedestrians using the trail. However, I heeded the signs instructions, and turned around and headed the other direction on Field. Rolly polly in and outy and soon I came to Bunker. Bunker has already been met on this ride at its intersection with Alexander and the tunnel, but out here I would need that to get back. I already knew that before it reached the tunnel, there was a spur climb back up to the circle I had already seen on Conzelman.

That would have been a right, but left said The Marine Mammal Center and Rodeo Lagoon, so Left I went. After reaching the end of Bunker, I encountered a “Service Vehicles Only” sign, which again I should have ignored, but I turned around and tried a different tack and found myself on a different section of the service road climbing a pretty steep grade. I should have continued around and I would have found myself back at the Mammal Center, but it was getting late, and I had plans with Susan, so I turned around again, and headed back towards the tunnel. I passed another cyclist and found the spur to the circle, and it was a long but endurable climb back to Conzelman. There I descended back to the 101 access, and with the West side pedestrian access closed, I retraced my route back to the East side, and re-crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.

On the South Side I took the bike path back the way I came, but then diverted down to the bay where I picked up the main bike path that commuters use to get over to the East side of San Francisco where the Financial District, and where many people’s jobs exists. This worked out for me, since that was also where my hotel was, and staying off the streets as long as possible was quite rewarding. I notice a couple of commuters that were going about the right speed, and I followed them all the way around where we eventually got onto The Embarcadero which brought me the rest of the way around to Market. I thanked my hosts for the escort, and found myself on Pine St, which in hindsight was a big mistake, as once it passes Kearny, Pine slopes up, and once it passes Grant it slopes really up. My tongue was hanging out of my mouth as I struggled up that final ramp.

Back at the hotel, I sat in the lobby with a coffee before I went back up to my room to prepare for the day ahead.

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Baker and Fell by myself

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GGB Pedestrian/Bicycle Path

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Above the bridge

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From the Headlands Vista

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Around the Headlands out of view of downtown.

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The road ahead

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The road behind

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Getting back to town

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The bridge with sunrise behind it

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From the North with my bike.

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Back on the bridge

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From the South

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Classic Selfie

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A couple of commuters that I followed all the way back from the bridge.

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