Tuesday, December 9, 2014

why i ride

Time for another "why I ride" post.

Almost every morning as I ride along the shared pathway on 100 Avenue, I see a woman with a stroller. We always say good morning to one another, and she has a lovely smile. I had never really looked at the stroller before, but I naturally assumed it contained a baby. Today, however, I saw her in the morning and then again after work, and both times the stroller held nothing but a purse. A large purse, to be sure, but not so big that it would be easier to push it around in a stroller instead of carry it. So now I find myself wondering -- is there ever a baby in that stroller? Do I just happen to see her after she has dropped the baby off somewhere and before she picks it up? Or does she really walk on the snow-covered trail pushing her purse in a stroller? Tomorrow I will look more closely and try to solve the mystery.

To add to today's excitement, as I rode cautiously downhill into McKinnon Ravine, something noisy and big came out of the bushes on my right. Startled, I looked in that direction and saw a hawk, holding a rabbit in its claws. I have to confess that I screamed. The hawk must have been equally surprised, because it dropped the rabbit beside the trail and flew across the path -- right in front of me. It looked huge and scary, and I had a fleeting moment of fear that perhaps a 58-kilo woman would not be too large to be tempting prey. But my fears were groundless, as it simply flew past, leaving me to continue my ride.

I was pleased to see, upon reaching the trail that leads to Ezio Faraone Park, that a city maintenance machine had gone before me, leaving bands of sand crisscrossing the path. It wasn't exactly icy, so the sand was possibly a bit superfluous, but it was good to see that the well-being of us active types -- cyclists, walkers and runners -- was being taken into consideration.

All these little things added up to make today's ride pretty awesome, and once again I felt thankful that I can use this method of getting to work, instead of driving or sitting on the bus.

And it didn't hurt that it was a warmish day, starting out at about -7, and ending at an unbelievable +11. Lots of melting going on. Tomorrow is supposed to be warm again, so I am enjoying it while it lasts.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

extreme cold warning

It's hard to believe that less than a week ago, I was riding merrily along River Road, chatting with another bicycle commuter about what a beautiful warm morning it was. The trail was cleared of snow (not that there was much snow) and there was no wind. 

The guy was telling me that he works at Epcor, so he doesn't need to climb out of the valley to go to work. "Must be nice," I said, and I told him of the climb awaiting me. I said those words, but as Dr. Suess would have it, "I said them, but I lied them." Deep down inside, I was looking forward to riding up that steep hill and to the satisfied feeling that is mine every time I reach the top. Yes, it was a glorious day for a ride to work!

Today, things are very different. Not only is there about 30 cm of snow on the ground -- more in places because of drifting -- but Environment Canada is warning of extreme wind chills of up to -45 C. 

The warning contains this tidbit:
While anyone who isn't dressed warmly is at risk in cold weather conditions, some are at greater risk than others for frost bite and hypothermia:
  • homeless people
  • outdoor workers
  • people living in homes that are poorly insulated (with no heat or no power)
  • people with certain medical conditions...
  • winter sport enthusiasts
  • people who consume excess alcohol
  • infants and
  • seniors
I had been planning to get on my bike this afternoon and ride to the library to return some stuff. Now I will have to think twice about that. I do have lots of warm clothing, but I need to figure out how to "Be sure to cover your nose to protect it." Maybe today's the day to try out the balaclava.

I'm just glad I don't have to go to work today and that I have a couple of days to try out various clothing combinations so I can be prepared to ride on Monday. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

the wheels on the bus

Yesterday was my first bus day of the season. With 30 cm of snow in the forecast, there was no way I was going to drive into the west end. I wouldn't have minded trying to cycle to work from Crestwood, if I could have teleported there. I know it would have been hard, but there is nothing we winter cyclists like better than a good challenge.

The bus ride into downtown wasn't bad -- about 65 minutes, or only 10 minutes longer than usual. BUT -- the ride home was a different story. It took about three-quarters of an hour just to get from NorQuest to NAIT and more than an hour to get home from there -- total of almost two hours. I stood the whole way; I prefer standing to sitting, but even so, I was elated when it was time to get off.

Not so elated when I saw our street. Thanks to the drifting snow, the sidewalk was piled so high that I had to walk in the road. And as I reached our driveway, I saw a woman in a small SUV trying to get out of a snowdrift. So I got a couple of shovels and we dug her out.

It's at times like these that I am thankful for a big strong 16 year old son. I don't really mind shoveling, but the amount of snow this time was simply overwhelming. It was nice to be able to assign someone else to do the job. 

In spite of the heavy snow, we had a decent turnout for class today: 14 of the 20 registered students showed up for the morning class, and 9 out of 11 in the afternoon. It was a good day of learning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

first snow

We did have a little snow in September, but this past weekend we got the first real snow -- the 6 cm of snow that stayed on the ground and probably will remain for another 4-6 months. 

I rode around town on Saturday and Sunday, trying out my two winter bikes. Yes, this year I decided to try studded tires, so I had them installed on Silver, my Trek 7.2 step-through hybrid. I am not really sold on them. They're fantastic for riding on relatively smooth ice, but if the surface is bumpy or if there is a layer of snow, it's a different story. I felt quite insecure bumping along  the trails, where the packed snow is full of footprints. It was a little better on the roads and on untrodden snow, but still not entirely comfy.

My trusty old GT Tempest, on the other hand, with its fat Table Top tires, is nothing short of superb. It rides well on all but the very smoothest ice, on bumpy snow, through a few centimeters of fresh snow -- pretty much anywhere. 

So when getting ready for Monday morning's commute, it was Miranda the GT Tempest I put in the back of the minivan. I parked in Crestwood, thinking that if the trail conditions were too prohibitive, I would walk to work, but that wasn't necessary. I hopped on the bike and rode -- albeit carefully -- down into the ravine, along the river and my tour de force: up the hill into Ezio Faraone park. When contemplating my route, I opted for this hill, telling myself that if it was too hard to ride all the way up, I would simply get off and walk -- no shame in that, after all. But I didn't have any trouble riding all the way up, and I felt so good when I reached the top that I had to stop and take a photo.
victory at the top of the hill
Unfortunately, unless you know this spot, you can't really tell that I just rode up a very steep hill. 

As I rode down into the valley, I saw a coyote run across my path and then stand in the bush to watch me pass. 

And I'm afraid I was totally guilty of this:

Twice in one day, in fact. Once when I first arrived at work and then again in the afternoon when I rode an extra 5 km each way to attend a special meeting. In my defense, they did ask, "How was your ride?"

I plan to use the studded-tire bike for errands around town this winter, and if the studs haven't grown on me by the time spring rolls around, I'll offer them for sale to someone who has a different riding style. For me, the fat tires and old mountain bike are a winning combination.

What I wore: camisole top, fine merino wool sweater, cashmere turtleneck, Icebreaker wool longjohns, J. Crew wool skinny pants, MEC Adanac tights, wool pea coat, Icebreaker merino wool scarf, bulky wool scarf, wool gloves inside warm Joe Fresh mittens, thin wool socks, thick wool socks, Merrell insulated boots, Bern winter-lined helmet. Perfect! For the ride to the meeting and back to the car, which was mostly against the wind, I added another wool pullover.  

Temperature - AM -14, windchill -21; PM -16, windchill -24.

In spite of the cold wind, when I reached my car, I was wishing I'd parked at my usual spot, 2 km farther away. Next time!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

reasons to love october

This year, October has been a month to love. Warm temperatures -- generally in the double-digits. Crisp clear mornings. Starry nights.

A great time to bicycle commute!

Last Thursday morning there was the most incredible fog. It was kind of creepy in the river valley. I felt like the only person in the world. But I had to stop anyway to take a few photos.

While I was stopped, another bicycle commuter rode past with a friendly smile and a cheerful "good morning." I was glad to keep him in sight the rest of the way.

I had to stop again on my way up to Ezio Faraone Park -- the view was amazing.

And another stop once I reached the top:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October mornings

 On the way to work...
 a yellow tamarack tree

 a glowing moon

a golden hillside

Friday, September 26, 2014

crunch crunch

Hubby always thinks it's funny that I like to make a lot of noise crunching through the fallen leaves.
path near Royal Glenora
I tell him it's because I grew up on the bald prairie of Southern Saskatchewan where we didn't really have trees or fallen leaves. They are still a bit of a novelty to me. Turns out I like crunching through the leaves on my bike, too.

Because of my hand I haven't done a lot of long-distance riding this fall. But last Friday I rode into Southgate so I could go to the optometrist and order new glasses. I rode along 16A, down Winterburn to 87 Avenue, into Callingwood, Westridge and Rio Terrace, and then across Quesnel Bridge to Fox Drive. It was a perfect day -- about 20 degrees, a light breeze and plenty of sunshine. 
And what a thrill to arrive at the mall and see a full bike rack! Of course, I was glad there was room for me to lock up my bike, but how cool that so many people are riding.
ravine hill

Friday, September 12, 2014

fall is here -- or is it winter?

Tights - check
Knee-high boots - check
Wool sweater and second wool sweater - check
Water-resistant jacket with quilted lining - check
Rain pants - check
Thin wool gloves and ski mitts - check

Then... clear the snow off the car before leaving for work!

Yes, this was September 8, the first day of our fall session. One thing was omitted from the list above -- a scarf. I was sorry about that. It was a cold, wet ride, but even so, it was better than driving.

Tuesday morning was a little warmer. I was looking forward to a more comfortable ride, but when I took the bike out of the car, I noticed that the front brake was rubbing -- again. A closer look showed me that the brake pad is positioned too high and is actually rubbing on the tire - not good, as I understand it. So I put the bike back in the car, drove to a parking spot near 142 Street and walked the rest of the way. I had forgotten about the 102 Avenue bridge, so scrambled a bit to find my way over to Stony Plain Road. I ended up walking about 6 km, at 7.6 km/hour, arriving at work carrying my jacket and blazer, but still hot and sweaty. Oh well, better than driving!

Wednesday and Thursday I used my other commuter bike and although it was cold in the morning, the afternoon rides were fairly pleasant.

On Thursday morning, the River Valley was gorgeous, with the frost-covered grass sparkling in the sunlight...

 ... and the moon hanging low in the uniformly blue sky behind me. Although I was cold, I had to stop to take some photos.

To kick off the new session and to encourage perseverance in language study, I had my students read a story about a  
on the 950th try. The students loved it, and one woman even said that it inspired her to start driving again, after 5 years of being afraid to drive as a result of being rear-ended at a red light. 
We studied synonyms for perseverance, including doggedness and resolve, and engaged in discussion about the need for this trait in our own lives.


I can't believe it's really been more than a month since I wrote anything here.

The weekend of August 9-10 we went down to Calgary to meet up with my brother. Of course, I saw the opportunity for a good long bike ride. I started out fairly early Saturday morning and met up with Hubby in Millet, 90 km from home. If I'd known the distance, I would have ridden another 10K to make it 100 km, but oh well. Aside from a couple of inconsiderate guys behind the steering wheels of trucks -- one delivery truck and one pick-up truck -- and a dog that chased me, barking the whole time, for about 1/2 a kilometer, it was a good ride. Gorgeous sunny day. Smooth, fast pavement. Wide shoulders. Gorgeous scenery, but I didn't take many photos.

Sheep, just south of Devon

I stopped here to text Hubby and tell him to bring the stuff I'd forgotten!

We stayed at the Delta South in Calgary, where they cheerfully kept my bike in a locked storage room. After a superb buffet breakfast Sunday morning, we picked up my brother and went to Fish Creek park, where we walked for about 9 km. It was unexpectedly hot and there is virtually no shade on the trail, so we were ready for some cold drinks afterward. We had a most enjoyable visit and then headed home.

The summer session of ESL ended on Thursday, August 23, but I checked out a bit early, On the Tuesday, as I was riding back to the car after work, zipping along and enjoying the beautiful weather, a young kid, maybe 13 or 14, threw his skateboard out onto the shared pathway, right in front of my bike. It all happened so fast that the next thing I knew I was on the ground and blood was pouring onto the pavement. I sat there for a while, feeling stunned, then finally got up the courage to ask the kid what was bleeding. He told me I had a cut on my chin and another under my left eye.  My hands were also scraped-up and swelling rapidly. I instructed the kid to get my sweater out of my pannier and used it (white sweater, no less) to stem the flow. 

Still shaking, I finally stood up and assessed my condition. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could walk without keeling over, so I asked the kid to take my bike and come with me to my car. He obliged, but after a couple of blocks, I realized that I was OK on my own, so I sent him on his way and walked my bike the remaining 2 or 3 blocks to the car. Somehow I even managed to load the bike into the back, then I sat down behind the wheel and called Hubby. I was still shaking and was scared to drive, so we left the car where it was and Hubby drove me home. 

It was a bit of a shock to look in the mirror and realize that I had a doozy of a black eye, along with the not unsubstantial cut on my chin. But there was nothing that a few bandaids and some ice couldn't take care of, so I took the necessary steps and then lay down for the rest of the evening. It didn't take me long to conclude that I was not going to be able to teach the next two days, so I called to arrange a sub.

Wednesday and Thursday I felt pretty shaky and didn't do much of anything, but by Friday I was feeling much better, well enough to agree to a visit from my three Buddhist monk students. They came after lunch, bearing fruit and flowers, and stayed for about an hour. Youngest Son was home, so he sat in on the conversation and was entertained by stories about life in a remote Laotian village.

On Monday I was ready to get back on the bike. I went for a short ride on the trails, figuring that between my helmet and sunglasses, I could hide the worst of my injuries. The bike was in pretty good nick, except that the front brake was a bit off. So on Tuesday I rode to the bike shop, where I impressed the guys with my war wounds and listened to their crash stories. And got the bike fixed.

I'd had great plans for my two weeks off -- lots of cleaning, plenty of long bike rides, hours of sewing. But thanks to my sore right hand, extensive cleaning was out of the question. I did organize my study and do some other light cleaning, but the blinds and windows are still waiting to be attended to. I did a little sewing, but fine handwork, required for the Waldorf doll I was planning to make, has had to wait. I did some cycling, but again, because of my sore hand I didn't dare ride for more than an hour or so, and I was afraid to ride the road bike, because the shifting and braking techniques are difficult and painful. I didn't want to go out much, because I looked so awful, so I mostly stayed at home. I did a lot of walking on the treadmill, reading, and preparing for next session. I was a little sorry to have spent my break in this way, but...

My predominant feeling about this crash is one of thankfulness. It could have been so much worse -- I could have had a concussion, broken my wrist(s), done more damage to my eye... Instead I came out with a sprained hand, some scrapes and bruises, a few cuts and of course the pro boxer-style eye. Not only that, but it happened just before I was due for time off. I had to take only 2 sick days (the first I've taken since I started working.) 

And I learned a most valuable lesson: don't ride so fast on the shared pathways!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

down to Devon by bike

Devon is Bike Town. It's not far from here, but sometimes seems like another world. It's a small town and according to my sons, there's nothing to do there -- or so say the Devon young people.

But they do have the River and apparently some excellent bike trails. I've never actually ridden IN Devon, just TO Devon via the Range Roads and Township Roads south of here.

Since the wind was from the southeast yesterday morning, I decided it was the perfect day to ride to Devon -- I'd ride against the wind all the way down and with a tailwind coming home. And so it was.

I rode past my friend the white donkey, past some miniature horses and a flock of goats. The acreages are definitely more interesting down this way.
 I also saw a sign that I feel sure belongs to a friend of Piglet's uncle, Trespassers Will. This sign read: "No ....sing." Short, perhaps, for "No singing"?

The ride is fairly flat -- just some small ups and downs -- until Highway 60 where one finds The Big Hill. Riding south it's down first and then up. Against the wind. It was a decent climb.

Once at the top, I decided to go into the town and see if I could find the bike shop I've read about. I didn't see it, but I did notice that the lampposts are garnished with banners featuring cyclists of all ages, urging onlookers to "enjoy the ride." Cool!

After a brief stop, under this banner, for a drink of water, it was time to turn around and go back.

Downhill first this time. And this was downright scary. The shoulder was full of gravel which seemed to have washed across the road in last Friday's rain storm. There were mounds of gravel as well as a thin layer over the entire shoulder. I rode slowly, braking the entire time. Because of the gravel I couldn't see the rumble strips and ended up bouncing along on those for a few meters, shaking my bike and my entire body. Coming off the rumble strips, I encountered piles of gravel and nervously applied the brakes, trying to keep control. I managed all right, but it was definitely not the fun downward sail a big hill like that should be. And to top it off when I reached the bottom, it felt like something was wrong with my back tire. I stopped to check it out. It was fine; it must have just been the gravel underneath that made it feel sluggish. But when I started off again, I discovered I couldn't clip into my pedal. When I stepped off into the gravel/sand mix, apparently I clogged up the cleat. So I had to stop again and poke around to dislodge the little bits that were stuck. Finally back in the saddle, it was a surprisingly easy climb up to the top and I was on the way home.

As I had expected, I had a nice tailwind and it was a fast ride. I did have to stop at one point when I saw a coyote standing on the road in front of me. It stood and stared for a good minute before ambling off into the bush. I am always afraid to get too close, but took a photo from a distance.

By the time I got home, the temperature was about 26 degrees with a humidex of 30, so I was not sorry to hit the shower. It was a good ride -- 66 km and even with the constant braking on the downhill and the headwind for the first 33 km, I increased my average speed by 0.1 km/hour.

Friday, August 1, 2014

san francisco - wednesday evening

  Another solo bike ride.
Hubby said he'd had enough of riding for the day, but I wanted to do some more exploring. Specifically, I wanted to check out 

It's marked on the bike map handed out by Bike and Roll, and when I googled it, I was intrigued. 
I was also curious to see downtown San Francisco.
So, I looked at the map and decided that I'd pretend to be a bicycle commuter working downtown in San Francisco. 
I'd ride on Polk Street to Market and from there use The Wiggle to turn around and head back.
It was a decently steep climb on Polk for the first couple of kilometers, but after that it was quite flat. And there's a bike lane all the way. So I rode and rode until I hit Market Street.
It was about 6:00. There were lots of cyclists. Lots -- maybe 20-25. The intersection of bike lanes at Polk and Market, while beautifully marked and glowingly green, was a bit confusing. Riders going in every possible direction. A mysterious flashing yellow bike light. 
I stopped and asked one of the waiting riders -- a young woman on a comfort bike -- how to get to The Wiggle. She was very kind, giving me excellent directions and explaining what the flashing light was about. So on I went, up a fairly steep hill to the easily-spotted Safeway, where I was to turn right.
Here again, I felt a bit baffled. There were markings on the pavement -- big green squares with arrows -- but I wasn't sure exactly what they represented. Another youngish woman happened to be riding next to me, so I asked her whether I was on the Wiggle. She assured me that I was and told me to follow her. We rode together for several blocks, turning right and left, ignoring stop signs, and talking about our lives cycling in two very different cities.
When we'd finished with the Wiggle, she asked me where I wanted to go next. When I told her I was headed back down to the Bay, she recommended that I first stop to look at The Painted Ladies houses in Alamo Square, and she pointed out the way.
Another steep uphill climb and there they were --

the painted ladies
other beautiful homes in Alamo Square

I loved the look of this old school building:
an old school in Alamo Square
Looking down from Alamo Square Park
I wasn't quite finished with the steep uphills yet -- I had to ride up for another three or four blocks, but after that it was downhill all the way to Fort Mason.
I had to turn around and take some photos of the hill I'd ridden down. Riding down was worse than riding up!

I wasn't far from the hotel now, but somehow I got lost. Yesterday afternoon I'd ended up at the same place and found my way back to the hotel with no trouble via city streets, but this time I followed another cyclist across to the bike path. He was going west, and I had to go east, but how hard can it be to follow a bike path? Harder than it sounds, apparently. I managed to ride into a residential section of Fort Mason and was so completely bewildered than when I saw yet another young woman ride her bike up to a house and dismount, I raced over to ask her for directions. She turned out to be from Norway, working in San Francisco, so we had a nice little chat before I went on my way and finally arrived back at the hotel.

Roller Coaster Road

Today was one of those days when I have trouble getting motivated to ride. It started out cool and windy, whereas I like warm and calm. And I have a lot of work to do around the house. But I finally set out at about 11:30, riding north -- against the wind. When I reached the top of the second hill, I took a little jaunt east, because I saw there was new pavement on the road. I wondered if maybe it had been paved all the way to some other paved road. But no, the pavement ended, superseded by the ubiquitous gravel, so I made a U-turn in one of the subdivisions and rode west to Roller Coaster Road. 

Just before the turn, I heard a loud squawking type of noise and looked up to see a hawk flying overhead, holding a fish in its claws. It flew around a bit, showing off its prowess as a hunter, before disappearing, presumably to enjoy a good meal.

Shortly after this, I turned onto Roller Coaster Road, one of my favourite spots. This road must be one of the county's best kept secrets; only once have I seen another cyclist on it. I have, however, seen deer and a fox. Today as I was labouring up one of the short steep hills, battling a head wind along with the sharp incline, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. Standing as still as a statue in the ditch, there was a deer, staring directly at me. It watched as I rode past. I was a little slow to react, but once I'd passed it, I realized I should try to get a photo. So I clipped out of the pedal, cringing at the unavoidable metal-on-metal sound. The deer didn't move. I very gently put my bike down on the ground and began to step gingerly toward it, but it bolted, stopping for a second or two once it reached denser foliage before taking off out of sight into the woods. Of course I was sorry I didn't get a photo, but still grateful to have had the chance to see it.

On I climbed to the top of this series of hills, after which I turned around and sailed down. And I do mean sailed. With the wind on my back, I hit 52.7 km/hour.

I decided to return to town by riding down this road to the service road, and it was a pleasure to have the wind on my back as I rode south on Jennifer Heil. 

It wasn't a long ride -- only about 36 km -- but it was definitely a good one, and I am happy to have three days of riding ahead of me this long weekend.

home again, home again

It was great to be back this week -- back to our own bed, back to work, back to cycling in Edmonton.

It's true: traffic really is quieter in San Francisco. I realized that it is probably because there are so many hybrids there and, of course, so few trucks. The buses are also electric. I'm not sure of the reason behind fewer sirens down there, but I do know I heard numerous sirens every day this week, along with the cacophony of other traffic noises. 

San Francisco drivers also have this strange habit of stopping for orange lights, whereas here in Edmonton, every day, at every intersection, I see people run red lights.

On the plus side, I had a renewed appreciation for the stretch of River Valley trail that I ride for about 5 km each morning and afternoon. Although at times it is well-used, it is nowhere near as busy as the multi-use and dedicated bike trails in San Francisco, and it was a dream to ride. Ditto the shared pathway along 100 Avenue. 

And the hills -- well, I am pretty sure the hill leading up behind the Royal Glenora into Ezio Faraone Park is a more challenging climb than any of the hills along the bike routes in San Fran. 
It's all uphill from here!


Yesterday morning, as I rode along the flat stretch of the River Valley trail, a fit-looking guy on a sleek-looking road bike came sailing down one of the steep trails from Glenora. He landed ahead of me and continued to hold the lead until we reached the little hill that takes you up onto River Road trail. At that point he slowed down and I found myself right behind him. After we reached the top I had to decide: is he really a slow rider, one that I should pass? OR if I pass him, is he going to pass me ten seconds later? He did look pretty fit, and he was riding the superior bike, so I was giving it some thought when he turned his head and let fly a wad of gob. It sailed past me at the 20 km/hr speed of the east wind, narrowly missing my head and shoulders.

Just showing the importance of looking behind before you decide to clear those passages in a big way.

Needless to say, this helped me decide that I definitely wanted to be in front of this guy and I passed.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

san francisco - wednesday p.m.

Angel Island. 

I was skeptical. 
It was about 12:30 and the last ferry departs the island at 3:45. 
Would we get stranded somewhere on the island and miss the ferry? 
Even if that didn't happened, would it be worth it to go over there just for a couple of hours? 
Oh well, I decided to live dangerously and agreed to go.

We got off the ferry and found the steep uphill bike path that leads to the Perimeter Road, an excellent paved road that circles the island, passing the old fort, the old immigration centre and other historical buildings.

From pretty much any spot, the views are amazing.

 There were some decent hills -- both up and down.
And it was nice and shady, so even on a warm sunny day, we kept cool.

Once again, we made it back to the ferry landing with time to spare.


   Ours were the first bikes on the ferry -- and the last ones off:
 I was glad we went.

san francisco - wednesday a.m.

Let's try again for the Golden Gate Bridge. 

That's what we said after breakfast Wednesday morning. After all, we're in San Francisco. We've rented bikes. You can't rent bikes in San Francisco and not ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

And so we made our way back down to the Bay Trail, which even at this rather early hour, was busy with cyclists and pedestrians. 

It's not easy to ride to the Golden Gate Bridge on a warm and sunny July morning.

There are the slow-moving crowds -- tour groups on bikes, couples on bikes, families on bikes...

There are the Trail Blockers -- people who stop smack-dab in the middle of the trail because they want to take photos or because they need to discuss their plans or just because they can.

And then there's Obama. Yes, I mean President Barack Obama, who just happened to be in San Francisco at the same time we were, and who just happened to be heading to a luncheon fundraiser at a private home at the same time we were heading for the Golden Gate Bridge.
We had to stop, but this was something worth stopping for -- the full motorcade, with motorcycles and fire trucks and sirens and multiple limos, followed by VTOL aircraft taking off in front of the bridge. Sadly, I am not a videographer, and while I thought I was filming the whole thing, apparently I was holding up my camera and watching the procession on the LED screen. I did get one lone photo:

After this excitement was over, the Park Rangers opened the trail and we rode onward and upward. Once again, I was ridiculously pleased to be the first to reach the top of the hill. 

This time we followed the right people and found the entrance to the bridge without any difficulty. But, if we'd thought the trail down by the shore was busy, we had to find another word to describe the multi-use path on the bridge. Very busy just doesn't cut it.

When we came here last time, about 12 years ago, it was October. We were not alone on the bridge by any means. There were some other tourists. But it was nothing compared to now. The path was so packed with people, we both agreed that we didn't even want to walk across, let alone try to ride a bike. 

Proving that you can indeed rent bikes in San Francisco and not ride across the Golden Gate bridge, we turned around and headed back down.

Being big fans of Alfred Hitchcock movies, we had to visit this spot from "Vertigo" -- the place where Kim Novak jumps into the water, to be rescued by a bedazzled Jimmy Stewart.

 And one more shot of the bike path and Hubby forging a trail through the crowd.

san francisco - Tuesday

Of course, the day began with a trip to the Bike and Roll rental shop. And of course the guy working there had no idea why no one answered the phone when I called the day before. But he was sweet about giving me a different bike, complete with a flat repair kit, and we rode away happy.

Hubby and I had different ideas about what would be interesting, so we decided to split up for a couple of hours. He'd go his way; I'd go mine. Funny enough, last night as we walked back to the hotel after dinner, I heard another couple making similar plans -- she wanted to go shopping while he was going to some museum. It's always nice to know you are, in some ways, like your fellow man, right?

What I wanted to do was just ride my bike around, exploring the streets, looking at shops, watching the people. So I ventured a little off the beaten track and rode up and down some hills and somehow ended up at the Crookedest Street. Another overrated sight. We went there last time we were in San Francisco, and it didn't seem so bad, but that was in October. This time it was so crowded, a person could barely walk. I had to walk the bike down, as it would have been insane to try to weave my way through the pedestrians. This street is the approach to the Crookedest Street:

 After lunch, we decided to take the ferry to Sausalito and ride up to the Golden Gate Seminary area. My friend from Wisconsin attended this seminary many years ago, and she told me that this area is a must-see. 
So we rolled the bikes onto the ferry and rode across the bay.
Alcatraz, seen from the ferry
The bike route in this area is simply amazing. First, there is a wide multi-use path that winds along the shore, past some charming houseboat-type cottages and crane-inhabited marshes. That would be crane as in bird, not the construction cranes we see all over Edmonton. 
Houseboats, Sausalito-style
hello, Kath! I made it here!
 The Seminary Road is not a dedicated bike path, but traffic is light and it's marked as a bike route, so we felt safe and comfortable riding there. We stopped for a photo at the entrance to the seminary grounds, but hubby declined the option of riding uphill to the actual building. The road winds around, up and down hill, turning into Strawberry Road, and offering a great view of the bay or whatever water is down there. My favourite bit along this road was when we passed "The Club at Harbor Point" where the sign for the Nourish Grill says, "Public and Bicyclists Welcome." Unfortunately, the timing was wrong -- we were not hungry or thirsty at this point. But it was tempting to go just in response to that sign!

It's always a bit hard riding in places like this as a newbie, as you don't know exactly how long it will take to get back or what awaits you on the trail ahead. Being cautious in nature, I tend to play it safe and often wish I could go back and do it again, stopping along the way, or taking that side road that I passed up. It was like that this time; we headed back to the ferry landing earlier than we needed to --  sort of wish we had gone on to Tiburon. But maybe next time we're down that way... It was an amazing ride, nonetheless, and I felt a wee bit envious of the many road cyclists we saw, who can enjoy that route any time. 

And this made me laugh -- reminded me of the shared pathway I ride on my way to work each day. It was the second shopping cart I saw along here.
While waiting for the return ferry, we struck up a conversation with a family from Flanders who are taking three weeks to tour California, Nevada and Utah. Their English was excellent, and the teen girl told me they study it in school from age 14 on, but that the real secret of their success is English TV and music! Her little 9 year old brother, she told me, can't really speak English yet, but he can understand quite a lot. Who says TV isn't good for anything?