Monday, November 30, 2009

A Golden Gate Goodbye

Luckily we had made contact with a couple kind people in San Fran that were willing to have us. One of these folks was Tilak, Joe’s friend in medicine. After unloading from the train, then the bus, we reassembled our bikes we headed straight for Tilak’s place. When we arrived he invited us into his stunning apartment with a view of the city. “You guys need anything? A shower? Something to eat?” he asked as he grabbed us some beer from the fridge. We filled him in on our trip and explained how we had met Joe along the way, thanking him all the while. Tilak was a super nice guy. “Here are some towels,” he said as he set the linen on the back of the couch. One of us commented, “I bet we smell pretty bad having been on the train that long.” “You guys all smell like #*$%,” he confirmed. We appreciated his honesty. After we all cleaned up we ordered some authentic Italian style pizza and walked down the block to pick it up. The flavor did not disappoint. We were thankful to have real food and a place to sleep that didn’t involve a train car. After watching some Planet Earth (amazing series) on blue ray we all passed out.

The next morning we awoke, excited to explore the Bay Area. Joe and I had some much needed bicycle maintenance to catch up on but Clancy was ready to go, so he bid us adieu and left us to our work. After getting our steeds in order Joe and I cruised over to Golden Gate Park. I had been to San Fran once before but I had never checked out the west side of the city - it was incredible. Our ride through the park took us alongside the botanical gardens, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the de Young Museum. The shot you see here is of Stow Lake, also inside the park. What marvelous green spaces - the most impressive we had seen since Central Park in NYC. The view of Twin Peaks (the highest point in the city) from this same spot was other-worldly. The silhouette of the hill and the homes built on it’s steep grade looked more like France than something you’d expect to find on the West Coast. This glimpse of the hill cemented our decision to pedal to the top of Twin Peaks to catch the sunset.

The steep climb to the top of the city was worth every once of energy expelled. To the west rested the sprawling Pacific Ocean and to the east the urban backdrop of Northwest San Fran. Watching the sunset on the west coast was as fabulous as viewing the sun rise on the east coast. Nothing was in the way so it appeared as if the sun just fell into the drink, slowly being extinguished and swallowed up by the vast body of water. By this time it was downright chilly so we descended the hill, hit up the intersection of Haight and Ashbury, and hooked back up with Clancy. Clanc had done an impressive amount of sight seeing as well. He had also checked out Golden Gate Park and had ridden from Fisherman’s Wharf to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge all along the coast. Moving once again as a group of three, we jumped on the BART transit system and headed for Neil’s house, Bradley’s brother whom we met in Philadelphia.

Neil lived across the bay in Berkeley with his wife Helise and their two delightful children, Sam and Noah. Upon our arrival they welcomed us warmly and encouraged us to eat, do laundry, and make ourselves at home. Five star treatment I tell ya! After dinner the kids got ready for bed and the rest of us weren’t far behind. The next morning we had a family breakfast and visited some more before Sam got ready for his soccer game. Sam and Noah had time to play some basketball against Clancy - here you can see the players in action. The teams were pretty equally matched, I’m not sure who won in the end. We said our goodbyes and the Berkeley family jumped into their minivan and headed off the to game. What fantastic people.

Next we cycled through town and the magnificent UC Berkeley Campus. Filled with wooded areas and picturesque buildings, the campus was a real treat. From here it was onto the BART and back over to San Fran. We hit up Fisherman’s Wharf for a sourdough bread bowl lunch (filled with clam chowder of course), a San Francisco must. Overstuffed, we continued our ride along the coast towards the Golden Gate, the same route Clancy had taken the day before. Along the way we stopped to check out the Palace of Fine Arts (pictured), a building constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. Though I’d been here before I couldn’t help but be wowed by the architectural masterpiece. More was in store on the coastline, including a fascinating wave organ and eventually the red suspension bridge that captivates all that marvel at it. Here, at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge we said farewell to Joe. He planned to visit his brother in Nevada City and it was time for us to make our way up the coast. It was a sad, sad moment indeed. It felt like losing part of yourself - that’s the kind of bond you form with someone when you spend nearly three months biking cross country with them. Sigh… Adios Joe, Godspeed.

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