Sunday, October 26, 2014

California Coffeeneuring - A Vacation Adventure

October 20, 2014

The lengths a crazy bike enthusiast will go to to enhance her coffeeneuring challenge may surprise some readers. But is not the spirit of the challenge to encourage riders to try new things and pursue adventure on two wheels?

I flew to San Francisco on Sunday and drove with the Cycling Yogi to Monterey for a visit with his 92-year-old mother. She lives in Pebble Beach, just off one of the country's most magnificent roads: 17 Mile Drive. His mom borrowed a bike for me, and the Cycling Yogi already had a vintage Schwinn in her garage (see his guest blog, posted 9-23-14).

So on Monday afternoon we rode from her house to Carmel, where I had found the Carmel Coffee House and Roasting Company, boasting the area's best coffee. But I hardly needed an incentive to ride the hills along the ocean, stopping to see (and hear) the seals on Seal Rock, to take in crashing waves and windswept pines, and to glimpse a red headed woodpecker. The hilly terrain was enjoyable because every up had a down...none too extreme...well, almost none.

The least favorite part was the last mile or so, which became very trafficky. Once we entered Carmel, I had to walk my bike up the few steep blocks to the coffee shop, where I enjoyed an iced mocha (with just a bit of whipped cream), having worked up quite a sweat - even in the high-60s temperature. On the long stretch down into Carmel, I correctly predicted that I'd have to walk back up, but the rest of the return was smooth pedaling, taking the slightly shorter inland route...still beautiful.

Total distance: 12.5 miles

October 24, 2014

On Wednesday, after a day hiking in Pinnacles National Park, we returned to San Francisco, where I had a few days of work, followed by a mini-vacation continuation. I had two goals for my first-time SF bike try the Bay Area Bikeshare, and to ride "the wiggle" - an east-west route that avoids climbing the hills for which SF is so famous.

I had checked out a Bikeshare the previous afternoon to get a preview. My big mistake was making my foray during downtown rush hour. It was one of the first times I concluded that I would rather have walked than biked. How sad is that? To its credit, the SF bike shares have 7 gears (most cities have only 3) and they proved adequate for the hills I tackled on my first ride. The challenge was going up hills punctuated every block by traffic lights. I'm used to climbing my biggest hills on bike paths...not having to stop and start. Hats off to SF cyclists who are up to stop-and-go hill climbs!

In the large public parking garage near the Moscone Center, I happened to spy protected bike parking. If you have a fancy bike, the very modest 5-cents-per-hour charge for a locker seems like a good investment.

San Francisco has one of the highest cycling and bike commuting rates in the nation. This astonishes me, not only because of the terrain, but because of the grossly inadequate infrastructure. In my brief experience,  I observed sharrows on busy streets and almost no dedicated lanes. Traffic is clogged and drivers are aggressive and impatient. A big problem with the Bikeshare system is that it only operates in a tiny section of the city, so it's hard to find docking stations close to one's desired destination. After my first short ride, I docked and walked, which took me past the fanciest upscale coffee boutique I've ever seen: Nespresso. I took a photo, but was turned off by its sleek glamour, and was not in the mood for a $5+ coffee.

The next day, in the dark of early morning, the Cycling Yogi and I walked from our SoMa hotel to the Coit Tower, where I c
aptured the sunrise over the bay and we got some private instruction in Qi Gong and Tai Chi from a local practitioner. It helps that the CY speaks Chinese! From there we walked down the Filbert Steps, where we nabbed the last two bikeshares in the nearest dock. We rode along the Embarcadero, which had the skinniest bike lane I've ever seen...proving that you can be too thin...certainly if you're a bike lane!

But the coffeeneuring trip was scheduled for the afternoon. We rode down Market Street to where the wiggle begins - behind the Safeway at Duboce Park. On our way, 
I chatted up a nice young cyclist as we made our way out of the busiest section of Market St., and he told us there would be a dedicated lane and less traffic soon. Even once we got to the wiggle, there was a lot of traffic, but indeed, the route was quite level, despite steep hills all around us. The route was clearly marked with green bike sharrows, painted at close intervals on the roads. Cute little "bike highway 30" signs also were posted frequently.

IMG_1942.JPG.jpg We ended at the panhandle of Golden Gate Park. Had we not been on bike shares, which charge up the wazoo for rides over 30 minutes, the park would surely have provided a nicer place to pedal.

But we turned around to stop at Mojo Bicycle Shop and Cafe for our liquid refreshment...just a few short blocks (and one modest hill) off the wiggle. Bringing our bikes inside was no problem, and I ordered an iced Thai Tea - a slightly sweet, rather orange-tinged, cream-laced concoction, which provided a tasty and refreshing treat.

The Cycling Yogi did not enjoy the SF bike infrastructure, noting that he feels much safer riding in his home town of Philadelphia, or in my DC/Arlington area. I'd have to concur. In addition, I had numerous glitches with docking station malfunctions. After returning my bike, I repeatedly got text messages exhorting me to return my overdue bike. I'm now BFFs with the consistently friendly and helpful customer service staff at Bay Area Bikeshare, who repeatedly checked their computers and promised to remove any overdue charges from my credit card. Also, the CY informed me that the Bikeshare seats were not scrotum-friendly...something I am incapable of evaluating on my own.

But all-in-all, I enjoyed getting to know the Golden Gate city by bike. The weather was glorious, and I got to coffeeneur on a Friday, since I will be flying back home all day Saturday.

Total distance: 5 miles

October 26, 2014

This morning required a quick adjustment to East coast time, as I had to get to the yoga studio by 9 a.m. to teach my two Sunday morning classes. With the beautiful October weather, I added some "errandaneeing" to my coffeeneuring. From yoga I cycled to Clarendon, where I was picking up a new set of glasses, then on to Trader Joe's for a pound of coffee and some tea. I try to avoid the big chain stores for my coffeeneuring adventures, but my home supply of beans was not going to last the week and TJ's was on the way home. I selected an organic, fair trade, blend. I added some extra hills to make stops at the ATM and post office before returning home for lunch and preparations for my return to work.

Total distance: 8 miles

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