Friday, July 3, 2009

Bay Area & home

For my day in the Bay Area I couldn't resist taking my bike over the Golden Gate Bridge (I had planned just to walk around downtown). So it was off on the train with my bike in to downtown San Francisco just after rushhour on Tuesday (you can't take your bike on BART during rushhour) - this train was the first commuter one I had been on that had carpet & cloth upholstered seats, after a few years' use they looked rather grubby. The day had started out rather gloomy, so I put my NZO Dusters on for the first time in ages - they are great riding pants as they have the velcro straps around the ankles to prevent fights between the chainrings & cuffs. I began to regret this decision when the sun came out & it warmed up - but it turned out that the wind picked up a lot & it clouded over again later on. Rode around the front, just cruising, looking at various things, avoiding all the other tourists (most walking, some on bikes). After about five miles made it all the way to the GGB - it's always slightly strange to be somewhere new, but familiar having seen photos of it for years. The fog had come in, so the tops of the towers were shrouded.Thankfully it was a tailwind heading back to the city, but on the way I got distracted by the Exploratorium for about three or four hours. This would have to be one of the best hands-on science museums I have ever been to. I didn't manage to even get around the whole place - it was full of lots of little exhibits to play with that demonstrate all sorts scientific principles - sound, light, physics, the mind, living world & so on. Of course being school holidays, there were kids everywhere so had to skip a few exhibits. My inner geek fed for a while, I rode back to the waterfront, had clam chowder in a sour dough bowl (as you do in SF, at least if you are a tourist). With a couple of hours to spare, I spied a hill with a tower on the top that I figured would provide good views of the city. It took a fair while for me to ride around the base of the hill on one-way streets finding the correct road to start climbing - but I eventually did & made a rather steep ascent. The viewing area at the top was a bit of a have - the bushes had grown up so much you couldn't really see anything. I suppose that is what the tower was for. Coit Tower was built in 1933 & is 210 ft (64 m) tall & provides a great panorama of the city; there are also so pretty cool murals in the base (New Deal funded Public Works) & the original elevator is very slow.I took a flight of stairs part way down the hill & was confronted with some very steep streets, this is looking back up one that I carefully screamed down (there was a busy intersection at the bottom).
With a bit of time to kill before my bike was allowed back on the train, I cruised around the inner city streets during rush hour - good fun. Another cool thing about being in the inner city was seeing all the tricked out fixies - I'm not sure I could ever ride one of those.
Back in Berkeley, I took my host (Brian) out for dinner - great clam pizza & Belgian beer.

The following morning it was up early again & on the road at seven for the drive back to San Diego. I had been told the Pacific Coast Highway 1 was a great scenic drive - I joined it at Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy & there wasn't much too see (perhaps I've been spoiled by coastal roads in NZ & Australia) - however, the road was very twisty & a great driving road. Somewhere around there I curiously passed some big fields of artichokes ("Whoops, Mrs Miggins..."). Also heard the most amusing thing on the radio since I got here (Hamish & Andy doesn't count as it comes from Melbourne). The two presenters were saying how they were sick of all the negativity & doom & gloom in the American press at the moment & America was in fact the best place in the world to live (of course). They wanted listeners to ring in & elaborate on what they liked most about living in America - the first presenter got things rolling by talking about freedom of religion. The second was a lot stupider & proceeded to say that the best thing about living in America is that it has a single currency - unlike Europe (which is a collection of states, not too dissimilar to the United States for the purpose of this subject) which has a different currency for every country!

Lunch in San Luis Obispo - a very nice little city & I stumbled upon a great Italian restaurant. I would have stayed the night in San Luis Obispo if I didn't have to get back for court tomorrow as the riding is supposed to be very good. Off again to battle the LA traffic, which was predictably horrendous. Pulled in home after twelve hours & over six-hundred miles - by biggest day driving yet. So that was the end of my little southwest road trip - nine days & 2600 miles (4160 km). The rental car is now returned & I'm starting to think about packing for my flight to Philadelphia on Sunday. While I don't really want to leave California, I can't wait to get to the East Coast & see Doug & Jessica, meet their new (since I saw them last five years ago) family & visit NYC & DC & other friends there.

Oh, didn't have to go to court in the end - the juveniles pleaded guilty & got a first strike (apparently they pleaded guilty to chasing me & taking my money, as it is much the lesser charge when compared to assault). Also, just had a big spend up on MTB gear - new shoes, cleats, Camelbak, chain, grips & various other tools. Over $NZ600 for about $NZ400 - also helps in that I can leave the old stuff behind here & save a bit of luggage mass. Of course, July 4 preparations are in full swing...

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