On the day before San Francisco’s “Bike to Work Day”, I was taking the bus into the city for work, when I saw a bunch of cyclists riding toward the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s when I realized that while I’ve driven to work, taken the bus, and ridden the ferry, there was a certain type of commute that I have not tried yet.
I didn’t even know that it would be bike to work day, I just had this strong feeling that I had to try this. I’ve been across the Golden Gate Bridge on bike. I’ve ridden around the Financial District on a safe Sunday morning. I’ve biked Crissy Field, Fort Mason, and Fisherman’s Wharf. But, I’ve never combined them all.
I’m glad I did this, but boy did it kick my butt.
I started out by parking at the Manzanita Park and Ride lot that I’ve used a hundred times already to take Golden Gate Transit bus 4 into the city. Familiar territory. Then I set out with my workout and biking gear, and immediately I joined a pack of riders going my way who promptly left me in their dust as we approached a small slope up. That was okay, because I was feeling great, I knew that I wasn’t really conditioned for this, and I was on more of a marathon ride.
Sausalito was great. There’s a bike path that runs from Manzanita Park and Ride to town, and the town has been forced to come to terms that it is a place overrun by cyclists. So an anonymous guy like I can ride through there pretty safely. Bridgeway, which is the street that runs along downtown is pretty flat, and allows for an easy ride. I wanted to take more pictures, but I was on a mission to get to work before 9:00 when I had my first patient scheduled. Here we are at 7:24 am.
I don’t know about these other guys on bikes, but my first challenge came at the same time the hills came.
Bridgeway takes a couple of turns as it goes up the hill, and turns itself into Alexander Avenue. Alexander Avenue is a steep hill that other cyclists seemed to not be bothered by, but it had my quads screaming out in humanity.
I knew that if I stuck this part out, I would soon be at the top of my climb, with the rest of my commute an easy downhill and a relatively flat ride through San Francisco. Getting to the top of the climb in the lowest gears my bike could handle was a great reward, and I had to get a couple of pictures of that majestic bridge. No matter how often I go across it, I’m in awe of what they accomplished in the 1930s. Such planning involved, and such a leap of faith that the plans they drew up would work out. You can tell that this is one of our great civic projects that required a massive scale of teamwork. I’m glad we get to enjoy it today. I’m glad this bridge is there providing tons of pride to our beautiful city. This is one of those icons that is instantly recognizable any time you see it and from any angle. I’m proud to live in this area, no matter how expensive it is, because on a daily basis, I get to be a part of it.
Google Maps has biking directions built in to it, and they said that this ride would be one hour and nine minutes. But it took me about one hour and seventeen minutes. I sincerely thought I could beat Google’s estimations, but I was behind. I bet if I did this again, I would win. But then again, if I did this again, I would probably stop for more pictures or take new routes.
Getting back home was even harder than the way in, because I had the double duty of climbing up toward the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza, a steep ride, but I also found that if you take the western bike lane across the bridge, then you have to circle underneath the bridge by descending way down 200 feet to go through Fort Baker only to climb back out of that to get back on to Alexander Avenue to get back to Sausalito. Needless to say, my muscles were out of energy at this point, and all I could really do on these hills is pedal my bike at a walking pace while my legs were on fire and my brain was wondering why I couldn’t power my way up. After exhausting myself on these hills, even the flat parts on the way home felt like effort. The return trip was a grueling (for me) One hour and 36 minutes over 13 miles.