Atlantis and Alcatraz
I promised one last post about the final few days of my tour and I apologize for the delay. I’ve found that on returning from tour I tend to focus on all those things that one neglects on touring to the exclusion of tour (and cycling for the most part) related things. I should say I was right back to my regular bicycle commute to work on my return, but I have been spending my weekends at art galleries, concerts, art festivals and just relaxing. Starting to get the itch to ride around again as summer is feeling on the wane. Anyway this is a record of the return trip home, which was mostly by train but also added a few more miles on the bicycle.
I spent two whole days in San Francisco in which my bicycle never left my hotel room. I should say that I had no trouble with the bicycle at the Hotel Triton and the staff was really great. The day I left I saw another cyclist pushing his bicycle into the elevator and on seeing me he commented “I thought I was the only one!”. It wasn’t a cheap hotel by any stretch, but it was about the cheapest I found at its fantastic location. I walked all over downtown over those couple of days and saw a concert, visited SFMoMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Cartoon Museum, City Lights Books, the Beat Museum, saw a couple of movies, walked all over China Town, the arts district, North Beach, ate at the Stinking Rose, downed many an Anchor Liberty and Anchor Steam and caught up on my sleep. It was a good couple of days, look for writeups on the art galleries on my other blog, but Monday rolled around and my stay in SF was coming to an end. Now the Amtrak from SF to Seattle leaves from Emeryville (right next to Oakland) and it leaves around 10pm, so I had a whole day to kill. I’d originally thought I’d go up to the de Young Art Museum and spend the day there, but it turned out to not be open on Mondays. So I ended up just riding around the San Francisco waterfront and around town a bit which was actually quite nice.
The Bay Bridge
Checkout time at the Hotel Triton is noon and I pretty much lingered until then, having breakfast and walking around a bit before I checked out. I was able to store my bags at the hotel, so I wasn’t too encumbered and I headed straight down to the waterfront. I wanted to get my ferry ticket and work out where I was leaving from right off so I wouldn’t be scrambling toward the end of the day. It was an easy ride through the city down to the waterfront, fairly trafficked but downhill and the cars seemed used to driving with bicyclists. Right across the street from a the Ferry Building, which is full of tourist type shops and restaurants, was a the Embarcadero plaza, a nice open park like space where I had lunch. People were taking down craft booths and tables being set up for a movie shoot – pretty active for a Monday morning. After lunch and walking around the park a bit I crossed the street to the Ferry Building where I was easily able to pick up ferry tickets that could be used at anytime and scoped out the terminal. Then I mostly just rode around the waterfront. there is a long wide boulevard along the water with a mix of tourist activities and port buildings. I rode up this boulevard checking out things as they interested me. The crowds got pretty large as I approached Fisherman’s Wharf where I spent about 5 minutes before I decided it was too tourist trappy and too crowded for a guy with a bicycle.
I continued up the way until I reached a pier I could ride out to. There I was able to take the above picture, as well as the initial picture of Alcatraz. There was also a beautiful schooner berthed just across the way. From here I rode up a steep hill into the SF Maritime National Historic Park. Down the hill from there was Fort Mason where I’d spend several hours. There was a place that sold discards from the SF Library system, galleries of local artists, the Long Now Foundation who had an interesting museum and Greens Restaurant. I really wanted to go to Greens (I have their cookbook and love their recipes) but they didn’t start serving dinner until 5:30 and assuming it’d take an hour or so I felt I’d be at risk of missing the last ferry. So I walked around the fort checking out all of the ways they put the old buildings to use as well as walked out to the end of the piers there, fighting a stiff wind the whole way. Eventually I decided I’d head back to my hotel and get my bags then have dinner at some place by the ferry building. I ended up doing a cross city ride to the hotel, navigating with my iPhone. This was pretty fun, I got to see bits of North Beach, Chinatown and Russian Hill as I cut back to my hotel. Of course I did end up hitting a few of those hills SF is so known for.
Atlantis and Cable Car - can you be more SF?
I returned to the waterfront the same way I’d done earlier in the day and cruised around the vicinity of the ferry dock for a restaurant where I could watch my bicycle which I locked up on the boulevard. I had a nice leisurely dinner at the Market Bar, whose outdoor seating allowed me to be only 20 feet or so away from my locked up Atlantis. I had a caesar salad, grilled Mahi-Mahi and of course a couple more Anchor Steams. I’m going to miss the fresh Anchor Steam readily on draft. Every day I was in San Francisco it was the same story- it’d be sunny and clear all day getting fairly warm (say mid 70s) by the afternoon. Then right around 5-6pm fog would roll in and it’d cool right down. This began while I was at the restaurant and I was glad that I was able to zip on the legs to my pants and put on my light flannel shirt that I had in my day bag. It was getting close to the time the ferry departed so I paid my bill and walked the short distance to the terminal. I had cut it just right and the ferry arrived within 5-10 minutes and I boarded and was zooming across the bay to Oakland. The ferry took about a half an hour with a quick stop at Almeda before Oakland. There was nice sights of the sun setting behind the city and industrial shipping and its services on the edges. I was able to enjoy another beer on the ferry but soon enough we were arriving at the Oakland terminal. I unlocked my bicycle, zipped off my pant legs, donned my day bag and set off across Oakland.
The ferry terminal in Oakland
I’d setup this route using Google Maps Pedestrian routes (my guidebook had a BART based route which seemed way more of a PITA then using the ferry) and it turned out to be pretty great, winding through the back streets of Oakland. There were bicycle lanes on most of the bigger streets, but I only hit those at the end. Away from the city the fog was gone and it was nice riding through the late evening. People were out and about in the sun at least until I went under a freeway and was in Emeryville. Now everything looked a bit less used and lived in like Oakland had, but it was devoid of human life. It was mostly warehouses and light industry admittedly, but the contrast was interesting. Around 7:30 pm after a mere 15 miles of riding, I arrived at the Emeryville Amtrack. I picked up my ticket, got a bicycle box (a free one that had been left there) and spent the next half hour or so boxing my bicycle and checking my bags. I was all done by about 8pm and thus had two hours to kill before the train left. Well as I said there was nothing around the Amtrack station but I walked around a little bit trying to find a place to buy some snacks for the train ride. I found a gas station and loaded up on various bits of junkfood. Then I returned to the station and read until the train arrived. Finally it pulled in and I queued up outside to get checked in.
They lined us up based on destination and how many people we were traveling with. Most people were heading to Portland or Seattle though there were a few people getting off a various stations all along the way. I got my seat assigned and headed into the train. This was my first train ride and I really didn’t know any of the tricks. I’d assumed that it’d be like flying – you could get pillows and blankets and there’d be some sort of steward like person. Well they handed out pillows right off but they had no blankets. Wish I’d know that, I did of course have a sleeping bag in my checked luggage. I settled in my seat (I was solo in the seats at this point), but on my iPod and read for the next few hours. Behind me was a college aged kid and an older man who drank beers and whooped it up until the older guy got off a couple of hours later. After that I was able to relax and try to sleep. I have a hard time sleeping in general and have never been able to sleep in cars or trains. I put on a book on tape (William Gibson’s Count Zero) and gave it a try.
Miles ridden today: 15.1
Miles ridden to date: 1165.77
All pictures from this day can be seen here.
I did managed to catch a few fitful hours of sleep on the train ride, but also made it a good ways into Count Zero. I awoke before dawn as the train sat at some station in bumfuck northern California. It turned out that a freight train had broken down and we had to wait for over an hour before it was on its way. I hadn’t really explored the train much so at this point I was low on batteries on my iPhone so I set out looking for a place to plug in. I found one in the forward lounge car and I saw there reading as it got some juice. It turned out that about 45 minutes after I was sitting there they opened the dinning car for breakfast. Well that sounded good so I got in on the first wave of breakfasters and was sat at a table with three other solo guys. Most of us had slept poorly and we kept the (bad and weak) coffee flowing. I had french toast and most of the others had omelets. We talked a bit, several of the guys had done the train trip several times and filled me in on some of the tricks. We passed Mount Shasta during this time and the views from the windows were pretty stunning. We talked Tour de France a bit which of course led to me mentioning that my bicycle trip had coincided with Le Tour. This interested them quite a bit so I talked a bit about the trip and camping along the coast. Eventually I headed back to my seat and spent the morning reading and looking out the window.
For the last week in the Pacific Northwest there had apparently been a heatwave. The railroad that owned the rails that we were on as we tracked through Oregon decreed that when the temps are above 90 degrees (F) trains can’t exceed 55 miles per hour. So we really crawled through Oregon, it was disheartening when at times we’d parallel the highway and cars would just blow by. The train trip was mostly just sitting around and reading. I of course looked out the window a lot, but at times there wouldn’t be too much to see as the train would go through cuts in hills or dense trees. I got lunch from the snack bar instead of the expensive dinning car and discovered that they had Sierra Nevada Pale Ales (the menu only showed bad domestic beers) and I had a couple of those throughout the day. I spent some time in the lounge car to charge the phone back up and also to enjoy its large windows with seats that faced outward. Just past Portland I had dinner in the dining car, this time by myself at a table. However across the way was this total nutjob who went on and on about completely sketchy eschatology to his mostly silent companion. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I was really burnt out from lack of sleep and I spent probably the last six hours of the trip just looking out the window and listening to my William Gibson books.
Mad wrote curtains of poetry on fire -Jack Kerouac
After Olympia the train wound along the coast on a bit of Washington I’d never seen before (though I’d often wondered about it as I drove up the I-5). The sun set at as we approached Tacoma, which was the only picture I took from the train windows. I generally dislike pictures taken from windows, but this one came out pretty decent I thought. Tacoma was the last stop until Seattle and after 23 hours on the train I was finally on the last stretch. We pulled into Seattle at 9:30pm almost 24 hours total on the train. I waited for my bags to arrived and the box with my bicycle but only one front pannier turned up. The bicycles were out back and I got that (they chewed me out a bit about the weight – I’d stuck my rear bag and contents in the box with the bicycle) and asked about my other bag. Well they couldn’t find it so I had to file for a lost bag. I put together my bicycle, which wasn’t too bad as I had to just put on the pedals, straighten my handlebars and hand my bags. There was another guy there putting a Long Haul Trucker together which looked like way more of a hassle – he had one of their Nice Racks which wouldn’t fit in the box so he’d had to remove that. Score one for narrow racks. I went and filled out the form and they told me they’d send my bag to me by Cab if they found it. And if you don’t I asked? well then you have to fill out another form I was told. Great.
Leaving the office I found the bicycle a bit unbalanced with only on front pannier so I ziptied my day bag to the front to balance it out and then headed out. I’d been sweating as I did all of this and I thought it was just the labor and stress. But no it was still 80-90 degrees as there was this ongoing heatwave. As I got outside the station was thronged with people – a Mariners game had just gotten out and I was right by the stadium and the nearest freeway entrance. So I walked the bicycle past this entrance and set off. Only to find none of my lights working. If you recall I’d setup the Ride & Charge to charge up my batteries as I rode. Well it was supposed to run my normal lights when unplugged but this never worked. It also was supposed to let you use its Ixon light from the generator but this didn’t work either. I tried running this light on batteries but all mine were dead. So I ended up ripping the wires out of the Ride & Charge and twisting them together. This worked and now well lit I set off. I’ve done this ride a bunch of times so there isn’t much to say. Uphill to the I-90 tunnel and then on the I-90 trail across the bridge, Mercer Island, the second part of the bridge and then onto the Lake Washington Loop. It was pleasant riding for near 11pm with it being so warm and I was filled with energy from all that sitting around the past 24 hours. About an hour and a half later at 12:10am, I pulled into my house and my tour was over.
Miles ridden today: 16
Total miles for the tour: 1181.76