San Francisco – More than just a Golden Gate

Mildly hung-over and dehydrated, we jumped back on our (hydrocarbon fired) bikes, which felt so much more comfortable and safer than the self-propelled alternative. There was a direct motorway to San Fran via the Interstate, but we decided to take the alternative route along the coast, Highway 1. The ride started out well, the day was hot and sunny but as we approached the water, we could feel the temperature dropping and then suddenly after a few corners – bam – we found ourselves winding along a mist covered road! DB had to stop and put on the layers along with a hanky tucked between the handlebars and hand-guards to wipe the fine beads off her visor. The mist was thick and road tightly hugged the corners of the cliffs… hairy for DB, but zen for CB. A few more corners later we found ourselves in suburbia and then suddenly we were heading straight out onto the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a glorious reward to cross that marvel of a bridge after so many miles of riding.

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Crossing the mist shrouded Golden Gate Bridge on our bikes have always been a dream of ours. The first time we rode the Sydney Harbour Bridge, there was a few tears in our eyes and some fist pumping. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge was no different – it was a tick off our bucket list!

The strangest thing about riding into San Francisco is that it happens really fast. Unlike our experiences riding into Houston, TX or Seattle, WA, San Fran was over before we knew it. We found ourselves at our hotel only to be told that we were way too early. We decided to find a place for breakfast and walked into a diner next door. The waitress who served us was just a delight. She ended up giving us maps of the city and highlighted all the places that we should visit and all the places things we must do.

Brunch over, we securely cable-tied and dumped our panniers in the hotel room and set on foot to explore the city. At the time of booking our accommodation we failed to read the reviews that reported burglaries and prostitutes working double shifts, hence the cable-tying of the panniers. In the end it turned out much better than expected. The front desk staff kindly blocked off a parking spot for our bikes right in front of their security cameras.

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So it is well known that San Francisco is famous for a number of things including STEEP roads. Feeling Olympic we decided to climb a few…but soon realised that our fitness level was nil after sitting on the bike for so long. DB used the opportunity to catch up with her old school friend Nishika and, of course, to do more serious shopping… Nishika and Jake kindly took us out to dinner two nights in a row and the meals and drinks we had were possibly the finest we’ve had throughout our travels across the USA. It was a glorious mix of gastronomic delights and fantastic company – thanks guys!  It also happened to be that our friends from Sydney, Ayesha and Kay, were in town at the same time – and it seemed it was almost easier to organise a meet-up in the San Francisco than back in Sydney. We swapped stories of epic adventures over a yummy Thai meal and Singapore Slings!

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Exploring the city was great fun: everything is walkable, the cable-cars add a level of quirkiness to the city, the whole place reminded us of a massive version of Wellington. Mind you the place was also full of Kiwis, Aussies and Germans – just like Wellington.

While we were there doing our usual exploring, by complete accident, we stumbled upon the Americas Cup – the Louis Vuitton Cup races! We sat through a couple of races not sure what to expect and were completely blown away to find out Team New Zealand beating Prada’s Luna Rossa out of the water! Best part was we had the privilege to witness Black Magic cross the finish line right in front of us! We completed a wonderful day by taking an amazing afternoon harbour cruise to just under the Golden Gate Bridge and dinner at a Forrest Gump themed restaurant – Buba Gump Shrimp – hello Alabama Slammer (DB’s current favourite cocktail).

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One of the must do things in San Fran is visiting the notorious former federal prison on Alcatraz. The day of our trip coincided with the final Louis Vuitton race. On the way to Alcatraz our ferry found itself almost in the middle of the race course with the result of Team New Zealand flying past us just a stone throw away! Those cats are just amazing, they really are flying on the water! Gives you goosebumps just seeing them scream past you!

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The Alcatraz tour was interesting, the history of the island was dark and cruel but then again the prisoners held here were the worst of the worst. Nevertheless it was quite an eerie feeling wandering through the cell blocks where gangsters like Al Capone did some time. One interesting fact we discovered was that the waters around Alcatraz island are so cold and inhospitable that escape to the mainland (just over 2kms) was virtually impossible – although attempts of escape were made. The walking audio tour we did was fantastic, but after nearly four days of non stop walking – we were over it and looking forward to sitting back on the bikes.

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Our time in San Francisco drew to an end the realisation that our trip is now coming to an end was becoming more intense – so packing our bikes felt harder than usual (or is it because DB bought so much clothes???). But there was a lot more to look forward to, traveling to all the “Santa” named towns into LA, the Big Sur and of course a quick and dirty trip to Las Vegas in a Mustang Convertible!

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