So here I am, at the beginning of the end of my big trip. Having travelled through 15 countries, San Francisco is my final destination before heading back home to Sydney. My primary reason for visiting San Fran is to visit my brother, who moved here 4 years ago. Although this will be my 4th visit since then, there are still things which I’d like to do and see. Some of these I’ll drag him along to and others I’ll hit on my own, leaving him to have a few hours of peace and quiet.
The night I arrive in San Fran is always a joyous occasion, though for once it’s only been a few days since I last saw him in Finland, rather than the usual months. We head out to a local german restaurant “Suppenküche” for too much food and too many beers. Suppenküche literally translated means soup kitchen, though the irony of course is that the restaurant is well known for schnitzel rather than any kind of soup.
The next day we head out to the Marin Headlands, just north of the Golden Gate bridge. The plan here is to visit the various historic battery points along the coast and visit the Point Bonita lighthouse which guards the entrance to the bay. We cross the golden gate bridge in style in my brother’s roommate's Tesla Model S, but as you can see the famous San Franciscan fog has rolled in making us question “What bridge?”.
We stop at Battery 129 for a short walk and an amazing view. At the top of Hawk’s Hill, I get out the GoPro and grab a 360 selfie with my bro while the fog is still there.
Immediately afterwards the fog starts to clear, and in only a few minutes we see the Golden Gate in all its glory.
On our way back to the car I spot a part of the battery which is an elevated platform a few metres off the ground. Although there is no official way up, one side of this is close enough that I can reach the railing and pull myself up. Doug and Dave’s climbing adventures live on!
Our next stop is Battery Mendell. At this point we are right out on the cliff facing east over the Pacific ocean. Standing on top of the highest part of the battery makes another great spot for a selfie, before I notice that there is actually a sentry point further up the hill and a dirt path leading in its direction.
Naturally we take the path, as it leads precariously up the hill, more or less along the cliff edge. Upon reaching the sentry we could see from the battery, we realise there are a few ruins next to each other here, connected by tunnels and covered in graffiti. Naturally I switch on the GoPro, and climb in and around the ruins.
Now before I go any further, a little bit of back story about the Point Bonita lighthouse. The first time I planned to visit this lighthouse, I was cycling in the area and the hills were much steeper than I anticipated so I had to cut my ride short and didn’t make it all the way to the lighthouse. The second time we (correctly) hired a car, but the road was closed due to a military airshow. Today I am optimistic as we walk down the 1km path to reach the lighthouse, happy to see a sign saying the opening hours are 12:30pm-3:30pm and that it’s 3pm right now. We’re going to make it! Alas, as is my luck (and the curse of the Point Bonita lighthouse), the sign at the top that said “Open Saturday – Monday” was not correct, and we reach a locked gate signposted “Open Sunday only”… It was Saturday. Round 3 goes to the lighthouse.
After an epic night of sake-fuelled karaoke (highlights include “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Hit me Baby one more time” and “Part of your world”), the next thing we did was your typical brotherly bonding activity… watching a musical. Today’s special was “Waitress”, performed at the Golden Gate Theatre, and it was as hilarious as it was heart-felt. This is another show which has been touted to me as the next big Broadway hit by many friends whose opinions of theatre I trust, but upon listening to the soundtrack it didn’t grab me. Once again I have been proven wrong upon seeing the show and hearing the music in context, as I am now listening to the soundtrack on repeat and cannot count the number of times I’ve said “Butter, sugar, flour” in conversation (at pitch) in the days since.
The next night we head to Fremont for something completely different. One of my bro’s friends is a regular streamer on Twitch.tv and is hosting a combination games night and cooking show. Basically a group of us are going to hang out playing games and talking shit while he cooks us dinner… all streamed live on the internet. For those not overly familiar with Twitch.tv, this is a relatively common thing to do in modern geek culture, particularly when the streaming involves playing computer games or demonstrating weird game hacks. Wearing my “Have towel, will travel” t-shirt, I immediately fit right in with this fantastic and welcoming crowd of humans. I guess perhaps I was not as far removed from this kind of geek culture as I thought I was! OH and the food, yes well HP cooked us up some incredible beef wellington, and many JackBox games were played and won. All in all it was a fantastic night and you can of course see the recorded live stream here on HP’s channel.
After bugging my bro constantly for 3 days I decide to give him the day off and let him get some sleep, and possibly even do some work. Today I hit the Marin Headlands again, but this time on a mountain bike. I’ve done a bit of mountain biking each time I visit San Fran, but this time I head a bit further north, into Tennessee Valley. From where I hire my bike at BlazingSaddles in Fisherman’s wharf, it’s about 21km to the Tennenesse Valley trailhead. This is a beautiful and scenic ride along the waterfront, up and over the Golden Gate bridge, and then down through the historic town of Sausalito. I highly recommend this ride for any one visiting San Francisco for the first time, and the good guys at Blazing Saddles even offer a sweet deal on a ferry ticket so that after lunch in Sausalito you can take the lazy way back to town.
Unfortunately for me there will be no ferry today, as this scenic ride is just a way to get to where the real fun begins. From the trailhead, I hit the dirt and head down to Tennessee beach before taking the Coastal trail straight up the hill. It has now been more than 6 weeks since I properly mountain biked (or exercised in any meaningful way for that matter) and so lets just say that I may not be in the shape which I expected to be (or that may have been required) when I decided to set out on this 66km ride day. I should also point out that the total elevation climbed today is in excess of 1,100 vertical metres, which over 60km would be fairly standard for mountain biking except that the first 20km and last 20km are basically flat so all that climb is over a much shorter distance. It’s not too long before I begin to overheat and my pants need to come off. Thankfully I’m wearing my compression skins underneath so the pants were only ever for vanity, besides I’m in the middle of the national park… who is going to notice anyway?
After reaching the Coyote Ridge trail, marking the summit of my climb up the Coastal trail, I realise that I’m actually making reasonable time and could probably afford to head down into the next valley and back up another trail. So I head down the next valley to the Shoreline highway and Muir beach. From here I ride up the single-track of Dias Ridge trail, starting with a moderate climb on switchbacks and then into some beautiful flow track across the ridge. Some of the other trails today have been a lovely view or scenic location, but this one is all for the single-track. A lot of the best video came from this trail!
Satisfied, and a little tired, I start back up the final ascent from the Shoreline Hwy along the Miwok trail. This is a lot more shallow than the initial climb up the Coastal trail and I am able to enjoy this without too many expletives. When I reach the other end of the Coyote Ridge trail, I climb that last bit of hill up to the highest point and, naturally, I take a selfie. Tall thing climbed, but this time on wheels.
Finishing the run down the Miwok trail is a fairly long and, in places, precarious decent. Not knowing the terrain, and starting to feel a little tired, I take it slower than I might have normally which makes it more difficult but at least I get to the bottom in one piece. The vanity pants go back on and I start the last 21km back to Fisherman’s wharf feeling quite spent. My legs may well hate me tomorrow, particularly on the 16 hour flight home, but it felt good to be back on the bike… both figuratively and literally.
After one final musical with the bro, “Miss Saigon” at the Orpheum theatre, it’s time for me to pack my things and hit the road (jack). I hate having to say goodbye to Mike, particularly when I don’t know when I’ll see him next. It feels so normal to be hanging out with him and playing computer games 24/7, just as it felt so normal watching cartoons with Sarah, going out drinking with Emma & Matt, and exploring new cities with all of my Topdeck crew. Alas, all good things must come to an end.
It has been an amazing adventure over the past 6 weeks, and these words I write in my blog cannot do justice to the places, people and things I have experienced, but I can say this... As I say my goodbyes to Mike, his roommates, my old friends and my new friends, there is no reason to be sad, after all it’s not really goodbye, but rather, until I see you again.