The Golden Gate Bridge… and taking my first spill


Well, I’ve had quite a range of San Francisco experiences today.

First, when I emerged from my host’s wonderful 1930s-era house about noon, it was raining. I was not thrilled about this, but at least it wasn’t very cold—high 50s. I wore my rain jacket, but didn’t bother with rain pants.

It was hard to see much scenery, though, while watching all the raindrops build up on my glasses as I navigated the streets of a busy and unfamiliar city. Still, I made my way back through Golden Gate Park, then north through the Presidio, and by the time I arrived there, the rain had mostly given way to fog.

That was a bummer, though, since I had really hoped for a sunny day to see the bridge. (Sun is forecast for the next few days, but I don’t think I’ll make it back to the bridge, unfortunately. Ah, well.)

It was pretty riding through the Presidio. Curving streets, eucalyptus trees, Spanish architecture, palm trees… all shrouded in mist. I stopped at the Korean War Memorial, and passed the national cemetery, both of which added a somber tone to the weather conditions.

As I approached the bridge, I could see Alcatraz Island. All such iconic views on this morning’s ride.

Last night I had felt twinges of some sort of guilt or regret for having initially crossed the bridge in a car, rather than officially “arriving” in San Francisco, via that glorious span, with my rig in tow. But today I was glad for it; I think I experienced a lot more of the surrounding scenery—and at a more leisurely pace—than I would have if I had been doing it out of utility. I am finding many such “tradeoffs” in this journey: sometimes I have a vision of how I think something will be, or how I hope it will be, or how I think it “should” be… and that version of events does not come to pass. I feel twinges of regret or disappointment, or sometimes even guilt or remorse… but then shortly afterward, it turns out that things actually unfold in a way that turns out to be better. A good life lesson.

So, yes, this was like that. And although I was disappointed that the bridge was so fogged in that I could barely take any photos, I still enjoyed making the crossing under my own power. I stopped at the “vista point” on the Marin County side, but it was so foggy the bridge was completely invisible! So, that iconic selfie will have to wait for a future trip, I suppose.

I turned around to head back “home,” and as I approached the bridge, the fog did begin to lift a little. Some shafts of sunlight shone in. That was pretty cool.

On the way back, I went through Golden Gate Park again. I have now been through that one section of it four times—twice in each direction—under various weather and lighting conditions. (And I think I have managed to take at least one, and sometimes two or three, wrong turns each time!)

This time, as I headed down MLK (I think? Might have been JFK) I saw a sign for a fern pond, or something like that. Glancing over, it looked really cool, almost like the “prehistoric” garden I recalled visiting in the Austin botanical garden a few years ago. This looked like a place I wanted to check out. And glancing at my watch, I gauged that I would have enough daylight left.

Unfortunately, all that rain made the streets and paths very slippery. As I turned back and onto the sidewalk from the street to go check out that natural area, I found myself slipping, then crashing onto the sidewalk, where I lay dazed for a few moments with my bike resting on top of me.

A few passersby stopped to see if I was all right. I sensed that I was, but I could feel some cuts and bruises forming, on my left knee and both palms, where I had made impact with the sidewalk. (I was thankful for my helmet, which I heard and felt hit the concrete as I went down. Guess it’s time to buy yet another new helmet, since once they take an impact, they are considered no longer safe.)

I thanked the passersby for their concern, and one of them lifted the bike off me. I told them I was all right; I kind of wanted them to walk away before I stood awkwardly up.

When I did, I saw that the left knee of my trusty nylon capris (worn almost every day on this trip, after I purchased them 15+ years ago for a group bicycle vacation on the big island of Hawai’i) was ripped open, and muddy. Aw, man.

The REI leggings underneath were unscathed, which was remarkable because when I got inside to check, I found that my knee was all scraped up underneath.

Biking back to my host’s house (with a detour to check out that pond anyway, dammit, and it was very pretty) I felt the discomfort in my knee and palms. But, my host gave me some Band-Aids and Neosporin, and my new Warmshowers host for tonight (just north of the park) gave me some Naproxen as an anti-inflammatory. So, I’m thankful. These things do happen, and it could have been a lot worse.

Unfortunately, as I biked over here to my new host’s place, my hydration pack’s bite valve came off in the street, leaving the open tube to drench my left leg and foot. This added insult to my recent injury… and it was about the sixth or seventh time this has happened. The first was on my ride between Arcata and Eureka, about two weeks ago. It has now begun happening almost daily, so I know I need to address it. (It’s only a matter of time before it happens in a place where the bite valve rolls off into irretrievable oblivion, leaving my clothes soaking wet and me without an easy way to stay hydrated.) I contacted Osprey’s customer-service email tonight, though they say it may take seven business days to reply.

I can see I’ll need to stop at a bike shop and/or outdoor-outfitters shop or two here in San Francisco, or at least in the bay: I’ll need a new helmet, possibly new nylon pants, and a new bite valve and/or bladder for the hydration pack. I also recently noticed some rust on a component of my bike the other day, so I’m going to take advantage of being in a metro area where there are several certified Brompton dealers. Hopefully they can tell me whether I need to worry about this part, and if so, they can replace it for me.

So… yes, an eventful day, and that’s just in my little bicycling world; that’s not to mention the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. It can be hard for me to process everything that’s happening in the larger world. Sometimes on this journey I feel separate from “the world,” for better or worse. I see many problems in the world from a different vantage. I’m hoping that being “outside” of my social circle, outside of the working world, outside of traditional societal ways of living, for a whole year, will give me some sort of new perspective or new empowerment to do my best to help bring about changes that we need. I’m doing my best to trust that.

For now, I’m resting in my basement room here in another charming San Francisco house, this one from the late 1800s. It’s a bit cold in here, and my feet are still damp. I hope I will get a good night’s rest, and that I can enjoy exploring the park tomorrow, especially the Japanese garden.

Meanwhile, I hope you’re all taking good care of yourselves.

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2 thoughts on “The Golden Gate Bridge… and taking my first spill”

  1. Thank you so much for these posts – at some point I’ll go back and read all the ones I missed. They “trigger” me in the best possible way, memory shards of my own American bicycle journey…- and now reflections on how those memories have influenced my life a decade later. While riding/dining/sleeping and occasionally meeting and interacting with the folk of the “fly over” states, I was 98% met with such kindness/friendliness/curiosity (fuck you to the pick up truck with a poor doggie in the bed who tried to run me off the road outside of Carbondale, IL). Over the last administration, I realized that a great many of the wonderful people I met probably voted for the Orange Menace (and probably feel ok/good about the Rittenhouse verdict). I have no grand sweeping conclusion or words of wisdom, other than 🤷🏻‍♂️ people are complicated, more so than what we see.

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