Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Golden Gate Bridge!

Golden Gate bridge viewed from Fort Baker
Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate bridge.  To celebrate, we rode out from home to ride across the bridge and do a loop in the Marin headlands.

Golden Gate bridge viewed from Lincoln Park

Along the way, we paused at the bridge Birthday celebration, a huge festival in Crissy Field where we checked out the Ironworkers display- neat historical photos and a riveting demonstration (i.e., a demonstration of how the bridge was riveted). Then, onto the bridge.  Riding in the Presidio was awesome- the roads were closed to traffic and it was great to ride around without the usual heavy car traffic. Saw lots of families riding with kids, perhaps in part due to the road closure. Wouldn't it be great if the Presidio roads were closed to traffic each Sunday?
Golden Gate bridge viewed from Hawk Hill in the headlands
It was foggy but with good visibility- the picture above (from a different day ) is representative. After a loop around the Headlands, we rode back across the bridge. I heard helicopters and turned to see two helicopters flying under the bridge! They were flying out to the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and we hung around for a while to watch the Nimitz approach the bridge. The thing is huge! As an aside, the newly reconfigured bike and pedestrian paths around the bridge are nice, and the views have been improved.  Then, we rode home through the city, stopping to view the Carnivale parade in the Mission, where we admired the floats, costumes and dancers and met an iguana named Stan and his person. What a great day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Confessions of a (re)new(ed) bike commuter

Riding along the lagoon on the Bayway route (in Brisbane)
When I returned from my 9-week leave from work in March, I felt powerfully motivated to stay active and not return to the awful, work-dominated sedentary routine that I'd fallen into during the last few years. These words from the SF2G website* suddenly resonated:

An hour in traffic and an hour at the gym. Everyday. We've got something more fun in mind.
Skip the Traffic. Skip the Gym. Add Joy.

Commuting with a crowd, in San Francisco on Bike To Work Day

I hadn't always had a car-focused commute. In fact, I commuted primarily by bike for almost ten years living in big cities back East, and I walked or rode to work or school for another 8 years or so.  It is only the last ten years or so that I've slipped into the car-dominated commute. And despite the best efforts of my cycle-commuting boyfriend, I'd stubbornly refused to ride to work.

Tunnel Road with San Bruno Mountain looming ahead. Yes, this is still in SF, but only just.
 After my 9-week leave from work, though, my excuses kind of faded away.  The first week back to work, I headed out with Dan and SF2G and rode down the peninsula to work.  And I've maintained the routine, riding 2-3 times a week.

Climbing San Bruno Mountain on the way to work. Ooof doing this with a backpack full of clothes and work stuff.
 I generally take a relatively flat, direct route in (about 12 miles), but occasionally I've been riding in over my favorite local mountain, San Bruno Mountain. This adds another 9 or so miles and 1000 feet of climbing.

Oyster Point marina
  My route is about half urban, and about half suburban roads and bike path. The last 2 miles or so by the Bay is my favorite. Mostly, I ride by myself, but I occasionally ride in with a co-worker or with SF2G. 

Grittier portion of the commute, with SF2G on BTWD
 The benefits of bike commuting have been enormous, and I'm not just talking about the exercise aspect though I've been riding 30-45 miles a week through the commute. I really love the ride, even the gritty urban portion of it. So, yay JOY.  My back and knees feel better with the regular exercise and I notice an increased ability to handle stress at work on days where I've ridden in. And, I'm out of the car several days a week.

I'm working on riding more day a week, but some work logistics have interfered with this so far (mostly, the need to have bulky work stuff at home or very early morning meetings). But, I'm still pretty pleased with how it's been going.  And a big thank you to Dan for urging me to ride to work and even carrying my lead-brick-like laptop in for me on occasion.

*per the SF2G website: Loosely organized and tightly knit, SF2G is a group of cyclists in the Bay Area that commutes from San Francisco down the Peninsula to Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and all parts in-between. Membership is granted by showing up. Satisfaction is granted by the mile. 

Dan rides with this group a few times a week (getting him a ~50 mile commuter ride in the am). I've joined them a few times on their slower no-drop monthly intro ride.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pescadero weekend: riding and hiking near the coast

Climbing Bean Hollow Road near Pescadero CA
 We spent the weekend on the coast near Pescadero. Though just 50 or so miles south of San Francisco, it's a great getaway, and there's easy access to beautiful beaches, hiking and good road riding.  And of course, goats (see my last post), farm stands, and yummy bakeries.  We made the most of the location by packing in several rides, a hike and visits to local beaches.

Stage Road, how I've missed you!
 For our first ride, we set off going north on HW1 from our lodging, headed inland at Gazos Creek Road, and continued on Cloverdale Road to Pescadero. I love these beautiful, quiet farm roads and they are a great alternative to Highway 1 for rides in this area. We continue through Pescadero onto Stage Road. Stage Road is one of my favorites-- twisty, remote-feeling, with two category 4 climbs. I was pleased to ride all the way to San Gregorio- I did OK with the climbs and my legs felt relatively peppy. I haven't ridden this road since my accident a few years ago. It felt great to be back (at least relatively speaking, as I am still super slow).

Dan rethinks hiking near the cliff at San Gregorio State Beach
 After a stop at the San Gregorio general store (where a bluegrass band was warming up), we headed back along Highway 1. We headed inland again at Pescadero and rode Bean Hollow Road, a wonderful climb inland that is a nice alternative to Highway 1. This bit of road has it all-- a nice climb on a quiet winding road, great views over Pescadero and the coastal mountains and scenic hilltop farms.

Riding on Pigeon Point road towards the lighthouse (faintly visible at top of photo)
  Then, back onto HW1 out to the Pigeon Point lighthouse. The wildflowers are out and they were particularly nice on this part of the ride.
Coast view from Pigeon Point lighthouse

We made a photograph stop at the lighthouse and paused to take in the amazing view. Then, headed back to our lodging just down the road. What an awesome ride!

Hiking up into the fog
 Earlier, we did a 4 mile hike near our lodging. The hike is a loop over the grassy hills up to a viewpoint with big views over the Pacific.

Pescadero State Beach at low tide
 And here's a beach shot. We stopped by Pescadero State Beach and scrambled around looking at tidepools. The tide was extremely low and it was neat to walk out among the rocks and look at critters in the tidepools. What a great weekend!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Visiting the goats at Harley Farms in Pescadero

This weekend, Dan and I headed down to Pescadero, about 50 miles south of San Francisco on the coast. We started our long weekend by visiting Harley Farms, a small goat dairy right in Pescadero.

After looking around and sampling multiple cheeses in the excellent shop, we joined the goat tour. 

Goats herding Dan towards the barn
The tour started with some info on the origin of the farm, then we headed into the pasture.  It was fun to pet the goats, and the goats were not shy, nuzzling against us and trying to eat our clothing. 

The goats are milked twice a day, producing about a gallon a day per goat. The udders were impressive!

After hanging out with adult goats for a while, we headed into the barn to visit the babies. It's kid season and lots of babies were around. We got to hold four day-old babies! 

Then, onto a tour of the milking parlour. We didn't see the equipment in action, since it was the wrong time of day.

We moved into the cheese production facility and got a look into the pasteurizer. Vegetarian rennet had been added a while earlier and you could see the curds beginning to form.

Then, the cheese is strained. This is yesterday's production straining in cheesecloth bags. Cool.

Garden includes edible flowers used with the Monet cheese
The tour was quite informative and I enjoyed the relaxed pace and proximity to the animals and equipment.  Looks like a great activity for kids, as an aside. We had several pretty small kids in our group and a local school group was also there.

We wrapped it up by sampling more cheese in the dining area. The hand-carved wood table was set for an event that night. 

Dan making friends with a farm resident
After the tour, we bought tons of cheese, wandered around a bit and mingled with one of the farm residents. What a fun visit! Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.