San Francisco to LA by bike. Chapter 1

 

On the way to Big Sur.

On the way to Big Sur.

My friend Bennett Cerf and I have been talking about doing this for years, at least two, and in the last weekend of September, I had the opportunity to attend a bicycle cooperative conference called Bike!Bike! in San Francisco.  Several people from the Bikerowave, the co-op I volunteer at were going and I could stay with them in the heart of San Fran and attend some of the workshops.  Bennett’s brother lives in the Mission District, so we both had reasons to go–to bring our bikes, panniers, GPS and then after the weekend in the city–ride home down Hwy 1. We decided to take 8 days and leaving on Monday, Sept. 29 and arriving in Venice Monday, Oct. 6.  
We began planning a route and then a friend of Bennett’s who I knew as well, Josh Stern, expressed his interest in joining us.  So, the three of us began to plan what days we’d stay in hostels and when we’d camp.  Josh brought the added perk of a friend’s motel in Santa Barbara which meant a downtown place to stay for free in a very expensive town. Josh would meet us on Monday morning in Golden Gate Park.  
Bennett and I began our journey by riding from Venice to downtown LA to Union Station to catch the Coast Starlight and ride by rail to Jack London Station in Oakland.           

Downtown LA, almost to the train station!

Downtown LA, almost to the train station!

At the cargo area of Union Station after loading the bikes into the boxes.

At the cargo area of Union Station after loading the bikes into the boxes.

 It’s a little convoluted, but for $20 you get a big box to put your bike in– we had to pull the pedals and handlebars–and they go with us in the luggage car.  It seems a bit wasteful but you do get your bike in one piece on the other end.    

  

In the collapse--opportunity!

In the collapse--opportunity!

Bennett taking in the view.

Bennett taking in the view.

The train was great.  We payed extra for a private room which meant you were treated like you were in 1st class.  The rooms had bunk beds, which meant naps (one of my favorite things–just ask Bennett and Josh), water, all the coffee/tea/juice you wanted, a real shower and towels, 2 meals, and for $5, a wine tasting of regional wines.  Except for the rocking and the occasional whistle blowing, it was a surprisingly quiet ride.      

 

 

  

Lounge car, sunset and some regional wines.

Lounge car, sunset and some wine.

We met a lot of people, many retired, who appreciated the relaxed travel experience of the train.  I have to say, it was pretty nice.  We stopped a lot, and not always at stations.  We found out that many of the stops were to either let another train pass or strangely, to get permission from the owner of the rail line–Union Pacific–to pass whatever length of track was ahead of us. I was struck by how out-of-touch this system seems to be with our national need for a fast dedicated public rail system in this country.   There’s been talk for years here in California to set up a high speed rail between SF and LA–that would be amazing.  There’s even an initiative on the ballot this year, finally.       

 

 

  

A couple we had dinner with who were on their way to Salem, Oregon. We were seated with strangers each meal. Thus, encouraging dialogue and communication!

A couple we had dinner with who were on their way to Salem, Oregon. We were seated with strangers each meal. Thus, encouraging dialogue and communication!

We arrived in Oakland about 11 hours later and watched the Amtrak employees  unload luggage and our bikes on to an ancient cart that looked like it had survived the 1905 San Francisco earthquake. The bikes had easily made the journey so far.       

 

 

  

The secret to Bennett's speed--a small warp core reactor, delivered at Jack London station in Oakland.

The secret to Bennett's speed--a small warp core reactor that also caused his jacket to glow like a costume from the movie "Tron."

 

 

Lining up the handlebars at Jack London Station, Oakland.

Lining up the handlebars at Jack London Station, Oakland.

Bennett set the homing device (his GPS) for his brother’s little house in the city and we rode to a BART station and headed to town.  After dropping Bennett with his brother David, I was given a map and shown where to go to make it to the motel I’d be staying at.  
 Gern Trowbridge documents my arrival at the motel.    Gern Trowbridge, of the Bikerowave, documented my arrival at the Motel 6.  

 

 

We were pretty tightly packed in the room and I am grateful for earplugs. David is on the floor with the pillow on his face.

We were pretty tightly packed in the room and I am grateful for earplugs. David is on the floor with the pillow on his face.

I had just read a blog about Sheppard Fairey's art opening in SF, ironically, the gallery was just across the street from the Motel 6.

I had just read a blog about Shepard Fairey's art opening in SF, ironically, the gallery was just across the street from the Motel 6.

The Bike!Bike! conference which 5 days prior to the start day seemed dazed and confused in it’s organization.  Upon arrival, I found it to be pretty nicely organized with a slew of workshops and presentations.  Some workshops were about building panniers from cardboard, making snow tires, grant writing, or running a for-profit co-op bike shop.  I was really happy and excited to hear about and visit Box Dog Bikes, which was a worker owned bike shop catering to “people who ride everyday.”
 Inside Box Dog Bikes  
It was inspiring to say the least, and they had named the place for my sister’s beloved dog, Box (well, not exactly, but still what a coincidence!). As many of you know, I want to (and am starting) start a bike  company and store, and this place reflected my aesthetic and commuter/urban/utilitarian perspective. They even had a line of USA made custom frames including this Porteur style bike that looked remarkably similar to my Eric Zimmerman bike:    
A parallel universe exists.  A porteur after my own heart. A parallel universe exists. A porteur after my own heart.

 

My own porteur by Eric Zimmerman.  #002
   


 There was perfect weather and everyone was out, I wanted to go home and pack my stuff up and move here.  Bicycling here was a joy. Unlike LA, you could sense the city made room for bikes.  We Bikerowaver’s had a nice time together as well.  Here’s Yoli, Elizabeth and David discussing our next destination.

 

 

 The best weather, ever. Yoli, Elizabeth and David outside of Box Dog.      

Alex and Elizabeth and gelato.

Alex and Elizabeth and gelato.

Alex put together a pretty significant movie of his trip to the city which you can watch here: http://vimeo.com/1855280

I went to a frame building workshop at San Francisco’s bike co-op, the Bike Kitchen.  It was led by Santa Cruz builder, Josh Muir who builds some of my favorite bikes under the name “Frances Bikes” check him out on the web.  We’d be riding with him and many of these folks back to Santa Cruz on Monday.

 

 

dscf0508 

  

I talked Alex and Elizabeth to ride (then walk--very steep!) to my childhood house at 100 Saturn Street.  It's still there.  I'm always struck by how small it is and tiny the streets there are.  It was a vast world to me at age 8 when we moved away.  I think the outdoor light and the "100" on the transom above the upstairs door were put there in 1970 by my dad.  As we were there, a group of gay men left the downstairs apartment.  We told them it had been my childhood home.  One said, "welcome home!"  Which could have been interpreted in several ways....

I talked Alex and Elizabeth to ride (then walk--very steep!) to my childhood house at 100 Saturn Street. It's still there. I'm always struck by how small it is and tiny the streets there are. It was a vast world to me at age 8 when we moved away. I think the outdoor light and the "100" on the transom above the upstairs door were put there in 1970 by my dad. As we were there, a group of gay men left the downstairs apartment. We told them it had been my childhood home. One said, "welcome home!" Which could have been interpreted in several ways....

We went to a party put on by Cyclecide, a demonic/clown themed human powered art/construction collective that had a wild scrap yard where we were entertained and where we powered several OSHA-violating carnival rides:

 

 

  

Don't get your hair caught! Don't stand too close! Don't you love it?

Don't get your hair caught! Don't stand too close! Don't you love it?

 

 

I had to keep my legs out straight or they would have smashed into a bike parked on the edge of the merry-go-round. How freeing though!

I had to lift my legs as I passed a group of junk bikes..

  

Don't worry Alex, it's probably safe...

Don't worry Alex, it's probably safe...

 

 

We went out that Saturday night to a bar that served Absinthe.  We got a bit drunk, but I wouldn’t say I felt any of the hallucinatory feelings this wormwood based alcohol is noted for. 
 "What do you think, Steve?"  "Uh, bitter herbs and rubbing alcohol!"  (Yoli, Elizabeth and me)

"What do you think, Steve?" "Uh, bitter herbs and rubbing alcohol!" (Yoli, Elizabeth and me)

Ok. So, Yoli kinda looks like she's tripping a bit in that green haze.

Ok. So, Yoli kinda looks like she's tripping a bit in that green haze

Sunday culminated in a big veggie lunch at a civic center and a t-shirt print making fest.  
Oh--is that me laying down in the foreground?  Yup.

Oh--is that me laying down in the foreground? Yup.

We then followed a huge continual crowd of folks to the Folsom Street fair.
r0011033
 Surprise!  It had rather dark theme.
I'm glad my only real fetish is bikes!

I'm glad my only real fetish is bikes!

To follow.  Chapter 2.  The journey continues.

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~ by santapakka on December 9, 2008.

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