San Francisco to LA by bike. Chapter 1
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, of the Bikerowave, documented my arrival at 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.”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:
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.
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:
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.Sunday culminated in a big veggie lunch at a civic center and a t-shirt print making fest.We then followed a huge continual crowd of folks to the Folsom Street fair.Surprise! It had rather dark theme.To follow. Chapter 2. The journey continues.