Most of my riding for fun is on back roads. When I lived in California I tended to ride up narrow, poorly-paved, switchback-laden roads that cars tended to avoid. At climbing speed, poor pavement wasn’t a big issue. I rode down well-paved highways with broad, sweeping turns.
In Santa Clara I could ride a very short distance from home and be climbing in the Santa Cruz mountains. I just tried to get a photo of one of those roads on Google Street View – there are no photos available, so I guess they couldn’t get their car up or down it. The other images on this page are from Google Maps. In San Francisco I discovered urban riding. I lived at the top of a hill that was steep enough that, on three sides, the streets dead-ended in steep stairways (left). There was only one street that made it up the hill to my house. I didn’t ride my bike when I first moved there, thinking it was too steep.
One day I couldn’t take it anymore, so I rode to work. Coming back up that hill was fun and easier than anticipated, so I started riding a lot more. I found streets in the neighborhood where you had to park perpendicular to traffic (bottom) due to the steep grade. I discovered the not-so-famous second crookedest street in the world (right). I had to be on call for work some weekends, so didn’t want to leave town, but still wanted to ride my bike. I realized that I could ride the “49 mile Scenic Drive” (below) and get in a 50 mile bike ride without ever straying more than about 10 miles from work or home.
I later tried venturing farther afield on weekends, as I wasn’t getting many calls. I had a great ride out on Point Reyes before I found there was a paging dead area out there. Had I been paged I would have ridden blissfully unaware all day. (Since I headed this “get outta town” I thought I’d better put in a word about riding out of town. Really, I guess the point of this post is that you don’t have to get outta town to have a good time on a bike.)
I’m not sure why I’m writing about San Francisco this week – maybe it’s because the temperature has been below zero for most of the last two weeks as I write this in early January. San Francisco, by comparison, is fairly warm this time of year. (Though not so much in the summer. You have probably heard the line misattributed to Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” While there is no evidence Twain said it, and it was apparently initially a reference to Duluth, I can attest that it can get pretty cold in the summer in San Francisco. I made note of the date one evening when I went for a walk in the neighborhood. It was July 29. I was wearing my winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and was chilled to the bone. A cold ocean fog was blowing in and a wind tunnel had formed down my street. I knew what Twain, or someone, meant.)
P.S. Signs that it might actually be spring: the loons have headed north, replaced by coots;
hyacinths, daffodils, and irises finally blooming, a dozen hammocks hanging behind Kronshage Hall; tables and chairs are back on the Union Terrace!