Days 32 & 33: Science & Exploration

Day 32 (2016-09-27): California Academy of Science, San Francisco.

I forget how much I love museums because I spend much of my museum time in museums relating to human art, culture, and technology. Yes, I enjoy learning about these things as I enjoy learning about all things. But natural museums…there is something about learning how small, insignificant, and not special I am that really inspires me to live a different life. The photography section especially moved me – photography is a change agent pushing for conservation and rehabilitation. It is a collective memory of what was and may be. And it is a deeply personal exploration of life and living. Perhaps now is finely the time to embrace this interest. Leaving Seattle, breaking up with Lindsey, traveling alone for weeks or months – my life is at a crossroads and it is entirely up to me to determine my future. What do I want?

Winner of the photo contest.

Could I outfit a bikepacking bike, practice my phtography and writing, and piece together a living by capturing life and weaving a tale people need to hear? Do they want to hear it? Do I have anything worthwhile to say?

I have this desire to forgoe a traditional lifestyle much of the time and try to become closer to the natural world. Perhaps not to understand it, for I am not sure we are meant to understand, but at least to know and to appreciate

It’s a little after 16:00 and I am getting real tired of museum life – there is great material here but i think about 3 hours is my limit (we are closer to 5), so I am about done. Admission cost $30 but I’d say we got our money’s worth!

Albino Alligator!

Day 33 (2016-09-28): Errands & Goodbye. San Francisco.

I want to ride around the city to explore and get to know it better than I would being a typical tourist. I also need a few things so what better way to get to know different neighbirhoods than by taking a tour of bike shops and Goodwill?

First through Sunset, a mix of housing I’d guess to be in the middle tier – some nicer, some not so nice, but all decent. There’s an Asian area near 20th & Irvine with lots of markets and small restaurants. The Goodwill at 25th is small but well kept. Heading towards Forest Knolls, a high hill, housing clearly shows a wealthier neighbirhood. But I swear I’m in a cloud! Bombing down Funston St. brings me back to Irvine St. and my first bike shop: Everybody Bikes.

Wow, the housing diversity here is incredible compared to Seattle. Yes, there are major housing and affordability issues, but the same is true in Seattle. San Francisco is much denser, meaning more duplexs and other low-height density and less single family homes. I just rolled up on the south side of Forest Knolls – unfortunately the fog is thick so I did not even bother reaching the top for a view. Brick, modern, stucco…the character of this neighborhood is immensely more satisfying than the tissue box houses of Seattle’s new developments or the craftsman single-family home of it’s older, less dense neighborhoods.

Cruising east from Everybody Bikes I headed to the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park, the home of American Cyclery, the oldest continuously-running bike shop in the city (1941). They’ve branched out into two stores crossing the street with their roadie/vintage shop selling sweet Campy gear and stuff that’s way too nice for me. Across the way their newer shop sells a more normal fare, which us where I bought my new Blackburn Wayside multitool. It’s sick.

Just around the corner in The Castro I found another Goodwill. This one was bigger but way less organized. I found a sweet pair of REI shorts for $5.00, which is an excellent find to replace my shorts. See, my shorts have an elastic band thing as a built-in belt. When I left Seattle they were fine, but with a lot of stretching (and probably a bit of shrinking of my waistline) they are getting too blown out to keep up. Perfect find.

My new REI shorts. No more saggy bottoms! Well, except this stupid diaper we call bike shorts.

From Goodwill I went just one block north and then headed east on Page St, a wide, quiet street marked with sharrows for bike route 50. I cannot begin to describe how much better biking here has been than Seattle, and I am only a couple hours in. Like Portland, San Franisco has a sharper grid system to make navigating a bit easier. And unlike Seattle, there are options! Between the grid and the terrain Seattle leaves few reasonable options to get around by bicycle because everything is either too hilly, too congested or high speed, or too difficult to navigate because of disjointed streets. In both San Francisco and Portland I’ve had a far easier time riding because I can just pick a direction and start riding, knowing that most streets are fine to ride on. Plus, the gid makes it easier to look ahead for hills and traffic, to make picking a route easier. 

It is not just options for bikes that makes it easier to ride – the grid and density means more stop signs. For a car this is annoying, so I bet more people stick to main steeets. But on a bike a stop sign is not that big if a deal, especially when the culture here appears to be a slow & yield. And drivers seem pretty well able to handle cyclists here, perhaps because there are so many!

Did I mention that I crossed an imaginary line and looked up to see blue sky. Turning around there was a wall of gray behind me. I tried to snap a photo but I couldn’t capture it – too big.

My next destination is REI – I need to return the tent, cookest, and a sleeping bag liner Lindsey never used. I also need to buy a new tent, cookset, and all the other things I need to get now that Lindsey and I will be going our separate ways.

Oh shit, I just sent 4+ hours at REI! And I didn’t even get a tent. Damnit. I told the Canadians I’d meet them at the Little Shamrock in the Inner Sunset neighborhood at 4. It’s 3:30, I have 7 miles to ride, and there is sure to be hills and a westerly wind. Whoops. Sure enough, the wind is miserable as it always seems to be at this time of day. But there’s good news: I RODE THE WIGGLE!

San Francisco is so hilly that the city designated a special, winding route to guide cyclists from Market Street to Golden Gate Park along the leas hilly route possible. It twists and turns quite a few times in a short period, even giving us a little bike-only center turn lane to access a left-side bike lane on a one way. Rather than give it a whole new route number the city simply named it “The Wiggle.” Perfect. The magnitude of my excitement in realizing I was riding the famous San Francisco Wiggle was seriously inappropriate for the scale of the situation. Nerd.

The Wiggle! Famous (in some circles) for overcoming SF’s hill terrain.

I arrived only slightly late to drinks with the Canadians and Lindsey, as she also decided to join. I played show-and-tell with my new REI things and we chatted over a couple of beers. I couldn’t stay long though because I was going to have dinner with Hilari and her boyfriend Joe, and I still needed to stop by Neil’s place and get all my things.

Lindsey and I walked the few blocks back to Neil’s place where I packed up my stuff and we said our farewell. It sounds like she will be boarding a train tomorrow for Denver, where her mom lives, and in the net couple of weeks will head to New Orleans with some friends. Have fun!

Leaving from Neil’s I felt the fog rolling and hurried south towards the Ingleside neighborhood where Hilari lives. I passed through some very good looking, clearly expensive single family homes and realized my conception of San Francisco without single-family homes was simply because I had not gotten far enough form the city center. San Franciso is much denser than Seattle – but these old, wealthy neighborhoods still exist. The crazier thing was the fog – it was only about 18:00 and the sun was still up, though you could have fooled me. My viewing distance shrank to something less than 50 feet and, by the time I arrived at Hilari’s cold and damp, my glasses were entirely covered in water drops. It did not rain – I just rode through a cloud. Shit, it was even worse than they gray of Seattle (less wet though).

Dinner with Hilari and Joe was a simple pasta and veggie situation. I also met Hilari’s roommates. After disassembling my bags to fix the mess that was my hasty packing job at Neil’s place I finished the night by lying in front of the gas fireplace and chatting with Nick, who I had not spoken to for over two weeks. He’s doing well but very busy with work as he is in charge of shipping the products that will go to Japan. He hates it a little bit but leading this project is letting him go to Japan for 2.5 months instead of 6 weeks! Win. 

Such weird weather here in San Francisco…I wonder what tomorrow will bring.


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