This is a ride that I’d heard about previously, but always either after it happened or after I already had plans for the day it was being held. This year I let folks who’d done it before know I was interested, and both Patrick and Brian forwarded the e-mail to me so I could mark my calendar.
22nd Annual Tour of the S.F. Hills
Sunday, November 9th
Meet at the parking lot across the street from the Marina Safeway at 9 A.M.
Bring a mountain bike or road bike with LOW gears and flat-resistant tires/tubes.
“The ride explores a multitude of neighborhoods in the city, taking the most difficult path from cafe to taqueria. With the many hilltops in the city, and with the usual good luck with weather conditions, the riders are treated to frequent magnificent views. The parade of cyclists winding down Lombard St. and then climbing the 32% grade on Filbert St. always attracts the attention of tourists. Other sites explored on the ride are Potrero Hill (with the fast descent down the “other” crookedest street in the world), Coit Tower, Nob Hill, and Mt. Davidson. A bonus feature is the optional ascent of the Broderick St. sidewalk in Pacific Heights. This street, below the Levi mansion, is so steep that it is blocked off to traffic – the upper half being a driveway more crooked than Lombard St. A casual pace on the ride ensures that the attrition rate is low, but the prospect of climbing Hill St. after scarfing burritos in the Mission always sheds a few riders.”
It turned out to be a brilliant day – clear and sunny! Somewhere upwards of 50 people rolled out on the route. As might have been guessed from the e-mail, many riders were on mountain bikes, but there were a smattering of drop bar bikes as well. After some dithering about it, I rode my Viaje, and, as always, was very happy with it.
Roll out, it’s definitely a different experience to be on city streets with a bunch of other riders. What is the collective noun for cyclists?
A few hills to warm up, OK this isn’t too bad. Haha. How many to go?
And here we are at Broderick. This is the one where it’s actually a sidewalk. Most people don’t even bother riding down it (it’s a down and up), but what the heck, I’m here. Whee.ee.eee! Oh yeah that’s STEEP. Manage to not go over the bars on the way down. When a break in the up hill traffic comes I give it a go, but I don’t really have the *it’s me or the hill mentality going on (seems a little early in the ride to be killing myself) and I quickly realize I’m not positioned well (not far enough forward), bail out and walk the rest of the way up.
End up chatting with another Volagi owner (although he’s riding another bike today) who has done this ride numerous times. Seems like there’s quite a contingent of repeaters.
Meander around, yes, more hills. I’m glad there’s people to follow. Down Lombard, to the surprise and delight of the tourii.
Squiggle through North Beach, and hike-a-bike up to Coit Tower. There’s a man with some nice paintings on the steps, unfortunately I don’t have a way to carry one. WOW! Great view! I’ve never been up here before. I’ll have to come back some time and check out the tower.
Back and a loop around North Beach and a stop at Washington Square Park. Some folks get coffee and pastries, some just hang out. Patrick and I go up the block to a gelato place we’d passed earlier but it’s not open yet. Boo. Fine, I’ll just have one of my pocket waffles. (Turns out we see a place that is open on the other side of the park when we roll out. Note to self.)
I’m getting sort of antsy about how long the stop is, and remind myself that I don’t have anywhere else to be, the ride is going to take whatever time it takes, and the stops are all part of it.
Rolling again, through the financial district. Man made canyon.
Veteran’s Day parade going by City Hall. There’s a police officer taking photos, I’m not sure if it’s for just recording the event or for law enforcement. Some of the group makes it through before the group of motorcycles, the rest of us follow, prompting a comment from the announcer about “the other kind of bikers”. Oh, there’s the library!
Regroup, into Potrero Hill. Ah, this is looking familiar-ish. Yes! There’s San Francisco Center for the Book! And the Anchor Brewing Company. I think they have a tour. Another thing for the list. Patrick says something about a friend of his who is also on the ride, wearing a Super Jew jersey. What?! Super TOUR. No fair making me crack up while I’m trying to go up hill.
And more hills, and a street that feels squigglier than Lombard, but minus the tourii, and over the freeway, and I’m lost again. *That’s San Francisco General, Patrick says helpfully. Um, sure. If you say so.
We’re headed for the Mission, and burritos. There’s some debate about the exact route, and I’m not exactly sure where we’re going, but it feels like further away than it should be. Well, I don’t feel like a burrito anyway. Maybe when I’m done, but I don’t think it’s going to be super helpful for the climbing thing. I would like some ice cream though.
Oh Yes looks like. NO. Closed. Harumph, when did ice cream become an after noon thing? YAY! Xanath is open. Stop there. And then, since there’s no line at Bi-Rite, stop there as well. (I just provide moral support for Patrick. Really.)
Even with all that the group is still arrayed on the lawn at Dolores Park. Pretty good timing though, chat a bit, meet a woman named Holly, who turns out to be Gary’s wife (duh). OK, that’s how you found out about it. And, you’ve done it a few times. Heh.
The pace is perhaps even a bit more relaxed, and the numbers have thinned a bit, post-burrito. Yes, more hills, and I can’t remember the neighborhood names now, and there’s a bit of route confusion and oh here comes the fog!
Climb up Mt. Davidson on the trail, oh that’s a bit slick in spots. Another new spot for me, allegedly there’s a great view, I’ll have to take their word for it (or come back.) There’s some what look like vent pipes and other waterworks appurtenances, I wonder if there’s a tank under here. And there’s the cross, back in the trees. Debbie Harry was up here… Wha? DIRTY Harry. Sheesh my Aussie decoder is really off today.
Bump bump bump down the dirt and oh maybe shoulda gone left on the trail too late there’s steps going this way um herewegokeepitstraightthinkhappythoughts whew on the pavement upright and in one piece.
More wending through neighborhoods and to the last climb, or was it last hill (I don’t think it was ALL downhill from there) – Twin Peaks. Another new to me spot. Great views from here, the fog playing peekaboo. The group disintegrates a little at this point, with people leaving at different times, and then getting split by traffic lights, and there aren’t more regroup at the top of big climb type spots.
For a while I’m with just a few others who are also mostly new to the route, and maybe not so familiar with the city, but we manage to muddle along, and eventually merge with others who know the way better. Unwinding through more neighborhoods and eventually back to the Marina. Where there’s some sort of crafts fair going on at Fort Mason, so the parking sharks are circling. It’s nice enough weather that you could hang out and picnic, which some folks do, but I’m feeling the need to get home and get ready for a big week ahead (this was right before my trip to Cuba), so after a bit of chit-chat I hit the road.
It’s really amazing that Gary has been putting on this ride for so many years! Testament to him, and to what a fun route this is. Not just the challenge of the hills (there’s a Bike Coalition map that lists grade percentages so you can avoid steep hills – he used it the opposite way when making the route), but a great tour of the city. It was super fun to see tourist spots, and to see them by bike. You definitely get a different feel for how things fit together and the relationships between neighborhoods. There was also something about the group aspect of it, that, once I got over my impatience, was super fun. Really nice folks and super chill vibe. We were really fortunate with the weather too. I’m not sure I’d want to do it on a wet day.