Spring is in the air! The last few days have been warm and sunny, at least… but of course that can all change in the blink of an eye around here! To take advantage of the beautiful weather this past weekend, we did something decidedly unusual for us… something very athletic and active and San Franciscan: Renting bicycles and biking through Golden Gate Park.
In fact, way back in 2011 when we were still in Starkville, MS (neither of us ever having been to the West Coast), we sat on the couch and talked about the things we would do when we moved to San Francisco (I may or may not have been fighting off a panic attack during the conversation). Biking through Golden Gate Park was one of those things on the list, and almost two years after moving here, we finally did it!
We took a bus down to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood and rented two mountain bikes from San Francisco Bicycle Rentals (right across the street from Amoeba Music.) The guy there was great and assured me that they had extra small bikes for petite folks like me. (I figured I’d probably have to ride a kid’s bike!)
He showed us the route to take through the park (although it all left my head immediately). But when he said it was 4.5 miles from one end of the park to the other, I thought there was no way we’d ever be able to make it that far.
I haven’t ridden a bike in years… probably since high school. But after a shaky start (and some tinkering with the seats) we were on our way! (I immediately named our bikes Goldie and Indigo, of course.)
We entered the park on Paige Street and followed JFK Drive the entire way, passing all the major sights.
We had to consult a map to find the bike paths.
It was a little nerve wracking at first with so many people around and all the “No Bicycles” signs before we figured out where to go. But once we were in the bike lane, it was smooth sailing!
Stow Lake, with the waterfalls.
Spreckles Lake, with the racing sail boats.
The Buffalo Paddock.
The Dutch Windmills. (There was a garden party of some sort going on. Actually, there were picnics and BBQs and parties of all kinds going on everywhere.)
And before we knew it, we reached the end of the park which opens up into Ocean Beach. I never expected to end up at the beach that day, so it was a nice surprise!
We stopped by the Beach Chalet for a drink, but we didn’t eat at the restaurant. We had another 4.5 miles to go!
(Goldie and Indigo stayed put while we visited the beach and the Beach Chalet.)
I have to admit we hit a low point about halfway back. Suddenly it wasn’t so easy to keep going! But we kept sipping on our water and walked the bikes whenever we felt too tired. After we refreshed a bit, we were ready to keep going. Fortunately, most of the way is coasting on the paved road, so it’s not too bad.
We made it back in a few hours, and I was very impressed with our venture! I would never have believed that we would (or even could) spend the day biking for nine miles, but with lots of stopping along the way and coasting on the road, it was actually pretty doable – even for non-athletes like us. We were sore that night (in weird places) but by the next day we were feeling fine. Maybe all that thigh work at The Bar Method is finally paying off!
- The San Francisco Bike Rentals was great! Lots of bikes to choose from, in all sizes, and we only paid $28 TOTAL for the afternoon. Pretty great deal, I think.
- Once we were on JFK Drive, the road was smooth and mostly flat, so the biking wasn’t too strenuous.
- I wish we had gone on Sunday, when the roads within the park are closed to cars. The cars went slowly and gave us plenty of room, but I was very nervous at first. I’ve never ridden a bike in traffic before, and there weren’t always bike lanes or paths.
- Most attractions had “No Bicycles” signs – so although we stopped to rest and took a few pics at each point of interest, we couldn’t actually spend much time there. I would’ve liked to walk around Spreckles Lake to watch the sailboats, or check out the waterfalls at Stow Lake, but bikes weren’t allowed. So it was a weird conundrum – we could go further into the park on bike to actually reach the attractions, but once we were there we could only get closer by foot. But without bikes, I doubt we would’ve walked nine miles to see everything. So, catch-22 and all that, but not a huge deal since the main focus was biking.
After we returned the rentals, we checked out Amoeba Music across the street. The vibe was fun, and there were a ton of records as well as cd’s.
Then it was time to head home – we must have been more tired than we thought, because we kept getting on the wrong buses! After getting on the second wrong bus, we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves. We finally made it home, and could only muster breakfast for dinner. But it was a good kind of tired!
More city sights coming soon as we continue to explore San Francisco!