I've written before about staying on track and active while on vacation, and so far that has meant braving the hotel fitness rooms or going for walks. I decided it was time to push myself even further. In one of our San Francisco guidebooks I read about the popular activity of "Biking the Bridge" - renting bicycles and riding across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito. I would NEVER have considered this a year ago, but for the first time I wasn't held back by my physical or emotional insecurities. While I wasn't scared, I was still nervous because I have never attempted anything like this before.
I contacted Blazing Saddles and they kindly agreed to provide two bikes for the day, so now there was no backing out. I'm sure I could have come up with an elaborate tale of woe to get out of the deal, but it was a personal challenge and I had to prove to myself I could do it. (For those bike lovers out there you're probably rolling your eyes at my hesitation over a fairly innocuous ride, but until now any biking excursions for me have inevitably ended shortly after they began due to burning thigh muscles or heavy breathing. It was a big deal, so bear with me.)
We arrived at Blazing Saddles just after lunch on Sunday. The staff were awesome and led us through our route by way of a huge map on the wall. We were fitted for helmets and then bikes, given the final safety check and sent on our way. It was a beautiful day without any fog in sight, so we were not the only ones with the brilliant idea to go for a bike ride. Although there were masses of people out and about that day, it didn't feel too crowded once we got going.
The eight mile (13KM) route starts down near Fisherman's Wharf, heads along a gorgeous waterfront path for a good distance then up onto and across the bridge. You then bike down into Sausalito and can either turn around and bike back or take the ferry back across to Fisherman's Wharf. There are also bike paths than can take you further afield, over to a redwood forest and down into the town of Tiburon, but as we started later than planned we kept it to the basic route.
I knew from the start that there would likely be some uphill involved as the path along the waterfront was noticeably lower than the start of the bridge. I'd been given an awesome light blue Breezer bike, but it only had three gears. Nevertheless, I gave it my all when it came to the first hill. I felt positively triumphant when I rode past a woman pushing her bike and overheard her say to her friend "There is NO way I could ride up this thing." It gave me a burst of energy and I made it, although slowly, all the way to the top.
The second (longer) hill was a bit more of a push, but I made it until the top where the road turned and right at the turn where it got steep about 20 riders had decided to stop. Get to side, people, I'm coming through! Not so much "coming through" as coming to a stop on the steepest part because my legs gave out and then falling off the bike, but no one ever said I was the epitome of grace. My ego was bruised, but that's about it.
We made it to the start of the bridge and onto the bike path that runs along the side. When I told my mum our plans, she had visions of me actually riding across the bridge IN TRAFFIC. Um, no. Rest assured there is a nice wide bike lane.
I'm not the most confident rider at the best of times, so I really had to force myself to pause to enjoy the spectacular view. It was definitely spectacular. Absolutely stunning. And windy. Very, very windy. We wound down the hill towards Sausalito but the route we took did present yet one more hill, which my thighs simply wouldn't go for. I walked my bike up while Mr. Awesome
Sausalito is a beautiful, picturesque little seaside town that I wish we could have spent more time in. Given it was the Sunday before Labour Day it was very busy, so the next time we go we'll opt for a longer mid-week visit.
We went for the ferry as the idea of biking back up the hill from Sausalito wasn't appealing at that point. I'm sure it's a beautiful ferry ride if you're one of the first 100 people on board, but we were among the last ones to make it so we ended up sitting on the floor inside. We were just happy to be on board as we were going for sushi that night and had to get going. NOTHING can keep us from a good sushi dinner.
We arrived back at Fisherman's Wharf and rode (Mum, don't read this part) through traffic to beat the other riders back to Blazing Saddles. It wouldn't really have mattered as the staff checked everyone in very quickly and there was never a line. My favourite part was all of them cheering as we rode in, as they did for all the returning riders, as if we had just ridden the Tour de France. They called out "Welcome Back! Way to go! Head for the finish line!" and while I'll never even be Lance Armstrong's clumsy half cousin, it felt pretty darn good.
For once I wasn't held back by my own insecurities or physical limitations. I've always enjoyed walking and that's how we've done a lot of our sightseeing in the past, but this opens up a whole new way of experiencing our travel while staying active. Blazing Saddles does a ride across the Brooklyn Bridge, so maybe we'll add that to the list for things to do when we go to New York in a few years. And biking through wine country in France has always sounded amazing... so many options!
My life's "must do" list just got a little bit longer. Bring it on!