Welcome to The Spokesman, our bi-monthly bicycle column written by French Clements, a San Francisco resident and distance cyclist who considers it pretty routine to ride his bike to Marin County or San Jose and back. He belongs to a club, the SF Randonneurs, and is active in numerous aspects of the cycling community.
It doesn't matter how cool or worldly you are, the feeling of being a tourist is just the best. Especially when it's local. Clichés like "hidden in plain sight" and "in your own backyard" seem entirely fitting when you're, say, dashing past Alcatraz on a catamaran while a new version of the city's skyline shoots over the horizon.
It was me on that boat last Thursday, giddy with excitement and the satisfaction of a nearly complete journey (by bike, duh) from my home in the Mission through Sausalito and Tiburon for lunch, then back to the Embarcadero across the bay. Bike noobs, take note! This ride is totally for you! There's almost no real climbing, and a third of the trip's 23 lovely miles are, as they say, on a motherfucking boat. This also inaugurates a series where I, your humble Spokesman, detail the bike-able sights hidden in plain sight. In our own backyard!
My trip really started a day earlier, but I ran into a car. An SUV, in fact, stopped all too lawfully at a stop sign in the Presidio. His rear door was no match for my bike's steel frame. Had I not been wearing a helmet, it'd be time for a new noggin too.
Heading out the next day on another bike, I make sure to head down the same steep hill -- not only to exorcise any fear that might otherwise cling to that spot, but to learn from my mistakes (namely, going too fast, as so often happens with bikes).
Emboldened, I head for the Golden Gate Bridge, tensely aware of the scads of photo-drunk tourists in the very thrall I just celebrated a few paragraphs ago. Dolts. Just to rub it in, I'm caught behind a flatulent tour bus heading down into Sausalito, turning a normally thrilling wind-at-your-back stretch into something lamer.
There's a water fountain somewhere near the visitor's center in central Sausalito, but I've never found it. Whatever, you're an adult, you always bring enough water. A half-mile north, I pass Cibo, a fancy-looking café I've always wanted to try, and double back to pick up an apricot-and-almond bostock and a bottle of chinotto, the classy Italian soda ($6.95 total). I roll farther up Bridgeway to A Bicycle Odyssey, which is like a museum where all the paintings are bikes and all the bikes are as pretty as paintings. Sundries acquired, I head north toward the pathway through Bothin Marsh. I say howdy to an egret and find myself tailed by a lunatic mountain bike rider hellbent on making me pedal harder. I happily indulge him until taking the turn-off for Tiburon, which cuts through a little park past Pickleweed Inlet (!) and looks like this:
Now I'm getting really jazzed for the ferry trip. Making my way over to Seminary Drive, I hustle up a hill and cruise down the hyper-smooth pavement, dropping into the neighborhood called Strawberry. (Two of the very few features of Tiburon and Sausalito that are not somehow nautical in theme.) Another hard right turn from Tiburon Boulevard keeps me hugging the edge of Richardson Bay and staying on Bike Route 10, which runs along Belvedere Lagoon.
16 miles into my journey, I'm nearing the end of the effortful part. Anticipation re: the ferry has reached an all-time high. I pass the Tiburon post office, booing while giving a thumbs-down to two nutjobs holding Obama = Hitler posters. For a quarter-hour, I meander around looking for a spot where I can watch my bike and get a sandwich that doesn't cost me a Jackson. Tiburon may not contain that spot, so I settle for the cutest Mexican restaurant I've seen in years, Pancho's Casa Mañana. How cute? THIS CUTE:
The carnitas enchilada ($7.50, cash only) is an ideal fix, not too gut-busting and made with love. 20 minutes to go till the ferry leaves. I polish off my bostock -- turns out it's apricot plus brioche coated in syrup, almonds and ground-up fairy wings -- and roll up to the dock. I wheel my bike on board, pay the fare ($10.50) and settle back with my soda. I'd brought a New Yorker to read, but the view is the opposite of ignorable, and Angel Island feels really different from up close, and Alcatraz is bigger than it looked when I was kid. These tourists are really on to something. Let's do this again soon.
Total cost: $25
Time, door to door: A very leisurely 4 hours 15 minutes
Total distance: 23 miles, plus more depending on departure and arrival points