The Bay Area.
What an amazing, intense and unique place. Urban seals. Strung-out addicts. Ornate palatial homes. Yuppies who need roommates to help pay the rent. In-your-face disparity of rich and poor. The epicenter of all things Beat. Hills that look like walls. Bars on every window, cages on every door. Did I mention the cable cars? Yes, they have cable cars.
After a very pleasant all-day cruise along the well-signed bike route through Marin County to Sausalito, we crossed the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, then rolled along Marina and Bay streets through San Francisco. Our destination: nearby Oakland, where a bed and a cold beer waited. Cyclists aren’t allowed on the massive Bay Bridge that connects the two cities, so we struggled to get our mules down to Embarcadero Station’s underground platform for a quick underwater train ride to our new home.
Our timing was a bit off. The lady in charge bellowed at us over the loudspeakers (to a packed subway station) that we were one minute too late to ride and would have to wait until after rush hour to board. It was 4:16 p.m.
After some fierce gesturing, deadpan earnestness, half-truths and veiled threats, we were on a train under the Bay. We popped out at West Oakland Station, and were met by Simon, old friend, ex-messenger, one-time Montreal flatmate and international man of mystery. After perhaps the sketchiest ride of my life along the shoulderless speedways of the East Bay’s industrial wasteland in the dark, we finally got unloaded in Simon’s storefront apartment in Fruitvale (sounds more… um… bountiful than it is). Our gracious host then led us to the taqueria (Mexican fast food restaurant) of our dreams. We were famished; riding into a big city really screws up our snacking system, as it always takes longer than seems possible and there’s rarely a good place to pull over and make a sandwich. The $6 “super burrito” weighed about 3 pounds – I kid you not. Lucie made hers disappear in about 6 minutes and had a stomach ache for four days. I opted for a doggy bag.
It was great to visit with Simon. We also got to spend a day with Jessica Lanyadoo, an old Montreal friend who I met while at Dawson College. She’s been living in San Francisco for 15 years, where she works as a medium and astrologer. She took us on a wonderful tour of the city at night. We also supped with local legend Reverend Jim, a mainstay of the San Francisco messenger community since the dawn of time, possibly before then. He and wife Cat treated us to a fine feast in their home in Berkeley (our side of the bridge), and we stayed up past our bed time trading tales, reminiscing about messenger world championships of the distant past and stuffing our faces with gourmet fare. They gave us apples and lemons from the trees in their yard for the road.
We visited. We rode through streets dripping with beauty, gawking like fools. We also took care of some important business. We figured out how to back up our 5000 photos. We replaced our bicycle chains (stretched!) and rotated our tires, so our bikes should make it to Panama before their next big tune-up.
After a few of days, we started feeling the inner city pressure, and we knew it was time to move on. We hit the road. On the freeway. Unfortunately, the bike route riding south from SF is not nearly as clear as the route from the north.
Now that we’re south of Monterey, traffic has tapered off, and the 1 is once again small and sinuous. We’ve got it pretty much to ourselves. We’re riding along cliff edges by the sea. When a column of waves collapses and explodes into white surf, I feel it in resonate my chest.
In a couple of days we’ll be in L.A. We’re shooting for Ensenada, Mexico for Christmas.
Sorry it’s been so long! Internet has been scarce! Look forward to a new post and photo gallery soon!