Posted by: wheelywonka | August 5, 2011

Amazing Rides on Both Sides of the Little Blue Ball We Call Earth

According to the GeoBytes City Distance Tool, the cities of San Francisco, California, and London, England, are approximately 5363 miles apart.  They are quite literally on opposite sides of this little blue ball we call earth.  Well, I was fortunate to spend time in both of these cities this summer, one week in Frisco on vacation, and two weeks plus in London for work.  I was fortunate for two reasons.   The first is that both of these cities are wonderfully cool during this time of the year – nights in the 50s, and days in the high 70s or (at most) the low 80s.  (It was Mark Twain who famously said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.)   After enduring the record-setting Texas inferno this summer, this was quite refreshing.  (In fact, I’ve had a hard time adjusting since I’ve gotten back.  Went running for a couple of miles during lunch the other day, and felt like someone was stabbing my lungs with a red-hot poker.)

The other reason I was fortunate to visit these cities is more in alignment with the whole theme of this blog – i.e., Wheely Wonka and his avid love of cycling.    In the city by the bay, I rented a bike from the Blazing Saddles bike rental company,  and pedaled across the Golden Gate Bridge.  This was an amazing experience – high above the water, shrouded in fog, actually quite cold until the sun appeared on the “rainbow side” of the bridge near Marin County.   I then pedaled through Sausalito and into the hills north of the John Muir Forest, where I laid down in the ferns and stared up at the oldest living things on the planet, those amazing, regal redwood trees.   I then turned around, rode around the bay into Tiburon, and then onto a ferry for a ride back to the city.  The sun was setting, bathing that awesome bridge in stunning shades of orange, as I drank an Anchor Steam (or two?) and rested peacefully after one of the most amazing bike rides I have ever been on.

Ready to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge

A few weeks later I was on the other side of the world in London.  I worked all week the first week I was there, which was not a bad thing, because we had rain each day.  By the weekend I was anxious to see some of the city.  The weather gods cooperated by providing a clear, warm day on Sunday.  I rented a bike from the Barclays Bike Share program, and proceeded to spend three hours riding through all the parks in Central London – St. James, Hyde, Regis, etc.    The Barclay system is so massive – 6000 bikes, 400 docking stations, open 24 hours a day – that it boggles the mind and makes the San Antonio B-Share system (as wonderful as it is) feel like training wheels.   Also, the city of London has wonderful bike lanes, plentiful and well-marked – in fact, painted a different color than the roads for cars to make them easier to spot.   They even have a series of bike “superhighways” to allow you to safely travel from one end of town to another without having to interact too much with the cars, buses,and taxis.   I enjoyed this thoroughly, but did get caught in one roundabout near Hyde Park where I had to go around and around, fearing for my life, convinced a double-decker bus would flatten me like the midwest, but somehow I found a gap and darted through it to safety.  All in all, a great cycling experience, and one I would not hesitate to do again.

Posing near Big Bend in Central London

Tomorrow if the spirit moves me, I’ll get up early and join Velo Valero for a training ride.  There’s only 70 days until the Ride to the River, and I need to get back on the road!

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