Waking to a sublime Saturday morning and ready for an all-day outing, my husband and I jumped on the Berkeley BART with our bikes and headed out for a “Bridge to Breakers” ride. Arriving at the SF Embarcadero BART Station, we headed east on Market Street and crossed Justin Herman Plaza onto the Embarcadero. The lively Farmer’s Market was underway and the waterfront was electric with people strolling through aisles of an arts and crafts fair, make-shift one-man bands, and a boulevard ambience hoppin’ with rollerbladers, skateboarders, joggers, bicyclists, and pedestrians all out enjoying a lovely day. In this opening segment of the ride, you must resiliently go along, in an alert but open countenance, with the flowing logjam of humanity, accepting the hubbub and intermingling masses of people. But it’s all part and parcel of what makes this adventure a memorable experience and an exceptional opportunity for spontaneity. This first urban stretch covers a good length of the Waterfront, from the Clock Tower to one pier after another including famous Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Rolling by various parks and fields, we take in outstanding views of the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Angel Island. Then gradually, a tantalizing orange spire mysteriously lifts out of heavy fog as the Golden Gate Bridge comes into view on the approach to Crissy Field. Much of Crissy Field’s pristine features – marshes, dunes and shoreline – have been restored to a 100 acre waterfront beloved and enjoyed as a sanctuary and playground by residents and tourists from around the world, as well as critical wildlife habitat for many animals and plants that thrive in this urban refuge.
Arriving at the entrance to the bridge crossing we were met with the dense pea soup of San Francisco’s famous fog and a surprisingly fierce wind, so I was happy to have packed my windbreaker. Many cyclists make the crossing (pedestrians use the East Sidewalk); a varietal mix of international tourists on rented bikes, casual locals in sight-seeing mode, and a handful of weekend warrior types.
Once off the mile and a half span, we found ourselves on the sunny side of the street once again! Turning left at bridge’s end, we cycled about 1 mile up Conzelman Road to join the crowd for world-famous views of the Golden Gate Bridge. With its twin 746 ft. tall spires jutting skyward in their art deco glory, and that shimmering vision of urbanity – Baghdad by the Bay, photo opportunities did abound! Views opened up to reveal the East Bay Hills and the triangular eminence of Mt. Diablo, itself probably thirty-five miles distant on the horizon. Leaving the tourists behind, we continued up Conzelman Road for another mile or so to pick up the Coastal Trail trailhead, a stretch of dirt single-track that suddenly transports one off the asphalt world and into an entirely different realm; the Golden Gate Recreation Area’s beautiful network of trails.
A mountain bikers dream of stunning, layered hills partly enshrouded in a veil of lifting fog to create a mysterious ambience as such you might expect to encounter in Scotland. And to the west, it was clear enough to catch a glimpse of a gleaming patch of tantalizing blue ocean stretching to the infinite horizon where Rodeo Beach awaited our arrival! Freedom just shoots through your veins as you whiz down the rocky trail in this suddenly pristine, wild setting; light years behind us is any and all traces of civilization. Now hemmed in by the unbounded hill country of the glorious Marin Headlands, the sudden and immediate contrast couldn’t be greater. One minute city, steel and concrete, the next, big open sky and fragrant earth and we are instantly treated to a sweet encounter with a grazing deer.
The route continues down to the flats of Rodeo Valley, a winding descent merging with a meadow off Bunker Road where we spotted a couple of stiffly frozen, elegantly statuesque blue herons in meditative pursuit of a tasty lunch along the marshlands. We intersected with Bobcat Trail to where it ends at Bunker Road taking a short descent past a lovely lagoon and through the parking area for beach goers and surfers. Slowing our wheels down to a halt, we parked it on a cliff side for lunch with a view and settled in for the show of surfers catching their rhythm. Peanut butter and jelly never tasted so good and the sunshine and sounds of crashing waves beckoned a siesta. It’s hard to leave this place, but the day is getting away and we’ve much more riding to do!
On the way back up Bunker Road, we encountered a wild coyote who entertained us for a good half-hour with his cartoon-like negotiation of an Oreo cookie on a picnic table. Then we retraced our wheel tracks back through the loveliness of hills and dirt trails, back down Conzelman past the tourist haven and outrageous views.
Turning left at the bridge, we followed the descending route of Alexander Avenue into the town of Sausalito for a few miles onto Plaza Vina del Mar, aka the Town Square, and onto the main drag of shopping and dining on the water. We ended the jaunt at one of our favorite water-front spots for a relaxing quaff before catching the Ferry back to San Francisco. A 30 minute boat crossing full of day-trippers rocks us back to the Ferry Building in San Francisco depositing us back to our starting point with just a short pedal to the BART Station. Ah, what a day! A classic Bay Area cycling excursion with so much variety, all the senses bursting alive with joy and accomplishment!