Electric Charm: San Francisco Bike Ride
Updated: May 28, 2021
The sun brushes the top of the sky scrappers from my window. In between time zone changes and an early retreat the night before, I am ready for slow drip coffee at one of the many hipster locales available on SOMA. The weather is kinder, the wind chill has been replaced with a cool balmy breeze as the city awakens with me.
A part of me still wishes to remain under the covers, yet I end up foraging for pastries in the area. Through market street and along some of the city's landmarks, I walk to my destination. Over the years, a ritualization of coffee occurred in the city, and I am ready to be inducted into my first ceremony. The locale appears to be frequented by both city dwellers looking for a good cup of joe and visitors who stumble by accident to the location.
My coffee arrives in a clear crystal cup that allows the oils and saturation of the pour to be visible. The walk appears to be worth it, as the coffee does not disappoint.
Making a pit stop before departure, the strangest quirk is revealed to me. In a speakeasy inspired motive, codes are exchanged for what appears to be the most coveted space in the city: a bathroom. My next stop is a co-op that not only roasts but also bags and processes its own coffee. It is a mix of industrial warehouse and rustic motive, a delight for any hipster’s fantasy. Both locales deliver the goods, and with a full charge, I make my way to what will be a 27 mile ride on an e-bike.
Located in Hayes Valley, SoSF (Streets of San Francisco) bike tours is my new destination. The day appears to become increasingly sunny, and it is a welcome departure from its previous iteration the day before. The group will be small: myself, the guide, and a lovely German woman who is on holiday visiting for two weeks. After some miscellaneous items and instructions, we embark on our adventure towards one of the most recognizable and visited locales within the city. Our first stop, 'The painted ladies' located next to Alamo Square. From the hilltop, it is easy to take a panoramic view of the city, complete with bay views on a clear day. The stark contrast between its Victorian past and its skyscraper present is distinct. According to the tour guide, it is the result of fires that devastated the area where buildings now reign supreme.
A quick couple of turns, some hills ridden up blissfully with the electric assistance of a motor, and we arrive to Golden Gate Park. It is Veteran's day and the park is buzzing with activities. It is also more pedestrian-friendly, with several roads closed to vehicle traffic. The expansiveness of the park becomes apparent, as well as its lofty aspirations during construction. It is a true oasis within the city and a necessity for residents who live within access to it.
From the park, we ride a variety of hills and dwindling streets to El Presidio. Green spaces within the city appear to be abundant and expansive. El Presidio does not only offer reprieve from the urban jungle, but also expansive views of the bay, as well as its most famed resident, the Golden Gage bridge.
Our ride continues by the bay, as we take in the views from the top of the former military base. The next part of the route has us traveling by the shore through Marshall's beach, Baker's Beach, Land's End, and the Sutro Baths ruins. The entire segment of the ride can be summed up in one word: Breathtaking.
The majestic beauty of the bay makes itself apparent. Taking in the views of the pacific ocean, I remind myself of the insignificance of human existence, even in a city full of landmarks such as San Francisco.
Down a steep and beautiful descent, ocean beach to the right and the dutch windmills to the left remind me of Don Quijote. A completely different landscape, including its own microclimate. Ocean beach is a quintessential California surfer town more than a suburb of San Francisco. After a quick stop for lunch at a preferred eatery of the guide, we continue our journey back into the city through Golden Gate Park, which is perhaps one of the most often missed or underrated jewels of the city. Museums, landmarks, open-air venues, and green spaces populate the park, which only appropriate descriptor is massive. If anyone wishes to go through the entire perimeter in one day, the need for a bicycle is imperative.
Back in the city, it is a trip down memory lane into the summer of love through Haight-Ashbury street. It is followed by a beautiful descent through the homes of Buena Vista Park, ending with a quick overview of the Castro and its rich cultural history. Then it is off to Dolores Park and the Mission district, where gentrification takes a whole new meaning. The spirit of its earlier residents remains in murals and art displays focused on indigenous and Latino heritage from some of the migratory groups that once proudly resided in the city.
The entire experience was not only welcomed but incredibly memorable. It was a complete bargain in a city where prices can require a double-take even for the most experienced travelers. The juxtaposition of city charm and the technological advancement are made apparent with the use of an electric bicycle, the whole day displays where the city is now.
Culminating the night at the Castro, it is the usual mix of puns, and dive bars with a slightly more comprehensive history and tenure than most of its 'gayborhood' counterparts across the country. After a quick bite and a drink, the night ends by walking through its flickering lights and rainbow-colored street crossings. The Castro offers a welcome reminder of how far we've come and how necessary safe spaces such as this are for the GLBT community.