Friday, 31 October 2014

I want to break free (or A strange Halloween about 15 years ago)

For all those that don't know the classic video for the classic Queen song "I want to break free", you should really watch the video on YouTube, because I think it is essential to understand the following pictures ;-)  LINK to the video on YouTube

Enjoyed that?

So It happened to be Halloween about 15 years ago.  Enough witches and cowboys and Indians out there already.  What does one dress up as?  It dawned on me....   All I needed was a wig, a blouse, a mini-skirt, some fish-net stockings, and MOST IMPORTANTLY: A vacuum cleaner handle ;-)

Enjoy ;-)

If you've got it, flaunt it !

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Back to the rain (or SFO to YVR October 29)

Every time I leave the hotel and walk the streets in the financial district I notice the same two things.  1)  San Francisco drivers have caught up with Vancouver drivers in regard to their fascination with honking at each other.  This doesn't make cars move any faster but maybe it makes the honking retards feel better (HINT to RETARDS: it doesn't make people having to listen to it feel better)
2)  San Francisco streets and sidewalks are quite clean.  Presumably the result of being cleaned ALL THE TIME.  With BROOMS.  Yes, you read right !  I have yet to see a single person down here use the annoying ego-enhancing blowers that Vancouverites are so bloody fond of (HINT to RETARDS using these blowers in Vancouver: see HINT above).

After returning the bike to Blazing Saddles just before 11 and getting my 20% discount for having reserved the bike online, I walk back to the hotel.  The weather is really too warm for long pants and a thin hoodie, so I take the hoodie off (wish I could do the same with my pants ;-).

How much longer will those two little buildings last?

At the hotel I empty the dregs of my bottle of Chardonnay first into a glass and then into me, before quickly packing everything (How much can you stuff into a single backpack?) and checking out at 10 to noon.

I have ample time so I interrupt my BART journey to the airport by getting off at Glen Park Station in the hope of finding a nice restaurant where I can enjoy a well-cooked lunch with a nice glass of wine.  There actually is such a restaurant (French) in this neighbourhood, but it is closed at lunch time.  Ah well, I tried.

I hope back onto another Bart train and ride it all the way to the terminal station of this line at San Francisco Airport.  Here I find a Sushi restaurant in a fancy food court and order some Nigiri and white wine (Some things are much more civilized in the US than Canada, even though one pays a hefty price for it).

I'm done eating at  1:30 pm.  Still 2.5 hours until my plane takes off. Hate airports !  I promise myself to take an earlier flight back next time.  I decide to occupy my time by going through security.  But that doesn't take that long either. 15 minutes later I have laced up my shoes again (Taking one's shoes off is MANDATORY in US security checks for anyone between the ages of 12 and 75). Duty free!  I buy a carton of Gauloises, my favourite brand, for even less than a carton of Camel or other US cigarettes would have cost me.    Still way too much time to kill.  I find the very thin Lindt chocolate wavers that Grandma likes so much.  I feel like running out of the store when I see the price (US$ 15 for 200 g) but buy 2 boxes after all because Grandma REALLY likes them (almost as much as I like stinky fish fried rice ;-).

Still time to kill. And the guy on the waiting bench next to me keeps frantically digging through his bag while his ringing cell phone emits strange noises.  The ringing eventually stops but not his frantic digging.  Gotta get outta there !

I walk past a kind of candy&book store and freeze in my tracks.  Didn't Neil Young just publish another book?  I was going to buy it used when back in Canada, but if I pay the indubitably outrageous extra cost now, I could use the book to bridge the remaining time !
How could I not ? ;-)

I double-fold the Canadian Immigration card just because it says Do Not Fold.  (If I had something to hide, would I do that?  Reverse psychology to not get searched. Ooops! when I finally remember that I actively intend to defraud Candadian Customs on the duty payable on 4 packs of cigarettes ! Ah Well). A newish and still enthusiastic customs agent fills in United where I left airline and flight number blank (I just can't be bothered anymore to find out my flight number just for the stupid form). He then asks me to read the 2 questions on this worn out piece of paper and answer both verbally. I look at the questions and shout OH YEAH, in the meaning of "Oh Great, now it has come here".  Since the two questions have something to do with Ebola, and I quickly realize that Oh yeah could be interpreted in an affirmative sense, I QUICKLY add "I mean NO".  Not in the mood to be stuffed into an isolation chamber!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Vamos a la playa (No, really ! ;-)

I get back from lunch with Alan in Berkeley. This time La Note disappointed.  True, their Voignier is still as yummy as it was in June. But we didn't get the reserved outside table because the outside season apparently is over.  A nice table at the window was not granted us either. The offered outlet (after I asked) to charge my bicycle battery was too much trouble.  But the true disappointment was the Poire Helene dessert they brought to the table.  I've been making this a few times when I had some pear and chocolate.  I am by no means an expert, but what I produced was far superior to their COLD concoction of a bit of pear with LOTS of whipping cream and ice cream. Shudder !
I was over and up there this morning

When I get back to the hotel, I plug the battery in its charger and instantly descend into a nice nap.  I wake up at 4 pm and decide that there is ample of daylight time left to go for another bike ride.  I rode to the new destination already in June, but fog was blanketing the coast at that time, so it might be worth going there again today.

Flags and the corner of a cable car
My bike rolls over the top of one final hill and there is my destination. Ocean Beaches!
I lock the bike on the promenade and rip my shoes off my feet.
Nothing like the feeling of digging one's toes into warm soft sand.
I truly enjoy the sparsity of people, concrete, and LALA -Loath-them Yoga suits.

following in someone's footsteps (they weren't giants though)

I ride back along a different route, Golden Gate Park seems a safer ride and there are a lot less traffic lights.
Tatanka ! (Anyone remember Dancing with wolves?)
After the fabulous bike path leading through Golden Gate Park ends, I stop at Alamo Square and look back towards the sunset.

Looking into the exact opposite direction, the sun still hits the high-rises, while the 'painted ladies' are already in the shade.  One of them sold for $900K just this year. Try that in Vancouver ;-(

Bridge, Hawk Hill, Bridge, Berkeley (or Hail Lithium on June 28)

The new bike worked amazingly on the way back to the hotel yesterday afternoon.  24 gears instead of 8, a detailed battery level indicator, more Pedal-assist levels, and most importantly:  No dying batteries (at least not on the way back to the hotel).  

Again I ride down to Embarcadero to see ocean and birds.  

And then it's time to point the bike towards Crissy Park and The Bridge:
At first I wasn't sure where to ride today, but there is still the matter of the abandoned hill climb yesterday.  It would be nice to complete a ride to that view point, to "check it off the list". That way I could start on completely new list of destinations/targets next time.  So I breeze through Crissy Field (no herons are showing themselves today), the on-ramp, and the bridge itself.  The nice woman at Blazing Saddles that directed me to the ferry yesterday actually provided me with a shortcut so that I can cross under the main highway through a tunnel, instead of having to head halfway down to Sausalito to be able to take the route through Fort Baker.  It's not long until I am climbing.

There is a tunnel through the very top of the hill and there are old gun-emplacements on the other side of the crest (those wevil Japanese !). There is also a view ;-)

But then it's time to leave already. I am on a tight schedule here ;-)  It is 11 am now. I will meet Alan for lunch in Berkeley at 11:30. In some of the above vista pictures you can see Berkeley at the far horizon.  To get there, I will have to ride down this hill again, cross the bridge, traverse Crissy Field and make it to Embarcadero again, from where I will take Bart though the TransBay tube to Berkeley.  Time to leave !!!
Oakland on the far shore. Berkeley to left of that.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Finally! I'm riding a bike! (or Bike Trouble Strikes again)

Is this a statue of Gandhi or of Ben Kingsley?

9 am. I take a break from work.  My hotel is close to Embarcadero, i.e. the ocean, and that is where I go.  There are enough pictures of SF Bay in this blog already, so here are some different ones.
I was just trying to take a pic of my shadow, but his colours work with that ;-)

11 am. Work is pretty much done, except a few minor corrections, so I feel justified to walking to Blazing Saddles bicycle rentals to pick up my online-reserved Stromer.  All this hurling and eating and concert-going and walking was nice, but I really want to ride a bicycle now !!!
close to Coit tower

I have my bicycle. Alan is busy at lunch time and I am slightly hungry. What to do?  My first instinct is to satisfy my craving and to eat Stinky Fish and Chicken Fried Rice at New Sun Hong Kong Restaurant again and to finish my work there. But I'm on a bike now. And Crissy Field and The Bridge are beckoning!  So work will have to wait a little longer.  I pass Coit Tower and find Crissy Field. It's nice here ;-)  And The Bridge is even closer now. Ah well, it's not even 1 pm and they probably don't even expect the translation yet. Bridge Bridge Bridge Bridge !!!

There is a job for me when I retire

And could this shiny black bird be the one I rescued this morning from the Ferry Building?  When I opened the glass doors to  enter the shopping concourse, I right away noticed this little black figure sitting on the floor about 10 feet from the doors and ogling the incoming crowd.  So when I asked him whether he was trying to get out, and stepped out of the entrance while holding the glass door open, he looked at the door, back at me (trustworthy or bird eater?), took one hop towards the door and then took off into freedom.

I'm in Sausalito now. I really should finish my work, which means that I should find a restaurant to eat and work. There are no Asian restaurants here.  I end up in a little Seafood restaurant & market.  I have a Bay shrimp and crab salad and 2 glasses of wine. It's all fresh and tastes OK. But the bill is astonishingly high.  I remember how many courses of UNBELIEVABLY tasty food that kind of money did get me on my bike tour of Brittany in the summer of 2013.  I also think about how much food that kind of money would get the kids dressed in Surplus Army clothes hunkering with a cardboard sign on a sidewalk last night, expecting to spend the night outside, and petting their dog who was wearing one of those Vet-don't-bite-yourself-Cone-plastic-hoods and their cat, who was on a leash and was soooo cute.  And I remember that I gave them a dollar and not the 5 dollar bill I had in my wallet and I remember Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell on Saturday night singing Hunger Strike and I remember the lyrics to that song, and I feel like an an inconsiderate arsehole, like the worst kind of looser. And I rescue myself out of that despair with the thought that at least I still know WHATI did wrong and at least I still know THATI did something wrong and that I will do better next time.

California smoking laws: I have to smoke on the sidewalk

The passage that the bridge gets its name from
Instant Karma strikes.  Halfway up the hill, already past Fort Baker, but still below the level of the Golden Gate Roadway, the battery of the bike switches off.  A short panic moment later I have switched it on again and the bike works again.  A bit further up the hill it switches off again. Again the instant reboot seems to work.  I'm climbing higher and higher now and my destination, a view point far above the Golden Gate Bridge, is soooo close that I almost feel I can 'transport' there and the battery dies again. This time pushing the re-boot button does NOTHING. And NOTHING again. And again. And ..... AGAIN.

is it the Monolith from 2001 A Space Odyssey?  Or is it my lithium battery cooling down in the breeze?
You guessed right. It was my battery. This is the Monolith. They look just the same, don't they?

The worst thing: I can see my destination (to the left out of the frame)
 I remember that the young lady in the bike rental store gave me their brochure "so that you have our phone number".  I call, get connected to their 'tech support' and am told to let the battery cool for 15 minutes.  Makes sense, but unfortunately the battery does not reward me with re-ignition, so I call tech support again.  I get the bad news/good news thing.  I ask for the bad news first.  There are no rescue teams operating north of Golden Gate Bridge.  BUT, the road to the Sausalito - San Fran Ferry is all downhill and there is another bike rental branch very close to the San Fran terminal.  I'm not sure that is good news, since that had been my contingency plan in case of trouble all along, but at least someone confirms for me that what I was thinking is indeed the sensible thing to do.  I start rolling downhill. 

I notice a strange thing.  Even though I don't have a battery to power my speed anymore, I still pass everyone. Recklessness? Or German Racer genes?
Sausalito views

I arrive back in Sausalito around 3 pm.   The first ferry does not allow the electric bicycle on board. Thanks Golden Gate Ferries!  Fortunately, the Black & Blue (or was that Gold and Blue?) Line takes me on board.  A gorgeous seagull is along for the ride.

Bit scuffed up around the edges, but still gorgeous ;-)
The scenery is breath taking, seemingly even more for me because I have discovered that they serve alcohol on this ferry ;-)

Bar & Bike on Boat

.No scenery is quite the same after a Gin & Tonic ;-)  But try ordering a Gin & Tonic on a Canadian ferry and you'd probably get a look similar to what child molesters are probably used to !

I had already noticed in Sausalito, that the battery electronics seemed to have recovered.  So when I get off the ferry, I switch the bike back on and ride through the horrible Fisherman's Wharf area towards another branch of the bike place.  100 meters riding through gradient-free terrain is enough for the battery to switch off again. Definitely NOT an overheating issue !

 I make it to the Blazing Saddles location and at first I think I got an idiot to look after me. With a university degree in physics and a high development of my logical sense, I consider myself semi-qualified to engage in preliminary trouble-shooting.  Maybe he considers me just another idiot bike renter, but after I say  "Are you actually listening to what I'm saying?" and me mentioning that I ride a Haibike in Vancouver, Matt's demeanour changes completely.  He picks out a Version 2 Stromer from their stable (it even has a fabulous saddle) and tells me to ride it around the block to see whether I like it. He offers me a rubber (blush) for my pants so they don't get caught in the front gears.
Good outfit. 
 Then he tells me that my red pants look good on me (blush). All this attention gets me woozy and I hop on the bike and leave after thanking him.   I ride for three blocks, stop at a light, and Matt appears on an electric bike next to me.  He forgot to give me the battery compartment key. Quick thinking ;-)

The rush continues. Alan invited me for dinner in Lafayette. I am back at the hotel at 5 pm, which leaves enough time for a glass of Chardonnay and a shower before I leave the hotel on foot and head for Bart, this time in much better shape than last time.

Alan picks me up in Lafayette and we drive to Concord to get take-out (people don't shy away from distances here).  When the table is set I take these pictures and am still wondering whether I'm just a great photographer or whether Jocelyn's smile would dominate any picture.