Day 2 – San Francisco: Parklets, bikes and the law

Early morning view in San Francisco “getting my Mayor Sanders on” (i.e. walking…alot)

My second dayin the Bay started off REALLY early–with a trek from 440 Geary Street north on Mason to the waterfront, then over to Hyde, then back down to Geary–with a quick stop for a tiny starter coffee at “It’s a Grind” for $1. Above is a shot I took during my walk.  Walking a city is, in my estimation, the second best way to see it (more on that later). I walked uphill, then downhill,then back uphill–all while still hoofing it on the same street-Mason. It was 6am, so not too many people were out, but just enough to see the City start to wake up. I always like that time of day because the people who are working at that hour have real, get your hands dirty, develop back pain type jobs. Not like my mostly desk job, which is still work I suppose, but not in the definition used in my house growing up.  I’m not glorifying hard work, just paying attention I suppose. I digress.

So, I got to the edge of the city at about Pier 43.5, which was fine. Wasn’t quite sure where I was, but I assume by the big “Fisherman’s Wharf” sign I should’ve figured it out.

Then I tromped over to Hyde and started my return. Jeez this town has some hills.  The hill on Hyde from Lincoln Highway (where the wharf is) to the next block is almost straight up. Good workout, even if you are fit. Later on my walk I was completely swayed by the name of the Its a Grind coffee shop and popped in for a quick coffee. The barista (is that the generic name for maker of coffee or did Starbucks trademark it?) was a delightful, braided slightly bohemian New Yorker named Tosh. Anyone who has spent more than an hour in a neighborhood in New York knows that “delightful” and “New Yorker” are NOT actually oxymorons. I found most of them just as lovely as this one. She knew every customer that walked in while I was there by name and even asked after a guy who missed one day. These types of exchanges are a big part of a community, and I’m glad they exist even in crowded, dirty San Francisco. Yes, NorCal people, your crown jewel needs a bath–a big one. I liked spending the day in the city, but it definitely could use a little elbow grease.

Post walk I dusted off yelp and set about finding a breakfast place. I could write a separate post about my yelp misgivings, but lets move on to the place I found- Farm:Table on Polk. It had a bunch of reviews, mostly good as I remember, but with a name like Farm to Table it was going to be hard for me to say no–unless they didn’t actually get their food from local farmers (they did) or were otherwise douchey (which they weren’t). So I get set to go, meander the 3 blocks and what do I see…drumroll please…

A public parklet that was paid for by the restaurant. Yes, it was very, very cool

A freakin parklet out front!?! What, you ask, is a parklet? Let me tell you. Or better, read this. I later learned they used Kickstarter to raise the money. Having just been part of a Park-ing day Parklet in North Park in San Diego, I was even more excited. Pretty sure, at least in my mind, the food tasted better because of it. I had a pretty simple breakfast, a quick frittata and French press coffee.

Nice little french press and a frittata–all locally sourced I believe

And it set me back $12, but I was happy to help pay for the parklet. The guy working was super willing to tell me all about the hurdles they faced, the challenges with the city, and the help of the Urban Planner in the building who streamlined as much as he could to help them make it happen. I suppose it might be odd and irrational to be this excited, but there was something calming about the whole thing. Plus he said they’d just had a little issue with skateboarders but not much else. I asked e other person who’d just checked in to take a quick photo for me, and I was off to start the day. (Aside: my friend RL, with her family of four, recently attempted a trip to Farm:Table and made the very good point that there is one–yes, one–table inside. I didn’t mind this so much, but picturing the look on RL’s face is priceless. Cop a squat on the parklet grass and go with the flow on this one–as long as you don’t have a large group).

As it turned out, I didn’t register for the expensive pre-conference lunch, so I didn’t have an official event until 2. This was strange, but since I’d stayed up the night before getting work done in anticipation of the conference, I had a little time. Enter my new friend Miguel and Alcatraz Gifts & Tours. This is when sh*# got real.

Kidding about that last part.  I fumble my way into the little uber-touristy bike rental shop, complete with excessive I heart SF tchotchkes lining the walls, and begin to ask about how to rent a bike and where to go. I’m not sure if it was the business suit or the somewhat bewildered look on my face (see Shawshank reference here) but my friend Miguel explained the $8/hr or $32/day thing several times. Then he laid out the exact path I should take that had “no hills.” As I would soon learn, “no hills” apparently means something a bit different in San Francisco than everywhere else. To his credit, Miguel gave me a nice map, cleverly mounted to the handlebars, and clear directions. And for the first 1/3 of my trip his advice was spot on. Here, however are some tips if you choose to rent a bike from my man Miguel on Geary:

  1. Market Street actually dead ends before you get to Lincoln Hghway (the road along the embarcadero). Get off your bike at the dead end, walk it across the short plaza, then hop back on to keep riding.
  2. If you are heading west towards Golden Gate, the bike path gets very unclear about 2 miles after you hit the embarcadero. The best I can say here is be careful, no one else knows where you’re supposed to be, either.
  3. There is, in fact, a large-ish hill after the fort (or maybe it’s a park). It’s manageable if you had only slightly too much to eat the night before and if you’re in a suit with a backpack on a rented bike. Oh wait, that’s me. If you can walk half a mile uphill without needing oxygen, you can make this hill I think.
  4. The path towards Golden Gate includes some very interesting history, including this shot:

Tidbits about the WPA and its impact on the Golden Gate bridge area

     Apparently, the upside of the WPA was all the cool projects and commerce generating efforts like connecting parts of Sausalito to the city. This Keynsian approach to     the depression has supporters and detractors not sure I can tell either way. But when millions of people are starving and struggling I can see how making the decision about what to do (or not do) can be very difficult.

5.  There is, in fact, ANOTHER hill right before the actual bridge. Probably best to walk this one unless you have a good bike or are in good physical shape.

6. Take care crossing the bridge on your bike. There isn’t much room and there are lots of actual cyclists trying to get exercise (and other tourists oddly not paying attention to their surroundings).

7. When you get across the bridge it’s a nice downhill into Sausalito. Note: do NOT plan to ride back from Sausalito. The hill is long and enjoyable on the ride down, I imagine not so much on the way back.

8. There do not appear to be non-touristy spots to have lunch in Sausalito. Skip the main downtown and drop in on Salito’s, which was tasty, had a great outdoor seating area and was not at all crowded at 1245 in the afternoon.

9. Take the ferry back to the ferry building. It’s touristy, but you’ll get some good photos and its a beautiful, easy 20 minute ride. At $10.50, well worth it.

10. You have the bike of 24-hours, which is cool, but I noticed he didn’t give me any lights. Be sure to ask for them, as riding at night without lights is both illegal and kinda dumb (and I did see SFPD writing bicycle tickets, by the by)

What I haven’t mentioned about this great biking sojourn was all the cool things I saw along the way.  Among them was this picturesque shot taken at the bridge:

Yep, had a new found respect for Mormon classmates after this part of the adventure

Yes, I wore my suit.  Remember, Miguel said ‘no hills’ and I took him at his word.  By the time I got to Sausalito I looked like I just walked in from the deep south in August. Sweating like I stole somethin’, but at that point what choice did I have?  By the time I realized ‘no hills’ was a liberal interpretation of San Francisco topography I was too far gone to turn back.  Instead, I pressed on into Sausalito, where I skipped the most touristy spots to pick up one of these:

“Crabwich” at Salito’s was worth a stop and the nice local craft beer I had with it (already consumed by this point)

And have a look at this:

The view from my perfect seat at lunch

Not bad, honestly.  I also had some crab chowder (yes, you read that right).  It was disappointing, but probably mostly because I had my mouth fixed up for some CLAM chowder, so I never quite got over the mental hurdle.  In any case, I put a wrap on lunch, then hopped the ferry back to the Ferry Building.  A gloriously perfect day–a rarity I hear in San Francisco–made better by being on the water with a slight breeze and a bunch of people happily enjoying a vacation.

The first half of the day was quite an adventure and it set me up nicely for a few good sessions at my conference.  I might do a separate post on the kick-ass women who led this panel on basically kicking down the door to run major operations for Gap and Bank of the West, but that’ll have to wait.  Tomorrow I’ll pick this back up with a story about my evening in The Castro.  Thanks for reading, have a good one.

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