Biking San Francisco

Hope all of you enjoyed the 4th, taking time to be thankful for our freedoms, even in this uncertain economy.  We decided to enjoy it on bikes, marking our spot for viewing the fireworks over the San Francisco Bay later in the evening, as we were told that reserving a spot early is a must.  Where we positioned our truck, biking San Francisco meant riding across the Golden Gate Bridge and it was a blustery, very cool day.  This ought to be interesting!

Fort Point with Golden Gate Bridge towering over

Riding across the bridge was a little nerve-wracking, with the wind and hordes of bike riders doing the same. Mission accomplished so we headed to Fort Point National Historic Site, a Civil War era brick fort sitting directly below the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, with some stunning up-close views of the bridge.

Spiral staircase accessed from base of tower leads to top tier of fort.

Completed in 1861, this fort was designed to protect San Francisco from hostile warships but surprisingly, no military action was ever seen here.  “Throughout the Civil War, artillerymen at Fort Point stood guard for an enemy that never came.”   It was soon realized that its construction, that of brick, was not going to stand the test of time so future forts were built of concrete reinforced with steel.  This was the only fort of its kind built on the West Coast.

From here we rode our bikes through the Presidio, which served as an Army post since September 17, 1776, when New Spain made it their center of military operations.  It got passed around a bit from its beginnings, to Mexico, then on to the U.S. in 1848, and finally transferred to the National Park Service in 1994.  It is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is best known for its wooded areas, scenic vistas and loads of biking paths (many of them uphill!).

We passed by the San Francisco National Cemetery, which overlooks the San Francisco Bay from a sunny hillside.  Roughly 30,000 Americans were laid to rest here, including Civil War Generals and Buffalo Soldiers.  Terry scaled a steep slope to capture a few photos while I took a breather.

San Francisco National Cemetery
Holy Virgin Cathedral – Joy of all Who Sorrow

Perhaps one of the more captivating sights of the day for me was the Holy Virgin Cathedral Russian Orthodox Spiritual Center of the West Coast.  As we meandered our way over to our lunch spot we saw golden turrets rising above surrounding buildings and, our interest piqued, we pointed our bikes in their direction.  This magnificent cathedral, I have read, has a very vibrant congregation for the Russian population and was consecrated in 1977.

We were craving pho so Pho Garden became our neighborhood lunch spot.  Arriving later than the normal lunch hour, the restaurant was still full, which we thought was a good sign.  We were not disappointed, as this was some of the best pho we had ever had!

Yummy very filling pho lunch

Tummies full (very full), we hopped on our bikes and headed towards Golden Gate Park, the third most visited park in the U.S., behind Central Park (NYC) and Lincoln Park (Chicago).  It appeared that half of San Francisco was out in force in these 1017 acres, ready to celebrate this holiday with picnics.  Given the crowds, and because we had been here before, we elected to ride through instead of stopping.  The crowds were too much for both of us.  As we passed by the Golden Gate Bandshell/Spreckels Temple of Music, the Golden Gate Park Band was celebrating its 130th season of honoring this holiday, with patriotic music floating through the air.  It was a lovely way to celebrate this day.

Golden Gate Park Band

If you have never been to Golden Gate Park, some of the attractions you might want to consider are the Japanese Tea Gardens, Conservatory of Flowers, Botanical Gardens, De Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences and the Dutch Windmills and Tulips Gardens (best seen in February or March).

Our biking loop of the city took us past Ocean Beach and the Cliff House restaurant, where we quickly snapped a few photos before we were blown off the bluff (winds were picking up)!

Ocean Beach view from Cliff House Overlook

Finally, the last leg of our journey (and possibly my last legs), was an uphill slog, some of it riding and some of it pushing our bikes.   The Golden Gate Bridge is now in view and I am starting to wonder what this part of the adventure will be like, given the winds have picked up considerably.  Luckily, very few bikers are on the bridge at this late hour of the afternoon and with eyes watering (from the wind, not from crying) we made it across and back to our truck in one piece.  Our 7-hour bike ride ended with the promise of a nice picnic dinner of poached wild salmon with a lemon-dill sauce and spinach quinoa salad with goat cheese (made by me) and fireworks over the San Francisco Bay.

Night approaches – let the fireworks begin!

I don’t have the camera to capture fireworks from a distance but suffice to say they were special, exploding over San Francisco Bay.  The lights on the Golden Gate Bridge were pretty stunning as well. After a long day biking San Francisco we wandered on back to our rig, ending another wonderful day.  We hope for milder temperatures for those enduring sweltering heat and the absence of wildfires.  You are all in our thoughts.

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