Mystery Weekend 2009 - Part 1 
Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 11:38 AM
Posted by Administrator
Paul had been leaving hints for a week and I was pretty sure that we were on our way to Texas for a tandem rally. So, I was quite surprised when I got to the airport gate and discovered that the mystery destination was actually San Francisco. I was thrilled! I had never been to that area and was excited to check it out. Also, I love surprises and would have been a little disappointed if I had guessed correctly. Here I am, on cloud 9, looking up fun things to do in San Fran on Paul's IPhone.



Just before midnight, we arrived at our hotel, the Red Victorian Inn, in the Haight-Ashbury district. On the website, it looked like a fun, unique, hippie kind of place with bright, cheery rooms. In reality, it was a neat old building in desperate need of a make-over. We spent two nights in the "Redwood Forest Room." Everything seemed musty, the threadbare towels had holes, and the lace doilies and fake flowers looked like they had been there since the "Summer of Love." But, hey - we were in San Francisco! We fell fast asleep after laughing quite a bit about the hotel...and checking the sheets for bed bugs.



We were up early on Thursday and just started walking. Golden Gate Park was just minutes away and is phenomenal. We grabbed a nice breakfast at the Herbivore before taking a walk through the Castro. As it was still early, not many shops were open, but it was cool to be there, especially after recently seeing the movie Milk. Next we returned to the Red Vic to don our cycling gear and then took a cable car (how could we pass up this San Fran tradition?) to Fisherman's Wharf.









Paul had planned to rent a tandem from Blazing Saddles which turned out to be a large business with multiple outlets and thousands of bikes. Their typical customer rents a bike for a few hours to experience cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge. Upon arriving with cycling clothes, saddlebags and our own helmets, it became evident very quickly that they didn't often see our kind. Hmmm...not a good sign.

A very pleasant woman first offered us a beach cruiser type of tandem with big, cushy seats and mountain bike handles and tires. Oh no. Luckily, the manager caught sight of us and immediately brought us over to a very nice Co-Motion road tandem. We left for lunch to give them time to put on our pedals and my bike seat.

We wanted seafood, but the choices were overwhelming. Although we had discussed getting crabs from the street vendors, I was too chilled and needed to get out of the cold. (Apparently not all of California is sunshine and warmth.) We asked for a recommendation at a visitor center booth and were directed to the Franciscan Restaurant right on the water. We were not disappointed - it was absolutely delicious!

Full, but still a little chilled, we headed back to the bike shop and discovered that they had not been able to fit my "Thud Buster" seat tube on the bike. We took it anyway, planning to swap out saddles before our ride the next day, and cruised around Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. My favorite part - the Sea Lions!



But, we were not having the smoothest of rides. A few times, the bike suddenly jerked to a halt, almost dumping us off. I began to think that Paul was losing his touch as a tandem captain. He began to think that this tandem came with secret rear brake handles that I was using. Paul finally figured out that one of the brake cables was too tight, causing the rear brake to engage every time we took a right turn. Great.

We returned to the bike shop where they decided to just swap it out for a new bike and then we made one more stop before heading back to the hotel - Ghiradelli Square. By this point, I was absolutely frozen from standing around in the open-air bike shop and so we just bought a bar of chocolate (dark, of course) and hopped back on the bike. We rode through Golden Gate Park, but got lost when we exited and found that we were not where we expected to be. By this point, it was dark and we had no lights - not a great situation. But, thanks to Paul's handy-dandy IPhone and it's mapping application, we finally figured out where we were and, eventually, got back to our hippie hotel.



At the suggestion of a Red Vic employee, we dined at the New Ganges that evening. We were looking for fabulous ethnic food and he promised that this Indian restaurant would be "an experience." And that it was! We ordered an eggplant dish that was quite good, as well as saag paneer that was, hands down, the best I have ever eaten. But it was the owner that made the meal so memorable. He is obviously very proud of his food and told us, many times, "You don't like, you don't pay." After delivering food to the table, he would hover and wait for our approval. I saw him actually take a fork from a woman at a neighboring table, feed her the first bite from her plate and demand her reaction. As we prepared to leave, he gave us business cards and made us promise to write reviews on Yelp and CitySearch. It was a dining experience we won't soon forget!

Although the Red Vic offers breakfast, we never got to try it as they didn't start serving until 9am - apparently hippies like to sleep in. We grabbed a quick bite at the Pork Store Cafe (yes, quite a switch from yesterday's vegetarian breakfast choice) and were loaded up and pedaling by 9am.



It didn't take long for a rattling sound to start driving Paul crazy. He stopped to investigate and discovered that a screw was missing from the saddlebag rack, causing the rack to shift around and constantly bang against the bike. We detoured to the bike shop, with me trying to calm Paul down, so that he didn't actually kill someone when we got there. About 15 minutes and a new screw later, we were finally on our way and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, we had lost an hour on this detour and were a little nervous about getting to our destination before dark. But we had lights this time and were prepared.



We cruised across the bridge (very cool!), through Sausalito and up and down some hills before stopping for lunch at the Half Day Cafe http://www.halfdaycafe.com/ in Kentfield. We shared delicious fish tacos and a yummy salad, although, in hindsight, we should have eaten more. Little did we know that we'd be on the bike until 6:30 that evening.

Not long after our lunch stop, I asked Paul to stop, so that I could put on my knee brace. That was disappointing. I have struggled with IT band issues off-and-on for years, but haven't worn that brace in at least 18 months. I think all of the climbing aggravated it and was beginning to cause some inflammation. The brace helped and I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. I loved biking through the small towns and the gorgeous Samuel Taylor State Park - so green!





At this point, I was really feeling those hills and looking forward to reaching the Pacific Coast Highway because, just a few days prior, I had heard Paul tell a friend that the PCH is fairly flat - after all, it's along the coast at sea level, right? Paul rode the PCH about 20 years ago but, apparently, since that time, the state of California decided to add in some hills - because we quickly discovered that it was HILLY! I admit, I had some low moments and this realization was one of them. We still had 35 hilly miles to go and my ass was killing me because we forgot to swap out the saddles. But, then we'd pass an amazing field of yellow flowers or a rare flat section and I'd perk up again.



We stopped in the tiny town of Tomales for snacks and Ibuprofen, and I asked the shop owner how far it was to Bodega Bay, our final destination. I think he could see that I was on the edge of a breakdown and he was very kind. He took some time walking me through the remaining 17 miles on his map, pointing out the four remaining climbs and wishing us luck.

When we hit that very first climb, I was so tired and I know I wasn't pulling anywhere near my fair share of the weight. When the bike speed dropped below 6 mph, the bike became very unsteady. Paul decided that, for the sake of safety, we should swallow our pride, get off, and walk the bike. Honestly, it felt so good to get my sore butt off of the saddle and stretch out my legs that I didn't care what passersby thought. We did a little more walking over the next 90 minutes, but, the closer we got to our destination, the more giddy I became. Light at the end of the tunnel does amazing things for your psyche.



We checked in at the Bodega Harbor Inn and were pleased with our little cottage right on the bay, complete with a hot tub. After quick showers, we walked right next door to the Tides Restaurant whose claim to fame is that part of The Birds was filmed there. All we cared about was that we didn't have to get on our bike to get there.

We ate seafood chowder. We ate crab cioppino. We ate a lot. Usually, I refuse the bread basket as Paul cannot eat it due to his allergy and I hate to see so many pieces go to waste. That night, I devoured almost the entire loaf of sourdough by myself. Note to selves - eat a heartier lunch tomorrow.





After relaxing in the hot tub, we turned in for the night and slept like the dead. Having biked about 85 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing, this was my longest and most challenging day of biking - ever. There were points when I silently cursed my husband for planning this death ride, but, after a hot shower and a warm meal, all was forgotten and I reveled in the feeling of accomplishment for surviving the day!



To be continued...
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