In October, during San Francisco’s Indian summer, I undertook the biggest trip of my life to date. A fair way around the world from my home in Bristol lay a city with a golden reputation; and my curiosity was too great not to go and see it with my own eyes, for if i wasn’t prepared to go now, when exactly was the right time?
My proposed trip was met with infinite encouragement and excitement from friends, I was generously given guidebooks and offered numerous pointers of those must-do must-see places. However, in the back of my mind, I knew that the lasting memory of such a place needed to mean
more to me than a tick-list of been-theres and done-thats.
As it turned out, a political fallout had left all National Parks and attractions closed for the duration of my stay; this meant no Alcatraz, Yellowstone, Muir Woods or even the Grand Canyon. Frankly this didn’t trouble me in the slightest, I was more interested in my freedom to explore the very heart of San Francisco.
This freedom came in the form of two wheels, having flown my own trusty Charge bike alongside me. For two straight weeks, my bike and I could roam every street, stop at every viewpoint and coast the 7x7 mile square grid with a degree of effortlessness — if you discount the many hills. The only agenda was simply to wake-up, grab a coffee and go discover – essentially to find out what was happening at any given moment and admire the city as it unfolded before my eyes.
The hills which left my heart leaping out of my chest rewarded me with indescribable views, most poetic in the early rising hours before the sun had reached the tip of its arc. The bike gave me an inherent knowledge of the topography, understanding every climb and fall, finding the best routes between those landmarks that make the city such an icon. Block by block the city changed in colour and character, from the vibrant Mission district to the bustling heart of downtown. No soul seemed too busy to talk and say hello, the presence of my bike seemed somehow to disarm them. I was able to feel like a local in an unfamiliar place.
An absolute highlight was one of the first mornings of the trip. I went in search of the infamous Golden Gate bridge, and that first sighting of the rustic red pinpoint on an otherwise blue backdrop left me silenced in absolute awe. Crossing the epic span under a misty golden morning led me to the Marin headlands, where a deserted road snaked up and up with the sea by my side. Turning back, I was presented with San Francisco in its near entirety as the sun came up over the bay. Whatever was to happen onwards from that morning, I knew the trip had already been worthwhile.