Hello again! We made it, bike and all, to San Francisco! After four long but beautiful days on Amtrak’s Cardinal and California Zephyr lines, we pulled in to Emeryville, CA around 4 pm yesterday. We took our time putting the bike back together, loaded it up with all our gear, and biked the short distance to the ferry to take us to San Francisco proper. After landing in downtown SF, we got our first taste of San Francisco’s famous hills in our 30 min ride to our friend Aki’s apartment in the Haight. Today, we’re wandering around the city super-dorky-tourist style, and later tonight we’ll meet up with some of our friends from the area for a giant feast of burritos! But enough about now–here are some highlights from our train ride:
At 5 am on Sunday morning we and our 150 pounds of luggage arrived at Penn Station, NY. The Cardinal line train to Chicago winds through New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. We passed typical manicured suburbs, small east coast towns, saw abandoned and burnt out rowhouses in Baltimore, and finally turned west toward the more wild Blue Mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. The old Appalachian hills were gorgeous cloaked in low, dense mist, and dotted with what looked liked very stubborn homesteads. We arrived in Chicago at 10 am the next morning, and enjoyed a lovely lunch with our friend Kofi, took a stroll through Millennium Park, and walked back to the train station to board the California Zephyr train four hours later. The Zephyr was a beautiful train. It was a double-decker with a full dining car and a gorgeous “observation lounge” with big windows and skylights where we ended up spending the majority of our time.
We shared the train with mainly older folks- we were surprised to see only a couple of other young-uns like ourselves. After a seriously high-stress spring, spending 4 days meeting people from all walks of life turned out to be amazingly relaxing. With the Rockies flying by we griped about water politics with a California local and learned about ‘Carriage Trials’ from a charming woman from the UK spending her retirement racing horse-and-carriage off road. But more than anything, this train trip impressed upon us just how HUGE the US is. Miles and miles of open land, from the lush low brush of Iowa, to the flat farms and cattle ranches of Nebraska, to the soaring mountains of Colorado, and the golden, cracked desert of Utah and Nevada. So much space, so much distance. For the first time, we really felt the dimensions of this country. And now we get to bike across all that openness!
After 3.5 days, we were crawling out of our skins, Sierras-be-damned, and it was WONDERFUL to see our bike and bags, unmolested, in a Californian parking lot. After 2 hours of fiddling, Golden Tandem was looking mighty pretty. We happily rolled away, quite wobbly with pins and needles in our stiff legs, and full panniers on the bike. Northern industrial San Fran is very… industrious. BUT they have a fine ferry, which we were the only riders on. We probably shocked the ferry-workers by being extremely talkative, but we had spent 4 days meeting randos, and we weren’t about to stop. We probably would have tried to Facebook friend the poor bastards if we weren’t distracted by SF’s skyline, which looked quite hilly, and the pelicans flashing by monstrous shipping liners…
Which brought us to Pier 41, San Fran. We’ve already had one flat in 8 miles, and after the hills of this windy, beautiful city, we’re just about ready to get our butts kicked by the Northwest coastline. Next week, No Cal!
Lovely Lovely. Simply *lovely*!
Q. The sleeping Ian/manic Christine: posed and styled?
Comment: All that gear on Golden Tandem makes you look homeless. And it’s a little frightening!
That pic is 100% grass fed and real!
Wallace Dear…you realize that Ian and Christine ARE homeless for the summer 😉
Hey Ian and Christine…..Its Roger, Wallace’s friend.
I look forward to following your journey across the country on bike. I very much identify thus far with your rail segment because I’ve made the excursion from NYC at least as far as Colorado and have travelled the coast of California from Emeryville to LA. The views from the train are so striking as are the conversations with the fellow passengers. I wholeheartedly recommend the trip for anyone that wants to see what the United States looks like.I’m not sure if the food is the same now, but for my long distance train trips it was FABULOUS, very impressive….
Good luck and post frequently for all of us armchair travelers.
Hi Roger, so glad you like it! Agreed the food was great. Turkey braised in bacon and Dog Fish Head beer. Tres fancy!
Oh this is fun reading these posts. Continue on… I do not think I will every enjoy the results of a wedding present given as much as this! You remind me of the great trip to SF two summers ago with Maddy (then 14). We rented bikes with some trepidation given that this was a city and not flat like Florida! Well, what fun it was. We went everywhere, following those amazing marked trails to zig zag up hills and especially enjoyed our trip to Haight, crossing the Goldengate, etc. I am sure you have already learned this lesson but being tipsy on a bike can be risky. Luckily, after multiple Irish Coffee from the Buena Vista while watching July 4th fireworks – I managed to plow through and knock down a series of police barriers. That sobered me up quick although the women/men in blue had quite the chuckle seeing this older woman underestimate her handle bar length fitting through the openings…
If you run short of cash, there is always temporary work with all those bicycle rickshaws in SF.
Carry on and send lots of updates!