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!