San Francisco by bicycle; cycling the wonderous sights along the waterfront

Breakfast at the Ramp, about a mile south of AT&T Ballpark - right on the bay, with a view across to the Port of Oakland, it's a favorite restaurant destination!

Historic streetcars on the Embarcadero run from AT&T Park in the south, all the way along the waterfront to Fisherman's Wharf.

A Brompton English folding bike was one of our choices for touring the San Francisco waterfront. Easy to fold and carry, they are perfect for totting onto public transit like streetcars of the SF ferrys!

Friends Christine and Steve (Christine would not relinquish her traditional bike!) with the Brompton folding bike in foreground.

The Wave Organ, at east end of Marina breakwater, plays musical notes due to tidal and wave action.

Friend Steve and author Tim on two Brompton folding bikes, with Golden Gate Bridge in distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

         

               Our considerable challenge: could four of us bike San  Francisco for several days, avoid hills and traffic and test out a couple new “folding bikes”?

We began our San Francisco overnight adventure when we picked up our two friends in Fairoaks, and made our way to Practical Cycle bike shop in Old Sacramento. Here we acquired two demo Brompton English folding bicycles and owner Tim Castleman explained the nuances of these slick collapsible bikes.

We made our way to San Francisco’s Lombard Street and our favorite motel to park our vehicle and begin our two day exploration of the waterfront. Just a block to the north we cruised down Chestnut Street – a cute Marina neighborhood with the Presidio Theater, Chestnut Bakery, Pluto Restaurant (“food for a hungry universe”), the Ristobar, Squat & Gobble and many other restaurants and shops.

We pedaled north four more blocks to the Marina, toured the wave organ at the end of the marina’s pier (at mid- to high-tides, waves drum out a series of musical notes on the pipes, buried as part of the wave organ – a project of the Exploratorium).

We then toured west along the beach of Chrissy Field (once a 1930s army airfield) to Fort Point underneath the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. This Civil War-era fort is styled exactly like Fort Sumter, South Carolina; the National Park Service’s docents show you how soldiers served in the 1850s and 60s. While the fort never saw duty during the Civil War, it was ready to defend San Francisco Bay against Confederate attackers.

From this point, it would’ve been easy to head across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito – had we wanted to extend our pedaling. Riding on to Tiburon on bike trails would allow us to take the ferry back to Pier 41, not far from our motel; we’ll save that adventure for the next time!

Returning, we explored the Palace of Fine Arts, stunning remains of the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and it’s future impacts on California. From here it was a short pedal through quiet residential streets back to our motel. That evening, we cleaned up and celebrated our first day with dinner at Squat and Gobble, a quaint restaurant with lots of fresh choices.

The next morning, we checked out of the motel early, and made our way to our favorite relatively unknown restaurant on the waterfront, a mile south of AT&T park. The Ramp restaurant is named for its proximity to a boat ramp sandwiched between a large industrial shipyard on the south, and a lively commercial boat yard to the north.

Looming over the Ramp is a huge Matson container ship and another large Navy ship is entirely out of the water in drydock. After our early lunch, with the Ramp’s blessing, we left our vehicle in the parking lot and peddled north towards AT&T Ballpark.

This route is almost entirely on bike trails and lanes apart from traffic and flat; it offers sightseers beautiful views of AT&T Park, commercial and Navy ships at nearby piers, San Francisco’s fireboat number one, public art along the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge.

We pedaled past the renovated old Ferry Building, alive with shops, restaurants and ferries arriving every 20 minutes or so, bound for Jack London Square in Oakland, Vallejo and other destinations. It’s a great place to grab coffee and a snack and watch people come and go amid the bustle of the ferry system.

Just north is the Exploratorium on Pier 15, with hundreds of exhibits, always an adventure for kids or adults. Check out the Bay Observatory Gallery, offering the history and geography of the Bay. By mid-afternoon, we reached Pier 39, admired the tourist-friendly shops and eateries, then cranked back to our starting point.

Folding bike versus traditional bike? My pal Steve noted “very comfortable, feels like riding a full-sized bike as long as you don’t look down to see the small wheels. Maneuverable, easy to get on-and-off, they took very little space in a small trunk, very cleverly designed and constructed – a quality product.  The challenge was the learning curve on collapsing and setting it up”. Certainly the folding bikes were easy to transport and easy to take on public transportation.

If you aren’t into biking, you can take much of this waterfront tour by hopping aboard the Embarcadero trolley which connects AT&T Ballpark north to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Complete your waterfront tour with a snack from one of the many nearby eateries, then hop the trolley back to your starting place!

What’s nearby: Just about all the attractions of SF’s waterfront from (south to north) include AT&T Ballpark, SFFD fireboats, the Bay Bridge, art on the waterfront, the Ferry Building, the Exploratorium, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and Hyde Street Pier (old sailing ships), Ft. Mason, the Marina District, Chrissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge; for a 10 mile bike ride, the scenery cannot be beat!

How to get there: The San Francisco waterfront is 90 miles from Stockton, about 1.75 hours.  Take Interstate 5 south to Tracy, I-205 west to I-580 and continue across the new Bay Bridge (the concrete sections were made in Stockton); once in San Francisco, take the first exit to the right (Essex Street), follow the signs to the Embarcadero, and you have arrived!

What to take: Good walking shoes, bicycles if a cyclist, snacks, drinks, sunscreen, a good map or GPS unit, camera and binoculars!

More info: For Fort Point, nps.gov/fopo, 415.556.1693; National Maritime Museum and Hyde Street Pier;  nps.gov/safr, 415-447-5000; Ferry Building, ferrybuildingmarketplace.com, 415.983.8030; Exploratorium, exploratorium.edu, 415.528.4444; the Ramp restaurant, 855 Terry Francois St, 415.621.2378; Practical Cycle, 114 J St., Old Sacramento, CA 95814; phone 916.706-0077; practicalcycle.com.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/valleytravel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the west!

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