Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Biking in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park


It is almost Christmas here in Alberta, Canada, and the snow is piled high on the ground. I have escaped the confines of my home, where I am trapped indoors with my two energetic and stir-crazy toddlers, to the local library which features a very popular train table and of course, lots of fun books for the kids to occupy themselves with.

As I sit here, watching them play and dreaming about sunnier days, I realized that I actually have a touch of free time with which to write about one sunny day in particular.

This sunny day occurred in late September, when I traveled to San Francisco with a group of girlfriends for a fun week away. On this day, we had decided to explore Golden Gate Park. Upon receiving a map of the park, we realized just how massive the grounds were, and lamented that we might not be able to see it all. In order to gather our thoughts and decide what was a priority for us to experience, we ambled over to some street food trucks and ordered some lunch.

A detailed, beautiful sculpture in Golden Gate Park - I missed most of them.

I have to say, the trucks located just outside of the Japanese Gardens offered some yummy food. I had a craving for a giant hot dog piled high with sauerkraut, and it didn't disappoint. (I don't usually eat hot dogs with sauerkraut, but if they all tasted like the one in San Francisco, I WOULD eat them more.)

The Japanese Tea Gardens, which I also missed.

As it happened, right beside the food trucks was a stand procuring bike rentals that enable visitors to see Golden Gate Park in its entirety. They even had a four person 'bike' called a surrey, and since there were five of us, we thought we might give it a go.

We chatted with the two men operating the bike stand, and they said that five of us could fit on the bike, but only four could pedal at a time. That meant someone always got a break, so we thought that was a fantastic idea. We rented the surrey at $45 plus exchange rate for a one-hour time period, grabbed a map, and hopped on.

Five ladies on a four person surrey bike.

Well, what can I say about the surrey adventure? It was... unexpected, if what you expected was a relaxing, enjoyable ride around Golden Gate Park.

We nearly died.

It was the most physical labor that I have done since I was actually in labor. And that was with three other women peddling with me. To be honest, I was the fifth person jammed in the backseat with no pedals to push for the first 8 minutes or so. I had to perch up on the backseat rail, my feet on the seat, my butt cheeks hanging out of the back of the surrey for the world to see. (Not bare butt cheeks! But I'm sure it wasn't the most pleasant of views for the people riding behind us.) I cheered on the ladies with words of encouragement and support, as well as laughter at their complaints about how hard it was to move the surrey, until they made me take a turn.

This was when we were just starting, before it got difficult!

It was so difficult! Downhill was a snap, but going on a flat plane required an exorbitant amount of effort to move the surrey at even a snail's pace, and forget about going uphill. In fact, at one point we got out and pushed the darn thing uphill. It was to the point where going downhill was such a relief that we didn't even apply the brakes, just so we could harness the momentum for the next flat portion. During one of our frenzied downhill flights, we whizzed through a major intersection and the dress I was wearing (yes, I chose to do this in a dress) flew up over my head and I gave everyone idling at the red light a really good show of my under-roos underneath. We continued this 'downhill-dive-no-brakes-applied' move until we almost blew a stop sign and nearly perished, and then we were little more careful.

I was in the sweet seat for a little while - no peddling!

When the going was somewhat good, though, we did manage to see a few items around us through a haze of dripping sweat. There was a waterfall, I think, and some lovely sculptures that I saw for a brief second. There was a lake, or maybe it was a field of grass that rippled in the wind like a lake? Whatever. It was stunningly beautiful, I think.

Twisted branches on the road side as we biked past.

What I do distinctly remember is that every person we passed burst out into laughter seeing us panting, sweating, swearing, and bickering with each other as we tried to keep the surrey moving forward even just a little.

And then it went from bad to worse, when the front right pedal broke off, and there was no way to screw it back on because everything inside was stripped. We tried desperately to pedal with three wheels, but if it was hard before, it was literally impossible then. I called the men who ran the bike stand and told them bluntly, and *possibly* a little angrily, that they rented us a faulty bike and we would most certainly be arriving back later than the one hour time limit. They were okay with it, but they didn't send out a rescue squad or anything.

Our pedal fell off! Pure ridiculousness.

We pushed the heavy surrey for about 20 minutes through Golden Gate Park, arriving about 10 minutes late for our return time. The entire time we pushed, people pointed and chuckled while we waved with small, embarrassed smiles.

Our plan had been to explore the Japanese Tea Gardens once we finished our round on the surrey, but when we did finally manage to get the bike off of our hands, we were so exhausted we all just wanted to go back to the hotel room and rest. I am a bit sad now that we didn't just suck it up and go into the tea gardens for a quick walk around - even a snack might have helped to pick us up a bit - but I guess this means I will have to go back to San Francisco at some point!

Kissing a lion we are so happy to be out of that bike!

I just won't be renting the bikes to help me finish exploring Golden Gate Park!

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