Recently, my wife Jean shared saddle time with me. Despite my best planning efforts, chaos ensued but was quickly avoided. This is a tale of taking our fixies on the train to San Francisco.
I can preface this posting by saying I'm still happily married after the fact.
My wife manages Red Rock Coffee in downtown Mountain View, California. She rides her fixie every day, and thought it would be fun to take a day off last Friday to go up to San Francisco and sample some coffee from Ritual, a hipster joint known for roasting its own. I also thought it would be cool to visit Pedal Revolution, which happened to be less than a mile down 22nd Street, and halfway between the CalTrain and Ritual. Perfect plan, right?
Well, there was a little trepidation on Jean's part from the onset. She's never taken the train, and was nervous about the timing of it all. I'm somewhat of a veteran, so I reassured her it would be fine. The weather forecast called for sunny and 55F, with mild winds and no fog (a curiously nice day, even by San Francisco's standards).
"Will it be hilly?" she asked.
"Of course not," I replied, having asked a friend the night before. I even mapped our ride on my iPhone's GPS after printing the directions off Google Maps. A backup plan to a backup plan. Ironclad.
The train ride itself was a hoot. Not more than 10 minutes into our ride north, one of the ticket-taking conductors, a jovial man with a van dyke beard and long pony tail (common by San Francisco's standards) strolled by our bikes and was taken by the gold componentry, moustache and swept-back handlebars, and the retro styling of lugged steel bikes.
"Wow - look at those singletracks!" he bellowed to no one in particular. "Never seen anything like that on this train before! And from Dayton, Ohio! That's where the Wright Brothers was from..." He spied my wool jacket with the Cycles Gaansari embroidered logo, and sat down to engage us about our bikes and his love of two wheels.
His jocularity and enthusiasm made Jean feel more comfortable about taking the fixies into the city, and added a nice element to our date.
All that changed 30 minutes later.
You see, I'm a typical guy who seems to know the answers off the top of his head, especially when it comes to directions. Less than two blocks after getting off the train, the road curved right, and the sign read "extreme gradient: trucks not advised."
My jaw dropped as Jean's ears steamed.
"Oh, c'mon," I said. "How bad can it be?" My manliness was compromised at that very moment, no doubt about it.
Remember Steve McQueen's car chase scene in Bullitt?
A mix of riding and walking got us up and over a few hills. The iPhone GPS application has three options for maps: car, bus and walking. I choose walking, because it's typically the most bike friendly, right?
After climbing hill and dale (the sort that even our fair governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would have to crawl up and over), including a stone foot path that ambled behind several homes and apartments, we found ourselves a few yards away from a drug deal in the works. Not wanting to get involved, I keenly checked the iPhone for a reroute, which took us up another squiggly street.
Bad decision number three.
After turning around and riding past the illicit drug entrepreneur, we skirted the foot bridge and crossed onto the flat grid of 22nd Street. A few blocks later, we entered Pedal Revolution, where we were greeted by a nice man named Clancy.
"Anything I can do for you folks today?" he asked.
Reading Jean's mind on that sunny, warm San Francisco afternoon, I can only imagine what she wanted to say. My wife of nearly 20 years, someone who is a soccer mom but doesn't fit the cliched mold, bought me a t-shirt as an early birthday gift, even though her birthday was less than a week later. Her sparkling eyes told me she was having the time of her life, despite me taking her for a ride she initially hoped would never happen.
Happy birthday, Jean. Let's ride in the city again soon, okay?
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Bullitt - Steve McQueen's Famous Car Chase in San Francisco