Monday, 30 August 2010

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge is a big attraction, every day hundreds and hundreds of people do it.  A lot of them ride to Sausalito and take the ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf.
I rented a bike in advance, a “mountain bike”.  What they gave me was nothing like a mountain bike, a Fuji something, very heavy, although fitted with an air shock.
Overlooking the Pacific
First I rode out the Golden Gate Park, which is a natural park some way to the south of the bridge, lots of natural trails and very steep climbs.  Spent a while there before reaching the Pacific Ocean, along the coast to the bridge.  There are cycle lanes to both sides of the bridge, but only one opened at any one time.  The path is shared by pedestrians as well.  There is no safety netting above the guardrail, on a windy way it would be scary, it’s a very long way down, being higher up on a bike makes it worse.  The traffic noise is tremendous, which detracts from the experience, but it is a road bridge.
Classic SF mist

The second tower marks the border to Marin County.  My plan was to ride the Marin County Headlands for a while.  There are lots of trails leading all over the headlands, most of them very steep and rocky, a difficult ride with the heavy bike.  I spent about 4 hours riding there doing as much as I could before riding down to Sausalito for a cup of coffee, when I looked at my watch it was already 6 pm.  Headed back over the bridge and took the bike back, feeling very tired and mile long walk back to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit System) to take the train back to my hotel near the airport.

Art Deco?
Marin Residents

Marin Headlands
When I calculated the mileage was astonished to see I had done more than 30 miles, no wonder I was tired.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Day 4

Out of sequence with the days now. I suppose Day 4 really started at Denver Colorado. This was the first main stop of the day for the California Zephyr, now 16 hours in to the journey. Denver was a bit a disappointment, couldn’t see much and even the station was nondescript.

From Denver westwards the train climbs into the Rockies, from Denver at 5,000 feet up to the Moffatt Tunnel at 9,000 feet. The views were spectacular; the other side of the tunnel was sunny weather. We followed the Colorado River down for many miles, small at first but getting bigger, lots of rafters and kayakers. The photos of the area speak for themselves. Glenwood Canyon was the very best. The scale of this country is brought home by the fact took more than 8 hours to cross only Colorado. As we entered Utah, literally hundreds of miles of desert, canyons and high plains.

Meals have been excellent on the California Zephry; dinner tonight was New York Ribeye Steak with all the trimmings. The next major stop comes at Salt Lake City at about 1 am in the morning, don’t think I will see it. Right now sat in my cabin, in the sunshine watching the cowboys and Indians scenery pass by.

We are still only just over half way to San Francisco after 30 hours on the train, another 24 to go

Night Time on the Zephry

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Day 3

In the morning I had a couple of hours to kill before going to the station.
I took the elevator to the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building to the Observation Deck.   Its 1500 feet tall the same as the full height of Winter Hill, and its 500 feet taller than the Winter Hill Mast! Great views of Chicago and Lake Michigan.

At lunchtime made my way to Union Station to board the Amtrak California Zephyr to San Francisco.  First I had a look around the Union Station, it was the last built grand terminal built in the States.

As I had a room booked on the train I could go to the lounge to await boarding.  The train is made of 16 cars, all double decked, “Superliner”.
My room was on the top deck just two cars back from the locomotive.  It consists of two seats that fold down to form a bed and bunk above that The cars are rather old now, but it’s built well and very serviceable.  Down below are the bathrooms and showers.  There is a free coffee stand along the hall, and a free fruit juice stand at the other end.  folds down..  Its air conditioned and comfortable enough.
On board the Zephyr

Chicago Union Station
Crossing the Mississipi River
The train left Union Station about 40 minutes late as there was a “mechanical”.  The train rolls south for a short time before turning to the west, it maintains that heading for the next 2700 miles.
The first few hundred miles are made up of flat farmland, millions of hectares of corn and soya beans, totally flat.  We passed through little towns’ right out of the movies, flags flying and chairs on the porch.  I noticed that there was no fence between the rails and the gardens of the houses, where the track ran through a town there was no fence, hundreds of level crossings, at each one the engineer blows the whistle a few times, classic American Train mournful sound.ining Car, clean and neat, great meal of salad, buffalo meatloaf, baked potato and a desert, excellent quality.
Dinner Time on the Zephyr

Night time on the Zephyr and the car attendant makes up the bed.  As the room is on the second level its quiet, no problems and I slept better than I thought I would, woken a few times by the whistle though.  Morning and I set my alarm early, though we gained an hour by crossing into Mountain Time.  Shower and breakfast at 7 am.  The showers would shame some hotels, a bit small  but perfectly manageable.   Crossed from Nebraska into Colorado, next stop Denver.  Although I have been on this train for 16 hours, we are less than a third of the way there!  The crop fields of Illinois and, Idaho have given way to cattle ranches.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Day 2

Today was the day for the Lakeside Trail in Chicago. It’s a total of 18 miles each way; I did the lot and managed about 45 miles with a couple of side trips, also a few stops for coffee etc.

I rented a bike, a Trek 4700, a “mountain bike”. It was heavy at the front end with a Suntor shock that barely compressed. Anyway a suspension bike is not needed as the trial is paved all the way.

The trail runs along the side of Lake Michigan, it’s totally traffic free, well-marked and all riders keep to their side of the trail depending on the direction. When I say it follows the lake it really does, most times only metres from the shoreline.

I started from the centre of the trial, Navy Pier, and as the wind was from the north west decided to ride the southern half first, very fast on the way there with the wind behind. Met a guy who I rode with all the way down and back to the Pier. He had a puncture which I fixed for him on the way back.

Riding Buddy

Lots of riders, this being Sunday, all types of bikes from cruisers to out and out road racing bikes. The views of the city on one side and the lake on the other made a nice contrast. The trail is very popular and I suppose Sunday is the busiest day, but at both ends many less people. Barrack Obama’s house is at the South end, but I couldn’t be bothered to ride to it!

A great ride in great weather and an ambition fulfilled.

City Skyline
Evening spent waking along N. Michigan Avenue, very stylish and sophisticated. The downtown area is incredibly clean; no litter anywhere, lots of green. Dined in the same restaurant as the night before and even had the same meal, but it was delicious!

The architecture is very varied, from 100 year blocks to the highest tech of all, nice contrasts all over the city. The Trump Tower is something else!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

American Trip

North Atlantic off Greenland
Day 1
Day 1 of the trip was the flight to Amsterdam, then on to Chicago.  I had chosen to fly with KLM on the basis of cost, but the flight especially to the USA was superb, the catering and entertainment have come on a lot since my last long distance trip.
The flight route over the Atlantic was take us to the south of Iceland, just touching the tip of Greenland and making landfall in Labrador.  The weather was cloudy most of the way so didn’t see too much, wanted to see at least a little bit of Greenland!
Chicago OHare, one of the biggest airport and the slowest immigration, 1 hour stood waiting to fingerprints and photo take.  The ride into downtown Chicago by the Blue Line Train, about 40 minutes.
Staying in the Holiday Inn Express, just one block back from Michigan Avenue, the “Magnificent Mile”.  After a shower out to have a look round, but very tired by now.  Weather was great at 26 degrees, architecture along Michigan fantastic!  Ate a burger at an open air cafĂ© and called it day.
I already paid the hotel bill via a booking agent, but found the agent hadn’t paid the hotel, hope Nadia can sort that one out on Sunday.
Bike ride on Sunday planned, bike already rented, weather looks to be good, so let’s see!