Friday, December 23, 2011

Morning Ride Coordination

While I love the time alone on my bike, I find that riding in a group is much more fun.  In a group you get to push each other at different spots in the ride, you can cruise and talk smack, maybe even get some business done.  Coordinating morning rides is usually super easy.  “What time shall I meet you and where?”
Below is an example of a texting exchange - between three guys - showing how coordinating a morning ride can go horribly wrong.

MM:  Thurs, 10.56am.  Who’s riding in tomorrow?  32 degrees at 7am today?
Me:  Thurs, 10.56am.  In.  If we wait til 7.15, we wont need lights
MM: Thurs 10.59am.  Fine with me.  Confirmed.

Wait … change of plans

KK: Thurs, 2.42pm.  Im riding tomorrow but have to leave by 630
MM:  Thurs, 2.50pm.  Matt – push off my house at 625 or fire station at 630?
Me:  Thurs, 4.41pm.  Id prefer to sleep in, but Im good.  Driveway at 625.
KK:  Thurs, 4.42pm.  See u there

All is good.  I am well fed, drank a glass of wine and have a ride scheduled for the morning.  Nighty-night.  I jump in bed and pull the covers over my head at about 10.15pm.  Case closed, right?  Not so fast.

Wake up at 6.10am with plenty of time to spare.  Brush my teeth, get dressed (many layers), kiss the wife and hit the road (yes, I know I should eat before I ride.  That conversation is for another post).  Upon pulling into my buddy’s driveway, I see his house unusually dark.  Two minutes later, without any movement detected, I get suspicious.  Crap.  Take off the gloves, take off the helmet, take off the beanie, take off the plastic jacket, take off the backpack.  Unzip the backpack and pull out my cell phone and check the texts.

KK: Thurs, 10.26pm.  Hey guys, just drove home and its already 32 degrees.  Gonna be in the 20s in the AM.  I’m out.  Will wait til afternoon to ride after work.
MM:  Thurs, 11:38pm.  Matt – KK is out.  715 instead.

Great .. Now what?!?

Me:  Fri, 6.26am.  Dude … Im in your driveway.
Me:  Fri, 6.28am.  Lame.  I’ll head home.  Back in 45.
Me:  Fri, 6.29am.  Actually, Im going in now.  Don’t want to wake everyone in the house.  Next time.

I know.  I need to check my phone before I leave in the morning to prevent situations just like these.  These guys are usually Johnny-On-The-Spot and today was a freak incident.  I guess I just have to laugh.  No worries.   

Regardless, it was a perfect morning ride.  Crisp (the nice way of saying “freezing”) but clear.  Upon reaching the San Francisco side of the Bridge, I saw a bicyclist on the side of the bike path so I slowed to ask him if he needed anything.  Without speaking, he smiled, held up his camera and pointed back at the Golden Gate.  The guy was waiting for the sun to rise over the Oakland Hills so he could get the perfect light for his picture of the Bridge.  Epic.  Yet another reason why I ride.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Daily Grind

 The Genesis of this blog was my desire to share my commute route and the amazing luxury that is riding a bike from San Anselmo to San Francisco to work on a daily basis.  While I travel almost the exact same route each morning, each ride can be totally unique.  Whether I ride by myself or with a buddy, in the dark or in the light, dry or in the pouring rain, warm summer or freezing winter (like shown below), I can honestly say that it is a pleasure to get to work every day.  

Enjoy the ride!

An atypical start time for me, but I needed the sun to be up to take the pictures ... duh.  Typical departure starts at either 5.15am or 5.45am.  Oh, by the way, its cold.
Agatha Court, San Anselmo.  Home Sweet Home.

Intersection of Saunders and Center.  My favorite bike mechanic shop is the white building on the left.

San Anselmo Avenue.  Note the fellow commuter in front of me.

I caught him.  Drafting

Downtown San Anselmo, San Anselmo Avenue

Did I mention that it is cold?  Waffle shirt, bike jersey and plastics plus beanie underneath the helmet to keep me warm. 

Church at Bolinas Rd and Shady Lane on the border of the Towns of San Anselmo and Ross.  This is my meeting spot for the "Muy Buenos Dias" crew, typically at 5.30am.  It is amazing the difference between 5.30am in May and 5.30am in January.  In May, the sun is just coming up and I am most likely in short sleeves.  In January, it is pitch-black, two hours before sunrise and it is sub 30 degrees if I am lucky.  More often than not, it is 35 degrees and pouring.

Shady Lane in Ross.

One of the many stop signs that may not fully get the proper respect it deserves.

Ross School.  Yes, that's frost on the field.

Down from 43 degrees in my garage to 36.9 degrees.
Yup.  36 freaking degrees.  But this is warm compared to the 29 degree days.

Magnolia Street, Larkspur

Magnolia at Bon Air (by the hospital).  This is my meeting spot with my buddy Jon, 6.00am.  Jon has the pleasure of climbing Wolff Grade to get to our meeting spot.  He can have his big view.  I'm thrilled to live in the flats.
Downtown Larkspur.  The Lark Theater.

Downtown Larkspur.  The Left Bank Restaurant.

The first "climb" ... probably 100 yards just to get my heart ready for the rest of the ride.

Downtown Larkspur.  The redwood grove that surrounds The Lark Creek Inn.

And there she is ... the first real effort of the morning ... the climb up Camino Alto.  450 feet of elevation in just over a mile.  Its not particularly difficult, but it is always work. 

Even after sunrise, the redwoods on Camino Alto make for a very dark ride.  In the pitch black, as typical on my rides, the lights on my bike and helmet are like those of a car.  I often see deer, raccoon, turkeys and other critters on this hill.  

The final straight-away on the Camino Alto climb.  Time to stand up and hammer out the last few hundred yards.

Is this freaking hill over yet?

Yes!!!  I made it.  Entering Mill Valley and the Camino Alto descent.

Riding a bike at 25+ miles per hour with a camera in one hand and only one on the handlebars is not a good idea.  In the name of safety, this will be the only photo of the Camino Alto descent.

The bottom of Camino Alto at Paradise Drive, Mill Valley.
The Mill Valley Bike Trail.

There is a flock of about 100 snow geese in that field behind the Mill Valley Recreation Center.

Here comes the sun.

More snow geese.

Yup.  Ice on the bridge.  Pedal too hard and you will be tasting the ice cubes.

Whoa ... Super high tide.  I have heard about the tide covering the Mill Valley Bike Trail but, in two years of commuting, I had never seen it before today.  I guess the Bay rises after the sun comes up.  Rumors confirmed. 

Marshes around the Bike Trail.

Hey!  Good morning!!  These are the rich guys.  You can tell because a) they are going away from San Francisco at 8am and b) they don't have backpacks on ... meaning that they do not have a change of clothes for work.  Jealous!

This shot is actually shot over my shoulder looking backwards.  Saying goodbye to Mount Tam. 
Heck yeah ... passing another sucker.

Sausalito house boats.

End of the Bike Trail.  Turning onto Bridgeway in Sausalito.

Riding a bike with only one hand is detrimental to my pace (remember, the other hand is holding the camera today).  But these are the sacrifices that I make to share my art with you all.  And, oh yeah, its still cold.

I had never seen this before.  A car was pulled over on the right, parked in the bike lane on Bridgeway.  Out comes the woman pictured above delivering a coffee in a to-go cup.  A-plus customer service.  I hope he gave her a good tip.

This greasy spoon on Bridgeway emits the powerful smell of bacon each morning as I ride by.

Besides my girth, another knock against me in the bike culture is the fact that I do not drink coffee.

Casa Madrona Hotel, Bridgeway, Sausalito.

The "Muy Buenos Dias" coffee stop.  Note the bicyclists parked getting their morning cup-o-joe.

This is the money shot ... the sun makes it hard to see but this is your first view of the San Francisco Skyline.

Sausalito hillside as Bridgeway turns into Alexander.  Check out the dude on the skate board flying down the hill.  A skate boarder is something I would never see while riding in the dark.  I should sleep in more often.

And, again, we climb.  Alexander Drive as it approaches up to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Market on Alexander in Sausalito.

I have been watching this house be built from the ground up for a loooooooong time.

One quick steep climb before the grind up Alexander.

This stretch is steep enough that on the wet mornings, if I stand up out of my seat, my rear wheel will often spin out.

Alexander Drive.  I can not tell you how many times I have been passed on this climb.

That's Angel Island across the Bay

This sign kills me.  It is at the crest of the first climb up Alexander.  I am generally panting and going pretty damned slow at this point.  I do not need a reminder to slow down.  I wish I could be going faster, damn it.

The Marin Headlands.  They have recently paved tens of miles in the headlands which are traveled only by bikes and tourists (thanks, Obama).  The views of the Pacific Ocean from the top of this ridge are absolutely amazing.  That tunnel on the left leads out to Fort Cronkhite and Rodeo Beach.

Whew ... the climbing is over.  Descent into the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot and into San Francisco.

My usual goal is to be at the above sign by 50 minutes.  The camera in my hand has slowed me down a bit this morning, though.  And look!  It's warming up.  Its a balmy 47 degrees!  Thankfully, by this point in a typical morning ride, I can't feel my hands or my feet, anyways.

There she is ... The Golden Gate Bridge.

On The Bridge, the bikes and pedestrians are protected from traffic on a separate path.  A few weeks ago, I was riding on the Bridge and I was watching a guy behind the wheel sending texts when he smashed straight into the guard rail.  I could only laugh as he slammed on his brakes and slowed to a stop, wreaking havoc on the morning commute.  A lesson to all - put down the damn phone while driving.

The North Tower

Gratuitous self portrait.  Beautiful, cloudless morning.

You can make out Alcatraz and a container ship in the background.

Obstacles on The Bridge.  Oncoming traffic and workmen in their trucks.

Cool shot.  I love you too, man.

Still happy.

This is how the bikers and the pedestrians know not to smash into each other.

GGB Toll Plaza.  That's $6 that I do not have to come out of pocket.  The Bridge toll is one of the financial benefits of riding to work - no parking downtown ($20+ per day), gas and other car related expenses.  You would think that I could justify buying a $10,000 bike then?

People pay a lot of money to vacation in San Francisco and take this picture.  I get it every day.


Lol.  I caught a construction worker taking a leak before his shift started.
Sharp downhill to Marina Boulevard.  I am in San Francisco now.
Nothing warm about The Warming Hut this morning.
The beginning of Marina Boulevard or the end of Chrissy Field (a matter of perspective).
Taken over my shoulder, this is the site of my biggest crash.  A story for another day.

Palace of Fine Arts.

No clue what these buildings are, but they are cool looking.

Money shot.  Chrissy Field.

San Francisco Bay

Good dad.

Marina Boulevard, San Francisco.  The Bay and St. Francis Yacht Club on my left, big dollar houses on my right

That baby was screaming about being cold.  Shocking.

Marina houses.

St. Francis Yacht Club.

Um ... forgot to stop again.
Fort Mason

Last, last, last climb of the day.  A quick hop up into Fort Mason.

Yup, still handsome.

Down into Aquatic Park.


Super steep decline into car traffic at the bottom.  I hate this part.

Aquatic Park.  I once skidded out pretty bad on one of those train tracks.  Ouch. 

People swimming in the Bay.  Many without wet suits.

Almost there ... Northpoint.

The Embarcadero, San Francisco.

This is a killer stop light.  It's green for a minute and then red for three minutes.  Gotta get through it on the first run.

Battery Street, San Francisco.  Downtown SF is in the background.

Sorry for the sideways shot.  I am a half mile from the office.  21.1 miles in 1 hour 25 minutes.  Not a bad way to start the day.  I got my heart rate going and burned about 1,000 calories.  I stayed on the bike - no bruises or road rash.  I would call this a successful start to any day.   

A little ego shot for to fire me up every day.  That is one of my 'For Lease' signs on 401 Washington Street (at Battery), a great little building.  There's nothing like getting to see my name in lights on my way to the office.  Better yet, when I can get him out of bed, I sometimes ride with a buddy who is the owner of the building.  Thanks, Chris! 

And finally I have arrived - my office at 201 California Street, Downtown San Francisco.  I will spare you all by not including pictures of me in the shower.  But a morning like this deserves at least 20 minutes of boiiling hot water to thaw out my toes.  I keep 3 suits, 10 dress shirts and ties in the office.  So its shower, shave and straight to work for me.