Renting bikes can be a great way to casually explore a new city. We biked our way through Stanley Park in Vancouver one spring and had a great, chill time. This was partially because there was no way to screw up a one way path that went right around the island park. The trails were paved and level so towing Eve wasn't a problem and I didn't have to try struggle with my nemesis, slight changes in elevation. Which is why I don't know what possessed me to consider biking one of the most hilly (hilliest?) cities in North America with the family on our trip to San Fransisco.
I started of being what I assumed was prepared. There were a few places to rent from, and I chose the easiest one to get to which offered hourly rentals. Since we had already been over the Golden Gate Bridge a few times to our AirBnb in Mill Valley, I wanted us to check out another route that went away from the bridge. Explaining it to the woman at the rental desk, she showed us what path we needed to follow on the map and sent us merrily on our way. Turns out the route she suggested lead straight up hill for like 20 freaking blocks! Who would tell someone with a child seat on the back of their bike, a 9 year old and a woman wearing impractical bell bottoms to go that route? It's cruel! We made it up 3 blocks before I hopped off and said, " Let's just ride down hill and check out the Golden Gate Bridge." (or whatever!). We had paid for an hour and I wasn't ready to give up like that.
Making our way to the new route was a slight challenge because we had to ride on the road, rather than on a bike path. I'm always nervous about Luke because 9 year olds aren't well known for their spacial awareness or caution. Nevertheless, we ended up finding our way and ascended yet another hill. I hopped off almost immediately and walked my bike up with the very handy excuse of taking pictures of the pretty view.
Maybe if the lady at the bike rental place knew we were going a different route she might have warned us of the giant rally which blocked the usual path on this afternoon. Instead, we came to a dead stop where the crowd and bouncy castles began and were off track again. A few bike renters ahead of us looked equally confused and scattered off in all directions. Part of the path was also ripped up and under construction so riding across the grass and gravel was our only choice. I decided that we just needed to go toward the bay and followed a couple of bikers into a nearby parking lot. At this point Todd was yelling for me to STOP! Looking at that stupid map was useless and frustrating but I was determined as usual to keep going, thinking things would figure themselves out. Todd wanted us to turn around before anything else went wrong and we didn't make it back in time to meet the 1 hour deadline. So, we compromised.
We didn't make it to the park that day, but we did ride a bit further, find a bench and have the lunch I packed for us. It was WINDY but not very cold. We got an unobstructed view of the bay and the kids got to watch all the sailboats, barges and ships. Maybe we wouldn't have gotten this far if we had just decided to walk instead of fool around with bikes. I'm not sure. It's never easy knowing how far to push it when wandering around an unfamiliar city with kids. They have a very keen sense of when the adults aren't sure of where to go and don't have any problem letting their concerns known. At home, they can be fairly sure that Mom and Dad know the way to go and how long it'll take to get there. Those expectations are thrown out the window when in a new place. That's just how it was this afternoon.
The ride back was pretty uneventful, especially since it was mostly downhill. We re-traced our tracks and made it back to the city streets in Fishermans Wharf which are packed full of tourists trolling for parking spots, along with full busses, trolleys and cable cars. Two blocks away from the rental shop, I was making a right turn when my bellbottom hem wrapped around my pedal, sending me careening into a trolley track where my tire got lodged and threw me off my bike. Trying to free my pant leg from the pedal, I saw a cable car coming down the track toward me as cars honked in alarm. I hopped up and frantically pulled my bike to the curb, still attached to my pants! Yeah. That was me making a complete ass of myself in San Fransisco. Stupid tourist!
Luckily, Todd, Eve and Luke had kept riding and pulled off at the curb ahead to wonder where I had gone. A bit bruised and with a bleeding ankle, I came away from it without any serious injuries except to my pride. So that's the real story of how our fun family bike ride to Golden Gate Park went down. Hills + Confusion + More Hills + Rallies + Construction + More Confusion + Pants in the Pedal + Near Death By Cable Car = Just a MAGICAL family (mis)adventure!
I've learned nothing. Next!