Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bike in the city blog.

Maybe a new heading for this blog. I'll try it out and get back to you.

On my continuously growing list of where to and not to ride my bike in the city, a new location comes to mind and actually takes the top spot of "where not to ride." Bayshore is the new king of shitty rides in San Francisco. There is a bike lane. . .it's not to say that it's safe or anything reasonable such as that. It's more a token to the residents of that unfortunate part of town.

I had to go to Fed Ex to pick up an envelope that the driver couldn't have just left at my door and save everyone involved a while lot of time. So I hop on my bike and plan to make Fed Ex a stop on my way to City College. At Valencia and 25th (google maps shows a clear route across 101) I head west, only to come face to face with a retaining wall that represents 101. Great. The bike route sign points me toward 23rd, so I turn and head on down a seldom used bike lane (sure is becoming a thematic element in this story.) This lane zigged and zagged for 6 blocks: between busses and vans, into incoming traffic, across the interstate, down a hill of road that looked as if it hadn't been repaves since it was laid 50 years ago, around a blind corner, into more oncoming traffic, and finally out to Caeser Chavez. . .where I had to make an uncontrolled left turn. 2 dump trucks and a bus later, I was on Caeser Chavez and a mere 2 blocks from Fed Ex.

I made it to Fed Ex in time to find out that the envelope contained a communication I had already received and that this venture had been for naught. Fuck. Now faced with the prospect of bad to the right or unknown to the left, I turned left from Fed Ex and toward Bayshore. At first, it was pretty standard, beaten up streets, warehouses, trucks that don't signal or check mirrors. But lo! A bike lane emerged! I'm safe, as long as I stay in the lane. Bad idea #1. The smallest vehicle on these beaten up streets was nothing less than a Chevy Astro van, and theybwere not looking for cyclists.

Jumping, dodging, sprinting, and cursing the whole way, I made turn after turn working my way back to the freeway. My brain was in nothing short of nightmare mode; you know the one, where you are running at full speed and every turn you make nets worse circumstances? Yeah, this was that. Just when I thought I would be killed by a swerving fish truck or kidnapped by a Triad gang, I made it to a gas station at the off ramp of the freeway and Caeser Chavez. I wasn't home free, but I had at least a glimmer of hope at this point. With the stench of sour garbage filling my nose, I head toward Bayshore Ave. with renewed vigor (or stupidity, not sure which) and finally make it. Turning left while avoiding a dump truck, I sprint ahead only to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting a 1980-something Toyota POS, lock up my back wheel and drift smoothly into traffic, oops. With a burst of adrenaline-fuelled might, I muscled my way into a service alley that brought me back around to the goal I had in mind, the portal under the freeway back to society. The "Welcome to Bernal Heights" sign was like salvation. . .until I looked up.

Ahead of me, rising out of the ground like a pillar of adversity,was no less than 4 blocks of stupidly steep, treacherously narrow, wind road that ascended at an angle of demoralizing magnitude. Teeth gritted and prepared for a fight, I downshifted and pulled hard; I was not going back to Bayshore. After 4 blocks, the grade increased and the left turn revealed 4 more blocks needed to claw my way out of Hell. I persevered. Arriving at the top, I didn't even take time to draw in the setting or look for a skyline view before shifting up and bombing down the hill; I was getting out of here. Folsom street never looked so good as it did when I crossed it. Free at last; now, I just have do finish all of the climb to City College. . .