People will always say that there are no seasons in San Francisco, and to some extent that is true. Nevertheless, even as we wait for el niño to arrive, it has been on the chilly side, and cold, as much as rain, can be a disincentive for me to get out on the bike. The long Thanksgiving weekend offered several chances to ride though , so I dug out winter wear that I don’t remember needing last year. On Friday morning it was around forty degrees, but the wind was gusting strongly down from the north, with leaves and branches on the road and whitecaps on the bay. Having got to the bridge, I found myself unwilling to go across; my usual vertigo is easily exacerbated by getting blown around on the narrow sidewalks of the bridge, and as there was no-one around for company, I turned around after a few hundred nervous yards. I set out instead for a lap of the city – down the Great Highway along Ocean Beach, over Twin Peaks with its marvelous views in every direction, on to Mission Bay where the city is being reinvented, and back over Nob Hill where its history of wealth is still evident.
Sunday was if anything a few degrees colder – apparently there was frost in more exposed areas around the Bay – and the wind was still from the north, but gentler. I made it across the bridge, then for the first leg of the ride I was anticipating the descent on the west side of Mt Tam, down the Panoramic Highway from Pantoll to Stinson Beach. Even on a warm summer day, there are temperature shifts as you drop from 1500 feet to sea level, especially as you go below the redwoods and into the more exposed lower slopes, and it is rare that I don’t feel chilled by the time I get down to the junction of Highway 1 at the bottom. Since I had waited for the sun to come up before setting off, by the time I got out there, the air had had a chance to be warmed a little, and it was not as bad as I had feared, though I was glad of all my layers of clothes.
The return route along Highway 1, was spectacular as always; each time I ride it I remind myself joyfully that I am on the very edge of America. Traffic was pretty light; the main hazard was the wind blowing off the mountain side, as it tends to in the winter, whereas in the summer it will constantly be blowing in off the ocean – so there are your seasons, right there. The north wind also brings clarity: I could see colours on the cliffs of Point Reyes to the north, the sharp outlines of the Farallons off the coast, and the contours of the mountains to the south, perhaps as far as Half Moon Bay.
For once there was not a redtail perched on the roadside wires above the fields of Green Gulch as I battled the wind back uphill, before the final run through Sausalito and up to the bridge, where I was helped home by the wind on my back. What goes around comes around.
Stinson Beach and the Bolinas Lagoon from Highway 1 on a much warmer day.