The final day of our motorbike trip involved a zig zagging steep street, the Golden Gate Bridge, Hugh Laurie, some very tall trees and my confession.
The return to San Francisco the day before we were due to give up the motorbikes was deliberate, to avoid the crazy rush at the end of the day that we always seem to get ourselves into on these road trips. We decided to use this day to cruisily explore the Bay Area and return the bikes to the rental company mid-afternoon.
We retrieved the bikes from the car park down the street from our hotel. This appeared to be a safer option than leaving them actually on the street. We climbed the nearby steep streets until we found Lombard Street. The famous section of this street has been modelled into a zig-zag and is quite the tourist attraction. Upon arrival a cable car was disembarking a full load of tourists who thought it would be great to stand in the middle of the road, at the top, and take photos. Seriously, a cable car holds 60 people and all of them got off and stood in the middle of Lombard Street. We gave them a couple of minutes and, when it became clear they were absorbed in their photos, a spot of horn use, revving and friendly waving cleared the road.
Gary descended before me, all I could hear was little cries of delight and ‘awesome’ from the intercom; I, on the other hand, tentatively rode down gripping the clutch and brake levers for dear life, controlling my speed to almost walking pace, so aware was I of the tight steep turns. This street resembles another in Sydney in which I used to live which also zig-zagged steeply downhill. I once attempted that as a learner and quit before the first turn; Gary had to walk up and collect the motorbike! Anyway, I conquered this one and very glad I was too, Elvis and I even provided some great photos for a few tourists on the way.
Top tip: morning is the time to drive down Lombard Street as it’s not so busy, later in the day it’s bumper to bumper with cars!
After my exciting experience at Lombard Street, we continued on to the Golden Gate Bridge. The route we took was littered with ‘Stop’ signs; obviously the person who designed these streets had no concept how irritating stop signs are for motorbike riders: stopping, putting your foot down then pulling away is far more challenging on a bike than in an automatic car, especially for this ladyonmotorbike and her tiny hands stretched across the clutch and brake levers!
We crossed the bridge; it was under a blanket of fog which hid the tops of the towers and it was still beautiful, the cloud gave the water across to Alcatraz a frozen lake look, smooth and silvery.
We took the road towards Point Bonita, on the ocean side of Marin County and we stopped briefly to take photograph of the bridge.
At the end of the road we were greeted by a colony of trailers comprising a film crew. We learnt, from the chatty park ranger and film crew security guard, that they were filming a TV show called ‘Chance’ starring Hugh Laurie, or ‘that doctor from House’, funny. The security guard was a biker so spoke enthusiastically to us about his motorbikes. This type of thing has happened to us a lot on this trip, usually when we have ear plugs in and about to pull away which can be awkward; love the enthusiasm though.
The plan was to circle the Bay and check out the tall trees at Redwood National Park near Oakland. We reached the park via the Richmond-San Raphael Bridge, a magnificent double decked dual cantilever bridge. Eastbound was free and we were demoted to the second level where the view wasn’t quite as glorious as the top maybe would have been but still lovely looking across the hazy bay. More significantly, the bottom deck meant shade and that meant cold, not a lot we could do about it at that point though, there was no where to pull over!
Off the bridge and back in the sun, some freeway madness and a winding road into the hills east of Oakland took us to the Redwood park. We locked the motorbikes and walked a little way into the forest where we found the huge ancient trees towering impressively above us. The Redwood Park is lovely and peaceful place too.
Lunch was In N Out Burger, truly good fast food, at Alameda, before we took our second trip across the Bay Bridge in as many days; this time it wasn’t rush hour so far quicker and $2 cheaper. Still, it was busy as we left the first section, crossed Treasure Island and took the top level of the double decker section towards the city. It seems fee-paying travellers get the best view, there is a fee westbound. This fee is $6 in peak hour and $4 in non-peak.
Eaglerider is conveniently located just off the freeway which leads from the Bay Bridge.
Now, confession time. On the second day of our trip, I dropped the Indian Scout. For the unaware, this means that the motorbike falls over, damage usually occurs. I’ve done this a couple of times before, once as an absolute novice during a test ride (an expensive mistake to make on a sports bike with fairings); the second time with Rita, my own motorbike (this was slightly less tragic as the only significant damage was to the clutch lever and I was going to replace the levers anyway). Still, this time I had no idea how much this would cost.
The story goes that I pulled away with the Scout on a steep rough slope, while bearing left onto a busy road. I didn’t apply enough throttle, the bike choked, stopped and fell over. I may have said some swear words. The worst part was that a tourist was videoing me pulling away, probably interested in the cool bike, but I do wonder if I’m on YouTube somewhere under ‘Lady On Motorbike Fail’. Anyway, with the filmer’s help (he was decent enough to stop and rush to help me) we picked up the bike and all that was damaged was the clutch lever, which was bent. The rubber tips on the handlebar and footpegs saved the bike from worse damage. That said, I was very annoyed at myself and embarrassed, I rode the motorbike for the rest of the day but couldn’t bring myself to ride it again after that.
So, how much did this drama cost me? US$79. Did I mention the first one cost me $$$$? Phew. Arthur at Eaglerider was very cool about it, turns out it happens quite a bit, didn’t feel so bad after that.
With that, and almost 2,000 miles on the clock, we said goodbye to Elvis and Tonto, our friends for the past 12 days, we had a amazing trip, we may see you again one day although I suspect I will be ensuring that I hire something with a bigger fuel tank next time. 😃