San Francisco city-to-ferry loop bicycle ride
Shannon and I rode an 18 mile loop across San Francisco (following the Wiggle route), through the Golden Gate park, around the coast to the Golden Gate Bridge, across the Bridge up to Sausalito, onto the Sausalito Ferry back to the Ferry Building at San Francisco. The ride is 18 miles long, not counting the distance the ferry covers.
Here are some photos from the trip:
(There are also a few photos in this album from the day before at the NASA Ames Research Center and also the Fremont Park.)
The route we followed is a pretty common route, especially for tourists. You can tack on another 10 miles by riding up to Tiburon and taking the ferry there, but the ferry schedules are much less regular at Tiburon, leaving only at 12:45 and 3:30pm.
There are lots of cyclists on this route, which is good because cars begin to expect bicyclists and see the more easily. Plus it makes the ride a bit more fun to see the variety of riders.
What worked well this trip
Leaving early. We got into the city by about 9:30am and parked at the Yerba Buena garage at 5th and Mission. It cost about $16 for the time we parked there (maybe 4 hrs?), which is good for SF. By leaving early, we also avoided a ton of traffic into the city. We finished at 2pm and drove out of the city, which was also a good time to leave to avoid traffic.
More planning. I spent about 45 minutes planning the route. After two poor bike route experiences, I decided I needed to spend a bit time planning. I used MapMyRide to create a route and then sent it to my phone. That helped me estimate distances better. I then put my phone in a front pouch and navigated along the route. That worked all right, though it's hard to zoom out with MapMyRide. Also, using the GPS on my phone drained the entire battery in just a few hours.
Leaving the kids at home. The kids were more than happy to be left home alone with Avery babysitting for the day. For them it means no parents, unlimited TV and video games, and no strenuous outdoor activities. There's no way we could have navigated along Mission Street with a family of bicyclists. However, riding through Golden Gate Park would have been perfect.
Making use of Sundays. I guess when you attend church on Sunday for 20 years, you get used to basically foregoing trips like this on that day. It's great to have this full day back, with the ability to go on fun outings like this. It makes weekends feel a bit longer.
Golden Gate Park. Riding through Golden Gate Park in the morning, with all the joggers, dog walkers, and other bicyclists was a lot of fun. This park is pretty amazing, with lots of trails, green, and very little roads that cars can travel on. It reminds us a bit of Central Park in New York.
What didn't work so well
Could have left earlier. We could have left at around 7am. However, we would have run into a Nike Woman's marathon that would have blocked our route to the bridge. Still, we could have made it up to Tiburon by the 12:45pm ferry. What held us back from leaving earlier? We had to get our microwave fixed and so had to clean up for our landlord's visit. Plus we just generally weren't all ready. Next time we should pack up entirely the night before. I think we could cover more distance and have a better trip by leaving before the kids even wake up.
Avoid Mission Street. I don't know how you get through the city, but the Wiggle route is overrated. It's kind of okay because there's a steady stream of cyclists traveling that route, but it's still very urban. What's unnerving is riding in the bike lane or shoulder when a bus is right behind or ahead of you. The bus keeps wanting to pull right into your path, and the buses are so long, I doubt they can see very well. Add the buses into the general downdown commotion of pedestrians, other cars, taxis, noise, etc., and it's kind of a high-alert ride, where you have to be super watchful and anticipate everything.
Overall, this was a great trip. I think it went quite well. Not a whole lot to improve. We stopped at In-n-Out in Milbrae on the way home, and there were seriously about 25 cars in the drive-through. We skipped it and went to the one in Belmont instead.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.