San Francisco, California – 5th July 2021
I only get a few hours sleep as I am working at 3.30am again, but am able to grab a couple of hours afterwards too.
Ok so am feeling a bit guilty.. the bike is fine, of course, I guess I shouldn’t fall into the trap of making judgements based on prejudice. I mean in my defence Oakland does have a terrible reputation and when I stayed here last time I was advised not to walk anywhere so maybe that was also in my mind.
Anyway, time to go and meet the Dykes on Bikes San Francisco grrrrls. I am to meet them around 10am in the Precita Park Cafe. I have already set up automatic bridge toll payments so I don’t have to shove $8 in my glove for the Bay Bridge toll lol.
Out to the bike, so good not the have to pack it up, and away I go… or not… just 2 blocks later and the bike conks out… now I haven’t mentioned it before but this bike is a bit of a pain, there is no petrol gauge or low petrol warning light so I have to zero the trip every time I fill up. I have already conked out twice before as I haven’t really got the measure of just how many miles it will do on $10 as so far I have been full after 120 miles for $10 and then needed $15 after 110 so its a bit hit and miss, but not to worry as there is a reserve tank so I’ll just switch it over and then have enough to get to a petrol station… except… this morning I find the petrol tap toggle has fallen off, grrrrr, so I don’t know what is full or reserve and I’m not sure where the tap is pointing. I get out my Swiss army knife as it has a small pair of pliers to turn the spigot. There is a chrome cover over the petcock with no markings either so I really don’t know what I’m turning it on to. I try the bike… she coughs… cuts out. Ok so it must have already been on reserve… shit I am totally out of petrol… I check google maps and there is a petrol station just a 5 minute walk away; maybe they can loan me a can to put a couple of dollars in to get the bike over to them and fill it up. I push the bike to the side of the road… omg it is sooooo heavy, even without the luggage.
On my short walk to the garage I pass a number of old cars and camper vans that are obviously being used as homes, some of them have spilled their belongings onto the pavement so I have to walk in the road. They seem to be predominantly older men, a few of them say good morning to me, very friendly.
I arrive at the garage, there is a guy behind the full plexiglass screen complete with security trap door for the exchange of goods and money, mmm not very confidence inspiring. It is quite busy so have to wait a little while, when I get to the counter I explain my predicament, several times as he doesn’t really understand me, until the penny drops and he produces a green petrol can, but he says he will have to ask his supervisor so I need to wait. He then starts to serve other customers… I wait… still waiting… I say to him can we check with his supervisor please, he grabs the can and goes out onto the forecourt where he speaks with a young woman, they are speaking in another language, possibly Somalian, he is waving the can and pointing at me. She looks annoyed and then starts shaking her head, he says to me “she says you have to buy the can”, “I don’t need a can just something to put some gas in to get the bike over here to fill it up” I turn to the woman with open hands saying “can you just help me out?” She glares and me and walks away… “I guess that’s a no then”.. won’t be bringing the bike here to fill it up that’s for sure.
Then I have a brainwave, I’ll just buy a big bottle of water, empty it and fill it with petrol. I go back into the shop and look for a big bottle, but they all have small caps so the petrol is going to spill everywhere. Then I spot a huge bottle of Gatorade, in green, orange or blue.. well goodness knows what the blue one is, but I pick that and pay for it. I then ask the guy if I can use the ‘restroom’ to empty the bottle and rinse it out… “No, you have to pay”… seriously…. then another guy, a customer, suggests I empty it and then wash it over at the coffee machine, there is hot water there, “but be sure to wash it good, because that is sugar and it will damage your engine”… well of course I know this, but I thank him anyway. I take the bottle outside and find a bit of scrub land to pour it away on then go back in the shop to rinse it out. The water in the coffee machine is boiling, of course, and I am worried the bottle will melt, it is also difficult to hold the bottle with the hot water in it. Anyway I eventually get it rinsed enough and pay $2, (the minimum apparently for gas), to fill it up. It is actually exactly right.
I walk back to the bike and put the petrol in, turn the engine over and it still won’t start. I try a few more times and unbelievably the battery has now died, WTF! I think maybe the tank was so dry that the $2 is not enough so I start to push the bike towards the garage. Just then a huge guy on a bicycle comes by and stops asking if I need a hand, “Well, the battery is flat and I’m out of gas so I’m just pushing it over to the gas station”. “Do you need a jump?” he replies, “Oh yes that would be great” thinking, how is he going to do that with a bicycle?? “I’ll be back” and off he cycles.. I keep pushing… 2 or 3 minutes later he is back with a starter pack just like the one I left at home. We then try to get the seat off, but there is a bolt that we need an Allen key for and all my tools are back at the accommodation, not to worry he says “I have some” and promptly jumps on his bicycle and goes off to get them. While he is gone I text Kate at DoB SF to say what has happened and that I will be late, so can I meet them somewhere else. She texts back and asks if I need any help, no, I reply, I have someone helping me. She tells me they are going to Alice’s Restaurant and I should aim to meet them there.
A few minutes later he is back and try as we might we cannot get the seat bolt undone. Then he says “I think we can get at the battery through this side panel” he lifts the panel off and he is able to get on the positive terminal ok and then he can earth it to somewhere on the bike. After a bit of faffing about he gets it ready and I try starting the bike… nope the bike is turning over but still not starting and there is not enough juice in the jumper pack to keep trying it. I say to him that I think there is not enough petrol so he says, “I have some” and jumps on his bicycle again. He comes back with a huge red drum and proceeds to top up the petrol tank. We then try the starter pack again but it is finished really so he says, “I have a garage mains battery charger so if you can push it to mine we can try that, it’s only just round the corner”. Just then another guy turns up on a bicycle, he is obviously a friend of my man who turns to me and says, “do you know how to bump start?” “Yes, but I haven’t done it in years… I can give it a go”. So he tells me to get on the bike and the two men will push it and we see if we can get it started. It doesn’t work so my man says “if you give him, (guy number 2), 10 bucks he will go and get some gas for you”.. what a great idea so I do and the guy takes the huge red petrol drum and cycles off to the petrol station.
I push the bike around the corner and there is a large yellow truck parked on the street, he tells me to park the bike behind it. I say to him, “What’s your name, sorry I didn’t ask you before”, “Mike”, “Hi Mike, I’m Padraigin, thank you so much for all your help”, “That’s no problem” as he disappears into what seems to be some kind of yard. Just then his mate returns with the petrol, I actually gave him $20 and told him to fill it up. My idea was to leave half for Mike as a thank you, but the guy has only put $10 in and gives me the change. Mike then appears with the mains charger and puts some of the petrol in the tank. He says we need to wait 5 minutes for the charger to warm up. While I am waiting I take another look at the petrol switch and it suddenly occurs to me that I might have actually switched the petcock to off instead of reserve…. out with the trusty Swiss Army knife pliers and yes the stub will turn another quarter to the up position. When Mike comes back we try the charger on the battery and hey presto she starts first time, so all along the petrol was turned off…. what a numpty I am. The other guy has disappeared but I give Magic Mike a huge hug and tell him I can’t thank him enough for all his help.. what an absolute star and a sweetie to boot.
I find Alice’s Restaurant in google and put the address into my GPS and I’m on my way at last. I do stop for petrol, but not at Miss Snooty’s place I can tell you.
The route takes me along the Skyline Boulevard a wonderful twisty road… I have some film
I take a wrong turn and end up in horrendous traffic, so I just go down the hard shoulder and by-pass all the traffic; I suspect this isn’t allowed but I’m late! I turn around and am back on the Skyline road. At last I arrive at Alice’s*, only 3 hours late!! Kate comes out to greet me, it’s good to see her again. She says the grrls are waiting to meet me, they have secured a table at the back, the place is really full and there is a queue for orders. I do recognise a couple of the other grrrls, Pam the Secretary who I met last time and another woman whose name I couldn’t remember. There are quite a few ‘supporters’ and I chat with a few while I have my lunch. We are going to ride to a Goat farm next, really… I’m not entirely sure why but then again why not.
Before setting off we take the opportunity for a few photos
Then it’s on the bikes and off. I have got both my cameras running so I place myself in the middle of the pack.
We then arrive at the Goat Farm… there are goats and more goats and quite a lot of flies, but the shop is interesting as it sells goat produce, not surprisingly of course.
Quite a few buy cheese, it seems they do several varieties, and I think some health products but I just get a tee shirt for my grand-daughter. While here I get chatting with Lisha and tell her about a few niggles with the bike, I am still getting the front end wobble and the bike seems a bit sluggish in 5th gear sometimes. I also want to put a new battery on and try and get a replacement petcock lever. I am thinking to change the air filter and maybe the spark plugs too, to try and solve the sluggish response. She says she is an amateur mechanic and I can take the bike to hers tomorrow, she has tools and will help me if I want. Kate also suggests I take it to the guy a lot of the SF grrrls use, she can call him and see if he can fit me in… both suggestions are so helpful, but I’m not sure what I want to do yet.
Next stop is Half Moon Bay on the PCH where some fill up with petrol, I don’t need to yet of course. Then Kate tells me to follow her, we are going to her home to pick up some belt buckles that I have ordered for London and Rhine-Weser. As we go on our way back into San Francisco the grrrls peel off one by one until just Kate and I are left.
We arrive at her place and I collect the buckles. I say I am going to go and ride down Lombard Street, the famous twisty almost vertical street that Sylvie and I rode down in 2018, well I walked the bike down as it was so slow so I am hoping to be able to ride a bit of it at least. She says she wouldn’t drive down it let alone ride a bike… oh really, well I’ve already done it once so know what to expect.
I do have to admit it was a wee bit scarier than I remember from last time, probably because I was actually riding for most of it on a much, much heavier bike too.
After this I head to Fishermans Wharf for some dinner
I find an iHop… I really like these so my first one this tour. Then back to the accommodation, I really need to get some sleep!
*YES – It’s THAT Alice’s Restaurant made famous by Arlo Guthrie