Latest Update (as at 30/1/11):

Location: London. Back.

Total Distance Cycled: 10,325km
Days Biking: 140
Longest Day: 174km (2/12/10)

Monday 1 November 2010

Two diners in one day

We can get very hungry on this trip.

The food monster can catch us unawares at any point. And even though we try and stave it off with a hearty breakfast, a decent size lunch and a several course dinner it can still overwhelm us, causing us to lurch into our panniers rabidly and reach for Lord only knows how many Haribo gummy bears, oat and honey cereal bars or gigantic fistfuls of peanuts.

It seems to really let rip however on our days off. Then we have been known to consume quite obscene numbers of calories in a bid to quiet its stomach growling, light headedness making, jelly leg wobbling rapaciousness.

A case in point, our 'sightseeing' day in San Francisco.
The day started early with a commuter lift into town from Duncan that deposited us at Mel's Diner at around 7.15am. As daylight fully dawned we were tucking into corned beef hash, omelettes, chipped potatoes and several rounds of toast, all washed down with lashings of full throttle coffee.

Three light sightseeing hours later and our eyes rested, in the ernomous food complex of Nordstrom's mall, on two of the largest chocolate eclairs you have ever seen. It was as if in a horrible science fiction experiment several smaller eclairs had been attacked by one giant eclair and been morphed into super sized version which was plotting to take over the eclair world.

I was actually faintly appalled that I managed to eat it, but manage I did, and with several thousand more calories on board I was ready to face the further hardships of being a tourist.

So exhausting were these that only two hours later, in a sweet suburban neighbourhood, we were ready to eat again. This time Mexican. A fine dining establishment saw fit to serve us with two foot long burritos stuffed to the gills with rice, beans, sour cream and guacamole, salsa, chicken and salad. Mmmmm.

Having consumed this I did have the grace to feel full.
But not so full that when, four further exhausting and edifying hours later, we joined the Williams family in Bubba's diner back in their home town of San Anselmo I was unable to order and eat a cheeseburger with salad and coleslaw and an Oreo cookie milkshake of quite monstrous deliciousness and embarrassingly alarming size.

And you'd think it would all stop there. But no. Eight thirty struck and the Williams' friend Brandon popped over and so we celebrated by eating again, this time sharing beer and cookies as the night became long with chat.

And so to bed. The food monster marginally quieted.
We had at least managed to munch our way through some culture during the day as well as calories. Cramming some in, in the scraps of time afforded after chewing! The diners themselves were boni fide tourist stops. Mel's was the star of the 70's film 'American Graffiti' and as authentic a diner as one can get, and Bubba's had recently been featured on TV in a food programme. So as well as providing much needed sustenance they were also hugely edifying.
There is nothing like an American diner. From the booth style seating to the swivvelling-at-the counter seats all covered in slippery faux leather; from the endless coffee delivered from a height to the floppy laminated menus with no-nonsense but endless egg choices; from the juke box tunes to the slightly too bright strip lights it is all idiosyncratically and unavoidably USA and served by servers who range from alarmingly 'peppy' to wearily 'seen it all love'. We have loved them.
And between our two diners we soaked up some very tasty San Francisco visual treats.
A city that has survived earthquake, wind and fire, it perches audaciously on a series of hills around a sweeping bay offering great vistas on its ludicrously slopey streets down to the waterfront or up to fine monuments. Some of the streets are so foolishly steep that they have either had to be reduced to steps or contain as many as ten hairpins. We loved marching up and down then and soaking up the fabulous views.
We chomped our way through many of the distinct districts. We wandered from the huge commercial towers of the finance district to the fancy hotels and Grace Cathedral of Nob Hill, shambled pasts the turrets and crennellations of the pretty Queen Anne style homes Haight-Ashbury to the open greenery of Golden Gate Park, and dodged through restaurant crammed Chinatown to the liberal book havens of the 'red light' district.
We visited things, we learnt things, we photographed things. We window shopped, we read information panels and we even visited a whole museum. The 'California Academy of Sciences'. There we gawped at their butterfly, bird and wriggly beast filled rainforest exhibit and their profusion of fish, pulsating jelly things and crocodile filled aquarium.
And as many things as there were, so there were ways to be transported to them. We took a cable car, a street car, a bus and a ferry to navigate our way from place to place, as well as stretching our legs with a good chunk of walking.
San Francisco is a place that has had to invent a number of ways to get about. Its geographical challenges are multifarious. Perhaps the most amazing of its achievements are the two metal arms that stretch up from its northern shore and connect it to the land that surrounds its bay. The bridges.
We travelled repeatedly over the glorious Golden Gate and saw the two tier Bay Bridge pouring people into and out of downtown. These great conduits and the commuter ferries allow people to travel from the huge surrounding residential belt in and out with remarkable ease.
And we joined the general crowd, travelling in from our base in north of the city San Amselmo. In all, we went to the centre of the city three times, each time enjoying it in a different way. The first time we visited our friends Deanne and Garth in the fortieth floor suite at the Mandarin Oriental where a good friend had swung them a deal of three luxurious days away from biking. Here we sipped wine, munched cheese, swapped tales and indulged in the stunning skyline as the sun went down over San Fran. Then we had our intense sightseeing and eating day and finally we went in for an early evening stroll and a refined dinner and had a wonderfully romantic ferry ride home across the bay as the lights of the city faded in front of us.
Yes, we went to a home. A proper grown up home, which was perhaps the greatest treat of all in our San Francisco break. Duncan and Ali Williams housed us in their lovely San Anselmo residence, complete with carpet, huge bed, hot and cold running generosity, BOOKS and an extraordinary number of levels. They live in their hillside home with the delicious Olivia and Rex, 4 years and 16 months old respectively, who kept us hugely entertained with antics that ranged from climbing into the toy oven and shutting the door behind to a full scale guided tour of the very classy Wendy house and a lengthy explanation of why food colouring should be added to milk.
It was such a fabulous break. We enjoyed some great catch up chatter, an introduction to the Giants' bid for the World series, pure relaxation, email catch up time and the chance to babysit.
Yes...we were left alone with the children!
Ali gave us very clear instructions and seemed very confident that we'd be fine and that Duncan would be home soon and then left us to it. Phil turned to me and said, 'You knew what she was talking about didn't you? You've done all this before, right?'. I really wanted to say yes but was forced to admit that no, I had no real clue at all. Thence followed two glorious hours of feeding, bathing and putting to bed that saw Rex tire of me so much at one point that he picked up his pyjamas himself and started putting them on. He looked at me sort of sympathetically as if he realised that I had clearly no idea what I was doing. Phil was introduced by Olivia to Danny and the Dinosaur and spent a very happy half and hour in their company, finally boring her to sleep, and so it was that when Duncan arrived home, things had a reasonable aura of calm and we had not had to resort to bribery with the Haribo bears, the oat and honey cereal bars or the peanuts.
Ah, food. Glorious food. We had a fully stocked kitchen to play with and fantastic supermarkets and coffee shops on our doorstep. And so we ate and ate and ate and ate and put that food monster right back in its place.
And finally, five sophisticated days later we were hungry for biking again.

1 comment:

  1. I vote for photo #2 in your big sur photo file. A sign like that calls for alka seltzer:>)