Sunday, May 3, 2009

San Francisco April-May 2009

So, within one month I've managed to visit both Seattle and San Francisco, both west coast towns that are reputed to be bicycling cities (with the third of the West Coast Bicycling Triplets being Portland, of course.)

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and arranged to go get drinks and a bite with my friend Scott at Zeitgeist, a fun bar and grill on Valencia street in the "SoMa" district of San Francisco. Arriving at my hotel and unpacking my bike, I discovered I'd left my pump at home (insert self-administered dope slap to forehead here) and so I looked up a nice bike shop called Freewheel just a few blocks south of Zeitgeist. I got down there in plenty of time, got the exact pump I was looking for (a Topeak Road Morph), and had time to do a little sightseeing on South Valencia before heading back north to grab a couple of beers and a burger with Scott.

Thursday night, my company Vectorworks was co-host of what turned out to be just a bang-up party —the City To Green Party— for architects, cyclists and artistic locals at the 3A Gallery on South Park street. In the gallery was an exhibit of track bikes from the second half of the 20th century. The gallery proprietors hung a show of track bikes on the walls and described the provenance of each bike, and detailed descriptions of the bike realization as a work of art. Here's a transcription of one of the the bike descriptions:

Automoto, France, 1940s.

Cycles Automoto was a pioneering French maker of motorcycles and bicycles founded at the turn of the 20th century. Well regarded for thoughtful design and meticulous construction, Automoto grew in popularity until merging with the Peugeot group in the early 1960s. Part of that popularity is attributable to the company's wide ranging product offerings, whose bicycle line along grew to include 20 models. When an Automoto advertisement boldly declared, "Le Triomphe De La Qualité Française", few in sound conscience would have doubted the claim.

Built for the professional track racer

Restored condition
Magistroni cranks
Chater Lee Pedals
Major Taylor stem

Collection: American Cyclery of San Francisc

Quite refreshing. A very well attended party, right to the end, as you can see from the photos. I've often wondered why the intersection-set of architects (particularly young architects) and bicyclists is so large. At least 30 attendees (including yours truly) arrived on bike and were graciously attended to out front of the gallery in a nice bike parking lot attended by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition , a club of more than 10,000 members. Very, very nice work.

This poem was transcribed in chalk on the walls of the foyer of the 3A Gallery:

Ode to Bicycles

I was walking
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.

A few bicycles
me by,
the only
that dry
moment of summer,
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
beetle backs
of the whirling
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.

I thought about evening when the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn’t
a translucent insect
through summer
a cold
that will return to
when it’s needed,
when it’s light,
that is,
of each day.

- Pablo Neruda, 1956

I broke 1000 miles for the year so far on the last day of April on the streets of San Francisco. For me, this really cut it. Call me fickle (less than a month ago I was extolling Seattle,) but San Francisco is US Bicycling City Number One in my book.

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