Azuki, the Green Goddess
Today I needed to be downtown at 12:30. Around 10:30, I started wondering how I was going to get there. 38L down Geary to Market? Nah, that’s boring. Walk? Well, it is a nice day, but 1 1/2 hours of walking for a 1 hour meeting? Nope. Big green bicycle through Golden Gate Park? Yes, absolutely!!
I went to the beta version Google bicycle to plan my route. They claimed that it would take me 36 minutes. For good measure, I assumed it would take me an hour.
At 11 o’clock, I started to mentally prepare myself for the ride. It would be my first bicycle ride in America in over two years. What if I miss a turn and have to go up an enormous hill? What if my breaks that have been in storage for two years fail as I am riding down an enormous hill? What if my tires have dry rotted? What if my back fender breaks off in the middle of an intersection? What if I took the easy way out, and hopped on the Geary bus? I almost did.
Then I thought about it, and figured that two hours of exercise in a park is a lot better than two hours sitting on a bus. Also, I would save $4 by using my own trunks instead of diesel (the Geary bus is not electric, unfortunately). If any of the above catastrophes happened, I would deal with it. At least I know my way around this city pretty well, and I speak the same language as 95% of the people I could encounter. If I can ride my bike to strange and unknown areas of Shanghai, then I can ride my bike to predictable and known places in San Francisco.
I gave Azuki a look over, and noticed that the back fender was in fact quite wobbly, so I fixed that. Then I checked the tire pressure, and it was low, so I fixed that. Then all I had to do was carry her down two flights of stairs, buckle my helmet to my head, and I was off.
Within the first block, I felt the same joy as I did the first time I rode my Huffy 10-speed on Christmas morning when I was 12. I felt invincible and one with the street. It was just me, Azuki and the stop signs.
I quickly made it to Golden Gate Park, and wasn’t exactly sure which roads headed into town and which ones headed down towards Sunset. So I kept turning left each time I came to the edge of the park, and eventually made it out on Haight Street. I had wanted to ride through Panhandle Park, but ended up riding down Page St instead.
When I came upon Market Street, my directions recommended riding on Mission. I didn’t like that plan, and I decided to go for the gusto by riding through town on Market instead. It was then that I officially became a member of the cool club of San Francisco Bikers. I bobbed and weaved with my fellow cyclists on fixes and mixties around buses, and proudly rode my 3-speed, basket front green goddess down the busiest street in town!!
Upon arrival at my destination (15 minutes early!), I locked her up and kissed her farewell for a short hour. Inside, while everyone was talking about the economic impacts of good planning, I couldn’t stop thinking about which route to take home. Should I detour through the Mission? Should I ride all the way to Ocean Beach? Should I go along the Embarcadero? Should I take Market again?
In the end, I was really hungry, and had left over Thai food waiting for me at home, so I took the quickest way possible. Or at least I tried to. I turned myself around in the Valencia/Delores/Guerro area, and ended up crossing Market at Church street near the Safeway we used to frequent when we lived on Fillmore. From there, I decided to pick Page St back up and cut across to ride through the Panhandle and into Golden Gate Park again. In my search for Page St, I found the “wiggle”. The “wiggle” is bike route that is actually marked on the streets that helps you avoid a pretty steep hill. So, I “wiggled” around Western Addition and found myself exactly where I wanted to be.
Riding through the Panhandle was fantastic. Park to the right. Park to the left. Paved bike paths. Fellow riders waving as they passed. Trees here and there to filter the sun. Same goes for Golden Gate Park. I rode past Stow Lake, the Rose Garden, the Conservatory, the DeYoung Museum and when I past the frisbee golf course, I knew I was almost home.
I turned North, and within five minutes, I was schlepping my bike back into the apartment where it now sits, waiting for another adventure. Next time, I will not hesitate.
About the bike: My brother sent this bike to me as a birthday gift during my first year in Portland back in 2004. I am extremely proud of it, and love that it reminds me of him every single time I ride it.
It is an “Azuki“, which is a sister brand to Nishiki bicycles, and they were manufactured in Japan by the Kawamura company in the 70’s & 80’s for West Coast Cycle based in Los Angeles. My brother found the bike in Denver, which means that it was probably sold by Pettee Cycle of Denver, Colorado, a sub-distributer for West Coast Cycle.