Saturday, May 8, 2010


No cycling this week as I am (actually was) on a Business trip to the US. At one point it looked as if the flight home might be affected by the volcanic ash cloud - as we were nearing the time to fly home there were once again reports of airport closures in Europe (Scotland and Northern Ireland). We had also gotten fixed (inflexible) tickets - they are more cost-effective (cheaper) but you cannot change them if your plans change. This meant we had a bit of spare time before flying home. I was due to return on the Thursday of the election. Normally I would not have worried about returning in time to vote (as it was the day of the General Election) as BA have a lot of planes and have always got me home in the past. But volcanoes are a force of nature to be reckoned with. So we arranged an additional route home via Paris and the Eurostar, just in case flights to London were cancelled. (The new tickets were flexible and so cancellable!)

I was staying in San Jose and one morning - the time zone differences mean you tend to wake up very early - and went for a stroll around the area to take a few pictures. For some reason I think that office blocks always look nicer in the US than in the UK - although that may just be the areas I tend to visit. You can see it was early in the morning - the sun was still quite low on the horizon - what is more surprising is how close to the building they plant the trees. Presumably the foundations are deep or the roots of that type of tree do not cause problems?


The Business areas do seem to be well planted with plants/shrubs and trees and despite the simplicity of the architecture there are some nice touches - I like these "golden" windows reflecting the other buildings and vegetation. They also probably help to reflect heat and so cut air-conditioning costs.


BA has two flights out of San Francisco each day (at least whenever I have flown out) one around 5pm and one around 7pm - for maximum flexibility we were booked on the late flight - but out change of plans meant that although we could now catch the earlier flight our tickets were not changeable. So we decided to drive up to San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge to the green patch you fly over before passing the city of San Francisco on the way to the airport.

We had a SatNav with the car, but it had ceased to work the day before so we took a slightly more scenic route up to the bridge than we had originally planned. It was not a problem it was another sunny day with unbroken blue skies and we took the more scenic 280 and then "meandered" through San Francisco before crossing the bridge and driving down into Sausalito.

Sausalito is a rather picturesque seaside town to the North of San Francisco with views of the Bay Bridge (Highway 80) and San Francisco. You can also see the Island of Alcatraz - only 1.5miles offshore from San Francisco in San Francisco bay - once a "notorious" prison which despite its proximity to the city was virtually impossible to escape from. It is an interesting and sobering place to visit.


Alcatraz Island in a slight close-up


With a bit of time to kill we had lunch by the sea in Somas -sitting outside in the sun - on its own "pier". Naturally I had some seafood. (My starter was tuna sashimi- delicious.)


There were quite a few cyclists "promenading" along the sea front. In this part of the US car drivers in small towns seem to be very courteous both to pedestrians and cyclists. Cars will stop for a pedestrian to cross a road without a crossing in sight. I think the lower speed limit helps, but it is very refreshing. (The same is not true of all parts of the US though.) There were hire bikes and I did see a few tandems go by as well. I think this was a private tandem though - they weren't wearing helmets, whereas whenever I have hired a bike in the US they make you sign you life away and wear a helmet. If I had had a little more time to spare I would have hired a bike in Sausalito as well.


This picture is of Angel Island - the odd arrangement of buildings caught my eye. It is part of Angel Island State Park and has had a varied history including being a "Fort", prison for Japanese and German POWs and an Immigration Station - responsible for the processing of over 1 million Asian immigrants


This map shows the area with Angel Island the green island to the right and halfway up the chart after lunch we headed east towards the cost to see if we could get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Looking at the Google Map of the area I can now see what we should have done - head for Point Bonita Lighthouse which looks as if it offers good views of the Bridge - but we only had a rental car map and a broken SatNav. At least we managed to reach the coast though. This photograph is taken looking North, the next cove along is Rodeo Cove I think.


The view looking back towards San Francisco - the Golden Gate Bridge is just around the corner.


Despite the lovely weather there was quite a cold breeze coming off the sea, I can imagine that there are times when the sea could be pretty rough.


This part of the coast also had some remnants of the war - there were look out stations which were used to steer artillery fire in the event that enemy ships were approaching the area.


After a slight detour - I missed the turning at SF airport to the Car Rental garage the first time around (I have done it many times before - but the tiredness was catching up maybe). We arrived at SF airport to check in at around 3.30pm to see the early BA plane on still at the gate and briefly thought how nice it would be to catch that plane rather than wait for the later one. We asked when checking in and the very helpful check in staff did just that - got us on the earlier flight. This meant there was not time to shop at the airport (my excuse for not getting anything for my family) we cleared security and then walked down to the gate where we were ready to board - perfect timing.

The flight home was uneventful - the entertainment system worked which made a nice change! However the second rule of flying - always sleep on the return leg of the journey so after a vegetarian meal (which was pretty good actually) and one film I slept pretty much the whole way back. Apparently the weather that week had been awful in the UK - it was certainly colder than when I left - the skies were blue though. There was also plenty of time to vote and because of the time differences I found myself watching the General Election Results until 5am. I think I was expecting the excitement to heat up - it never did though.

My commiserations to the MP who broke my nose, he lost his seat. No it was not a fight - many years ago we worked as engineers for the same company and lived in bed-sits in the same house. We were playing "rugby" as we walked back to the house one afternoon after work and I tackled his knee with my nose - not his fault. (My Dad offered to straighten it not long after by re-breaking it with a pair of forceps stuck up my nose - I decided against that course of action.)

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