Wednesday, September 22, 2010

So Far Gone

It's hard to believe that barely four weeks ago I was comfy and cozy on Oak Street in San Francisco. My time in that city was nothing short of magical. My apartment at the top of an old Victorian in Lower Haight was warm fun, my work was engaging and impactful, and the people I met kept life entertaining. Each week in SF I counted down to two perfect moments. The first was Wednesday night ethnic dinners. The second was the Saturday morning roll out.

Wednesday nights were the closest my life will ever come to a television show. Each week a group of 4 of us, all MBA's in the city working on summer internships, met at a different ethnic restaurant in the city to have dinner, knock back a few drinks, catch up on life, and laugh until the weight of the long day lifted off our shoulders. The beauty of our lives in San Francisco was their impermanence. We were living a little microcosm of a the real world and in 10 - 12 weeks it would end. With the end of summer would come a brilliant opportunity. Whatever problems or worries that hung over our heads would be left behind. On Wednesday nights we got to take a step back and laugh at it all. Each week a restaurant from a different country around the world. Each week a chance to try something new, invite a few new friends, share stories of the places we had been and make fun of how it all looked from here. It was Seinfeld, B-school style and it was spectacular.

Saturday mornings were something different all together. I woke up bright and early, shook off the throbbing head or the ringing ear or the full belly from the night before and hesitated only briefly before beginning a Saturday morning ritual. The heart rate strap went on first first, followed by bib shorts, undershirt and jersey. Next came the spandex sleeves to fight the chilly fog, and leggings to do the same. Wind proof vest was a must, helmet and socks were last. A quick breakfast of fast-brunig fuels, cram the back pockets full of energy bars, goos, bananas, cell phone, $20 emergency money and an ipod. Fill the water bottles, check the tire pressure. It's a serious process to be sure but there's no telling where This Saturday might take me.

Finally, slinging my bike over my shoulder I headed down the 3 flights of stairs to the street and the roll out. Most mornings I'd begin by peddling through the fog and cold towards Golden Gate Park (SF's version of Central Park and equally stunning). My legs were usually still stiff after spending most of the week jammed into a cubicle. I hung a quick right at the park's edge and off I rode across the city streets, weaving through traffic and slipping quietly past a city still groggy with sleep. I struggled up the steep hill and into the Presidio, fighting the headwind across the idyllic and mostly-empty former army base, across the cliffs and finally arrived at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. On a perfect day the bridge is shrouded in fog and not until I ambled about 3/4 of the way across the slender obstacle course that of tourists snapping photos and fighting the crosswinds with their beach cruisers does the blanket of fog begin to melt and the sun shine through.

30 minutes on the bike and I had transported myself to another world. There, on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, my Saturdays truly began. Another ritual took place there too. Strip off the arm warmers, pull off the leggings and the wind vest. The sun shone down and the roads opened up in every direction. A group of familiar riders began to assemble As far as we could go the roads would go too. The stunning views and epic climbs were so amazing that my mind often wanted to ride longer and further than my body was able. More than once I ended up dragging myself like a wounded soldier back into the city, up the three flights of stairs and back onto my couch 5, 6 sometimes even 7 hours after I had left. What more could you ask from a Saturday?

This was the good life in San Francisco. Only four weeks ago but already a lifetime away....

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