For those of you who don’t live in
the San Francisco Bay area, it can get pretty cold and windy.
On a lovely sunny day in late April, it unexpectedly became very windy. Since I live in Lagunitas, a town around 30 miles north and
across the beautiful Golden Gate
Bridge, the ride home was not a
picturesque fun scoot ride, but turned into a freezing adventure from HELL
The wind gusts in the city were reported as high as 33mph when I left, but on the Golden Gate bridge only God knows how strong (and intermittent!) the wind was. Towards Lagunitas where I live wind approached 50mph ripping large branches off trees and even in one case blowing a tree down. .
Ah, a lovely night for a scooter ride.
I spent the night before in the city with my girlfriend, the lovely Donella. The night before we scooted home from a party around midnight in the city, it was cool but calm. Although the weather was forecast to be sunny and nice, it became much colder than expected.
I planned to go to a San Francisco Scooter Girls Mixer before I scooted home to Lagunitas. Donella had driven home, so I was on my way.
On the way to the mixer I took a street called Divisadero. This street goes over one of the highest steepest hills in San Francisco. Even going TO the party at around 6:30 pm I hit severe wind gusts. Not so much at the bottom of the hill where the restaurant was, but on the top of the hill getting there. Stopping for stop signs atop the hill, I’d actually feel my scooter being blown sideways, forcing me to dig in with my feet to hold the bike up. It was a beautiful sunny ride with typically beautiful SF scenery, but it was getting a lot cooler than I expected. When I started, temperature was reported at 53 degrees, wind 27mph, but it was a lot colder on top of those hills. Already my fingertips were getting cold in my unlined leather gloves.
I ride what I consider(ed) a fairly substantial scooter,
The Little Monster, my Aprilia 250 Sport City. Dry
weight around 330 lbs, and quick - 22.5 hp. Add me
and my gear and we’re up to 550 lbs. In 40 or 50mph
winds, Lil Monster* didn’t feel quite that monstrous.
Hey it’s a scoot, to zip around on and say “Ciao ciao!”
The Aprilia has a high ratio of horse power to weight,
which makes it quick and it really did tackle the head
on winds well. The problem is it is fairly light, so it does
get blown around a bit.
I got to the restaurant, met the ladies, and instinctively,
I got the feeling that I’d better head home soon. Halfway
through my first and only beer, Donella called telling
me that her truck was blowing sideways on the
Golden Gate Bridge – “Be Careful.”
Hmmmmm. Now if her truck is blowing sideways, I wonder what will happen to me on my scooter?
Fortunately I brought along a special item, flannel pajama bottoms. When I left I was wearing substantial jeans, under which were my pajamas, a cotton shirt, a fleece turtleneck sweatshirt, and a solid leather jacket. Air temperature was now reported at 52 degrees, wind 33mph, but that wasn’t the case as I approached the bridge. It was freezing! I set aside my freezing concern since priority one was staying upright… oh yes and trying to feel my fingertips which were kind of frozen. As soon as I entered the Golden Gate bridge misty water spray hits my facemask. Ah, salt water residue on my darkest tint facemask. On the bridge gusts appear from nowhere. You don’t see them coming and they are Strong! There were yellow construction cones flying laterally across the bridge in the wind. Oh Man. Dig in at 45 - 50mph and hold on. There is No Place to Stop or to pull off on the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. You are bordered by a 2 foot high steel rail on the right, and traffic on the left. Contrary to popular belief in the rest of the world, Northern California drivers are NOT the best drivers. The folks going home to the wealthy hills of Marin pretty much go straight ahead no matter what. If anything odd happens like an accident, generally their reaction is to consider if they have enough insurance to cover their wealthy butts. On a bike (and I was the ONLY motorcycle of any sort on the bridge)…
You Ride or You Die
Negotiating several burly gusts, I made it over the bridge and absolutely as soon as possible exited at the first exit onto country side roads into Sausalito. This is normally a beautiful wonderful ride, but it was freezing with constantly shifting winds. Making it into Sausalito I was relieved by stop lights and hopefully stopped behind other cars, wiggling my fingers. Then through Mill Valley, onto more country side roads, over another steep windy hill, and into the next town, Larkspur, where it started to feel like something out of Avatar. There are BIG trees in this area which were leaning and bending wildly due to the wind. At one point at a stop light the entire stoplight structure was swaying in the wind as if we were having an earthquake. Going into a friendly Marin gas station I asked to use the rest room, with the hope of getting a rag to clean off my face mask. In friendly Marin fashion I was promptly told the restroom was “out of order.”
I slopped some dirty bug juice windshield cleaner on the mask and off I went, freezing fingertips and all.
Blasting my way up to Fairfax, the last town before one goes up Whites Hill to Lagunitas I stopped in a grocery store to get warm. From Fairfax there is 8 miles mostly uphill through windy roads ending in a two mile 55 mph, flat, poorly paved straight away, from which wind tunnel like winds are coming at you directly from the Pacific Ocean. I wrapped my scarf around my nose, mouth and chin, stuffed my Shoei helmet on, tried to thaw out my fingers and blasted west into the sunset. The last two miles I could either go slower and “warmer” or just blast home heading into the gusty freezing wind. I chose the latter.
The next morning my right hand was sore from squeezing the throttle so hard. Well it made me a better rider. The Little Monster was powerful, light, and impressive. My unlined leather gloves weren’t.
Sorry I missed dinner SF Scootergirls. Nice meeting ya’ll. Ciao – Antonio!