Monday 8 October.
Alan and I got picked up around 7.30/7.45 am by my brother-in-law Leon (thanks Leon) who squeezed two bike boxes and two pieces of luggage plus hand luggage into his car and we set off on a pretty slow journey to the airport. (Richard R and Craig are already in the USA, as is Lewis (who lives there) and the rest of the guys are travelling out on Tuesday). Checking in wasn’t a problem and the 10 hour or so flight was pretty good too. With a spare seat beside me to stretch out a bit I managed to doze and watch 3 films! Food on the plane wasn’t too bad either! At this point I felt quite excited about the whole adventure and must admit I had a big grin on my face when we took off (and indeed, when we were about to land too!). There was some spectacular scenery out of the plane window when we were flying over Alaska – the land and lakes were all frozen and looked really beautiful. Our landing nearly got delayed as they shut the air space over San Francisco because President Obama was landing there for his elections but in the event we didn’t get re-routed and landed only a little bit late. There was no problem transferring to the hotel and all was good.
That evening I got together with my father-in-law, Cecil’s cousin Nina and her son John and his two young children for a nice meal and caught up on all the family gossip. I managed to stay alert until 9 pm and then made my way back to the hotel to crash out at 10pm. I was quite pleased about staying up this late as I was determined to get the jet-lag situation under control.
Tuesday 9 October
I had quite a good night’s sleep until 6.30am with a few wake-ups in the middle of the night, but nothing too bad. When I woke up Alan (who I was sharing a room with) had gone to meet Richard Rains for an early breakfast. so I went for an early morning swim – outdoors – which was a little bit chilly to say the least. However, I was rewarded by a nice hot tub afterwards.
It’s nice weather here, clear blue skies and around 20 plus degrees and feels pretty warm.
After breakfast, I met up with Richard R and Alan and we walked along the front to the Alcatraz tours ticket booth. It was a bit disappointing as the only tickets they had were for Wednesday. We had a bit of a laugh about this because we jokingly blamed each other that they hadn’t booked it beforehand – but this was all very light-hearted and good fun. The closest that we got to Alcatraz was the model of Alcatraz by the ticket office, which was really quite funny. It was a shame really as we hadn’t realised that it would be that booked up.
So, we walked along a bit and saw some tour buses of the city and decided to hop on one (just like the open-top tour buses in London) which was a bit chilly up on the top and we were just about warm enough. This turned out to be a bit of a hilarious tour as the guide we had was absolutely hopeless and we couldn’t really understand a word he was saying. The things he found to talk about the city were so ridiculous – he just didn’t seem to have much to say and he was rabbiting on for about an hour or so about nothing in particular and I was absolutely killing myself laughing (shticking – for those who know Yiddish!). For about 5 minutes we couldn’t stop laughing and giggling, it was hilarious. Needless to say it was a complete waste of time but was very humorous. Alan and Richard could hardly understand a word; I caught bits and pieces of what he was saying. It was good to see the city but a very funny hour or so!
After we finished the tour we went to what we thought was a classic diner for a bite to eat but it didn’t start serving food until 11.30 and seeing as it was only 11.20 am we thought we would have a look at the menu and there was nothing on there that we really fancied so we moved on and ended up at a little Italian restaurant and the food was ok, but even then it was hilarious because we sat outside at a little table and the waiter seemed to take Alan and my order and not bother with Richards, so Richard said ‘what about me?’ and the waiter apologised a bit, but the mickey then had to be taken out of Richard as if to say ‘ he wasn’t really sitting at our table, but was sitting elsewhere!’ – another funny moment. This was made even more weird by the fact that when the waiter brought up some bread, he only brought up two pieces of bread and gave them to Alan and me – and not to Richard – so, he definitely wasn’t eating with us!
After that Richard and Alan headed back to the hotel and as I was determined to get on to the time-zone as much as I could I decided to get on one of the old-fashioned tram type cable-cars and hang over the edge on a 10 minute, $6 trip to Union Square in the middle of town.
Had a look around Macys and bought a pair of jeans in the Levis shop. I sat down in the sunshine for some refreshments then took the cable car back and had a look at The Golden Gate Bridge. It really is quite a pretty city once you have a good look around. I think the open-bus tour didn’t do it any justice at all and got off of that thinking, ‘It’s just like a tiny London with all the buildings they were proud of for lasting the 1906 earthquake’. However, it’s all relatively new compared to London’s standards, quite small, but nice. Of course, I also saw the famous hills and took in a lot more of the atmosphere of the city.
After going back to the hotel for a rest, the other guys who had all travelled over from London arrived at the hotel and we all met up in reception at 5 o clock to get the bikes all prepared.
It’s all getting quite close to the actual ‘set-off’ time now and although it is exciting everyone is getting quite anxious now as we will soon be hitting some of the hills in San Francisco and it will be a long day tomorrow, but on the whole we are all looking forward to it and we are all together now, so that’s great.
In fact to pull the team together, Richard P has yet again come up with a great team T-shirt (see photo), which seems to be a tradition now.
Just as an aside – I thought I would include this strangely humorous picture that I noticed during the day.
On that note – I shall leave you until the big day tomorrow.