Dave’s American diary – San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

Today’s been a brilliant day and not just because I didn’t have a four-hour motorbike ride.

I had a free day today and took to the streets of San Francisco on my Harley for a day of site seeing.

As I said in yesterday’s diary, I’ve loved being on the Harley and the rides from Vegas to Bakersfield, Bakersfield to Yosemite and Yosemite to San Francisco have all been great.

But I must admit, the prospect of a day of short journeys as opposed to a four-hour slog through desert and mountains was one I was pleased with.

So with a spring in my step and a lot less luggage than normal, I jumped on my Harley and headed toLombard Street, the famous zig-zag road that Steve McQueen sped down in ‘Bullit’.

I arrived early to miss any crowds of tourists and I was pretty shocked when I rocked up and saw just how steep the road is.

Sat at the top on my Harley, with garden sprinklers from the houses on either side of the road wetting the tarmac, I wasn’t at my most confident – especially having seen a MotoGP rider take on the hill not altogether convincingly – but the Heritage Softail Classic handled it superbly.

Lombard Street, San Francisco in the early morning sun


I swooped down to the foot of the hill, without a problem, and headed to the main pier for my tour of Alcatraz.

Parking this time around was cheap, at 40c per hour, so I parked up and jumped on the boat – through the throngs of tourists – and headed over to Alcatraz.

Approaching Alcatraz from San Francisco via boat

For $30, you’d probably get entrance to a London attraction for two, maybe three hours but at Alcatraz you can stay on the island for as long as you want, a luxury not afforded to previous residents.

And it’s worth every cent. You get an MP3 headset to take you through the prison, documenting the different areas, notable former residents and the routines of prison life. Former prisoners and prison staff also narrate it which is a nice touch.

Tiered prison cells in Alcatraz

From Alcatraz I got back on the Harley and ventured to the house from ‘Mrs Doubtfire’.

Mrs Doubtfire's house in San Francisco

There’s a stunning tribute to Robin Williams outside the house where fans have written messages and tributes to the actor and comedian. It was really quite moving.

Tributes to Robin Williams outside the house of Mrs Doubtfire

I then went on to San Francisco’s other great landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’ve seen lots of impressive bridges in my time, Dartmouth (ahem) for one, but it’s not quite as good as the Golden Gate Bridge.

It really is a stunning place and after walking across it I got down on the beach and waited for nightfall to get some shots of the bridge at dusk.

I decided to wait for the sun to go down in a lovely bar overlooking the beach and got talking to a fellow biker. I explained my route and what I had lined up over the next week or so and they thought I was doing things too quickly.

He thought that on a tour like mine, with mapped out destinations and confirmed accommodation, there’s no real scope to stay in one place longer if you really like it.

And he may have a point because if I’d simply hired a bike and didn’t have any rigid travel plans, I’d definitely have stayed another day in Yosemite and at least another day in San Francsico.

Some people will much prefer the thorough and unarguably enjoyable itinerary provided by Eagle Rider, as I have, but some would maybe prefer to go it alone. It really is down to personal choice.

I had a brilliant day today and have loved every second of my time in San Fran but I’m actually looking forward to getting back on my bike and back on the road to Carmel.

NB: the strip (no pun intended) of beach below the Golden Gate Bridge is a trunks-optional one. Not the ideal place to be stood with a long lens camera.

You can see a full album of images from Dave’s San Francisco stay via the link.

Next page: Dave's American diary - San Francisco to Carmel