Summer Tales 2022 Day 4 | Biking the Golden Gate Bridge

I know, I know, I am ridiculously late with my vacation recaps from last summer and I am not sure anybody cares anymore but me, but I wanted to put these out there for completeness’ sake. And because it’s been so fun to look back at my summer adventures (as I am not anticipating having too many this year). Read more here.

Friday (July, 1) we headed out early from our hotel in the North Bay over to San Francisco. We did the touristy things in San Francisco the last time when my family visited, so this time we didn’t plan to spend a whole lot of time in the city itself, but I had suggested a different kind of adventure: Biking the Golden Gate Bridge (more tips here). I did that years ago with one of my friends and it was an unforgettable experience. Now that the kids were older, I thought that this might be something different from just the usual “tourist thing” at Pier 39. 

The bike rental was very close to Fort Mason (where the SF Marathon expo is held) and since there is a large parking lot right there, I figured it would be the perfect place to park the car for the day and start riding the bikes. We were fitted with bikes and helmets on site and then we were able to set off on our biking adventure around noon. The weather was underwhelming, overcast, and cool, but at least it wasn’t raining. For San Francisco in July, these were “normal conditions”.

First, we cycled along the Marina to the Palace of Fine Arts, which is one of San Francisco’s most recognizable landmarks. The best-known structure of the complex is the open rotunda with a lagoon on one side and an exhibition center on the other side. It was originally constructed for the Panama–Pacific International Exposition, a world’s fair held in San Francisco, California in 1915.

Palace of Fine Arts

We continued on to Crissy Field, a former United States Army airfield that is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, located just east of the Golden Gate Bridge. Crissy Field Beach is a favorite among locals and offers amazing views of Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.


The majority of the ride is on a dedicated bike/pedestrian path and is pretty flat, which makes for easy, stress-free bike riding. However, there are two short but steep hills to climb before you get to the bridge. I remembered the incline from the SF half marathon course; once you leave Crissy Field behind, you’re greeted with steep hills. No sweat though, they’re absolutely “doable” and you can just hop off and walk your bike up the hill if needed. My parents both had no problem conquering these hills.

If you have time (we didn’t this time), stop and explore Fort Point. It’s a seacoast fortification located almost directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. The rocky point north of the fort is popular with surfers.


As I said, it was overcast and foggy when we set off, but the weather gradually improved and we got a beautiful Karl the Fog-free view of the Golden Gate Bridge when we got there. The picture below was just cropped, no filter was used. The colors were just as in the picture.


Both the west and east side of the Golden Gate Bridge have bike paths, but there are rules on which side to ride your bike. The east side (right side, if you’re coming from San Francisco) is the side for pedestrians. It is open to cyclists during the week or before 3 pm on a Friday, and you share the path, so you have to stay to the right and ride single file to yield to pedestrians and oncoming traffic.

The bridge is 1.7 miles long and we leisurely cycled across and stopped here and there to take in the views. You might not expect it on a sunny day, but it gets quite windy, and therefore chilly on the bridge. It is suspended over the Pacific Ocean and the bay is the only gap in the coast range for hundreds of miles. Cool, dense, high-pressure air over the cold ocean pushes its way into the Bay and makes the bridge a breezy place. I am glad we all wore layers!


Luckily, the sun came out when we arrived on the other side and warmed us right up. We stopped for a picnic-style lunch at Vista Point above Sausalito – the famous tourist spot – and enjoyed the view before heading back over the bridge.


The path on the west side of the bridge (left side if you’re coming from San Francisco) is open to cyclists after 3 pm on Fridays and all weekend and it’s bike traffic only. We contemplated riding the bikes down to Baker Beach, from where you can catch another iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but since it was already mid-afternoon and the kids were kind of done at this point, we decided to make our way back through the Presidio. We cycled a total of 13 miles in about 4.5 hours (with stops).


I thought our bike tour was great and I think the others did, too. What an experience we just had!

We were all in high spirits when we returned to our cars and were faced with a rather rude awakening. One of our rental cars had been broken into and my dad’s backpack was missing.


Now, you might wonder how this can happen in a large public parking lot along a busy street right next to the bike rental shop. I assumed that this must have been just about the safest spot in the whole parking lot. But yeah, that’s San Francisco for you. You have to expect the worst, even very brazen car thieves. Not even the people at the bike rental place said they even “saw” or heard anything. Car theft in the city happens in minutes.

My dad hadn’t left his backpack carelessly in the back seat either. No, it was tucked under the driver’s seat and there was also a cooler right above it. So it wasn’t even complete negligence. But the fact remained: the backpack was gone and with it – along with a few other things – my mom’s iPad and dad’s passport. (Why he didn’t keep his passport with him at all times is a complete mystery to me. I’ll share more on how that played out later.)

Luckily, I was able to handle the calls to the rental car agency and the police non-emergency line. (My family speaks decent English and got by well on this trip, but this would have been a hard conversation for any of them to handle.) Apparently, the SF police don’t even send anyone out for something like petty car theft anymore (it happens so frequently) and asked us to drive to the nearest police station to report the incident. 

Since it would have been completely pointless to show up at the police station with the whole family, we sent everyone for a walk to Pier 39, and my dad and I drove to the police station with the rental car. After we had filed the police report (there was another lady in front of us who had also reported a car break-in at the marina – go figure!), we decided to head straight to San Francisco Airport to exchange the car at the rental car agency. We didn’t know how long that was going to take and since it was getting late, we told everyone to meet up at the hotel that we were staying at for the next two nights near the airport. 

We had no problem exchanging the car and everyone else had a nice stroll to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 (a bit of tourist activity after all) and we all reconvened at the hotel at 7:30 pm. Since we were all tired and exhausted, we had to make a quick decision about dinner. Luckily, there was a restaurant nearby, Max’s of Burlingame, where we were able to get a quick bite to eat. It was a typical American Burger & Sandwich place, but it had good reviews and turned out to be a good choice. The burgers were very big and very tasty and quickly lifted our spirits. We weren’t going to let this incident spoil our vacation and between drinks and juicy bites of food, we were already making plans for the next day.

  1. Oh goodness, what a sweet and sour day! I haven’t ridden across the GG, but my husband has. We’ve walked across several times, and yeah, those parking lots are dicey. Actually, most of SF is dicey for the smash and grab crimes. I’m sorry this happened to you, and what a pain for your dad!

    Way back in the late 80s, I lived in San Francisco and my roommate worked at a hotel right by Max’s Burlingame…I wonder if that’s where you stayed? It was a Ramada then, I’m not sure what it is now. Max’s is pretty tasty.

    I love your pictures of my very favorite city…well, maybe Paris is my favorite, but it’s close!

  2. Your photos bring back memories. We have visited San Francisco twice, but never biked across the bridge. The first time we were there the kids were young and did the fire engine across, last time was with my sister and we just walked halfway across as it was rainy that day.

    I love the foggy photos, so iconic.

    A car break in is not a good way to end the outing. Bummer.

  3. If it’s any comfort, car break ins are very common, and I’m hearing more and more stories about things that are put out of sight being taken. I guess it’s such an easy crime that it’s worth it to just smash a car and see what’s inside.
    On a more positive note, this was fun to read! I haven’t been to SF in a long time and I’m not sure when/if I’ll go again but you can bet that when I do, the GG will be on my list.

  4. Ooof, sorry about the break-in. That’s really awful. I hope that was the one and only time something like that happened on the trip.
    That said though, that cycling looks really great. How fun is that! And I don’t think anyone goes to SF for the great weather – but wow, did you get some good photos! Those are really great.

  5. Oh wow – I did NOT see that break-in coming. I have never had a car broken into, but have multiple friends and family members that have gone through this experience. Ugh! And I can’t imagine the stress of losing a passport. Obviously it worked out eventually (since your parents got home), but I’m so, so sorry this happened.

    On a happier note, I have always wanted to visit SF, mostly to see the bridge! My SIL has a brother who lives in SF, so my brother and SIL go there periodically to visit. I should try to time a visit when they’re there some time! #BucketList

  6. I love the family photo and that you are recapping this all now! I really like to have these memories documented too.
    I am so sorry that happened to the car and that his bag was stolen :( What a bummer on an otherwise fun day. I am curious to hear about his passport in a future post!

  7. I have run over the bridge a number of times and loved it every time! It’s definitely an iconic place to visit

  8. OMG that is so awful about your dad’s backpack! And especially losing an iPad and even more importantly – passports! Yikes!!
    We biked the bridge when I was in SF the fall of 2013. We biked to Sausalito, had brunch, and then took the ferry back. It was so awesome!

  9. What a lovely, lovely day… until the end. I’m so sorry that happened to you and your family – what a rude awakening, too, after your lovely day. I hope that the iPad and the passport were replaced in good time and that you all recovered from the shock. I confess, I sometimes walk to my car worried about the same – not for any reason, but just knowing that smash-and-grabs are increasingly common, everywhere.
    I love these recaps, <3, but thanks to Feedly, I am super far behind on your life. :(

    1. Haha, I feel like I am behind on my life… I am posting about something that happened A YEAR ago. That’s crazy!

  10. Gorgeous pictures! We were in SF some years back and also went and wandered around the Palace of Fine Arts. We have some amazing pics too of the bridge and the scenery in the whole area. I have no real desire to go back right now though! Sounds like things have gone pretty downhill- I know FOUR people who have been there lately, and I am not exaggerating, every single one has had some sort of issue with getting robbed, car broken into, etc.!!!! It is such a huge shame because it’s just a beautiful beautiful area.
    I feel like it could be a little stressful for you on these family trips having to sort of be the “tour guide”/ organizer for your whole group!! I am sure you love it, but it’s also a lot of responsibility to make sure everyone is happy, travel goes smoothly, find restaurants for a group, etc. Good job!

  11. So what happened about the missing passport?

  12. […] you might recall, my Dad’s backpack got stolen in San Francisco and his passport with it. You might wonder what happened with the situation. Since […]

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