Our trip to Angel Island was okay and all, but the next bike ride stayed a little closer to civilization, which in the mind of the littles means commerce. Views are swell, but views while you’re eating something are better. We’ve been out to the Financial District and the Mission but weren’t feeling the love for Market Street. Eventually we remembered there’s a whole other half of the city to our west, the Outer Richmond and Outer Sunset, aka the Outerlands. We rode there on the last day of winter vacation, right after New Year’s.
A trip to the Outerlands meant biking through Golden Gate Park, a smooth slight downhill all the way to Ocean Beach, and the park is always good. It had been a long time since we headed deep into the Avenues, which feels weirdly residential until you get to the beach; long, long streets full of houses. They have driveways! And sometimes yards! And frequently people park their cars in those yards. But the commercial strips get few and far between as the Avenue numbers roll up, with a sudden perk up at the end of the N-Judah line. We hopped on our bikes in the morning and rode the 3.5 miles down to the beach and the windmills, coasting much of the way. I had no idea they were remodeling the decrepit southern windmill, but it looks awesome. Not open for visitors yet, however, and no signs saying when it would open, either.
Recently Java Beach opened a real restaurant, the Beachside Café. The last time we’d been to Java Beach was before we were married, or even engaged. Remembering our failures on the food front on our last trip, our first stop was Beachside for brunch. I never expect this in the outer Avenues, but bicycle parking was tight, and alas, there are no racks, and there certainly aren’t parking meters. We eventually found an unclaimed stop sign across the street.
Beachside and Java Beach are cleverly located at the end of the N-Judah line, and eating brunch there made it clear that their business is totally Muni-based. The café would be quiet, then a train would rumble by and stop, then 20 people would rush into the restaurant to order coffee and pastry forming a line out the door. Five minutes later the café would empty out again. Fifteen minutes later, repeat. My conclusion at the end of our meal was that their door banged really loudly every time it opened and closed, and it would be nice if they could fix that. The food was good too.
It’s fun to ride in the Outerlands. Everything is pretty flat and if you time your ride to miss the Muni stops, there’s not much competition for the streets. We made our first visit ever to Other Avenues, a really old-school coop a little east of Beachside. Their bulk section isn’t as extensive as Rainbow’s but it’s pretty impressive. And they had bike racks, and a giant ball and chain holding the driftwood bench outside the store that the kids liked rolling back and forth. No pictures, alas, our camera flashed the “recharge battery” light right when we got to the windmill. SFBC discount still applies at Other Avenues.
From there we figured as long as we were in the neighborhood, more or less (and our definition of “nearby” expands substantially when we’re rolling on two wheels), we figured we would swing by Devil’s Teeth Baking and pick up lunch. This is more eating out than we normally do, but we’d gotten lazy about grocery shopping over the holidays. Worth the trip, however, because Devil’s Teeth has one of the city’s newest parklets. It is the first parklet I’ve ever seen over angled parking, which gave the benches a thematic zig-zag feel. They had kids’ chairs on the sidewalk and chalk for drawing. When we got in there wasn’t much left to buy; they said they’d been slammed that morning. But their good reviews are well-deserved.
The weather has been amazing lately, as if there is no rainy season to come at all, and I always end up overdressing in two jackets and having to peel them off as we ride. California’s drought is our gain.
Both Beachside and Devil’s Teeth had another innovation I hadn’t seen before; they’re now partners with Green Apple, which leaves a selection of used books on a shelf in the corner of each store for $5 apiece—they’re good books, too, and if I hadn’t had two grants to write the next week at work (and every night after the kids went to bed) it would have been difficult to resist. I hadn’t seen a store with the Green Apple partnership before; I wish they did that in our neighborhood. I never thought I’d say this, but we need to get to the outer Avenues more often.
We rode home through the Park, crossing up to JFK Drive in a search for the “squishy bushes” (some kind of beach succulent? Ice plant?) that our son had talked about every day when we brought him home from nature camp. No luck, but we hit the jackpot anyway, finding two waterfalls crashing down at the northern edge of the park we’d never seen before; they were astounding, I would have been less surprised to see a live sasquatch there. We stopped with a half-dozen other bicycles whose riders were enjoying the view while our kids pointed and yelled. We were passed by over a dozen cars that never slowed or seemed to notice there was something to see. We’ve driven on the same road and never noticed the falls either. Who knew there was so much to see?