Biking by the Bay

Thanks, everyone, for all the feedback to my travel posts so far! Since a ton of you have asked: the dress yesterday was Anthropologie, purchased on eBay. The boots are vintage vegan (pleather from the 80’s, in other words), which I got on Etsy.

Today was another stellar day in Fog City. Whereas yesterday had greeted us with gray skies, I pulled open my curtains bright and early this morning to find a sunny, clear horizon. Which was a good thing, since we had a bike excursion planned.

I went downstairs to the hotel gym for a terrific morning workout, then came back to my room to change. By the time that I met Chloe and Knud, and we all made our way to Ghiardelli Square for our bike rentals , I was beyond hangry! It didn’t have the most vegan friendly menu, but The Buena Vista was close to our location, so we just decided to park there for breakfast.

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I started with coffee, fruit, and a spot of fresh OJ:

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…and was surprised at how decent the coffee was, for a touristy spot. Since oatmeal, granola, and other vegan friendly items were nowhere to be seen, it was time to fall back on some of the breakfast staples I had stuffed into my purse:

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Fresh toast was on the menu, so I decided to do banana, nut butter, and toast. Normally I would order whole wheat, of course, but I figured I had to sample some of the famous San Francisco sourdough before I went home! Most sourdough recipes I’ve seen (and unsuccessfully tried—I’m a terrible bread maker) have been vegan, and our waitress confirmed that this stuff was milk- and egg-free, so we were good to go. Ironically, my first serving came slathered in butter. (I’d forgotten that it’s commonplace outside of NYC for bread to automatically be buttered.) The waitress very kindly brought me a dry order of toast, and I got to making my brekkie:

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And now, came the fun part of our morning: biking riding across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito. This was Chloe’s idea, and when I heard it, I was excited. There was, however, one small problem: I’m scared of bikes. Like, really scared. I haven’t been on a bike in years, maybe ten or fifteen. I kid you not–all things involving speed tend to scare me: fast cars, amusement park rides, running at a pace above 5 miles per hour (OK, maybe that one is just laziness). There’s no valid reason that I should be able to rollerblade regularly (which I do) and yet harbor a terror of biking, but I do. Can’t you tell from that nervous look on my face?

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It’s appropriate that I should have my first bike experience in years on a vacation with Chloe, because I think the last time I rode a bike was also with Chloe. We were kids, and she and her family used to spend each summer in Nantucket. I’d go out to visit them, where bikes were the main method of transport. I was always too scared to ride my own, so Chloe would let me ride on the back of hers.

Chloe has always been fearless in ways that I’m not. When we were little, she did all of the things that frightened me: sleepaway camp, varsity sports, travel abroad. She was even socially fearless in ways I wasn’t (thankfully, my inner social butterfly emerged in college, and no one who met me now would ever believe I was once shy). I always regarded Chloe—as did other peers—with an awe at her intrepid nature. I still do: after all, she did move to a new state a few years ago, and I can barely make it out of the 10024 zipcode.

I’m not getting down on myself, trust me. I’m fearless in ways that are indirect: I’m fearless in my career, fearless when it comes to meeting new people, fearless in pursuing the things I want. But still, I look to Chloe when I need a push in the direction of everyday courage and spunk. So it was mighty appropriate that she and I decided to recreate the Nantucket days of yore by renting a tandem. Yes, a tandem:


Even Chloe was scared to navigate this thing. That was actually a little comforting. But navigate she did—all along this stunning bit of shoreline:

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I was scared half to death for the first mile or so, but watching Chloe’s purposeful and steady pedaling made me feel better. What an adorable, cheesy metaphor for the way I look up to her.

Here’s the brave bike rider, smiling for the camera:

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Soon enough, we got to the really scenic part of the trip:

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We were trying really hard not to hum John Phillips. We weren’t successful.

After some uphill huffing and puffing, we finally made it over the bridge. From there, it was a series of winding downhills (thank goodness) to the quaint, touristy town of Sausalito. Needless to say, our first order of business upon arrival was the procurement of lunch. STAT.

None of us had the patience or energy to be very picky about where we sat, so we settled quickly upon Poggio. This was one of those menus that looks deceptively vegan: lots of salads, lots of cotorni involving veggies. Look a little closer, though, and you see that all of the salads include cheese, and then you get to wondering how abundant they’ll be without it.

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I did what I always do with most restaurant lunch menus, which was to order two salads. One was butter lettuce, tomato, and carrots, hold the cheese please, and the other was frisee, nectarines, and candied walnuts, hold the chicken, please. Both were decent, but the portions were iddy biddy, and neither was stellar.

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For that reason, I added the Larabar I’d had with me to the butter lettuce salad. It helped keep me sated. Chloe got a corn pudding that was more custard than pudding, arugula with parmigianno, and a bruschetta with baccala and egg:

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Knud got a pasta dish, the same frissee salad I got with the chicken, and an egg dish, from which I stole his delicious cherry tomatoes:

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Chloe and Knud both felt that the food could have been better, but none of us were downright unhappy with our meals. Clearly not—check out the goofy photos!

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After lunch, we strolled around a bit on the docs, before finally catching the ferry back to San Fran. These activities also offered us some spectacular views. I feel as though San Francisco simply has more photo ops than I can bear:

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Another day in paradise.

Yesterday, it was easy to be a semi-raw vegan tourist. I was at a farmer’s market abounding in fresh produce, and with at least one raw, vegan food stand. And I had dinner at every high raw vegan’s dream restaurant!

Today, it was a little harder, since we were in more touristy spots and looking for meals on the go. I could have insisted that we find more vegan friendly dining options, but my hunger nearly always trumps my pickiness. Instead, I come prepared. Rather than being relegated to toast and fruit salad (which I don’t even really like) for breakfast, I added a fruit I love (banana) and healthy, monounsaturated, vegan fats (nut butter) to the meal, giving it density, satiety, and taste. Rather than having a lunch of lettuce leaves and a few candied walnuts, I up the volume a little with a fruit+nut bar. If I hadn’t had these foods on hand, I’d have been a lot hungrier today.

Yesterday, my roomstar commented, “Isn’t having friends who support our love of raw and green foods amazing?? Chloe seems like such a great friend, and I love considering how differently you two eat, you each could find a bounty of choices that you loved.” This is a great observation: Chloe and I are foodies of a very different feather (though we have a ton of common likes and dislikes, too, and she’s a big fan of green cuisine). We’re united by the fact that we both love food and food talk.

But it’s also worth noting that having vegan-friendly friends is a two way street. Chloe and Knud are awesomely open minded. But I’m also a very easygoing vegan, and part of this is because I’m always a prepared vegan. Don’t misunderstand: I have no problem being outspoken when I need to be. I’ll make special requests in restaurants, be a diva if I don’t like something, and get a manager out at my table if someone doesn’t know whether or not the soup contains cream. If people don’t like it, they can kiss my vegan you-know-what. But I’m also well aware of the fact that my lifestyle choices are not the same as most other peoples’ choices, and for that reason I will very often be in situations where I don’t have all of the options I wish I had. I come to these situations prepared: I bring foods and add ons that I know I might need, and I always bring a rosy, laid back attitude. This makes it easy for the people around me not to fret about whether or not I “there’s anything I can eat” in this or that restaurant, or about my being full enough. I take care of my own dining needs. And I strongly suggest that all fellow vegans—or anyone with specific food tastes and needs—do similarly. It makes travel and day trips so much easier.

Truth be told, that lunch still wasn’t quite as filling as a hungry Gena would have liked. By the time I was back in my room at 6, I was already famished again. Fortunately, I had a vegan dream meal at Millennium planned for 7:30. Having just returned from this meal, I can tell you right now that it’s one of the five best meals I’ve ever had. But I am a sleepy girl, and so you’ll all simply have to wait till tomorrow morning for my recap!


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    • Caleb,

      The whole thing was about 10 miles, I’d say — it’s technically 8, but we went a little bit toward Tiburon.

      Such fun!


  1. I love that y’all rented a tandem!! I tried to get Billy to rent a tandem with me this weekend in Austin and he wasn’t having it. I have such awesome memories of tandem biking with my best friend when we were younger. Your pics are gorgeous and you are just adorable! πŸ™‚

  2. Millenium, been there a long time ago!! And I agree, it’s awesome!!! Can’t wait to hear about your meal and experience!

    “I take care of my own dining needs. And I strongly suggest that all fellow vegansβ€”or anyone with specific food tastes and needsβ€”do similarly. It makes travel and day trips so much easier.”–
    AMEN!!! If I didnt come prepared in life as a GF Vegan AND a mother to a small child with snacks at the ready no matter what, life could get pretty ugly, cranky, and hungry πŸ™‚

    I ADORE Sausalito and all of Marin County. Omg as I have said, I would totally live there except it’s too cold for me. Wimpy to some, but hey, too chilly after a lifetime of midwest MN and Chicago winters, I prefer So Cal to Nor Cal for weather πŸ™‚

    The bike riding and that whole fear issue…way to go for getting over it! And I cannot imagine you as a shrinking violet in your childhood; must be all those years in NYC that have totally brought you out of your shell, so to speak!

    What a great post…on so many levels!!


  3. Ooh! Love the idea of ordering two salads! Too bad it didn’t keep you full though. Hope today was filled with more satisfying eats!

  4. I liked your comments about eating out as a vegan. I am starting to dabble into veganism, but find myself afraid of what others will think. I hate to be a burden! Your post and blog overall is real helpful to someone just starting out vegan!

  5. It’s wonderful that you looked beyond your meal to find enjoyment during your trip. For me nowadays, eating out is more about chatting with my mom and friends and less about the food. You could just serve me a slice of fine whole wheat toast, a fresh salad and a cup of tea, but give me good company and I’ve got no complaint. πŸ™‚

    Could you’ve asked for substitutions for your salads? I understand that not all restaurants make such accomodation (I just got a rejection this past weekend), but I always ask. As you want to opt out of the chicken, perhaps the kitchen could give you a salad of roasted beets instead?

    • Ha! Nice try; I tried, too. There were chickpeas on the menu, and, since beans are usually my protein of choice in salads, I asked if they could just scoop some on. No cigar. How four star chefs have a hard time throwing chickpeas on a plate I’ll never understand.

  6. What a beautiful post! So glad you were able to overcome your fear of bikes for such a great ride!

    I really appreciate all the travel tips you’re providing. I think no matter what your diet, if you’re traveling it’s good to be prepared with smart snacks – anything can happen!

    Now I just have to find those little nut butters around here…

  7. Millenium is amazing! So glad you got there too. Can’t wait to here it.

    I too do as you do when you travel. I can’t rely on the toast option so I usually do an energy bar for breakfast and even more fruit. Like you if traveling with nonvegans I try not to be so fussy about where we eat as long as I can eat a salad. But it is nice to have a vegan traveling companion who IS a foodie like my husband, who plans the whole trip around the restaurants. πŸ™‚

  8. Oh man Millenium. I’m so jealous. Someday, I’ll make a deal with the devil so I can eat there every night :).

  9. I’m loving your trip posts! That’s awesome you went ahead on the bike ride despite your fears. (You really don’t like amusement park rides?!) The scenery is beautiful.

    And I’m with ya on being prepared. When I go on trips, I always have nut butter, larabars, and protein powder with me (which isn’t totally necessary but I’ve found that most salads don’t come with beans or nuts)!

  10. i agree with you… it totally takes a laid back and prepared attitude to be a happy vegan with respectable friends.

    you’re trip looks ABSOLUTELY amazing. glad you are having a blast πŸ™‚

  11. I love that you are so friendly and openminded to nonvegans. My sister-in-law is high raw sometimes vegan; however, she doesn’t allow for those of us who are not. Whenever family stays, you have to eat raw/vegan or eat out. While me and my husband can handle it, our children, who are not used to it cannot. Whenever we go out, it has to be a vegan/raw restaurant as it is not worth the fit she throws when we suggest a normal restaurant.

    • Thanks, Hallie.

      I don’t think that kind of exclusion is the best way to show anyone how the lifestyle works.

    • “Whenever family stays, you have to eat raw/vegan or eat out.”

      So she’s *sometimes* vegan but demands that you eat completely vegan in her home? I don’t understand why she feels so strongly that other people should eat vegan if she doesn’t.

      Also, it’s important not to conflate *vegan* and *raw*; one describes an ethical practice and the other describes, simply, foods prepared under a certain temperature. Yet they are often presented with equal certitude. Basically, I would never allow visitors to cook non-vegan food in my kitchen, but would have no problem if they scorched their red peppers instead of eating them raw!

      • Killer comment, thank you! I feel similarly: veganism is my lifestyle; raw is just how I happen to like my food more often than not. I’m not sure if I would stop non vegan friends from cooking what they wanted in my apartment, but I do know that meat in my home might bother me, whereas I could care less how someone prepares his or her vegetables.

  12. Your day on the bike looks like so much fun!

    I can be an easy going vegan, but not always and I make no apologies for it. If I’m at restaurant that is going to charge me $15 – $25 for an entree, give me something I can eat and enjoy. not something to “make do.” I tend to hang with (omni) friends who support that notion.

    Keep the travel posts coming — learning so much!

  13. Sounds like you are having a blast! My dad always says to me, “If I were to be stranded with anyone, it would be with you.” First, because he loves me, but reallllllly because he says I ALWAYS have enough snacks on me to survive at least a day lol They are stored EVERYWHERE! Purse, pockets, car… The idea of going hungry makes me cringe!

    I love Raw Revolution bars. Do you eat them? I find them more satisfying than Lara, although I love them both the same.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip! xoxo

  14. Hi Gena,

    I always am a prepared and thus easy going vegan too. It’s always a top tip I share with others and the easy going attitude that you bring to it then makes any social awkwardness so much lesser!

    Glad you’re having such a great time in San Fran!


  15. Hi Gena – I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while now, but just thought I’d crawl out of the shadows to comment!
    Your practical approach to veganism is inspiring, and you’ve proven once again that we can remain faithful to our vegan ideals without descending into scary, inflexible dogmatism.
    Enjoy your trip πŸ™‚

  16. Hey Gena! I’ve been loving your San Fran posts. I can totally feel the love you and Chloe share. Your pictures are amazing! I can’t wait to see the post for your dinner last night! <3

  17. All of your posts are making me SO nostalgic for San Fran! You should check out Haight Street if you get a chance. There’s an awesome little grocery store there that has tons of vegan stuff. And the street itself is so neat and Beat-heavy.

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