Monday, November 19, 2012

City living

"I guess that's what happens when you give adrenaline athletes a bunch of jalopy go-carts and an incentive to go hard."

"People really rolled them ... in the middle of Market Street?"

"Some more than once. The streets were soaked so the tires were slipping out, and the wheels would get caught in trolley tracks and spin the cars all the way around. People were drag racing at stop lights, and ramming into each other like bumper cars. We stalled out on steep hills and had to push those things up the road."

"Wasn't there a bunch of damage?"

"Oh yeah. Some were totalled. Helmets came back cracked in half. Someone hit a bus. People were all bruised up and covered in blood, looking pretty forlorn. Everyone was wet. It was carnage, total carnage. But funny."

We turned into a dark alley splattered in street art, and I smiled at the mental image of a few dozen semi-pro and pro athletes set loose on the streets of San Francisco with three-wheeled go-carts and a loosely organized scavenger hunt with a big cash prize for first place. My ex-boyfriend, Geoff, was in town for the Clif Bar athlete summit, and after he completed what was apparently a race to rack up as much collateral damage as possible, we met up with him, our friends Paul and Monika, and old friends visiting from Chicago, for a night in the city.

Minutes after Beat and I arrived fresh from a short but hard run, our friend Paul decided he wanted to eat tacos at a place that was about thirty blocks away. So we walked and walked and walked, and Geoff told us increasingly more head-shaking stories about the Clif Bar summit. "One of the challenges was to trade a Clif Bar for something better. So of course Levi Leipheimer finds a bike shop where everyone knows who he is, and walks out with a $5,000 set of wheels." Monika and I discussed our upcoming trail marathon team relay, and she told me that actually, we're all just taking turns running the same 10.5-kilometer loop. "So in a way, we're kinda just racing each other," I replied, and she didn't disagree.

The Mexican restaurant was typical of many San Francisco establishments I've visited — headache-inducing colors on the walls, all of six tables for seating, and featuring many intriguing menu items that, as an adventurous person, I really should order — even though I usually just go ahead and get two boring old grilled chicken tacos.

Paul went ahead and ordered the fried grasshopper taco, and made sure everyone had a taste:

"It tastes sort of what I imagine rotten yellow grass soaked in stale vegetable oil would taste like."

In the 45 minutes it took to walk back to Paul and Monika's place, the weather changed from pleasant to pouring, with torrents of rainwater gushing down the steep sidewalks. We spent the rest of the evening in soaked jeans, snacking on home-dried fruits and the prototype Clif Bars that Geoff made at company headquarters ("The secret is yogurt-coated mangoes.") We discussed South Park parodies, Iditarod strategies, and listened to Monika's stories of Christmas traditions under communism.

After a fun night in the city, the next day we went mountain biking at one of our favorite spots in our little slice of the "city."

Black Mountain, part of the bustling municipality that is Palo Alto, also home to Facebook and Stanford University.

As I was telling our friends from Chicago, the Bay area has its cons, for sure. But if I'm going to live in a big urban area, this isn't a bad place to be. 

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