Tuesday, March 1, 2011

World's Fairs and Celebrated Author All in One NOPA VELO Ride

Palace of Fine Arts

Gail Sheehy (2nd from right) joins NOPA VELO ride

Ready for the World's Fairs

After last Saturday’s wet and chill, Sunday’s brisk and sunny morning was a treat for the sixteen riders gathered for NOPA VELO’s first bike ride of the year. With a Lions-to-Maidens World’s Fair tour in mind, cyclists met up at Central Coffee, Tea and Spice, a prime neighborhood spot to meet, greet, and power-up.

Then with a flourish of pink, the day’s Celebrity Rider appeared. Noted and influential author, journalist, and lecturer Gail Sheehy rolled up with her good friend and regular NOPA VELO rider, Steve Hershoff. (Check Sheehy's interview talking about her latest book, Passages in Caregiving). Gracious and poised, Ms. Sheehy said she happened to be in the city and the morning’s ride seemed “so San Francisco.” Besides, she added, “I haven’t been on a bike since last summer.” She lives mostly in New York, and we know about the weather back East.

Soon enough riders spun their way back in time to the site of the 1894 California Midwinter Exposition in Golden Gate Park. The Music Concourse got its start when Michael H. de Young, publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, persuaded the city to sponsor a world’s fair on the undeveloped park land. An astute and calculating fellow, de Young managed to lure many of the exhibitors from Chicago’s celebrated “White City” World's Fair the year before to transport their exhibits to San Francisco. Seventeen countries and most of the states showed off their wares, and more than 1.3 million people attended during the six-month run of the fair.

NOPA VELO riders checked out the exposition’s remnants including the two sphinxes in front of today’s de Young Museum, the Japanese Village (now the Japanese Tea Garden), and the Cider Press statue.

After a spin around the concourse, riders zipped 21 years forward to the Palace of Fine Arts and the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. Fair enthusiasts have their favorites, but the PPIE, as it became known, was truly San Francisco’s most extravagant and wildly successful presentation to the world. The Tower of Jewels alone, a 43-story building glittering with more than 100,000 colored-glass ornaments, suggests the flamboyance of the fair. The Palace of Fine Arts, designed by Bernard Maybeck and the prized remnant of the celebration, beckoned riders for self-guided tours before heading back to NOPA for lunch at Ziryab restaurant, a jewel in itself on Divisadero.

Next NOPA VELO ride set for April. To get the news first join the NOPA VELO Google Group.

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