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The Real Deal: Chris Carlsson’s San Francisco Bike Tours

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Maybe the high school field trip memories are fresher for us, but I think it’s safe to say that organized tours aren’t really any young person’s thing. I remember visiting a water treatment center with my science class in 9th grade and asking a worker what the grossest thing he had ever seen floating around was. “A fetus,” he answered, and no one left enthused about anything we learned that day.

The idea of joining a group of tourist strangers for an obnoxiously loud adventure holds pretty much no appeal. But what about when it’s a tour of your own city, it’s with people who live here, it’s on bike, and it’s led by a badass radical historian who’s not afraid to weave into oncoming traffic in order to get you to a feast of pit-roasted suckling pig?

That’s right, pit-roasted suckling pig. Last weekend I had the fortune to spend four hours in the company of Chris Carlsson, maybe the most knowledgeable man around when it comes to all things San Francisco. Seriously. He offers six more tours this year, ranging in subject from food history (the one I opted for) to dissent to ecological history.

Best of all, the tours are in no way obnoxious. Carlsson is a real character and a hilarious guy. You can tell he cares about his city as much as he cares about the people who live in it. And his tours are punctuated with tasty snacks. I was joined by about fifteen other folks (including two friends on an obscenely large tandem bicycle with whom I got lost afterwards in a pretty bad neighborhood…needless to say, heads were turning).

Carlsson steered us around the sites of factories I didn’t even know had existed in San Francisco – mayonnaise, Twinkie, coffee – and way beyond. My skin deepened past crab, past crayfish, and into lobster territory. But the suckling pig – man, the suckling pig.

Cycles of History: Bike History Tours
sliding scale (minimum: $15)

Photo Credit: Chris Carlsson

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Lucy Schiller - Destitute Dispatcher

Lucy Schiller - Destitute Dispatcher

Lucy's been able to live lots of places but holds her cornfed/pie-fueled Midwestern roots most dear, maintaining too loudly and too often that the Outer Richmond is the Midwest of SF: driven through to get elsewhere and knocked around for no reason (but what other neighborhood has bison?!). You can find Lucy letting things languish in her fridge, purposefully (limoncello!) or not (yogurt...), mouthbreathing, scouring Golden Gate Park for apartment-worthy items, sleepily serving up double nonfat half-caf-half-non-caf lattes at a certain cafe, skulking in various other ones, and yelling under cover of night and costume at SF Bike Party.