We had a two-week vacation, and decided that it would be fun to drive down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California and then drop off our rental car and take a train back home. I’m calling this journey the West Coast Wander, and plan to blog about it every other day so as not to totally alienate those who have no interest in travel, and yet allow those who do to travel vicariously with us. Here’s the first in the series, if you want to start at the beginning. I hope you enjoy it, dear reader.
I woke up rather sleep deprived because of the noisy mini-fridge in our little cabin, but nevertheless I was excited, because that night we would be in San Francisco, a place I have wanted to visit all my life. Open your golden gates, baby, here I come!
But first things first. We arrived so late in Bodega Bay that we had yet to explore. After making breakfast, we said good-bye to our little blue cabin with its life-saving hot tub. we drove around. I was looking forward to seeing where Hitchcock’s The Birds was filmed.
The exploration didn’t take long. Bodega Bay is a tiny little town. We had no trouble at all finding the church that had been in the movie, along with some other Bird-themed places, like the Bird Café. That’s Bodega Bay in a nutshell.
Our next stop would be Bolinas, California, but on our way there we stumbled upon a pretty little church with stained glass windows that reminded me a lot of the plastic church with a lightbulb attachment that we used to put beneath our Christmas Tree. I wonder what became of it?
And then, in the tiny town of Tomales, we saw a little building with “Not A Bank” written on the front. That kind of made me laugh because it had clearly been a bank at one point. It has that iconic, Western, “please rob me” look about it. All the windows were curtained off, and there was not much indication of what it currently is. There was a car out front. I’d have dearly loved to knock and ask, but based on the signage, I’m guessing they have been bugged enough.
This is definitely farm country. And we saw a lot of sheep, along with our daily deer. It is a quiet, mellow stretch of coastal California, and it was a pleasure to ride through.
There was an abrupt transition to Bolinas, which is an artsy, hippie, touristy town. I was gratified to see many Black Lives Matter banners there. I also saw a sign that said, “May this virus be our teacher,” and to that I say a hearty amen. I bought a really cool handmade facemask covered in California Poppies, and some handmade postcards. Their gas was a lot more expensive than usual, but that was because they were raising funds for the homeless. I also saw a sign in front of a restaurant that said if you need a free meal, knock on the side door. California Partridges were wandering about. I liked this place. I wouldn’t mind living there if I could afford it.
Bolinas was an unexpected bonus, because we had really only originally stopped there to get directions to nearby Duxbury Reef, which has the reputation of being the best tidepool area on this stretch of the coast. We got those directions from a really friendly store clerk, and set off for our next adventure.
And naturally we got lost again. And that was greatly exacerbated by the fact that the clerk had said, “You’ll start feeling like you’ve gone the wrong way, but then you’ll crest a hill and there it will be.” That kept us on the wrong road for a lot longer than we would have otherwise. But it’s pretty country, so it was just part of the journey. Of course, time had been an ever-present factor on this trip, so in that way it was mildly irritating.
But Duxbury Reef was worth the effort. It’s got really amazing rock formations, and an abundance of snails and barnacles and seaweed. I was hoping to see starfish, but wasn’t surprised that I didn’t, because Starfish Wasting Disease has pretty much devastated the population.
The wind was howling and bitter cold, and that seemed pretty appropriate because the first signs we saw were ones indicating that there was a dead whale on the beach, and that we were not to approach it or touch it. But clearly someone had ignored the signs, because the only thing left of the poor creature was a cleanly chopped off pectoral fin. (I’ll spare you the photo.) No bones, no nothing. It felt like a tragedy that had been taken advantage of. It was a sad reminder of how harsh the world can be.
As we left the area, we went through marsh lands. And then we saw seals or sea lions sleeping on a sandy stretch of Bolinas Bay. We were so far out in the middle of nowhere that the mailman makes people consolidate their mailboxes at the only intersection.
We took a steep, winding road up to Mt. Tamalpais, where I got my first glimpses of San Francisco. From there, we had hoped to visit Muir Woods to continue our love affair with the redwoods, but it was not to be. It’s so crowded these days that you have to make reservations for parking, and we had none. We decided that instead we’d head into the city, do some of that today, and reserve parking at the woods for tomorrow. Sometimes on a road trip you have to be flexible.
When we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge I was so excited! All I could say was, “Oh my god, oh my god, omigod, omigod…” I was in San Francisco! Little ol’ me.
Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life. After all its hardships and struggles, I took a chance and made a change and it made such a huge difference in my trajectory. I could have never afforded to visit San Francisco before moving to Seattle and getting this great job. I certainly couldn’t be checking into the Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf for two nights when I was struggling to survive in Florida.
I was thinking about that as we stood in the lobby waiting to check in. So when I looked over and saw a sculpture on the wall, made of butterflies in the form of a peace sign, with a quote from Picasso that said, “Everything you can imagine is real,” I had to wipe a tear or two from my eyes. Tears of joy. I love my current reality, despite having a healthy dose of imposter syndrome.
So here we were, against all odds, in San Francisco, earlier than expected. What to do.
Alcatraz, perhaps? No way. You also need reservations for that, and it was booked through August 5th. I was crushed. I really wanted to see Alcatraz above all else. Really. Instead, we went to Fisherman’s Wharf and ate at the Franciscan. What you’re paying for at that place is a great view and superbly presented, but really, really disappointing food. I’d say give it a pass. It’s definitely not worth the expensive prices. Lesson learned.
From there we walked to Pier 39 with its many topiaries and fascinating tourist shops. But the main attraction, for me, anyway, are the “sea-lebrities”. The sea lions were great fun to watch. Most of them were just trying to sleep in peace, but then another sea lion would come along and attempt to jump up on their crowded floating dock, much to the sleepers’ consternation. Much barking and shuffling would ensue. And then everyone would settle down and sleep, until the next sea lion came along. And so on.
After that we went back to the room so dear husband could do a little work. That bothered me not at all, because I took it as an opportunity to nap after last night’s fitful sleep. We decided we would explore the city some more after dark.
That turned out to be one of the best trip adaptations we would make on this journey, because San Francisco, after dark, is gorgeous, and the traffic is amazingly light. It was actually rather peaceful.
The first thing we did was cruise on over to Lombard Street. We zigzagged down that iconic street a couple of times, because we could. We had the entire place to ourselves. Here’s a video I took of one of our descents. Such fun!
Next, we went to see the painted ladies, that row of Victorian houses with the city in the background that we’ve all seen in about a million movies. As I’ve said, I do love Victorians, and I had been seeing these all my life. It was really exciting, standing in the dark field in front of them, and gazing at the city lights behind. That’s quintessential San Francisco to me.
And where do you go after that? Haight-Ashbury, of course. What boomer hasn’t dreamed of going to Haight-Ashbury? And since we really aren’t into stuff and didn’t feel the need to shop, going there at night was the perfect solution. Not a single tourist in sight, and we still got to window shop and enjoy the cool signs and artwork.
I’ve been to Haight-Ashbury. Wow. Just… wow.
Our last adventure of the night was tracking down a huge dachshund statue that was purported to be right across from the zoo. My dachshund would never forgive me if I skipped that.
Again, we got lost. But that was a cool way to explore San Francisco. Eventually we found it, though. The Doggie Diner head is a remnant from a local fast food chain that existed between 1948 and 1986. When they tore down the restaurants, they left the doggie heads behind. This one was refurbished and installed in its current location, and it has been there ever since.
It’s not lit up at night. It doesn’t rotate like it used to do, so it would be easy to pass right by if you weren’t specifically looking for it. But we still managed to find it. And fortunately, dear husband packs for all contingencies, and had a huge flashlight (more like a mini spotlight) in the car. So we pulled to the side of the road, parked illegally, and he trained the spotlight on Doggie. I got several pictures. I’m surprised we weren’t questioned by the cops. I was giggling the whole time.
Our obligations to our dachshund having been met, we went back to the hotel and settled in for a good night’s sleep. I had trouble falling asleep at first because I was looking forward to our San Francisco day tomorrow, and enjoying the prospect of staying at a hotel for two nights in a row for a pleasant change. The last thing I remember thinking was, “I can’t believe this is my life…”
Here’s where you can find Day 6.
The best way to travel vicariously is through books. Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5