The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

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.

There comes a point in every long-ish vacation when I sort of hit a wall. I get tired and cranky and frustrated and homesick. It’s usually triggered by the fact that nothing is going according to plan. Today was that day. My notes on what we did today are full of expletives that I don’t feel the need to share.

We actually did do a lot of fun things, despite my foul mood, but I’m not going to whitewash the day, because I think it’s fair for people who don’t travel as much as I do to understand exactly what it can be like, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Travel can be exciting and invigorating and fun, but it can also sometimes be stressful and disappointing. So, fasten your seatbelts.

We woke up this morning to discover that due to COVID, our high-end hotel was no longer serving continental breakfast. And the restaurant across the street had a line stretching down the block. Oh, joy. So we set off to explore San Francisco on an empty stomach. (I should never, ever, ever do anything on an empty stomach.)

We planned to catch one of those iconic trolleys and find something to eat, but eventually found out that, due to the pandemic, no trolleys were running. So I wouldn’t even get to see the trolleys, let alone ride on one. That was a disappointment, given this was my first San Francisco visit.

Well, now what? Even though we already knew that the ferry to Alcatraz was booked solid through early August, we decided to go see if we could get standby tickets. Maybe they’d have cancellations. And sure enough, they sell them, without a guarantee of passage, but with a full refund if you don’t get on. Worth a shot.

We purchased our tickets and wandered around the dock, looking at the extremely cool Alcatraz diorama and the other informational displays, along with some amazing California succulents that were as big as my head. It was a great way to kill time while waiting for the ferry to show up. And then waiting for all the passengers to board. It turns out they had room for 6 additional passengers, and we were tickets number 10 and 11.

Rather than get our refund just yet, we decided to try our luck with the next ferry. We’d now be 4th and 5th on standby. But that was an hour out, and by now we were really hungry, so we decided to run down the street and grab something to eat.

But every restaurant in the area was shut up tight. We had to walk all the way down to the IHOP, which was quite a hike, and my feet and back were already killing me. I felt like kicking puppies (not that I actually ever would, no matter how out of sorts I became, but such was my mood).

We ordered a rather unpleasant take out breakfast sandwich and practically ran back to the ferry as we ate it, which made me feel slightly queasy. I already knew we weren’t going to make it, and the running was stressing me out. Dear husband even paid a cycle rickshaw to haul me the last 2 blocks. But yeah, we missed the ferry.

The ticket taker told me that if we had been there, we’d have gotten on. I wanted to cry. You have to understand, I’ve wanted to see Alcatraz ever since seeing Burt Lancaster in Birdman of Alcatraz when I was very young. And getting out to see the city from the water would have been fun, too. Can you imagine the photos I would have taken?

The clerk did say that we’d be first on standby for the next ferry, but we already had parking reservations for Muir Woods, and my husband really wanted to see more trees, so we got a refund. We really did give it a try, and it’s his trip, too, so I tried to swallow my disappointment. It was quite filling. It stuffed me.

But we had a little time to kill before heading out for the parking reservation, so we went to check out the very cool wave organ. Here’s a Youtube video of what it should sound like. But naturally, we came on a day with very little wave action, so we didn’t hear much of anything. A long, long walk out to the jetty for pretty much nothing. But the organ itself was interesting and the view was amazing. We did get to watch the fog roll in on the Golden Gate Bridge, and a sailboat regatta, so there’s that.

To add to this stellar day, it was windy and freezing cold. It reminded me of that quote attributed to Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

I could certainly relate to that. I was fearing hypothermia and getting a migraine. But, as befits a day of disappointments, according to Snopes, Mark Twain never said any such thing. So there’s another myth busted. You’re welcome.

Off we went to the woods, passing first through Robin Williams tunnel, which is decorated with the same rainbow he used to wear in the form of suspenders when he played Mork. I miss him. He should still be with us. What a tragic waste that never fails to upset me when I contemplate it. Onward.

I have to admit that Muir Woods was absolutely gorgeous. I highly recommend it. But given my mood, I don’t think I gave it a full chance. It was extremely crowded, and the raised pathways, while comfortable to walk on, took away from the natural feeling. I felt as though it was a cross between the most gorgeous forest in the world and Disneyland. And since we had seen so many more natural and beautiful forests in recent days, I was kind of unappreciative, although I really did try to keep it to myself.

We had a nice picnic amongst the redwoods, and then one of the staff told us we couldn’t do that even though we were not leaving garbage behind, because we’d attract chipmunks. We apologized, but the deed was already done. I was thinking I would love to see chipmunks. We visited the really nice gift shop, but all I could think was, “I wonder what Muir would think of this place, selling things made out of bits of his beloved trees.”

Oh, come on. It’s a legitimate question, even if it was inspired by my grumpy brain.

We also saw a very cool sculpture of the wingspans of various birds. Fascinating.

After having “done” the woods, and having had a nice, albeit rebellious lunch, we decided to head on back into the city, enjoying the views as we went, and then drive around the Presidio. We enjoyed the gorgeous vistas from Inspiration Point, and drove around to look at Fort Winfield Scott and the National Cemetery.

Lots of fascinating history in the Presidio. We did not get to go to the welcome center, however. Guess why?  $#@%$ this pandemic, anyhow.

I had also wanted to see the house from the movie Pacific Heights, but after a certain point you just want to pack it in, you know? Whew, but I was clearly tired. We decided to go back to the hotel and chill out for a bit, and I got a good nap in while dear husband worked. The nap did wonders for my attitude, and the meds knocked back my migraine.

That night we went out to have Crab Louie and calamari at Betty Lou’s Seafood and Grill, in the quirky neighborhood of North Beach with its many gorgeous murals and buildings. Many of the restaurants in the area had tables outside in spite of the bracing wind. The food was excellent and the vibe was good, despite the fact that for some odd reason this restaurant does not serve coffee. All in all, though, it was a great way to end the day.

I’m not going to lie. I was happy to go to bed that night, and even happier to close my eyes on the disappointments of this day. I hope we get to come back to San Francisco again in healthier and more fortuitous times.

The seventh day was much better. Check it out here.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine! I promise it isn’t as complain-y as this post was. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

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