San Francisco - April 20-27 1995
We left the house at 5:30am and motored north on I-5. Even with a lunch stop we managed to arrive in San Francisco at about noon. We entered the city via the Oakland Bay Bridge and it was quite a sight to see the skyline. The theme music from the TV series "Streets of San Francisco" was running through my head as we crossed the bridge.
We more or less blundered around the city center for awhile and I discovered that the famous hills of San Francisco are an adventure in a Corvette with a 6-speed transmission. We seemed to wind up on certain streets over and over. Geary, Van Ness, and Market seemed to be our favorites. What struck me first was how clean the streets are.
We managed to find the AAA office downtown (150 Van Ness between Fell and Hayes) and secured a detailed citymap. Then we set off for the corner of Haigt and Ashbury to see the legendary hippie hangout of the 60s. The intersection is very near Golden Gate Park, just south of Panhandle Park. I wonder if there is a connection there. We drove the complete length of Geary Ave and then followed the coast road around past the Cliff house. This first day was a real eye-opener.
We had a difficult time finding a hotel that did not have mandatory valet parking. As a matter of fact, we had a hard time finding a hotel period. So we eventually drove south to the vicinity of the airport and found a hotel, the Clarion. We then went to the airport and rented a Hyndai Scoupe from Dollar Rent-a-Car. We did this since we did not want to deal with the traffic in the Corvette. Nor did we want to deal with the aggravation of worrying about the Vette when we parked it to visit the attractions.
We drove the Hyundai back downtown, to the financial district, and left it in a multi-story parking garage. Then we walked a block or two to the southern terminus of the Powell & Market Street cable car. The lines to ride the cable car were enormous--perhaps a thousand people.
We bought Muni passes, a genuine deal, which were good for three days on cable cars and every other form of public transportation in San Francisco including buses, trolleys, BART, and some others. While standing in line to board the cable car we took the opportunity to eat a couple of soft pretzels, since we had eaten no breakfast. Finally, we boarded the car.
There were no seats so Jane and I clung to the outside of the car on the side facing traffic. This proved to be an adventure, since you must duck to avoid hitting people on cable cars going the opposite direction. However, this is the way to see the downtown area. The next best method is walking.
We were, it is fair to say, cultural gourmands on this first day. It is a recurring pattern in our travels and I must admit it is my fault. We act like the Apollo 11 Astronauts acted when they arrived on the moon for the first time--they leaped out and grabbed rocks, so that just in case they had to leave suddenly, they would be able to bring back some knowledge and justify the expenditure. We do the same thing, doing as much the first day as is humanly possible. The end result is that we wind up bushed.
We could have saved our energy. The paintings were done in Monet's latter years at Giverny, and they are not very attractive. Very abstract. He must have been doing some serious drugs when he painted these.
While in Golden Gate Park we toured the Conservatory Of Flowers and the Japanese Tea Garden.
We headed for Fisherman's wharf. This time we drove rather than take the cable car. We parked the car and went walking. And walking. And walking. We passed Aquatic Park, Fort Mason, and the Marina District (leveled in the '89 quake but gorgeously restored), and kept right on walking, all the way to the Golden Gate bridge, as viewed from the vistor's center. At the base of the southern bridge tower is Fort Point, and the view of shoreline from the parking lot is impressive.
We rode the cable car again, and this time we transferred from the north-south Powell & Market Street line to the east-west California Street line to get to Grace Cathedral in the Nob Hill district. This is a beautiful Episcopal church on California street, built in the Gothic style, next to the former Flood Mansion, which is now the Pacific Union Club. Also located in the Nob Hill district are the Mark Hopkins Hotel and the Fairmont Hotel.
Flowers in Union Square
This turned out to be a full day of sightseeing. The first item of business was the San Francisco Bay Boat Tour. These boats are very popular and therefore very crowded. The boat heads out towards the Golden Gate, affording an excellent view of the financial district and the waterfront. The boat then goes under the Golden Gate, and back around Alcatraz Island.
We drove up to the top of Twin Peaks and photographed the financial district, and east bay and Golden Gate Park, and the Presidio. We wound up at Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. This is a memorial to firemen in San Francisco who have died in the line of duty. It is shaped like the nozzle on a firehose. It is always crowded and to compound matters the parking lot at the base of the tower is very small and traffic backs up all the way down serpentine Lombard Street during the afternoon.
We then walked to the Sausalito side of the Golden Gate bridge. It was very foggy. Most of the locals we talked to took pains to tell us that it was usually foggy, but we lucked out for most of our visit with gorgeous sunny days. Today however it was foggy and we could barely make out the Sausalito side of the bridge. On our walk back to San Francisco we got this shot of Fort Point in the fog.
We walked back to the vistor center and retrieved the Corvette and then I mistakenly drove north on the bridge and we wound up stuck in some God-awful Sunday traffic. We ended up in several small towns near Sausalito and it took forever to get back over the bridge and into San Francisco. We finally made it and visited the Palace Of Fine Arts. Jane remarked that this town has a large number of parks. I realize that she's right. These people certainly like parks.
We headed norh on US 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge toward Sonoma County and the wine country. Along the way we passed a Wine Train that takes passengers through the wine country, stopping at the tasting rooms of local vineyards. We stopped at an A&W Root Beer stand in Petaluma for lunch. I bought a Cruisin' Tee Shirt. Then it was off to Sacramento and the central valley.
We arrived in Sacramento in late afternoon and as is usually our practice, we had a hell of a time finding a room for the night. One place we stopped at was right by the rail yards and had bullet-proof glass at the check-in office. Needless to say, we didn't stay there. Jane found us a place about thirty miles east of Sacramento, right next to a restaurant. Life is good.
We set out for old town Sacramento and we visited the famous rail road museum. Then we walked around the old town and visted a penny-candy store, coming away with several pounds of the stuff. It isn't a penny apiece anymore.
Next we headed for the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial. My platoon leader, 1Lt John Eastwood's name is on the memorial and we found it. He died in September of 1968. He was 28.
We drove to Beale Air Force base and toured the Air Museum. We got the Vette washed by some Air Force people raising money for charity.
Jane roped me into taking a paddle wheel steamer ride on the American River. The highlight of this "cruise" was the Center Pivot Span Bridge that crosses the American River. It was a rip-off, but Jane enjoyed it. Afterwards we headed for the Towbridge Ford Museum. It is one of two such museums, the other being in Montana. It is crammed with antique Fords of every model and description, some in remarkably good shape.
All good things must come to an end. We headed south on California highway 99 and traveled through the fertile central valley. We passed through Modesto, location for the film American Grafitti, and took a quick tour of the downtown area.
We stopped at Castle Air Force base (since closed) and toured their air museum. It began to rain so we ducked into the museum's restaurant for lunch. Back on Hwy 99 we passed through Stockton, and Fresno. As we pass by Bakersfield we see the ever present oil wells that line the highways. South of Bakersfield we begin climbing the Grapevine, the local name for the Tejon pass which cuts through the mountains that separate the L.A. basin from central California. We pass the wind generators that Cristo wrapped in plastic some years ago.
All in all it was a very pleasant trip and I think San Francisco is my favorite town.
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