Fantastic Expectations, Amazing Revelations
Trip Start May 29, 2010
68Trip End Oct 09, 2010
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The City of San Francisco had an estimated population of 808,977 in 2008, it encompasses a land area of 46.7 square miles making it the second most densely populated large city in the US.
In 1776, the Spanish established a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for Francis of Assisi on the site. The Gold Rush in 1848 propelled the city into a period of rapid growth, increasing the population in one year from 1,000 to 25,000, and thus transforming it into the largest city on the Wets Coast at the time. After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt.
We woke after a very comfortable and satisfying nights' sleep, we were in a dorm of 24 that was about two thirds full, most people were up and out of bed when we awoke but we hadn’t noticed them getting up – must have been zonked
We walked the 15 minute route along the beachfront to Fishermans Wharf where the shops, restaurants and entertainers start and made our way down to Pier 33 where the Alcatraz island and prison tour departs from. We found that the tours were fully booked until Sunday (it was Thursday) and that there was no chance we were going to be able to do the tour whilst we were in SF which was disappointing as that was one of the highlights of SF that a lot of people talk about. We considered the possibility of coming back from Vegas a few hours early so we could get a tour in before going to LA and made our way back along the front. We were scared to death by a man hiding behind bushes who jumped out on us screaming as part of his performance for tips, we both jumped but Char let out a sustained, high pitched scream whilst stamping her feet, if we ever were in real trouble let’s hope that’s not how she reacts (though having a stocky Rastafarian man jump out from behind vine leaves growling and snarling like a tiger is quite an uncommon form of fear to encounter) Once Char had got over the shock (and the embarrassment) we gave him some loose change for our "thrill"!
Char went and had a couple of henna tattoos and we went to pick up some bikes from a shop we had visited on our way to Pier 33 called San Francisco Bikes (original name). It was the first day of opening for the shop so the Specialized Hard Rocks we rented were brand new and we managed to get them for 24 hours paying $23 which was a real bargain as a similar bike in Vancouver or Whistler would have been at least $40 for the full day
We set off on the main route along the seafront and stopped at a beachfront café for food then continued on to the Golden Gate Bridge viewing point.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate (North American strait connecting SF bay to the Pacific Ocean), the opening of the SF Bay into the Pacific Ocean. As part of both US route 101 and Californian State Route 1, it connects the city of San Francisco on the northern tip of the SF Peninsula to Marin County. The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge span in the world when it was completed during the year 1937, the famous International Orange color was originally used as a sealant for the bridge. Many locals persuaded Morrow (Irving Morrow, a relatively unknown residential architect, designed the overall shape of the bridge towers, the lighting scheme, and Art Deco elements such as the streetlights, railing, and walkways) to paint the bridge in the vibrant orange color instead of the standard silver or gray, and the color has been kept ever since.
We had decided to do the Golden Gate Bridge crossing the following day as Char wasn’t dressed for off road riding and there were some trails on the other side
After walking around a few and inadvertently sampling more than a few types of herb that were being smoked in copious quantities in and around the shops, we stopped at a restaurant called Avu Enoteca and had a lovely Italian prosciutto tapas style meal washed down with a very nice bottle of white. Al (the Hoff) was in serious need of a haircut found a place over the road called “Blown Away” and discovered the owner to be equally chilled out, when Char arrived to check on progress she found Al and the hairdresser drinking beer and talking about Vegas. The shop front was a great talking point as it was featured in a book called “San Francisco Grand Entrances” due to its elaborate mirror styled frontage though there far fewer mirror fragments remaining as the crackheads had taken to removing them for their own personal use... We drank more beer, took photos and got back on our bikes a little worse for wear.
The long ride back up to Fishermans Wharf certainly helped to sober us up so on our way back we picked up some beers and then found some people in the common room after locking our bikes in the hostel. We had met a guy called Charlie the night before as we were watching Top Gear in the TV room waiting for our washing, he was on a RTW trip and would be stopping next at New Zealand so we traded info and e-mail addresses and promised to meet if we were ever in the same place whilst over there. We met also another couple from Sweden who were just travelling in the US, we talked to them about our engagement visit to the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi and they recommended a place called Aoe for a future visit.
We checked our e-mails and discovered our friends Andy and Laura had gotten engaged so went to bed feeling very pleased for them!
Our final day in SF we woke and packed our bags as we would be checking out of the hostel and picking up the car, we left our bags in storage and headed out for one last ride on the bikes before we would have to get them back to the shop. We headed straight for the Golden Gate Bridge and followed the throng of walkers and cyclists along the busy route. The views were amazing and once on the other side we picked up the route to Sausalito and enjoyed the fast downhill descent along the coast passing beautiful houses along the way. Once in Sausalito (which we had been calling sausage town all morning as we could not remember the name!) we walked around a few art galleries, bought a couple of souvenirs and made our way to the ferry crossing terminal to wait with our bikes. We both happily got on the boat and sat down, taking pictures and joking then, as the boat was freed from the anchor and started to sway Char was struck with the usual debilitating sea sickness that has blighted many a boat based trip. Following a few stops to the on board facilities she spent the rest of the journey lay on the top deck breathing deeply and missing the amazing views of Alcatraz and the SF bay. Following another trip to the facilities whilst waiting to get off we emerged from the boat late the bikes should have been back 30 minutes earlier. Char, ashen and weak made her way slowly back through the traffic to the bike shop and settled in a heap on the bike shop chair. The rest of the day was spent trying not to do anything that would cause more sickness which turned out to be pretty much everything. We finally managed to eat though the waiters were puzzled at how it could take Char an hour and half to eat half a plate of pasta.
We decided to take a tram to pick up our car and, after waiting an hour to get on the tram we started the climb up Mason Street and realized that the car hire office was back the way we had just come from (our sense of direction is getting worse!). The tram journey was only one way so rather than queue to go back the other way we walked – back up all the hills we had just ridden the tram down! We got to the office at 5:15pm and discovered it closed at 5pm but thankfully the office manager had kept the office open for us and we picked up our new car – Elvis. We drove back to the hostel, picked up our bags, said our goodbyes and once again were back on the open road crossing first the Bay Bridge and out onto the route to Yosemite National Park.
San Francisco has been a blast, the city does not feel like any other city in that one minute you can be in a busy city with all the usual coffee shops and big commercial stores, the next you are riding down the seaside enjoying the sea air or you are a funky bar in an Italian/Chinese/Greek suburb which feels nothing like a bustling city. All in all it is a city that allows even city haters to escape and discover. As Arnie says “we’ll be back” well actually it’s I’ll be back but you know what we mean!