Yep, I’m heading back to one of my favorite places in the world, San Francisco. I leave Saturday morning from my home in Denver. Between now (Thursday night) and then I have one twelve hour shift, two cats to deliver, one rabbit to transport, and a bag to pack. If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know my usual last-minute scramble. If you’ve ever been to San Francisco you’ll know that while the weather is generally the same, you can fluctuate between bitter damp cold and fog and sunny sunny blue skies at any given moment- meaning it’s hard to pack for.
It’s a short trip, and as I discovered last time, the fewer articles of clothing I bring the more I can find at thrift stores and consignment shops as I explore the city! I’m keeping my plans fairly loose, but I have my usual list of favorite places tumbling along in my head.
1) City Lights and Green Apple Books
2) Ocean Beach
3) Golden Gate Park
And this time I am determined to set wheel against track in the house-of-worship-turned-roller-rink called the Church of Eight Wheels. I can’t wait!
Finally, this is a birthday present from me to me. I know I’ll be working through Christmas and New Year’s, just like I worked through Thanksgiving, so I thought I would at least treat myself for my birthday. I guess that’s one hell of a birthday party? Oh, and since I started typing this I’ve already packed 60% of my suitcase, so I’m ahead of the game!
If you are the type of person who travels often then you probably know the excitement of “Where to next…?” Some lucky folks simply watch ticket prices to exotic locals and purchase the ones that are a steal. “A trip to Thailand? Sounds great!” While I wish I was the kind of person who could whip out my credit card and buy myself a plane ticket to Southeast Asia or the Sahara or whoever, my funds are more limited. Most of my travel is within the continental US. Now, that said, this is a HUGE country with just about every biome represented, and each region has it’s own unique flavor and personality. I didn’t really appreciate the vastness and diversity of my own country until I lived a different country.
Now it’s May, I already have had one glorious adventure this year, but I am thinking ahead. Where to next indeed. Sometimes I am attracted to a place because of it’s famed attractions, like the French Quarter in New Orleans, or the mountains in Durango. Other times I want to see the people who live there, like visiting family in Washington or Minnesota. I go to San Francisco as frequently as possible because I’m madly in love with the city (and it helps to have an old friend there).
This summer I’m feeling Tennessee. I have not spent much time in the east or south of this country, so it would be exciting to explore the local culture there. I have a cousin that I would love to spend time with. It seems perfect. So now, time to watch those ticket prices!
The Travelettes have once again featured a guest article I wrote on their wonderful site! You can find it Here. This site is a resource that any and all female (actually anybody) travelers should check out whether they’re planning a trip, daydreaming about where to go next, or just looking for cool articles to read from the comfort of home. The women who run this site are true travel gurus and are a gold mine of information and dead-useful tips and tricks. Last fall I wrote about my solo trip to San Francisco. Find that piece Here. If you’re not too busy reading and rereading (ha) my articles, get lost in some truly fabulous posts about exotic locations you’ve only ever dreamed of. Have fun!
So much has happened that I am struggling to remember it all! If I don’t get it written down it could be lost forever! So here’s what happened:
The day started off with me forcing myself to sleep in. As much as getting up at dawn to go down to the beach is appealing, I knew I needed to take care of myself and catch up on some sleep. So at amuch more reasonable hour of 9:00 I got up and headed out for coffee and an almond croissant from Java Beach cafe. I took my goodies to the beach and made temporary camp in the sand dune. I attracted the attention of several ravens who tried to play it cool, pretending to dig up rocks and such, but who were obviously failing.
After the beach I hopped on the N train and headed into the City. I got off at Green Apple Books, my favorite (yes, more than City Lights) bookshop in SF. I wandered around those packed shelves for quite a while, trying to make my selections. That is the TRUE test of budgeting, in my opinion. I ended up with a book about the lost tales of the Odyssey- you know, the ones that didn’t make it into the modern written translation.
Then it was time to meet up with a friend in town the for the wedding. Casey wanted to hit up Amoeba records in the Haight, so one bus ride later I got off there. Casey either struggled with time or with public transport, because I found myself with time to kill. I walked up Haight St a little ways and found a nice quiet cafe called Stanza Coffee and got myself an herbal tea. I had time to read until Casey arrived, so I was quite happy. Casey hadn’t ever explored the Haight, so when he got to the cafe I finished up the tea and we headed out to see what we could see. The Haight is not my favorite neighborhood, but neither is it my least favorite. It’s an interesting place to people watch, to be sure, and after reading Alysia Abbott’s memoir, Fairyland, I have even more respect for the people and movements that have called it home.
Amoeba records is huge and Casey had way more interest in browsing than I did, so not unlike a parent entertaining a 3 year old, Casey devised a game to keep me busy. He picked a random word, like wood, and told me to go to the electronics section and find a record that explemplified that word. Let me tell you, this is QUITE the engaging game and I highly recommend it. After Amoeba we had still had time before Casey had to collect his girlfriend from the BART station, so we got a portable lunch from Whole Foods and headed into next-door Golden Gate Park. Shenanigans ensued, including finding secret paths, “decorating” an abandoned racket ball court, and find weird tunnels. Then it was time to part ways.
Some other friends wanted to meet in Mission Delores Park, so made my way there…or thought I did. I got on the wrong train. When I realized this and disembarked, the correct train was delayed and went out of service. I got on a different train and got off at my best approximation of the right stop. Then I was lost and my phone was just about dead, so GPS was no help. I called Chris, the Resident San Franciscan, and he helpfully pointed me in the right direction. After a short walk I found the park and some friends. We spent several rather chilly hours people watching there. Chris found us eventually, and we decided to get some drinks and some dinner (yay!)
Drinks were at a pinball bar (with a sticker from a bar in Milwaukee, no less). I allowed Chris to chose my beer, another fun game, and he ended up unknowingly picking my favorite; a kolsch. Dinner was across the street at a Pakastani restaurant where I enjoyed a fantastic veggie korma. The leftovers are in the fridge at my AirBnB and I am already daydreaming about them…
After dinner we went to a friend of a friend’s place and hung out until I was basically asleep on the couch. We watched some crazy music videos and discussed each other’s lives. Around 1:00 am it was decided that we should go. Public transport seemed waaaayyy to ambitious at that point, so therein followed the struggled of Getting An Uber For TheFirst Time. It was absolutely freezing at that point, but the nightlife in the Mission was booming. We waited for a noisy ten minutes or so while I struggled to download the app and call a car. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty cranky at that point. My friends kindly waited for me to make sure I got in the car. They were all sharing an Uber back to the hotel, while I was heading way out back into the Outer Sunset. Luckily my Uber drive was smooth and I got back without incident. Even though it was pretty late and I was pretty tired I couldn’t settle down to sleep for a while.m. It was another late night and another enforced sleep-in this morning. Currently I am sitting at Java Beach with my cappuccino plotting my day ahead. I’ll let you know what happens!
Despite my severe lack of sleep the day/night before, I still got up before dawn today. It happened naturally and I was quite pleased because I was able to pull myself together and get to the beach for sunrise. So yes, the beach faces west, so actually the sun rose over The City, but it was magnificent nonetheless. The water was light blue and grey and the sun was pink tinged. The sand all around me was the softest tan/gray hue. There were a few intrepid surfers and dog walkers out, but mostly I had Ocean Beach to myself. I snapped photos, got my feet wet in the chilly Pacific water, and did some exploring. I Facetimed with Pappy and Emily. It seemed too good a moment not to share!
*Non-Breaking Breaking News: I can still hear the waves on the beach from here*
I came across a cement structure absolutely encrusted with graffiti art. It looked beautiful with the rising sun behind it. I just couldn’t get enough of this work of art and probably took too many photos. I only posted the best ones in order to spare everyone.
After returning to Home Base I met back up with Sonia and Thibaut and we got some much needed coffee and breakfast at one of the beachside coffee shops. They had to book it to Los Angeles for the next leg of their trip, so we made only a brief excursion to see the ocean before they were off. Now tonight I had completely new housemates at the AirBnB. I will miss Sonia and Thibaut!
After out goodbyes I hopped on the bus/train and headed downtown. A brief stop in the Mission at a thrift shop was disappointing,and in any case, a friend from back home was waiting for me in North Beach. It took over an hour but finally we found each other in City Lights Books! I will never tire of that wonderful shop. I wanted to spend all day there, but it was crowded and most of the good places to sit were filled with bored-looking people waiting for their friends to finish shopping. City Lights is a landmark here and has a long history in San Francisco. Check out more about it Here. I purchased a book called The Final Solution by an author I had read before and revered, Michael Chabon. His earlier book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was one of those books that hits you like a ton a bricks and stays with you. It reminds me of Jonathan Safran Foer, whose book Everything Is Illuminated is not only one of my favorites, but it also and excellent movie.
My friend Tai and I then went in search of a cafe. We found one that I had actually visited (and loved) last summer, and I had a stunning glass of wine in front of me before long. Tai went for a crisply refreshing beer. We talked long and loudly, and left in search a sandwiches, which we found nearby. Then it was time to leave North Beach (sadly!) and meet up with more of our Wisco group so that they could go to the wedding rehearsal and dinner. This left me as a free agent at last and I wasted no time in catching a bus back into the Mission to look for Mission Thrift. This shop had been highly rated so I figured I had a good shot at finding some treasures and I was not wrong. The shop girl was bored and disgruntled, but he store itself was wonderful. Clothes of all vintages and brand were crammed cheek by jowl and only vaguely labeled. I wanted skinny jeans and I wanted an extra shirt/sweater/layer for warmth. I found these after some very harried searching, since the shopgirl kept announcing how soon they were closing. There were lots and lots of vintage treasures, but I didn’t have time to admire them all, let alone try them on! I simply must go back when they are not closing imminently.
Leaving Mission Thrift the sun was beginning to set and the race was on to make it all the way back to the Out Sunset where Home Base is before it got too late [dark]. I got to South Van Ness and Market okay, but the 7 bus never showed, so I hoofed it down underground to catch the N Judah train. This turned out to be the right choice because not only is it faster and smoother than the bus, but the route it more scenic and the people watching opportunities the train afforded were great. My stop, 48th and Judah, is the very last stop, and I disembarked just after the sun set. So much for catching that show at the beach. Anyway, it’s only a two block walk back to Home Base from there, so I made it in good time. Home Base is packed to capacity tonight with all new faces. It seems that everyone only stays the one night around here except for me. I’m busy chatting up the latest batch of travelers while I write this and drink my Anchor Brewing IPA (a gift from Thibaut). It may be a Friday night in San Francisco, a city with admittedly fantastic nightlife, but after so little sleep and so much exploration, I’m beat. It’s time to curl up in bed with my new book.
So the fog (what was it that people named it again…Carl?) in San Francisco is too thick to land planes right now, so myself and everyone else waiting to board the plane find ourselves taking in the fine sights at the Las Vegas airport. There are slot machines everywhere, flashing neon, and a confusing array of the Strip meets Southwest Native American art?
I’m sitting on the floor after breaking down and spending WAY too much on an overpriced bottle of water and a snack bar. I had my little feast and I decided to get productive with this time and write. The view outside is actually not bad, what with some hazy mountains in the background and all the brightly colored Southwest airplanes dotting the landscape. I can tell from the baggage guys that it must be hot outside.
I have time to fantasize about what to do with my totally free day in San Francisco (once I arrive that is!). What to do first? Find a coffee shop-I’m going on four hours of sleep right now- and make camp with my bags? Make the 90 minute trip from the airport to my AirBnB space and drop off my stuff? Wallow around looking lost? So many choices.
I did manage to fit everything in my Duluth Pack and mini Fjallraven kanken backpack. It helps that I am wearing the one and only outfit that I’m bringing. Honestly, the shoes and books took up most of the room.