Road Trip 2011: San Francisco

Posted on July 6, 2011

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*The eternal dilemma for travel writing is finding time to write while traveling. I’m no exception to this. This series of dispatches from a recent road trip will be a bit delayed as I have a tendency to travel while traveling, filling up every second of every day with whatever may be, rather than sitting at the keyboard… as every traveler should. I hope you enjoy our journey.*

My mom and dad have always loved San Francisco. I’ve never been, but visions of hanging of a cable car yelling the Rice-A-Roni theme song have always haunted me. San Fran also came with the added bonus of seeing a few good friends that Cass and I haven’t seen since the wedding almost a year ago. I’m not sure which is better, the cable car Rice-a-Roni thing or being able to hang out with some special peeps. Just kidding… but maybe not.

We got into town and headed straight for The Sir Francis Drake Hotel, of which Devin and her boyfriend Toku work. Anything that starts with ‘Sir’ always has an air of bourgeoisie about it. The Drake was pretty darn nice, to say the least. Honestly, thought, I’m not quite sure about boutique hotels. Wicker needs a nice free breakfast—preferably with a waffle maker—in the lobby or at least a pot of coffee down there to say, “have a good morning… here’s a little something from Francis Drake himself.” Even though the room was phenomenal, the location… phenomenal (right off Union Square), I was a little off put by the lack of amenities in such an awesome hotel. Anyways, back to the trip.

We met Devin and Toku at the restaurant they work at off the lobby of the hotel, Scalas. This one singular meal we sat down to made up for any of my past little rant. We sampled just about everything on the menu, shared wine and champagne, caught up on our lives, and told funny stories for hours. It was close to the best meal, in terms of food I’ve ever eaten (still below that bone-in Filet at Nine in Vegas, though)… ask me what any of it was—sorry, this isn’t a food review post. Just know that there wasn’t a single dish on our table that I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat next time I’m in town.

In keeping with our ‘tourist’ theme of the trip, the next day Cass and I headed down to the Fisherman’s Warf to check it out. It was a bit different than what I expected. Instead of a full-on market with tourists staring open-mouthed at piles of freshly caught crabs over ice, it was more a restaurant and shopping scene. We grabbed a lobster bisque and clam chowder in bread bowls, finished them off on the sidewalk listening to a brilliant street performer underneath the iconic Warf sign, and moved on.

About two blocks below—and I’m sure you’ve all seen or been to the hills of San Francisco so you know how appropriate using the word ‘below’ really is—we caught sight of the famous ‘curviest street in the world.’ What most people don’t realize is that the streets grade continues beyond this well-known portion of road, even though the road returns to a more typical street. We began trudging up what seemed to surpass a 45degree climb when  the toe of my Chaco sandles caught on a lip of concrete. I gracefully avoided bodily harm; my sandles could not say the same. The outer strap that holds the ball of my feet onto the footbed snapped, leaving me with an unmistakable duckwalk for the remainder of the Lombard St. summit attempt. Regardless, I had my unfailing support network—Cass—with me, encouraging (read: laughing at) me the rest of the way. I had a reverse flip-flop, but only on my right foot. I was less than amused, but looking back—kind of funny.

So I took a few pictures after elbowing my way to the front of the crowds standing on the street corners, walked/flopped up the sidewalk next to the different-stated license plates attempting to drive down the one-block stretch, and peered over the street from the top. I just didn’t really get-it, but humans are a strange breed of animals.

Onto Haight-Ashbury. This neighborhood has been on my radar since I dedicated a good portion of my closet to the tye-dyed craze sometime in high school. It’s evolved only slightly from what you would expect a neighborhood that attracted the likes of Jimmy Hendricks and Jerry Garcia. The few-block stretch was lined with tattoo parlors, pipe stores, and boutique shops. Cass dove into Betty Page—a store specializing in some pretty awesome (even by my standards) 1950’s wear. While she tried on some goods, I wandered passed Jimmy’s old home and window shopped some tattoo art. Devon pulled me back into the store to have me check out Cass’ new dress… and I surely checked her out—if you know what I mean!

With our hotel so close to everything, it was so convenient to walk where ever we wanted. With new shoes on my feet, we headed down to the water near Ghirardelli Square and the terminus of the cable cars. It was about an hour wait to get on the cable car, but it was a nice day and we just don’t get to ride cable cars too often. So we waited, and were completely rewarded when our time came to hop on.

The cable cars have a couple rows of wooden benches, back-to-back, facing towards the street. In line with the legendary T.V. show, Full House, steps on the outside of the cars are available for those who want to stand and hold the rails. Well, that’s not really an option in my mind. We game planned our strategy to hover until two openings on the outside were available. It just so happened that as we approached the car, the benches filled up, so we stepped right up onto the front steps of the car… the Rice-a-Roni equivalent of 50 yard line seats. Cass manned the video camera; I held fast to my Olympus, and we were on our way. I may have hummed “The San Francisco treat,” a few times, I can’t be sure.

The final few sights of the city were basically for the nerd in me, and I appreciate Dev and Cass for playing along. A cab ride to the Golden Gate was in order. We walked along the sidewalk for a bit, cool to be standing on one of the most picturesque bridges and American symbols that exists. But still, a big bridge… that isn’t even a golden color, really.

Then to Alamo Square to see the ‘Painted Ladies,’ the iconic and gorgeously painted Victorian homes you see on the postcards. It was a beautiful day and you could see the whole of the city just over the rooftops. Jump pictures were a must. As we got to talking on the park’s lawn, I learned the house used in the filming of Mrs. Doubtfire wasn’t far away—certainly can’t pass that up. It was, after all, one of the greatest pieces of cinematography ever created!

These sights were spread out over the course of a few days and we couldn’t thanks our awesome friends Devon and Toku enough for making our stay in the city epic. From the food, to the tour guide, to the laughs- everything was just as, even surpassed, all that we hoped for. You guys are awesome!

The plan for the remainder of the trip (which I haven’t mentioned) was to head to Napa for a day, go to visit the Matthews crew, and the culmination of this trip—go to the Dispatch concert in Berkeley. Oh, there’s more to come… get your fun hats on!

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