Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Frisco 4

The Frisco 4:  Me, David, my brother Aaron & sister-in-law Cathy.  There is some debate on who Frisco 1 is who Frisco 2 is and so on.  Just for the record, I am Frisco 1.

The first time I was scheduled to go to San Francisco, I wasn't happy about it. I didn't want to go. Of course, I don't want to go anywhere but I really didn't want to go there. A big city. I just knew I would hate it. I was wrong.

San Francisco has become the ONLY place that I don't mind going to. That doesn't mean I actively want to go but more that I am not disappointed if it comes up. I have also been here more than any other city. It is somewhat unusual for me to repeat, in fact the only other repeat I have had to the exact same city is Miami. And I was right about Miami.

Usually I travel alone and I get used to being alone.  I eat when I want, go where I want (or not).  In March of 2010 I was doing a round in Northern California that would end in San Francisco.  David and I were married in March so we decided he would fly out for the weekend to celebrate.  My brother and sister-in-law were invited to join us.  The Frisco 4 is born.

My mother joined me the first time I ever came to San Francisco (for a conference) and we spent the weekend walking and doing a tour of Alcatraz, Muir Woods and Sausalito.  We were rushed at all three.  I am glad to be going back to two of these for a more leisurely and lengthy self-guided tour.

First up, Alcatraz.  This is the view of the city from the boat that takes you across. 

Alcatraz offers a self-guided audio tour inside the prison.  You can see the bunks and replica heads of the men that made the famous escape.  For the record, I don't think they made it.  Having been out there and seeing the water from the Golden Gate it just doesn't seem possible.  At night, in the cold, shark-infested water that out-of-shape prisoners could have made it when some elite swimmers don't.

The cells are not large.  My sister-in-law, who is average height for a woman, can touch both walls without stretching.

The day we go it is cold and misty.  My mom and I went on a sunny day.  Next time, David and I are going at night.

If you are ever in the city, I highly recommend this tour.  Park guides tell you about the history of the island (not just as a prison) and you can walk around the island outside the buildings (some of them, there are areas closed to visitors).

The tours for Alcatraz leave just down from Pier 39.  We didn't spend a lot of time here but we did check it out briefly.

The view to Alcatraz from the end of Pier 39.

Pier 39 is full of restaurants and a few shops.  There is also a carousel and a stage for local performers.  You can also find street artists and performers here.  During tourist season, it is wall-to-wall people.

A magician performs.  I could see how people who live here would avoid this area like the plague.

Unless they liked crab.  There is a long row of street-side vendors where you can purchase crab, clam chowder and other seafood items in Fisherman's Wharf, just down from Pier 39.  Actually I have never been quite clear on whether Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf are the same place or not.

You can also view the sea lions as they like to sun themselves here.  You can hear their barking well before before you see them.

Coit Tower - a.k.a.  The Big Ass Flashlight (David's name for it) - is in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood.  Let me just say, it isn't an easy walk up there.  When my mom and I were there we got lost walking down The Embarcadero trying to go to the tower.  We had to circle back and when we got to the bottom of the street mom looks up the steep incline and says, "I'm not going up there".  We did but the observation deck was closed.  This time we used the stairs.

That didn't make it easier to get up there.  There are about a million stairs and I wanted to give up more than once.  I had been up there, I could send the others without me.  I made it (last to the top) and this time the tower is open.  You can get a 360 degree view of the city.  The history of the tower is pretty interesting too. 

The scene of the crime:  John's Grill.  This restaurant on Ellis was a setting for the book The Maltese Falcon.  We go there for our anniversary dinner.  It is dark inside and there is a man playing jazz music.  Very nice.  They have these glasses with their logo on them and the boys want one.  David asks the waiter how to get one.  "You can purchase one for $4, you can buy this drink and it is free or you can just steal it, that's what most people do."

So is it a crime if you steal something after being told you could?  I walked out of that restaurant with a glass in each pocket of my coat. 

Muir Woods is part of the National Park Service and is a short 30 minute drive from the city.  Once again, I had been here with my mom but we were rushed and didn't see very much.  This time, the F4 spend the better part of a day here.

Until you have been to the Redwood Forest, you cannot really understand how huge these trees are.

The width of the tree measured by the wingspan of David (on the left) and Aaron.  David is just over 6' tall, Aaron just under.

It was chilly that morning and the trees appear to be "breathing".

Everything here is beautiful and lush and green.  Even the bridge rails are covered in moss.

Aaron & Cathy shooting pictures below.  Parts of the woods are very quiet, especially Cathedral Woods, an area where signs ask you to observe silence.  
Signs that David didn't see.

I would love to go back here again and spend a whole day.  It is so peaceful and majestic.  It is hard to believe there is a city teeming with people a few miles away.

Near Muir Woods we stumble on Stinson Beach.  This small town, population 486, is on a very twisty road.  On my latest trip to San Francisco, I drove out here again to look around a second time.  The posted speed limit is 55, my GPS says I went a maximum of 28.  There is wildlife around in addition to the twists and on this drive a deer darted out in front of me.  Last time, the boys were making fun of me for driving so slow that I sped up on a straight away only to crest a hill and nearly hit a cow.  The moral is, go slow and tell the people in the backseat to shut up.

It is beautiful here but don't let that deceive you.

These signs are posted as you walk about to warn you about dangerous currents and shark activity.  It was way too cold for any getting in the water on this trip, not even toes.

As evidenced by how Cathy is dressed.

We have dinner at the SandDollar while a 3 piece jazz combo plays in the corner.  I had lunch at Breakers Cafe before going to the airport last week.  I can definitely recommend the shrimp omelet.  Be sure you have some gas in the car when you go out, there is a sign that says, "Next gas 23 miles" as you head out that way.  There were parts of the road that are one lane due to construction and you can be sitting at the light quite a while.

We also made our way out towards Point Reyes (it was rainy in the city that day).  There is a lighthouse there and more beaches.  I didn't see the lighthouse, I decided not to fight the wind and cold and stayed behind. 

My friend in San Francisco says that this is a dead giveaway that he is a tourist.  Aaron is wearing shorts.  People who live here know it is too cold for that most days, even in the summer, but certainly when we are here in March.  Mark Twain supposedly once said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco".  The backpack says nothing, almost everyone in the city carries a backpack.

David was more prepared for cold weather.

The Frisco 4 ruined it for me by coming here.  Just like when my mom came out with me, we did more and explored more than I would have on my own - at least back then.  My 3 companions are ghosts now that haunt me when I am alone here.  It makes traveling alone...more lonely.

Most of the time.  When I revisited the area I fell walking down this path to the Muir Beach overlook and slid down several steps on my butt.  This is when you are happy to be traveling alone, where no one you knows sees that kind of thing.

Sundown at Stinson Beach

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