Monday, June 06, 2011

California Adventure: Day 3

Before we left for San Francisco I was (a) very excited about seeing the Golden Gate Bridge (it's the engineer in me) and (b) worried that, on account of the legendary fog of San Francisco, we wouldn't actually see anything at all. We had our itinerary planned out and the Monday morning of our trip was earmarked for the bridge. We actually had a lot on our plates for the day, so to be efficient we decided to rent some bikes.We started by following the water over to the bridge, and we were very lucky to have a crystal clear day, and also to have chosen to do this in the morning. In the afternoon the sun moves right behind the bridge and you don't get that same impression of orange bridge versus blue sky that is so attractive.Luckily this part of the city is overrun with tourists so there were plenty of passersby that I could stop to ask to take our picture. I think this is my favourite of the entire trip:After seeing it from below, it was time to cross it. We climbed up some steep switchbacks and rode across the east access lane. Usually there is one lane for cyclists and one for pedestrians but on this morning, one was closed, and we were all in one lane. Kind of harrowing! The bridge is two miles across and is actually known as one of the safest places to be in the city during an earthquake.On a sad note, there was a news story we followed the week we were away. A fifteen year old girl went missing and apparently had left behind a note. As the story developed we learned that she was recorded on the bridge's security camera entering it about 20 minutes after we left, and she was never recorded coming off. It sounds like the note she left behind was a suicide note. The bridge has an average of one suicide jumper per week but it was so crowded with people the day we were on it, it's hard to imagine this girl could have jumped without a witness. For the next few days there were helicopters circling the area waters... we presume they were looking for her.After admiring the city skyline from the other side of the Bay, we crossed back and then rode on. We went throgh the Presidio, Baker Beach...and Ocean Beach (where the shark was spotted)... on our way to Golden Gate Park. It was starting to dawn on us that riding bikes in San Francisco is not for the faint of heart. You are either gutting it out climbing up some incredibly steep hill, or riding your brakes down the other side. There are no flat sections of San Francisco once you get away from the waterfront!

This was all enroute to our lunchtime destination: The Haight. After an active morning like that I was totally starving. Our planned stop was the Magnolia Brewpub. Lots of homebrews and all the food was organic/free range/environmentally friendly. My club sandwich with avocado and home-brewed root beer were delish. We snickered all through our meal because, being in the Haight, the pub was filled with hippies, deadbeats and people in search of the meaning of life. The guy at the table next to us was telling his lunch date about his aspirations to open his own brew pub, and he repeatedly asserted that he knows if he just keeps brewing and just keeps drinking then he will be successful. Every beer he downed was in the name of research and nothing more, I am sure. :)

After lunch we had to see the sights in the Haight. We stopped at the Ben & Jerry's that now stands on the corner of Haight/Ashbury. Across the street is the international Bong Clock, which always reads 4:20.

Before leaving, we had to stop back in at Golden Gate Park to see Hippie Hill. It's not noted on park maps but it's right where you'd expect it to be... in the first hidden nook when you enter the park from Haight St. Being early on a Monday afternoon, there were not too many people hanging out there, but sure enough we were offered some pot, and that somehow felt validating. Like we had been accepted into hippie culture.

Moving on (ahem).

We were pretty freaking exhausted by then, and had no intention of retracing the long and winding path we'd taken that morning. We mapped out a direct course back to the hotel, which would mean traveling down some major city streets rather than following waterfront bike paths. But, San Fran is a very bike-friendly city. Motorists yield to cyclists and respect them. I felt a lot safer biking there than I do at home. We planned one stop along this route, to see the fabled Painted Ladies of Alamo Square. But aside from that... it was a straight cruise home.

Back to our hotel to take a break from our kamikaze touring style, and then down to the waterfront again to catch a ferry. It was back to Alcatraz, baby! This time on the night tour of the prison itself.The tour was very cool. I am glad that we recorded 'Escape from Alcatraz' when it was on TV several months ago and even though it dragged in the beginning, we watched the whole thing. Without having seen that movie it would not have been nearly so neat to see Frank Morris's actual cell, with the hole he chipped in the cement wall and the paper mache head still tucked into his bed to fool the night guard.From the front of the building, I had to take a shot looking back to the main land, so that I could map out my swim for posterity.We got back to shore slightly after 9 p.m. and were ready for dinner by then. Not much was open so we wound up (underdressed) in San Francisco's restaurant of the moment, Slanted Door. I may have been underdressed but the cellophane noodles with green onions and crab made me really not care very much!The end of another very full day. Next up: we get out of the city.