Sunday, November 25, 2007

Playing Tourist in San Francisco, November 17

Setting upon a year of completing things I've always wanted to do, it was a perfect time to ramp up by starting locally and knocking off a handful of things on the life list that had been within arms reach for far too long. Especially since discovering the satisfaction of using "the city" as a release for my shutterbug fever, San Franciso has become a frequent destination for me this past year. Whether it is roaming the Haight, walking the Mission for stencils and kicking back drinks at Zeitgeist or gandering at the Golden Gate Bridge, my heart seems full when I am up there. I absolutely love my gorgeous, little hippie town, but sometimes it lacks the culture and grit that the hills north of me can provide. So I found myself headed up there yet again last weekend, camera in hand with not much more than a starting destination and an accomplice.

Sausalito Ferry Landing Sausalito Ferry Landing Looking to SF in the fog

I've driven the Golden Gate bridge a dozen times, and walked it twice, but never have I taken the ferry across the foggy bay and last Saturday was the day to do it. Sausalito is the cute little town in Marin county just to the other side of the bridge and home to the ferry landing where the adventure began.

Sausalito Ferry Landing Strange Sign Sausalito Ferry Landing Strange Sign

Sausalito Ferry Landing Dog and People Fountain Sausalito Ferry Landing Bench Sign

The day was definitely foggy and the landing itself slowly filled up with people as the launch time approached. Various mixes gathered from camera necked tourist hoards to local biking couples set out for their own Saturday adventure. The landing itself amused me, having never seen a Nuclear Free Zone outside of Santa Cruz, but taking the time to ponder what exactly a Cholesterol Free Zone really meant. As I roamed around checking things out before heading out, the dog fountain rocked my world. I wanted to have a dog just so I could take it to this fountain. Also, thinking of Sausalito as a "kingdom by the sea" brought me some serious amusement. I'm sure the rich people who live there like to think of themselves as royalty.

Bay Bridge from Sausalito Ferry IMG_8430

SF from Sausalito Ferry SF Ferry Landing

SF Ferry Landing SF Ferry

It was a weekend of bridges for me, and while having driven back and forth over it the night before, this time I was gazing up at the Bay Bridge from the water below. It's a quick ride across the Bay, but enough for me to have enough time to gaze at the unvisited Alcatraz and push it up on my "To do" list for this year. The weather was definitely brisk, but in that perfect SF autumn day and I reveled in my cold cheeks and flapping wind. It was neat to watch the other boats circle about the bay, the wakes of the other ferrys and the other people gaze around with wonder. I wasn't even scared and we were in San Francisco at the landing before you knew it.

No crybabies, but YUMMY food. Big Shark.  Rawr.

Weiland Mural in SF Weiland Mural in SF

Pretty Tree. So disturbing.

First up was food. It was going to be a full day in the city and fuel was needed to power us forward. We headed to the adorable Fog City Diner with it's yummy food and amusing sense of humor. It was a definite positive start to afternoon and out we headed for the SF side of our adventure. I've roamed around Pier 39 before some, I'm not a big fan of too much tourist style stuff and try and get through it quickly, but I always love the Weiland murals. They remind me of "The Plunge" in Mission Beach at home. But well, there were the disturbing aspects of it all, like the very pretty, but seemingly early, already placed Christmas tree and the random Bluetooth offer I spotted.

Barbary Coast Trail Marker Musee Mecanique San Francisco

Heading on down the Barbary Coast trail, we arrived at a long time lusting of mine, the Musee Mecanique to tromp about dropping quarters in silly machines and snarking at their randomness. I even left with the coveted fortune from the gypsy lady and on my alter it sits as I now have smiles recorded and another local life list destination knocked down. It was so awesome that you can bet it will be added to every itinerary that I create for visitors just so I can go back over and over.

Fisherman's Wharf SF Trolley

Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista

By then we were well warmed up and ready to get toasty with an irish coffee in Fisherman's Wharf at the Buena Vista. Like my Jackie O sunglasses? Another thing I had never done, we packed onto the rail and watched the bartender warm dozens of glasses at a time for waiting tourists. You could even get your drink to go with the whiskey in mini containers to be poured in outside. Big smiles were had by all, and it was nice to revel in the tiny things I had ignored in my own backyard.

And they're off... Chinatown

Transamerica Building and Frances Ford Coppella Building Mural

Rival company vehicle.  I think ours was safer looking. Red Light.

If you have not heard of the Go Car tours, you are missing out. Not only do I highly recommend them for hysterical fun, but the friendly staff capped off the experience as ultimately unbeaten. Apparently also available for San Diego and Miami, we delighted in our little yellow hill buster for over an hour. (If you check Gold Star, you can sometimes score 2 hours for the price of 1!) But alas, not being tourists, we chucked the map and powered through the flattest areas with a top speed of 35, honking the horn and blasting classical music for all to hear. I joked I can just imagine the family caravans parked outside a cafe while the meter ticked away wasted. We looked like a lost parade float, and tourists lined the street corners snapping away on their digital cameras and laughing. There were definite place limitations, and we learned quick that slowing to 10 mph meant that you leaned forward, measured the angle and tried to stay more paralell to the ocean in the future. We checked the clock over and over and time just seemed to multiply. At one point on our adventure we encountered a competitors vehicle and I had to look to the sky and thank the heavens for the stability I seemed to be surrounded by in comparison. They did seem to have a bit more get up than us though and speeded off a different direction as we wove through Chinatown, past the Transamerica building, the Frances Ford Copella building and various random streets no one expected to see us on. There was no reverse and it wasn't a problem until the very end when we had to back into traffic to turn it into the garage. Overall, I felt safe and laughed for a good solid hour. I'd definitely do it again.

Camera Truck filming commercial New Ford being filmed for commercial

Then began the chunk of the day that in retrospect is the most satisfying. I used the google maps nifty street tools to plot the route, and from the return of the car, we walked approximately 6 miles in the hills of San Francisco. The late afternoon turned to evening and the fog filled and blew through intersections ahead of us in an amusing show of mother nature at work. We roamed towards our final destination with ample time and a fair sense of direction, gazing at houses and wandering through parks, struggling with the endless supply of hills presented to us. At one point we came upon the Broadway tunnel and the filming of the new Ford Fusion SEL commercial. It was neat to watch the slate gray car race through the concrete tunnels in the haze of the weather. Immediately chasing the car was a super rigged SUV with cameras rigged to the front and at its toes followed a super sized shuttle bus sure filled with electronics to perfect the shot. Traffic was shut at each side and small crowds formed with curiousity and we moved on spectulating what their plans could be for the short clip we saw them shoot. I can't wait to watch for the commercial and know that I stood overhead. We walked on through pretty streets with big buildings in parts of the city I hadn't seen much of well into the full arrival of evening until we got to a neat little pizza place towards where we intended to be. The slices were yummy and the beer was beyond fulfilling after the determined walk we had just completed.

Neat sign outside a bar Bathroom Door at Bazaar Cafe

We walked on past a few more amusing places and I caught the neat bar sign above. To conclude the adventure, we wrapped up with Open Mic night at the Bazaar Cafe, a charming little coffee shop with an evening more warming set of people. The place also had a kick ass bathroom door. Couches, plastic dinosaurs and chess sets in my view, we listened to people share their passion for creating art with the others who came to support them. It always makes me smile and nothing can beat good conversation and live music. Plus, I got to play chess. I may have lost pretty bad, but it was another one of those moments in the day that in looking back becomes sentimental because of it's seemingly meaningless absence in my life when it can easily bring me such amusement and joy.

I got back to my car in Sausalito and had to drive back over the Golden Gate, the third bridge I had been over in 24 hours, noting that in the "Heavy Fog Advisory" that it felt more like a tunnel than a way over water. It was a rather creepy ride for the first 30 minutes or so until I got out of the city, confirming to myself that while the fog was nice to visit, I think it might give me nightmares having to live in it long. You feel like you're in one big giant horror movie. I powered through the multitudes of freeways that link me to that populous and found myself safely snuggled in bed with my beautiful baby girl and reflecting on a full day that was just about perfect. I definitely feel ready to start a year of adventures and hope that this was an eye opening about how many things I can do so close to home with so little effort. Yay for a great day in the city.

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