We’ve been enjoying our time here in San Francisco. This city has so much to offer that we barely scratched the surface of what one can do here during our four-day stay. We mostly commuted by bus. It felt extremely weird to use a motorized form of transportation again after all this time getting from one point to the other only through our own physical strength. But it was a really interesting experience as it brought us closer to the different demographics making up the city’s population.
Day 40: Rest Day #1 in San Francisco
After a bad night’s sleep, a free breakfast feast of hot oatmeal, cinnamon, apple, and butter, and a morning of writing postcards, Taylor and I venture out in the drizzling rain to go explore the City by the Bay.
We ride one of the world famous cable cars, and explore Chinatown amidst the hustle and bustle of countless food markets selling everything from incredible-looking seafood and produce to wierd-looking mushrooms and other dried things I can’t quite identify. Then, we feel as if we instantly travel thousands of miles from Asia to Italy by stepping onto Columbus Avenue – pizzerias and Italian cafés line this wide street from which one has an unobstructed view of the Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco’s famous skyscraper.
We spend some time in the legendary City Lights Bookstore, which became widely known for publishing Allan Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (it is a place of crucial importance for the Beat poetry movement in particular and freedom of expression in general), before heading to Market Street – the core of downtown San Francisco – in order to catch a bus to REI, where we run into Nathan and Rebekah.
A pair of fleece pants, some 3mm rope, and a final good-bye to our Vancouverite friends later, I almost lose my iPod by dropping it in the middle of the street as we start running to try and catch a bus back to Fort Mason. We do a pit-stop at a Whole Foods – I had high expectations for it and, oh boy, it does not disappoint – to get some fancy veggies to fry up in peanut butter back at the hostel.
We have little time back at the hostel because we have to hop on a bus, again, to get to the Yerba Buena centre, where we meet with Laurence, Florence, Jackie and her Warmshowers host, Kieran (who, it turns out, is one of the people I had contacted on my quest to figure out accomodation in the city) for some bowling. Taylor destroys us all by hammering in strike after trike; she looks like a professional.
Day 41: Rest Day #2 in San Francisco (HI Fisherman’s Wharf to Heidi & Martin’s House, 8km)
We start the day with another free breakfast. Then, it is time for us to pack everything up as we are moving our homebase this afternoon. After checking out and storing our belongings in the hostel’s pack room, we hop on a bus (we are taking full advantage of our multi-day unlimited bus pass) to get down to the popular Mission neighbourhood, where we meet with Laurence and Florence at Black & Blue, a tattoo parlour. We got very excited last night about getting inked to commemorate this trip (I’ve had the idea since Washington State, actually). Unfortunately, they don’t have time for drop-ins today. Will meets up with us and we get some giant, delicious burritos at Taqueria Pancho Villa instead of tattoos. There’s other places to get them done – other days, too.
Now all expecting food babies, we walk to Clarion Alley which is famous for its spray-painted murals. On the way there, we run into Jackie and Tyler, who decide to come with us. San Francisco might have over 800,000 people and so many corners worth exploring, but we still manage to bump into our friends, which is awesome! The Alley itself is amazing, too – socially conscious and critial art.
Taylor and I bid our friends good-bye and make our way to the Castro – San Francisco’s QLBT hub. It is in this neighbourhood that Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California in the 70s, stood at the core of gay activism until he got assassinated. It is a truly important place in the push for equality and rights for all. It’s also a pretty neighbourhood, with colourful houses, colourful sidewalks, and all kinds of bars and cafés.
The rest of the afternoon is spent lounging at the hostel until it is time for us to migrate to the home of our last Warmshowers hosts, where we will spend the remainder of our time in the city. Unfortunately, the weather decides to be extremely uncooperative and decides that a massive downpour – the kind that transforms roads into running rivers – has to engulf the city right when we are on our bikes. In the half hour it takes us to get to the Richmond District via the Presidio (one of the parks that used to be a military base), we get rained on with such force that even our Gore-Tex jackets have to admit defeat.
We are two thoroughly-soaked cyclists once we reach our destination. Our hosts, Heidi and Martin, help us store our bikes in the garage and get our bags upstairs. We each get a room and they invite us to join them for dinner.
Day 42: Rest Day #3 in San Francisco
It rains – heavily. I spend the entire morning inside, working on a blog post. I eventually get way too antsy and decide to brave the elements. Plus, that one other tattoo shop Laurence and Florence were talking about is open in the afternoon, anyway. I’m set on getting inked!
After some donuts, Taylor and I walk all the way to Eye of the Tiger Tattoos – over half an hour in the rain. But, hey, it was not for naught because Andrew, one of the artists at the parlour, has time for me right away! He does a fantastic job, is really nice, and only wants $80 from me. Wow, my first tattoo! It looks dope.
We get sushi for dinner and I am ready for bed afterwards. Taylor wants to ride the cable car once more, so she hops on a bus to get downtown. I stay behind – my bed is too cozy. I guess all that tattoo business got me pretty exhausted.
Day 43: Rest Day #4 in San Francisco
The sun is shining! Finally! Time to ride the cable car one last time!
Except that the sun being out means that all the other tourists are out, too. Taylor and I get downtown only to find that absolutely everyone seems to be wanting to go for a ride. We don’t want to wait for ever, so we scratch that plan.
We take the bus out to the Golden Gate Park and visit the California Academy of Sciences – it is amazing! Countless gorgeous rocks and minerals from all over the world to look at, a rainforest exhibit complete with birds, butterflies, and amphibians, a vast amount of aquariums showcasing deep reefs and the California Coast. There is so much too see and so much to read about that we feel like zombies afterwards – very hungry zombies.
Jackie told us about Devil’s Teeth, a bakery that makes absolutely delicious breakfast sandwiches. It is close to Ocean Beach in the Outer Sunrise neighbourhood. It is, once more, a bus that brings us there. We sit in the sun as we enjoy an, indeed delicous breakfast sandwich (at 3pm). The beach itself is not very spectacular and really quiet – it is definitely not a tourist magnet.
On our way back to our temporary home, we get ice cream at Polly Ann’s. They have about 500 rotating flavours, and 48 at a time. Unfortunately, the flavour my roommate Chris asked me to try is not available, so I settle for black sesame, Dutch chocolate, and almond fudge. Delicious.
Only a few days left until we board the train in Salinas. Time for a couple more days of riding. Let’s get on the road again!