We did not spend enough time in San Francisco. As the person doing a lot of the day to day planning for the roadtrip, that's on me. Honestly, I wished we had an extra week so we could have seen a little more of California overall, but back when I was mapping things out last year I convinced myself that the five days we had would be enough. They weren't really and someday I hope to come back to the West coast for a re-do. That being said, with the help of our friends Scott, Raina, and Justin we covered a lot of ground on our short stint in SF.
All three of these characters come from the seedy underbelly that is the New York City film and television scene. Sam worked with Justin on his very first film job after graduating SVA. We visited him when he was working in Boston, he stayed with us in the city a few times. When he moved to New York, Sam and Justin worked together more frequently. He was a huge help when we had a ton of lighting setup to do for our wedding. We moved into the same neighborhood last year and when our lease ended, Sam stayed with Justin for a month and a half to continue working for awhile. Sam met Raina back before he was doing IATSE work and they started working together a bit more when they both went Union. And Sam started working with Scott about a year ago, but they leaned on each other a lot during season one of Taxi Brooklyn.
Both Scott and Raina, who are dating, share our enthusiasm for camping and hiking and we had a great weekend together (along with our friends Matt and Maggie) up at Malouf's Mountain last fall. Justin and Scott both grew up in San Francisco and when they heard we would be making our way out there on the trip they planned a visit home to coincide with the dates! Raina, a native New Yorker, was glad to join Scott on a trip "back home".
We stayed at Scott's parents house in Mill Valley, just north of the city and right on an inlet on the bay. It was so nice to wake up in the morning and watch the birds hanging out on the bird sanctuary, a small island in the middle of the inlet. Katie, Scott's yellow lab was totally loveable and would follow anyone to the end of the world for a belly rub. We got to play Cards Against Humanity out on the deck one night, and Raina made awesome food every morning in the perfect kitchen before we started each day. It was really nice to have a house as a home base for a change.
Scott and Raina had plans for the four of us to hike Angel Island while we were there, which we would have loved to do, but we soon realized that we wanted to have more time to explore the city and luckily they were very understanding. Scott was a ready and able tour guide to boot.
We headed into the city over the Golden Gate Bridge and parked near the yacht club. We strolled up around the Great Meadow and down to the Fisherman's Wharf. Sam and I were both really enjoying the leisurely pace and Scott remarked that one thing he wanted us to do while we were in SF was to spend time sitting around and relaxing because that's something San Franciscans do best. Justin was able to meet us after a little while and after grabbing a snack at In-N-Out Burger we sat down on a lovely piece of grass overlooking the bay to talk, soak up some sun, and of course, relax.
It was Mother's Day so Justin could only hang out for a little while before grabbing dinner with his family and then flying back to New York. It was a bummer that we didn't have more time together, but it was really nice to see him.
After he left, we got down to touristy business. The first stop was the Ghirardelli factory for ice cream. Did you know that there is someone handing out Ghirardelli Squares for free at the store entrance? Did you know he will give you another square every time you come in? I know for certain because I went through the door three times in the span of an hour.
The next stop was some hills to walk off the giant butter pecan sundae we had just consumed. Scott pointed out various landmarks and gave very informative commentary about San Francisco's socially forward history. Sam and Raina snagged some pictures as we strolled along.
We came across a few interesting characters from the baby boomer generation and hopped into the oldest bar (wiki!) in San Francisco to hear some excellent live music.
Then we took the streetcar downhill for a few stops. It was like riding the Cyclone!
After a nice dinner we headed home to rest up for another big day.
The next morning we got a little tour of the town of Mill Valley before driving the Omimobile to Golden Gate Park. It's like Central Park but it feels bigger and really takes your mind out of the city. We strolled around but had a specific destination: the Japanese Tea Garden.
We arrived just minutes before a free tour of the garden began. The guide was a woman who decided to volunteer to do the tours as a means of connecting with and relating to her daughter, who had recently given up all of her earthly attachments to become a Buddhist monk. Knowing that made the tour much more personal and interesting because she mentioned her daughter a few times when talking about Buddhist symbolism and you could see she was trying her best to understand her daughter's path, even though it was difficult for her. You could hear the love in her voice as she explained a spritual concept the two of them had obviously discussed before. It was very intimate while also being very informative.
Next we headed up to the Haight to lay eyes on those historical blocks and to grab a snack. Although it seemed gentrified it still had grit and urban beauty shining through. I could have spent an entire day wandering around there, but we were soon looking at a time crunch.
Next, Scott took us for some iconic Golden Gate Bridge photos.
Then we headed across town, parked the car in the Mission with plans to get burritos there before the San Francisco Giants game. As we walked we realized we didn't really have time to walk to the place Scott had on mind so we grabbed burritos at a stand a little ways from the park. They were still quite tasty.
The baseball game was Scott's idea and until I realized we could get good seats for $14 a pop I wasn't super excited about going to a game. I love watching soccer. I can really get into watching basketball and football. Hockey is ok. But baseball has always been tricky. Scott made a great argument though: an American roadtrip wouldn't be complete without a baseball game and AT&T Park is one of the best places to see a game. I thought that was an opinion of his until I walked into the stadium. It's literally right on the bay. We could look out and see mostly water from our spots between home plate and first base. Holy cow.
Then Scott pointed out the Splash Ball counter down on the wall in right field. 64 balls had been hit into the bay since the stadium opened in the late 90s. I really hoped we would get to see one, but I figured it was a rarity. And then it happened! It was Tyler Colvin's first at bat in the MLB and he slammed it into the water. The jumbo screen cut to people in the bay in kayaks scrounging to catch the ball as it hit the water! And then it happened again a few innings later! This time it was an Atlanta Braves player so people were less enthused, but still amazed. It was a great way to cap off my first visit to the city of sourdough.
After the game we headed home to relax on Scott's deck before packing up for a day of relaxation and excitement up north. Next up: a winery and hot springs in Northern California.
Random facts and statistics:
First song on the radio after crossing the California state line? Hotel California by the Eagles. Go figure.
AT&T Park secret: you see vendors selling bud light for $11 in the stadium? Well if you go down to the ground floor of the stadium, there's an entrance to The Public House which sells craft drafts starting at $6 and if you get your ticket and hand stamped at the door you can grab a cheaper beer and bring it back to your seat. Sure, it's out of the way, but you save $5 a beer and it will taste better too.
We also learned that you can go to a "doctor's office" above a record store (I'm serious) to get "evaluated" to see if you're eligible for a medical marijuana card for just $45. We were not the guinea pigs here, but it was interesting to know.
In-N-Out burger has a secret menu where you can order a burger named after different muppet something and you wind up with surprising condiments on your burger. Sam's Animal Style Burger had fried onions and special sauce. Oooh. Ahhh. Yummm?