Our trek up the coast to San Francisco was remarkably uneventful for it being our first long driving in Mayhem (and first time towing a vehicle). We’ve driven up I-5 to Northern California (and up to OR) a number of times, so we thought we’d be creative and take the coastal highways for a more scenic route (and also, to be honest, because they seemed less overwhelming than busy freeway traffic).
What we weren’t expecting, though, was that Highway 1 pretty much becomes the main street for all the small beach communities up through LA! We meandered through Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Long Beach on a sunny and lazy Sunday morning, which provided us with beautiful views of the ocean and flocks of beach-goers. While fun, it took about four and a half hours to reach LA, so we recalculated our plans and settled on Highway 101: more scenic (and novel) than I-5, but hopefully more speedy than 1.
This was our first time making navigation decisions on the fly, and already Google Maps on our iPhones has proven invaluable – we can easily track routes, see which roads are snarled with traffic (I’m looking at you, LA county), and estimate times quickly. What it doesn’t do, however, is provide any indication of elevation. We took a detour through Los Padres National Forest to avoid stand-still traffic, and soon found ourselves face to face with towering mountains lined with cliffs… deadly cliffs. Crawling at 30 miles an hour with dozens of cars lined up behind us, Kali tried not to get too close to the edge while taking advantage of every turn-out possible. Needless to say, it was a harrowing experience.
After an uneventful second day of driving, we settled at an RV park in South San Francisco situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s our first experience at a “park” that more closely resembles a parking lot — RVs packed together with no grass in between, and no space to put out our awning or chairs.
But aside from that, the place was pretty neat — while we couldn’t access the beach due to recently erosion on the path down the cliff (which, given the proximity of our parking space to the crumbling edge, didn’t do much to inspire confidence in the safety of our new home!), we could overlook the ocean and watch the waves/sunset from little benches. The best part, though, was the paragliders who seemed to pop up at all times. We’d happen to look out the window and BAM! There’s a person in a parachute floating at most 20 feet over your head, playing on thermals over the cliffs.
Symphony in Dolores Park
On Sunday afternoon we attended a free concert by the San Francisco Symphony in Dolores Park. We met up with a friend who, as an ardent couch-surfer, connected us with a group of really cool folks from the local CS community. Apparently couch-surfing is a great way to travel for cheap (sleeping on people’s couches) while meeting interesting people, but it can also be a great way to just meet up with cool folks at various events. We haven’t quite gotten around to joining the website yet, but our new CS friends have convinced us that it would be a great way to meet quirky young people in cities across the U.S. So we shared wine and a picnic lunch with these new friends while listening to the most beautiful (only?) symphony we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying, and then the whole group of us descended on the Castro that evening, and all in all it was a great way to relax after the stresses of our first on-the-road adventure.
The BEST Local Diner in SF
A few days later we made another jaunt to the city to meet with our optometrist — I found her on Yelp years ago and she is now the only person I’ll let near my eyes. I’ve managed to get Kali hooked as well, so every summer we make our yearly pilgrimage back to the city. Before our appointment, though, we HAD to eat at our favorite breakfast diner, Dottie’s. When we lived a block away we would always laugh mercilessly at the poor fools who would line up around the block for this funky little cafe… until we ate there for the first time and were converted.
This place is such a local favorite that it has four stars on Yelp after over 1000 reviews – and most of the negative comments are about how long of a wait you have in a seedy part of the city. Yes, the Tenderloin smells like urine and there are countless folks living on the street who likely suffer from a variety of untreated mental illnesses. But all that? Not that big of a deal, actually (except from a social justice standpoint), and really not a big enough deal to refrain from eating at Dottie’s. So we grabbed our books, stood in line for 45 minutes, and sat at the counter to watch the cooks while eating delicious whole-grain blueberry pancakes and a pesto/feta/corn/scallion frittata. Yummmm.
Later we drove up to Russian Hill to visit with some great friends and work colleagues, Lynn and David. They live right next to Macondray Lane, which was used (and re-dubbed Barbary Lane) by Armistead Maupin for Tales of the City, a television miniseries based on his novels. Lynn and David lent us the series on DVD while we were living in the city, and it’s definitely a local classic. Macondray Lane has beautiful views overlooking the Bay Bridge and the east side of the peninsula, and on clear days you can see Alcatraz from their house. It’s always fun to hear about their latest adventures in the high tech/patent world and to play with their friendly black poodle, Henry.
But hands down the BEST part of our stay in the bay area (for me, at least) was finally getting pedal extensions put on Mayhem. From the very beginning I knew I was going to have a difficult time driving, but I wasn’t expecting how impossible it would be for me to see over the dashboard, reach the pedals, AND sit a quasi-safe distance away from the steering wheel to prevent imminent death in case of airbag deployment in an accident. The only real option was a seat cushion and pedal extensions… the latter of which has been remarkably difficult to track down. With Kali standing at six feet and me not quite pushing five, we needed an option that could be easily removed or folded out of the way when we switched drivers. We finally found a dealer that could install the folding kind, so on our way out of the area we got that taken care of, which means I can drive!
So long, San Francisco! We’ll be back. 😉