Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Soundtrack of Our Lives--Part Four (The End)

I can understand why someone wrote the song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."  I began singing it in my mind as we drove across the San Mateo Bridge toward the City by the Bay.  The Bridge we crossed was about 5 miles long and the temperature at its beginning was 20 degrees hotter than at its ending.  It is amazing to drive that short of a distance and to see the thermometer in the car dropping with each mile you drive.  Driving in San Francisco was much easier than I had anticipated (at 2 pm) so we found the place where we would be staying, a nice small apartment that is owned by an equally nice couple, and began to settle in.  The apartment is below the owners' own house and opens to a garden that is a perfect place to relax with a drink so we did.  We sat for a while and enjoyed the quiet of birds chirping and water flowing in fountains as a gentle breeze blew around us.  It was truly an oasis in the city because the freeway we had taken to get there was only a few blocks away but you would have thought it was miles and miles away.  We had earlier bought some sandwiches at a local grocery store and sat on the grass in Balboa Park and eaten them so we felt pretty mellow, just enjoying nature at work in this wonderful place.

The explorer in me began to emerge, though, and I could not sit much longer than an hour or so without needing to get out and go so, having received instructions from our landlady as to how to walk across a pedestrian walkway suspended above I-280, we set out to explore and to find a park she had described that sounded as equally beautiful as her garden backyard.  My wife has a nifty GPS devise that can be used by those walking as well as drivers so we set it to pedestrian mode and began to receive its instructions as to how to find the park that was our goal for the evening.  The GPS must have decided that we needed more exercise due to our large lunch so it sent us way out of our way, up and down those famous San Francisco hills.  We saw the park in the distance, far in the distance, and decided that we preferred to take a street that we been told contained a nice little French cafe and bakery.  So, we put the GPS aside and began to walk down a street with nice houses broken up now and then by a business.  Soon, we were in a business area that had a variety of stores.  We did find the French cafe but after looking at its menu posted in the window we decided that we were not hungry enough for anything substantial.  A organic grocery store with a little sidewalk sitting area called to us and soon we had latte and tea and enjoying people watching for a while.  We walked around the store and looked around and decided it was a mini-Whole Foods Market that had some great looking items but needed few of them except for some milk and juice and cereal for breakfast the next morning.  Taking the sidewalk in front of the store, we soon learned that it was the most direct route from our B&B to the subway station (BART).  If we had taken that street instead of the circuitous route we had taken, thanks to our GPS, we would have been there much sooner, howbeit with much less exercise.

After a very nice night's sleep with an open window looking out over the garden and morning coffee in bed, we rose and had breakfast and then set out for the BART station.  Since we had gone by it the night before, we found it easily and got our tickets as easily and soon were on the train bound for the Embarcadero stop.  We emerged from the subway station with banks and other financial institutions around us and found our way  to the Ferry Terminal Marketplace, a huge hall with many small stores mostly selling food items.  We laughed at one shop that advertised it had, "Salty Pig Parts."  There was a cheese shop, where we would later return and buy some really great cheese (Cowgirl Creamery) and some salami to go with the sourdough bread we bought, and a Peet's Coffee where we bought two coffee drinks and sat outside on a bench to bask in the sunshine and look at the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.  There was an affectionate sea bird modeling for us whose photo I took just before he took off toward the sea.

We walked along the Embarcadero way toward Fisherman's Wharf intending to have lunch down there when we decided we did not have enough time to go all that way and still get back to where we were to meet our tour of the city at 2 pm.  We saw a diner car, the kind that they have in the northeast US where you can get some really great food, called Fog City Diner, and decided to stop in there for lunch.  It is adjacent to a park where people were making all kinds of music.  The food was delicious and both of us ordered the same item and enjoyed it tremendously.

We were directly on the trolley line so we waited for a while and caught a very full trolley to take us back to where we began so we could catch a van that would take us to a bus that would give us a tour of San Francisco for 2 1/2 hours.  I had bought our tickets online before we left home in order to save on them so we were picked up and delivered to the tour station and soon were on board a comfortable bus that drove us all around the city.  The driver was either Italian or Hispanic and did not have a complete grasp of the English language so it was a bit like listening to Ricky Ricardo describing what we were seeing but I could catch enough of it to understand and sometimes would translate for our other passengers, two of which were German/Italian people from Switzerland who expected some form of translation devise to help them understand but it was not provided.  We saw Fisherman's Wharf, a very busy place, and the huge park where there is an outdoor amphitheater where musical productions are held, as well as the houses called Painted Ladies that are Victorian houses in many colors.  The houses were featured in the opening of the 1970s-80s era TV show, "Full House" along with the park across the street from it.  We also drove through the Haight-Ashbury part of town that still looks about as wild as it did in the 60s.  We concluded our tour near Fisherman's Wharf where we walked around a while.

The best thing we discovered in Fisherman's Wharf was the Boudin Bread Company, that has been making sourdough bread in San Francisco since the city was founded and even survived the Great Fire of 1909.  We took the tour and read the history and chatted with a docent and sampled the bread before buying some to take back to our place with us.  Bread in hand, we walked along till we could catch the trolley again to take us to the Ferry Terminal Building once again to purchase our cheese and salami and then catch the BART train back to our B&B.  Once there we had a delicious authentic San Francisco meal sitting in the tiny kitchen in our apartment near the garden.  Peace and rest at last.

The last part of our trip was to Yosemite National Park.  We collected Bo and Bushy the next day and continued our trip.  We drove to the house we had rented which is just north of Mariposa, CA which is the western gateway to Yosemite.  Mariposa has a lot more businesses for a town that is not much more in population than Weimar, Texas but I suppose that is because of its connection to Yosemite.  It has a fairly large supermarket where we bought supplies to take to the house we were renting.  For three days we enjoyed the house and had a cook out, toured the area, even going to see one of my wife's cousins that lives in Fresno, and spending one day in Yosemite National Park.  I liked Yosemite a lot but it is quite popular with Californians and is crowded no matter the day you visit.  We encountered road construction quite often as we drove in the area and had to sit and wait many times, making it not as enjoyable as it could have been. The roads have to be fixed sometimes, though, so why complain?

The trip ended as it began, with a 3 day drive, across the deserts of California and Arizona, the vast wastelands of New Mexico and west Texas, and finally back home.  We drove over 5700 miles and paid a high of $4.95 a gallon for gasoline the last day before we left California (near Palm Springs).  It was a great trip and I would love to do it again.  This one was the sampler since we had never been to California or Oregon.  We enjoyed what we saw and did and found people out west as friendly as people back home.

The End....of the story of our travels for now....Who knows?  It may come up again someday.

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