Getting My City Fix

After four straight back to back visits in National Parks, I am in bad need of a “city fix.”   It just so happens that one of my favorite cities lies in my direct northerly path, San Francisco.
IMG_4315

Here's what $89 will get you in the city. Better make it fast!

Here’s what $89 will get you in the city. Better make it fast!

Finding a place to park in San Francisco is an exercise in futility for a car, let alone an RV.  Parking rates range from $3 per hour to three times that much, so it’s no wonder that I have to pay more to park the RV in San Francisco than I have ever paid in my RVing life!    Prior to my stay at Candlestick RV Park, my highest per night parking fee had been Liberty Harbor Marina in Jersey City at $85 per night, just a short boat ride to the Statue herself.   Candlestick RV Park topped that at $89 per night  (and that’s with a 10% discount for cash!)  The difference is when I stayed at Liberty Harbor for three weeks, I was still a Corporate Slave.   I live a little more austerely now that I am a retiree.  Candlestick will eat through an entire weeks budget in only two nights!   So I have to make my day and a half there count.

The Golden Gate Bridge was actually named for strait it spans, not the color. The color is "International Orange."

The Golden Gate Bridge was actually named for the strait it spans, not the color. The color is “International Orange.”

The bridge was built in 1937. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world,

The bridge was built in 1937. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, a title now held by Japan.

It's an extremely windy day, which makes me envious of the sailboat passing below.

It’s an extremely windy day, which makes me envious of the sailboat passing below. The bridge has been closed due to weather only 3 times, each instance when the wind exceeded 65 mph.

Plans for San Francisco include some modern day desires, as well as to revisit some of the sites I had seen on previous trips, including one of my earliest memories of a road trip with my family.  First visit was at four years old, and then again at twelve, when my dearly departed younger brother Stephen, then five years old, raised up and exclaimed (after my father had driven us here all the way from Texas,) “What’s so special about THIS bridge?!”

I am grateful for the dedicated bike lane, as I forgot my helmet!

I am grateful for the dedicated bike lane, as I forgot my helmet!

Length of the bridge is about 1.7 miles, so this will be about a 3.5 mile ride.

Length of the bridge is about 1.7 miles, so this will be about a 3.5 mile ride.

The bridge can sway up to 28 ft in extreme winds.

The bridge can sway up to 28 ft in extreme winds.

On my “modern day” list of things to do is determine if I have the guts to drive the Winnie across the Golden Gate Bridge.   It’s not the bridge that scares me, but following Hwy 101 through downtown San Francisco!  In doing research on the route, I discover there is now a dedicated bike path across the bridge.  What fun!   Not only can I experience the bridge “up close and personal,” but it will also enable me to do some reconnaissance.  Depending on the route, I will make a determination of whether to head north by way of the bridge or go around.

There have been over 1,500 attempted suicides from the bridge.

There have been over 1,500 suicides from the bridge.

It's approx 220 ft down to the surface, depending on tides.

It’s approx 220 ft down to the surface, depending on tides.

There are two towers, each 746 ft with Art Deco design.

There are two towers, each 746 ft with Art Deco design.

It’s a perfect day for the bike ride across the bridge, with the exception of the wind.   There are a couple of times when I feel like I am going to blow over.  Thankfully I am on the windward side of the railing!  I see lots of RVs crossing the bridge, but again, it’s not the bridge as much as it is getting across downtown San Francisco!

There are two things I miss about living in the city, so my plan is to revisit both of them. One is the level of frenetic energy that comes from a thriving, pulsing environment, and the other is good ethnic food. I tackle the first by spending the morning in the Financial District. After working on Wall Street for 10 years, you can take the girl out of the navy suits and pumps, but you can’t take the Financial District out of the girl. I know this sounds bizarre for someone who seeks solitude and wilderness at every opportunity. But walking through the concrete canyon walls in a sea of anonymity offers a different kind of solitude amid a wilderness. Those years of living and working in Manhattan were some of the best of my life. That energy is a part of the fabric of my history, and it feels familiar. So to grab a latte to go and jaywalk through the bustling streets of downtown makes me feel just as “alive” as hiking to the top of a peak.

There is a beautiful half-acre Redwood Park at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid.

There is a beautiful half-acre Redwood Park at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid.

IMG_4330

One of the things i loved about living in the city were the fresh flower stands everywhere.

One of the things I loved about living in the city was the fresh flower stands everywhere.

For my “ethnic fix,” I head to San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Yes, I know it’s a tourist trap, but it also offers the greatest stimulation of the senses.  San Francisco has one of the largest Asian communities outside of Asia, and the oldest Chinatown in the US, established in the mid 1800’s.   Where Manhattan’s Chinatown seems a little darker with lots of designer bags being sold in secret back rooms, San Francisco’s Chinatown seems a bit more authentic, mostly due to the abundance of Chinese architecture.  Head down the back streets such as Waverly Place where many of the buildings are dated back to the early 1900’s, and you could be in Hong Kong.

I ask the man in the Candlestick RV Park office (of Asian descent) if he knows of a recommended place for dinner.  He tells me to “stay off Grant Street, you will get sick!”  He says the health ratings of the restaurants there are in the 40’s.   Instead, he recommends the “R&G Lounge” on Kearny Street.

Dragon Gate entry to Chinatown

Dragon Gate entry to Chinatown

IMG_4305

IMG_4322

There is a lot of beautiful architecture off the side streets of Chinatown, dating back to the early 1900's.

There is a lot of beautiful architecture off the side streets of Chinatown, dating back to the early 1900’s.

I take a seat at the bar to avoid the 45 minute wait, no doubt due to being featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations – San Francisco” show.   I have the good fortune to land a seat in between two single business execs traveling on expense accounts.  Since everything at this restaurant is a la carte right down to the rice, we end up sharing lots of little plates.  The man to my right says he is “taste hungry,” so he orders four appetizers and two entrees for us to share.  The woman to my left, an exec in town for a wine conference orders more plates, leaving me, the retiree, with only one entrée to contribute.  We swap stories and laughs, family style.  It’s like three friends meeting for dinner, to the point that the bartender asks us how we all know each other, to which we laughingly reply, “We don’t!”

This was the best Mai Tai i have ever had! Three kinds of rum.

This was the best Mai Tai i have ever had! Three kinds of rum.

Down Ross Alley is the 40 year old Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory, where you can find out our X-rated fortune.

Down Ross Alley is the 40 year old Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory, where you can find your fortune according to rating.

I never knew you could buy the cookies flat and unfolded.

I never knew you could buy the cookies flat and unfolded.

They make 20,000 cookies per day here. The round cookie comes off the press on the right. She inserts the fortune, folds it in half, and while it is still warm, loops it around the metal rod in the right center of the photo. When it cools, it is formed in the typical fortune cookie shape.

They make 20,000 cookies per day here. The round cookie comes off the press on the right. She inserts the fortune, folds it in half, and while it is still warm, loops it around the thin metal rod in the lower center of the photo. When it cools, it is formed in the typical fortune cookie shape.

City Hall tells me I need to get out of the city before the Pride Parade!

Driving by City Hall on my way home reminds me I need to get out of the city before the Pride Parade!

Next Up:  Looking back on “The Summer of 67.”

19 thoughts on “Getting My City Fix

  1. We stayed just across the bay in an RV park in Larkspur, a 5-minute ferry ride into the city. It was perfect for us—no driving into the city at all. We also biked one day from our campground through the hills of Sausalito, across the bridge, down the waterfront to the ferry and then took the ferry back our campground (after a fabulous dinner at the ferry building). We love San Francisco, too—looks like you had a great time.

  2. Definitely a unique place to visit. I can only imagine how crowded it is there now. We lived nearby (40 miles away) for 13 years (1985 to 1998), but seldom went there. Took friends to Pier 39 once. Drove up there to go to Macworld one year and could NOT find a parking place anywhere at any price. Turned around and went home. Next day = took the train which had a station about half a mile from our house. Why didn’t we do this the first time? Always did after that!

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

    • Hi, Judie — You and Laurel reminded me of a point I wanted to make about Candlestick RV Park. They do offer a shuttle to Chinatown with numerous departure times, the earliest being 9:30am, and the latest return at 9:00pm. It costs $12. My first day, I thought the price was outrageous, and I decided to drive the Tracker in and park. After driving the “hills of San Francisco” looking for a place to park, the second day I decided it was an excellent bargain, and I was grateful for the ride! 😉

      Hope you are both having a great 4th.

  3. I understand your feelings about cities. I was born in Chicago and lived there until I was 54. I never liked driving there and still avoid driving in big cities, but am comfortable walking and using public transportation. A day or two in a city is fine, but then its time for the backroads. Sounds like you had a great time in Chinatown.

  4. After seeing the picture of your $89 campsite, I’m glad we decided against staying there!
    I love the taste of fortune cookies. I think I would have had to buy some of the flat ones.

  5. San Francisco is my favorite city of all that I have visited worldwide. As far as the bridge, I’ve ridden my bicycle across the bridge on my cross country tour but have also ridden under the bridge on an aircraft carrier 17 years later. I hope you are able to drive your rv and toad through the city and across the bridge … I’ll look forward to that story. :)

  6. Top three things I don’t miss… the absence of parking, the cost of everything, the waiting in lines. On my first and last visit to NYC we got up before dawn, drove 2.5 hours, parked in Jersey, took the ferry, “bombed” the highlights, and was home a little after midnight. :) NYC… “checked off.”
    On another, ironic note, Lovely Ouray over the 4th of July was more crowded than NYC. :(
    Box Canyon Mark

  7. Mmmmmm. Mai Tai! I’ve been to that fortune cookie factory! SF is one of our favorite big cities too…we’ve spent entire weekends walking the city…so much fun! There are so many wonderful hidden gems…

  8. Sure looked like a fun day for you:) Nice weather:) Biking around a city is certainly the way to go! The bike gives one the opportunity to park a little further out where it sometime isn’t as expensive. I have no desire to visit cities which is why heading back east for a few months is not exciting at all. The whole east coast is like a big city with all the people and cars. However, I do enjoy having a TJ’s near by:)

  9. And here I am, still stuck on CRISIS COUNSELING …. least they could do is leave the poor chap a phone number. And didn’t someone forget to add …. AND EXTREMELY UNFULFILLING.

    ” My God that’s tough, she’s stirred him up, no point in us remaining”
    (Gilbert O’Sullivan, Alone Again Naturally)

    • Never fear, there was a phone right below the sign, just out of the photo. Funny, I sang that song for two straight days after i saw that…

      • On my Facebook the other day, some conversation came up where some were wondering what it actually was that Billie Joe MacAlister was throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Which of course led me to think, wait a minute, maybe I can Google it (and find out after all these years – maybe someone will finally fess-up) Turns out Bobby Gentry said (years later) the real point of that song was not about a mystery object being tossed in the water but that suicide, as traumatic as it is, is taken so nonchalantly by the majority of our society . In the song, after Billie Joe ends his life, the lyrics go “Well, Billie Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please”.

        Seems that may be the point of both her and Gilbert’s tunes, leaving us with the sad truth that as little as the jumper thinks of his life, most people think even less. Perhaps that fact alone should be cause for most who would even consider it to turn defiant enough to stay aboard just for the pure spite of it all :-).

  10. And on a more positive note LOL …. I was just thinking back to your concerns long ago about being “out in the desert alone” to how you have come full-circle, to have learned the goodness in such a wildly diverse realm of life’s many wonders, while being able to see the many, many dimensions of life and the magnitude of complexity of a world that supports it. From the cotton, corn and wheat fields we played in as kids, to a decade of Manhattan, in and out of Wall Street and the UN, to New Orleans and so many other venues, to today revisiting San Fransisco, and from recently even “boldly going where no man has gone before” (Red Rocks gang) …. with all this I’d say you have more than “arrived” at what travel is all about. Congratulations on making it! (With bells on!) Keep on keepin’ on!!!

  11. Love San Francisco! We also biked over the SF bridge and it was windy, a bit disconcerting for me. Actually we biked all over the place while I cursed those hills. And we had the best pho of my life at Pho Garden. We actually went there twice.

  12. SF is my favorite city in the US but I can’t imagine paying that kind of price for a RV site. Glad you got your city fix. I did drive my motorhome through the city and over the bridge many years ago. Just a little anxiety. Jealous of the Chinese food. I know you are long gone from here now but I’m playing catch up.

  13. Weary from weeding, parched with thirst, India Jones takes a glance at the screen before falling to the floor. She rolls onto her back and utters with a deep throated moan…”Mai Tai. *Why* did it have to be a Mai Tai?” The Bacardi jug holds nothing but fumes. Liquor store closed for the night….Mai Tai. *Why* did it have to be a Mai Tai?

  14. Suzanne, I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, though I don’t often comment. I think I found it on Al of the Bayfield Bunch’s blog. Anyway, I really enjoy it. Lots to dream about! We were away a bit, so I’ve just finished reading your series on Yosemite, the Sequoias, and this post. Not one for the city, but I loved both the pictures and the writing about Yosemite. Muir spent a year or so half-an-hour up the road here from where we live, working in a sawmill when he started out on his explorations, so I’ve been reading about him and walking the Trout Hollow Trail where the sawmill was. To then read about Yosemite just seemed to bring it all together. Wonderful!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *