May 01, 2009 GMT
San Francisco - Coast to Coast

A slightly different and abridged version of Otis Reading’s song
Sitting on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
I'm just sitting on the dock of the bay
Wasting time

I left my home in Canb’ra
Headed for the 'Frisco bay
'Cause I had a challenge to live for
And look like nothing's gonna get in my way
Sitting on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
I'm just sitting on the dock of the bay

From 16 San Francisco

Tuesday 28th April – Coast to Coast

OK, ok... so I ain’t a poet. You come up with a better version to suit the occasion :-) Anyway, I’m pretty relieved to have made it coast to coast, though my journey isn’t quite over yet. I still need to make my way down the long and windy road along the coast to LA yet (as in strong winds and bendy as well). Two days of riding left.

The amazing thing about today was that I actually found my way into San Francisco without a GPS (hereinafter referred to as either the Bay or Frisco). Bill in Charlotte sent me a parcel containing a power unit to allow me to plug my TomTom into the bike. This was meant to greet us at Las Vegas, we were there for 3 days and UPS weren’t able to get it to me on time. It was then re-directed to meet me at Yosemite, still UPS couldn’t meet the challenge. They finally managed to get their S&^t together and it has finally caught me here in Frisco.

Well done UPS. Next time Bill, you might want to consider using Australia Post even they would have done it faster. LOL.

The ride into the Bay was pretty uneventful until I got close to city. I had written out driving instructions and placed them on my tank bag and they were good until I got to a fork in the highway and I had to make a guesstimate. Next thing I have a toll both in front of me and the whopping big Bay Bridge looming in front of me. I stopped to pay my $4 to cross the bridge and ask the lady in the booth if I’m heading the right way. Yep, stay on the right side over the bridge. Phew!! My instructions were saying go left. Off I head to cross the Bay with a smile on my dial that I was nearly at my goal.

What’s that in front?? A friggin large sign reading “Strong Winds on Bridge”. I don’t think I’ll write what I thought. There were 5 lanes of traffic in each direction and I positioned myself as close to the middle as I could to try and get protection from all of the cars but they still found a way of beating me up. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made my way down and into the streets of Frisco and to my hotel. It is the Andrews Hotel on Post Street. A boutique hotel recommended by my man in Charlotte. Now I have since uncovered the code and now know that boutique doesn’t necessarily mean ‘top shelf’ hotel. No sirree Bob. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boutique means small. Yep, I’m on the 6th floor and there are about 5 rooms on each floor and I had to walk sideways to get in the door. They used a crane that is permanently attached to the roof to lift my bags up and passed them in through the window. Nah, it’s not that bad ;-) but yes, it’s the smallest hotel room I’ve ever seen but it’s nice enough. It is was built back at the beginning of last century and has an elevator that has two doors on it. One that you open manually outwards and then inside a steel grill gate. I also have a King size bed which I am becoming accustomed to having. Now, don’t go getting upset Bill, I like it and I’m just stirring you up a little. The great thing is, that it is smack bang dead in the centre of town and easy walking distance to everything. Also, you get a complimentary glass of wine in the bar each day.

That night I ventured out for a walk and to get some dinner. Union Square is supposed to be “the” place where everyone goes. I headed there (two blocks) and came across a sign reading JAZZ tonight. It was a French restaurant with entertainment. You beauty!!! The reason I wanted to go to St Louis was to listen to Jazz and I missed out. I wandered in, ordered a celebratory half bottle of red wine, some soup, frog’s legs and a pork meal for the main. It was great. The name of the place is Les Joulins at 44 Ellis street off Powell. I've eaten too much, but it was delicious.

Wednesday 29th April – Napa Valley Wineries Tour

Today, I have reserved myself a seat on a coach tour (Yuck, that is reminding me of going back to work soon). Anyway, I’m collected at the hotel by Tower Tours and they take me to the World Headquarters. Yes folk, their World HQ. Man, I’m impressed. They probably only have the one office. I’ve not heard of them anywhere else in the US so far, let alone in another country. ;-) Who knows they might secretly own Murrays Coaches back in Oz.

There are about 25 people on 8am coach. Yep, 25 people..... that’s 12 couples and the odd one out is me. OH well who cares. The unfortunate thing is that the driver (Will) doesn’t make any effort to get people talking amongst themselves, so everyone sits there and just mutters to each other. Don’t ask me to remember the names of the wineries. I only wanted to see the Napa Valley countryside really and to compare the wines to our great Aussie wines. I think I had one wine that came close to being as good as ours. My apologies to my 6 American readers, I’m parochial. If you come to Land of Oz, I’ll take you around our wineries (not on a bike) and you can learn for yourself. :-)

For lunch we stopped at a beautiful little village called Sonoma.

From 16 San Francisco
This place is lovely and it would be worth the drive over the Golden Gate Bridge just to see it. Oh, did I mention I went over THE Golden Gate Bridge.......
From 16 San Francisco
Yeah Stevie, you missed out. And to top it off, the Bay wasn’t fogged in so we had great views of it. Sonoma is beautiful. It’s as though it’s still in a time warp (not necessarily a bad thing). Nice wide clean streets, old style buildings and even some very old Buicks etc
From 16 San Francisco
running around town. I even found a cafe who knew how to make a decent sandwich, Steve. Turkey, Bacon and some real salad stuff. It was great, sitting there in the sun watching the world pass by. I was beginning to feel very mellow and relaxed when I realised it was time to wander back to the coach for our next winery.

Did I mention that nobody was talking to anyone else...... Well by the end of the next winery, people were starting to loosen up and by the end of the last one, welllll everybody was everyone’s best friend. By the time we got back to the Bay, one young school teacher lady was talking about ditching her boyfriend to me and the Canadian couple across the aisle, the couple from the Netherlands had loosened up and started to smile a little, the two pommie couples actually talked to me at a photo stop on the way back and so on. LOL

Overall, it was a good relaxing day and I copped an invitation to join the Canadian couple for dinner. This turned out to be a really fun night too. I met them at Eddie’s and Joey’s a bit after 7pm and the entertainment had already begun. A trio of two fellas and a chick doing Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong etc. They were brilliant. Frank even dressed like the real Frank did in his time. I hadn’t felt like going out for dinner after being on the vino all day but I’m sure glad I did.

Thursday 30th April

Today had a leisurely start to the day. I had a 10am pickup from the hotel to do a 4 hour city sights tour, again with Tower Tours. The driver was a Latino and I found him a bit difficult to comprehend at times but man, he sure impressed me with his knowledge of this place. Everywhere we went he knew it inside out. Little things like San Francisco has 800,000 people living in the city but 32% are Asians, 28% are of European descent, 16% Latino and remaining 24% are of middle eastern and African descent. He pointed out places in the hippy area where Janis Joplin lived,

From 16 San Francisco
where some of the Beatles stayed for a while, Mrs Doubtfire’s house, the house used in theTV show Full House
From 16 San Francisco
and numerous other facts and figures. He was brilliant. I love their coaches as well with the steerable tag axle, that is - the rear wheels steer as well. This allows for far greater manoeuvrability in tight turning situations.

At 2:45pm he dropped me at Fisherman’s Wharf, I was promptly arrested by the local police. Without hesitation, I was whisked away to the a wharf, brusquely man handled onto a waiting police launch and unceremoniously deposited on an island I later came to know as Alcatraz.

From 16 San Francisco
While in detention there, I learnt that “you are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else you got was a priviledge”. Rule 5, Alcatraz Prison Rules and Regulations, 1934. We should employ that rule in Australian cells.

Previous house mates to the island have been Al Capone, Robert Stroud “the bird man of Alcatraz” and plenty of other colourful characters. There was never a successful escape between the time it operated as a goal between 1934 and when John F Kennedy (attorney general at the time) closed it in March 1963.

Before that it had been used as a fort by the army and after the closure it was occupied by Indians who claimed it in the name of all “Indians of All Tribes”. This occupation lasted 19 months from November 1969.

Since 1972 it has been named a National Recreation Area.

Fortunately for me, I managed to make the only successful escape from the island and swam the 1900 metres through freezing waters to make it back to dry land.

I hid out in the Buena Vista Cafe while drying out with a couple of warm Irish Coffees. This cafe has remained unchanged for 100 years and is the home to the Irish Coffee in the USA.

After warming up, I made an inconspicuous exit out the side door to a waiting ‘trolley car’ (a tram).

From 16 San Francisco
These aren’t really vehicles because they have no power of their own, ie no motor. There are actually three separate braking mechanisms for each of these heavy cars: the main track brakes are operated by the red lever in the front of the car, the front wheel brakes are operated by the foot pedal in the front of the car, and the rear wheel brakes are operated by the crank at the back of the car. Every cable car is pulled along its hilly track by an underground cable. The cable is gripped with a vice-like mechanism that is operated via a grip lever in the front of the car. Really interesting. This device came about after an accident with the very early cars which were being pulled by horses. Apparently one got out of control and ran back down the hill killing the horses.

Currently, I’m laid up in a seedy hotel where I have a good view of the road and a fire escape ladder out the side window.

Tomorrow, I plan to head down Highway 1 along the coast and get half way to LA. The following day, I hope to finally make it to my destination of ‘the city of angels’.

Posted by Paul Brealey at May 01, 2009 04:53 AM GMT

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