San Fransisco

John A. Travels to California

Day 12 – Wednesday, September 19, 2007 – San Francisco

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Day 26 - Carlsbad Caverns
Day 27 - Dallas, Texas
Day 28 - Mississippi River
Day 29 - St. Loius
Day 30 - Detroit
Day 31 - Home to Woodstock

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Morning walk along the beach in front of our hotel

We were up, feeling refreshed, in a beach-front hotel, and were out of the room by 7:00, eager to see the ocean. 
I still sometimes get the feeling that this can’t really be true, that I’m really having all these experiences! But God continues to bless.
The cottage we were staying at in Fort Bragg was about 1000 yards from the oceanfront cliff.  This is quite a dry area, with many succulent plants (dry with thick leaves) scattered amongst the sand dunes.  When we got to the edge of the cliff, we figured it was about 40 feet down to the sand.  There were no stairways.  We decided to stay on top and content ourselves with taking pictures.  I could see kelp growing right where the waves were hitting.  There seemed to be a great deal of kelp in the water here, almost like an underwater cornfield.

The kelp grows thick along the coast

Standing on a rock shelf right above the water, I noticed that someone had laid down several wreaths of flowers.  I wonder if someone had drowned there in years gone by, and this was their memorial?
Again I saw no swimmers or surfers.  The waves were very high.  This is directly off the Pacific Ocean, and the walk was beautiful, but I didn’t feel the least bit inclined to go swimming.  There were several people out walking amongst the dunes, looking at the ocean.  It was a very scenic location.  Just behind this was a wooden bridge that apparently had got washed out in a recent storm, and they were busy repairing it.
For breakfast, we headed to the middle of town, and found a beautiful, antique-style breakfast nook in a small mall.  There were turn-of-the-century antiques all over the rafters and walls, and a 120-year old steam engine sitting right in the middle of the restaurant.  The food and servers were both good.  I

A steam engine right inside the restuarant at Fort Bragg

asked the waitress how old the steam engine was, and when she did not know, she walked over to a table of regulars, and found out that it been built in 1890.
By 8:30, we were on the road, heading south on Coastal Highway Number One.  The route ran along the water’s edge, and was very scenic.  Every two or three minutes, we got a panoramic view of the coastline, with the white waves crashing in.  We noticed the previous evening as we approached Fort Bragg that several of the pullover areas had motor homes camped on them for the night.  What a wonderful location to spend the evening!
The further we drove south, the dryer the landscape got.  About an hour south, we found very little green grass.  While I knew it was the scenic road and not a fast route, I wasn’t prepared for the innumerable hairpin turns and the constant ups and downs.  Ronald was driving, and he likes to see

Beautiful coastal highway #1

what his high performance Mercedes-Benz can do!  I was dictating, using the microphone, but had to quit about an hour into the drive, as I was starting to get woozy as I was constantly getting slammed back and forth in my seat as Ronald cornered into a never-ending series of zigzags.  We didn’t see any semi-trucks the whole way.
We stopped around noon at a gas station along a cove, and noticed a sailboat on its side in the middle of the bay.  We asked the attendant what the story was.  He said that a fellow had been kicked out of the marina for not paying his rent, and had anchored out in the bay in a high wind.  The chain snapped, and he drifted until the keel caught on the low sandbars, and the yacht ended up on its side.  Apparently it was a cement hull, and he would have a great deal of difficulty getting it removed.  I guess it doesn’t pay to be cheap sometimes.

Kelp surrounds a yacht in a coastal bay

We finally reached San Francisco around 2:00, and I took over driving, as Ronald doesn’t like driving in the large cities.  We came over the Golden Gate Bridge, snapping pictures all the way.  When we got to the toll booth on the other side, the attendant said we had to turn right for the viewing area.  However, when we reached the top of the hill, it was closed for construction.  So we hung a U-turn, and found a beautiful viewing spot on the other side of the expressway.  (By simply following a highway coach, we find all of the tourist attractions!)
When you are up close to the Golden Gate Bridge, you realize how far it is between the two towers, some 4200 feet.  They had a sample of the cable at the

Many motorhomes found beautiful overnight spots

bottom.  It is made up of 27000 different wires, combining for a 36 inch diameter.  Even today, it is still an engineering marvel.   Since its opening, it is constantly being repainted.  We got some pictures of ourselves with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  Then we tried to head back to the highway.
The problem was, once we had gotten off the highway, we couldn’t find an entrance-ramp to get back on!  Ronald spotted a huge highway coach, and said, “Just follow him.”  Believe it or not, it actually worked.  He led us right back to the course we were taking, which was towards the fish wharf in downtown San Francisco.  We drove through what looked like a university campus, and I started

Concrete yacht beached on a sand bar

taking pictures of the palm trees.  I like to catch the first glimpse of a palm tree.  It sort of proves I’m in the southern climate!
We left following the highway coach about half a mile from the fisherman’s wharf, and were actually able to find a parking space alongside a very small park.  We locked the car tightly, as there were about half-a-dozen bums sleeping on the grass next to the car.  After we had pumped way too much money into the parking metre, we discovered that it had a one-hour limit.
We walked down to the main street and found the cable car station.  After we determined that it was actually called a cable car, and not a trolley, we asked where to buy tickets.  It turned out you had to wait an hour in line, and then pay $5 one way.  The fellow suggested we take the trolley back again, in order to experience a different mode of travel. We decided to come back a bit later.

The Golden Gate bridge in San Fransisco

We then went down to the fisherman’s wharf, which turned out to be a marine museum called the Hyde Park Pier.  We paid our five bucks, and toured a beautiful tall ship, called the Balclutha.  It had three masts, and seemed to be a working model.  It had sailed from 1886 to 1930. The strange thing was, the wind was just howling.  It had to be blowing at 50 miles an hour.  When we got up to the bow of the ship, we had to hang on in order not to get blown off.  We toured through the bowels of the ship also, and were impressed at how much it could hold.  We then headed back to our car before the metre’s time expired.
We found some very expensive underground parking, and decided to try to book a hotel for the night.  After asking around, we located a Holiday Inn, and checked with the front counter.  Believe it or not, they were completely full.  However, they gave us an 800 number to call that would book for the

John in the viewing area of the Golden Gate Bridge

entire area of San Francisco.  They were able to find us a decent hotel about 20 blocks away.  With that done, we headed to the cable car.
We had to wait in line for about 45 minutes, and it seemed that they were running on a turn-of-the-century schedule.  A trolley would leave about every 15 minutes, holding about 30 people.  We met an interesting travel group standing in front of us, who were from Spain.  They were all around 20 years old or less.  They seemed to be able to enjoy themselves just standing in line!
When we finally got on board, we were one of the last to get on that particular car, and so were not able to sit up front where it is open.  However, we did strike up a conversation with several people, and found it very interesting.  The fellow running the brake at the rear of the car in the open area found out I was a bus driver, and told me I should have showed my Union card and I would have been

History of the Golden Gate Bridge

able to ride for free!  He also let me lean out the side of the car for a few pictures.
After we got up a couple of hills, they had to practice backing up.  They would yank on the cord, which rang a bell three times in quick succession, and then backed up 10 feet more.  Three more bells, ten more feet.  They would end up in the middle of an intersection, which was relatively level, and block traffic in all directions.  It was quite interesting to watch.
The driver was up in front, and had a large central lever that would grasp the cable that was


27000 wires make up one cable

under the road in the centre of the car.  Another lever to his right controlled some wooden brakes that would push down on the rail.  A foot pedal beside him activated the wheel brakes.  Plus, there was a brakeman at the back of the car.  There was a lot of bell ringing and a lot of climbing up hills.  Many of the hills seemed to be at a 10° angle.  We had to brace ourselves in the seat in order not to slide into the person next to us.  I can certainly see the value of these cable cars.
As we rode along, people would run out from the sidewalk and jump onto the side rail.  If they had a bus pass, they could ride for free.  We stopped about three times in order to let people on.  Altogether, it was about a 20-minute ride.  We ended up in the market-street area in the centre of downtown San Francisco.  The very friendly driver on the back of the cable car told me how to catch the trolley back home.

The San Fransisco skyline

We noticed that most of the buildings were only about 10 storeys high, and very well maintained, with much artwork on the eaves.  We walked a couple blocks, and found a second-floor restaurant in the 50s style.  We enjoyed some excellent fish and chips.  The price was quite reasonable.  Ronald wanted to buy a better magnifying glass for reading, so we borrowed the telephone book and tried to find one.  I did find a lead, but the store was closed, so we’ll have to try again in the morning.
By the time we got out of the restaurant, it was 7:30, so we decided to head home.  When we found the right area to wait for the F-line trolley, it was about 10 minutes before it came.  We got talking to two teenagers who were also waiting there.  When they heard we were from Canada, they asked, “Oh, is it legal to grow marijuana there?”  We said “Certainly not, but it goes on illegally anyway.”  They were quite surprised to find out that Canada

Alcatraz prison

was no more liberal than California.  In fact, it seems California does not have gay marriages.
We had a very enjoyable ride on a 107-year old trolley back to where we had parked the car.  Again we had a very friendly bus driver, and I chatted with him about half the way back.  The completely restored vintage trolley car was all electric, and had been made in Italy.  It seems San Francisco has taken pains to restore much of their vintage equipment and to put it back into service.  We also talked to several passengers along the way. 
Ronald and I make a point of striking up conversations with everyone around us.  It makes for a very interesting trip.

We didn’t have any trouble finding our hotel, but did wince at having to pay $19 parking for the last few hours!  We checked into the Buena Vista hotel, and paid

Palm trees prove we've arrived in the south
The Bulclutha tall ship in the Marine museum
Cable cars arrive at the terminus on Hyde St.
Turn table where the cars are manually turned 180'
A very steep street with cable line in centre
John hanging on the front of the cable car
Controls for the cable car
Electric tram for our trip home

about half as much again as we were used to paying.  However, it was a nice hotel, and we had a good sleep.
We travelled 309 km today.

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