2023, Personal, Travel

Riley Drives from Portland to San Francisco Day 7 May Friday May 19, 2023

Staying in a B&B, we actually had our breakfast delivered to our door and could have had breakfast in bed, had we so chosen. (There was also a table.) So that was nice. (It was also a nice change from B&Bs where you eat at the dining room table with a bunch of other strangers. Unless you’re into that kind of thing.)

We left the B& soon after breakfast in search of gas. I had seen online there was a Chevron in town but the only station we saw wasn’t so we got on the highway and were out of town before we knew it. So we decided to stop at the next one and the gas was…$7 per gallon! It was regularly $4 something in some places and $5.30 regularly. We literally drove away from the guy as he tried to fill up when we realized the price.

One of the potential plans for today was to head to Santa Rosa to visit Russian River, Moonlight (which I had never heard of) and/or Lagunitas. We would only be stopping in the stores, though, unless we thought one was far enough along for lunch. (We had contemplated staying in Santa Rosa instead of Mendocino but that would have either meant avoiding the driving on Highway 1 or spending way more time driving the previous day.) However, our experience at the Rogue bottleshop made us think about this a little ahead of time. We looked up Russian River’s shop online and they claimed to have only 12 packs of only two beers for sale. Given that Russian River was the reason for returning to 101, rather than driving the coast, we opted to stay on Highway 1.

We found gas in Point Arena – with the empty light on – but didn’t go to the lighthouse. We realized this was going to be a long day of driving. Highway 1 is less windy south of Fort Bragg but it is still windy. You can drive a little faster, which I did. And unfortunately the combination of the curves and speed made Jenn carsick.

After hours of driving windy roads, mostly directly along the coast, 1 headed inland a bit and we found ourselves in Tomales. We found a toilet and a coffee and made a crucial decision. We would keep going to Point Reyes National Seashore.

However, I had entirely underestimated how long it takes to drive from Mendocino to Point Reyes, in part because we took the scenic route. Google Maps says it’s 30 minutes longer but I suspect it’s even longer, especially given the traffic and construction. (There was finally traffic on the road down here.)

By the time we got to Point Reyes Station, we were starving. But, more importantly, we were running out of time to return the car. So we ate lunch at a perfectly reasonable bistro-type place and decided to head back inland to 101, avoiding Point Reyes National Seashore despite driving basically up to its border. By the time we finished lunch, we also felt like we didn’t have enough time to visit Muir Woods, Mount Tamalpais or Marin Headlands, the various sights I’d found to do this day.

I have few regrets about this trip but the big one is the decision to keep driving all the way to Point Reyes instead of realizing we didn’t have enough time by Tomales (or, better, even earlier) and abandoning that route and heading to one of these other sites. Because Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands have a great view of San Francisco (though the former is fogged out regularly and may have been this day).

On our way back to 101 we drove by Skywalker Ranch, by the way. We missed it even though we were looking for it.

San Francisco, California

There are certain things you see a lot of in media before you see them in person. The Brooklyn Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, the Gateway Arch, the outside of way too many sports arenas and domes, so many other buildings and monuments.

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of those things. An iconic piece of human engineering that I have seen in movies and TV shows many more times than I can count. Driving through Sausalito, approaching the bridge felt like finally arriving somewhere, at a place I’d sort of dreamed about my entire life. But there was a potential toll and so half of my attention was focused on whether or not we might have to pay the toll. Anyway, approaching and crossing the bridge – something many Bay Area residents do every day – was truly a thrill for me. It was the culmination of our drive down from Oregon but it was also just one of those moments, when you are suddenly physically present in a place you have been conscious of most of your life but never had the chance to visit. I don’t know if we have a word for that feeling, but that’s what I felt. It was pretty cool.

Navigating, though, has a way of taking you out of such moments. The traffic was pretty bad as we drove through Sausalito. It thinned out right before the bridge, but once we crossed the bridge it got thick again. The bridge deposits you right in the city. This is great for the people of the city but not so great for driving.

We headed into the city on Lombard Street (101). I didn’t realize we were on that Lombard street until I wrote this. But 101 switches to a different street before the famous part of Lombard. We got off Lombard early because an app said there would be less traffic. We drove up Gough. I had heard San Francisco was hilly and, of course, I’ve seen more than one movie with those hills. But driving up Gough was a shocking experience. It wasn’t just steep, it was steep block after block after block. And here’s the thing, it’s not even remotely the steepest street in San Francisco. It isn’t even on the popular list of Top 10 Steepest Streets in San Francisco that isn’t the right list. (Meaning it’s not even in the Top 20.) But it was really steep.

Traffic in San Francisco sucks. It was good thing we skipped out on the sites earlier because we crawled along Gough and, eventually, back on 101 (Van Ness). Getting on the Central Freeway took forever. Finally, where the Central Freeway meets I-80, it thinned out and we were able to relax a little it.

We stopped in South San Francisco to go to a liquor store. We did this because there is a brand of rum Jenn cannot buy in Ontario. But, more importantly, we had tried arrack at the tiki bar in Portland and we both loved it so we needed to get some before we went back to Canada.

After we bought the rum and rum-adjacent liquor we headed to the airport and dropped off the car. Somehow we only had 45 minutes to spare so we wouldn’t have had much time to visit our various parks.

We took the BART back into the city. Compared to our subway, it is expensive, it runs way less frequently and it has way fewer stops. I know we like to complain about the TTC all the time but it seems like the BART is worse. It did drop us off near our hotel, which is something.

We stayed in one of these hotels with smaller rooms. But it wasn’t anywhere near as small the room we stayed in while we were in Detroit. We realized that the larger rooms we’d stayed in all trip were kind of unnecesssary.

We went looking for dinner and immediately realized how hilly San Francisco is. Due to my poor navigation we walked further up hill than we had to. Anyway, we eventually found a Korean-Mexican fusion place and had some kimchi burritos while we watched the basketball game.

In order to continue watching the game we went looking for a sports bar. We found one a few blocks away. We were both carded on the way in, which was weird. Anyway, this sports bar was a zoo and it was very much not our thing. But, fortunately, two people left the bar when we got to it, and we got seats. Even better, it had a pretty big tap list. So we got to watch the Celtics lose, while drinking decent beer, surrounded by sad Celtics fans.

On the way back to our hotel we got ice cream. We walked.

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