Torn Tires and Lost Luggage
Jack Kerouac probably didn’t have too many flight and luggage problems. Maybe I should start at the beginning and perhaps I should travel lighter. Still, there was nothing to be done about the ripped airplane wheel causing our flight to be delayed, which led to our connecting flight delay, which was why we had no luggage waiting for us at the San Francisco airport at 5:30pm on a Wednesday in August. To comfort ourselves, we raided the JW Marriott Union Square mini bar.
Corner Bars and Cliff Houses
On Thursday, K worked from the hotel, and for lunch we walked the short distance to Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen. Our bags finally found us that afternoon which meant we could wear more appropriate clothing for dinner at the historic Sutro Cliff House.
Seated next to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the gleaming white “Seal Rocks,” we enjoyed the slowly fading twilight hue on the cold, crashing waves while we lingered over the butterscotch dessert.
7 Miles Before I Sleep
The next day, I walked over 7 miles. First, to the fairly clandestine red and gold Café Claude on Claude Lane where I had a decadent meal of pasta and a couple of cocktails to loosen the muscles for all the walking that lay ahead. A block away from the Chinatown Gate, I began my journey through the sometimes seedy yet enticing streets of San Francisco. I strolled through the trinket shops to Red Blossom Tea Company where they offer several tea tasting ceremonies. Wanting to take a small piece of the experience with me, I bought a fragrant blend gathered from the peaks of some unknown, far-off mountain.
I walked everywhere. No place was off limits. I climbed the Coit Tower and wound my way down to the harbor then on to the City Lights Bookstore where I paused to rest and rake my eyes over the spines of the books.
On…on….on… until my flattened feet decided it was high time to find my way back to the hotel.
The only way for us to secure the coveted tickets to Alcatraz was to book a combo Segway tour.
We toured Chicago once on Segways and K crashed his into a bush.
The thought of traversing the congested harbor walk and roadways via Segway seemed like a hazardous idea. So, instead of a white-knuckled two-wheeled tour of the harbor, we chose to drive over the Golden Gate to Sausalito for the morning, which was much more interesting than we previously remembered. Mainly because, we actually found the downtown area this time around, parked, and took the time to walk the streets and tour the artsy shops.
The rest of the day, we just drove—back through the streets of San Francisco, then along the chilly coastline with no particular purpose or destination other than to see the never-before-seen.
A Prison, Some Chocolate, and a Sunday
Thinking back, it seems a little strange that one of the top tourist attractions in San Francisco is an old prison. Why pay good money to take a frigid boat ride to the middle of the bay to walk around a dank, concrete bunker? And yet, it remains one of the hottest tickets in town.
I guess it comes down to history. A means of understanding and sharing a part of the past here in the present. Whether you want it to or not, the experience of walking through the old prison, seeing the dismal dining area, open showers, rows of cramped cells, and the terrifying Cell Block D with its solitary confinement cells haunts you long after you’ve left.
I stood for a moment in one of the D Block cells, and the inky darkness was terrifyingly palpable, suffocating. How could the mind and spirit survive in such a hole? I guess it gives you a lot of time to think—to consider what you did to get there—to obsess on how to get out.
Even if you could escape the prison, how do you survive the deeply cold, forceful currents of the bay? The stories of the escapes were fascinating as was the idea of the children of the prison guards and staff who grew up on “The Rock.” What a life.
We chose to dispel the darkness of the prison with a decadently overindulgent visit to Ghirardelli Square. Chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter, drizzled over scoops of ice cream was our reward for being (mostly) upstanding citizens, as well as a reminder to not dabble in a life of crime in the future.
That afternoon, we drove the few hours to the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay for an impromptu late lunch, a walk along the golf course to the water’s rocky edge, and finally closed out the evening with a cocktail on the terrace warmed by fire pits and contented humanity.
San Francisco has only one drawback, tis hard to leave – Rudyard Kipling