Sunday, June 1, 2008

San Francisco Travelogue

Super San Francisco Travelogue!

I wrote the majority of this on my phone, but didn't blog it in real time because of my slightly unnatural fear that if I blogged it, people would read it, figure that I was on vacation, and burglarize our house. I don't know why, but even when I was driving home I was thinking, "What should I tell the kids if the house was ransacked? That we're just camping at another hotel? Would I deal with the police while they're at the hotel, and then make up some reason why we have less stuff in the house?" Anyway, nothing happened of course. This morning, I woke up early, washed the minivan and returned it with a tear in my eye. I'll miss you, you big red lug. So, 7 days, a little less than 2000 miles logged, hundreds of dollars in gas refueling (80 bucks on a refill!), and way too much eating out, I got the rest of the day to catch up on blogging and photo editing.


We crossed into the Oregon border on a rather intimidating bridge, at least to my wife. We got 3 hours in so far, but unfortunately that means about 4-5 more hours of driving to go before we reach our motel. So far the kids have been doing pretty well, although we dosed up on the dramamine an hour into the trip because the boy was feeling sick. But during the stop, we had some food which turned out to be a good thing since it was the last food stop for a while.

We are now hanging out at KB Toys at a factory outlet, I think at Seaside, Oregon. After about a half hour here, we'll do another couple hours on the road, maybe with another movie to distract them.

We also stopped at Dismal Nitch rest stop where some folks were doing some Lewis and Clark stuff, and the kids got themselves draped with buffalo hide and got to sit in a canoe


At Pig N' Pancake for dinner, and there's absolutely no reception for the phone. Alex is dead asleep, like Weekend at Bernie's tired, and we are running a little behind. Its 8:17 pm and we're just having dinner. Just about 90 more miles to go, so about 2 more hours considering the 55 or less speed limit. We still haven't seen much of the fabled Oregon Coast, just snippets of it and we didn't stop for any of it. Perhaps tomorrow when we get an earlier start.

Minutes into the meal, I hear Zoe say, "I eat all the butter all gone!" at first, I'm just thinking that Zoe had eaten the butter off the pancakes, but then I realized that she had eaten the whole ball of butter that was on her plate. I told her that she wasn't supposed to eat the ball of butter while she gave me an impish little grin. Silly girl.


We drove the rest of the way pretty much in the dark, but you could still make out that on the passenger side was a railing and the coast and a high drop was beside it. We didn't hit the beach like we thought, but we were glad to be home. Very windy and slow road.

We got to the Economy Inn past 11 pm, and both kids were fast asleep. I had to ring for late service and the kid didn't seem none too happy to accomodate me, but was cordial enough. Pickup trucks with ATVs seem to be evenly spread throughout the parking lot, because of the nearby dunes.

The kids did eventually wake up, and the funny smelling room was their new playground. It smells like someone had overused cleaner in a room that was really stinky before, so the smell is overwhelmingly weird. These guys are also charging a premium rate considering their proximity to the Oregon dunes, and their shower is standing room only, with a really large dubious window facing out by the shower.

After the adults took their showers next to a large window, we'll all settled to bed. The kids are on the floor watching Curious George on my laptop, while I'm typing with cramped hands on my phone. After this is bedtime. Early start tomorrow.


Memorial Day Monday, and got some good sleep despite the smallish queen size bed and the single pillow. Had some odd dreams about sexist scrabble and vacuuming ants off my Mom's ceiling.

We had breakfast at McD's and now we are basically walking around Safeway waiting for their bowel movements to activate. Then its off to the pumps and maybe if we're lucky, we will hit the beach when the weather clears up from this mild drizzle.


One fifty AM, and I'm just going to bed after driving around all day.


Well, I got tired after writing a single sentence. Anyway, yesterday was a 10 hour drive stretched out to a 14 hour affair, with a few more stops that we had anticipated. 2 beach stops, a Mystery Trees tour with guest star Paul Bunyun, and a gas station stop in the middle of California, with sandwiches and candy for dinner. The kids have had lots of sleep in the car with the help of dramamine, but so far nobody's gotten carsick, so that's a good thing. The Holiday Inn we're staying at is nice, but with amenities like 37 dollar parking, 20 dollar rollaway beds, and 19.99 breakfast buffets (no continental breakfast for you), I'm actually slighty disappointed at the nickel and diming us.

It was nice to have the Golden Gate bridge as a marker, even though we misannointed two other bridges while we were driving up. Impressions are that it wasn't as lit up as I thought it would be, it was also shorter driving across than it looks. And the first few natives were less than friendly - the toll operator took the money begrudgingly, and the hotel reception was ice cold. Oh well, perhaps its just the night shift. We put the kids on the floor again, and the Wifi is serviceable, though not impressive.



The first real day in San Francisco started off with a misdirection, and that was pretty much the theme du jour. Nobody told me that it was close to impossible trying to make a left turn in downtown San Francisco, but more importantly, nobody told my GPS. So everytime I had to take a left, I had to make a right a block after, followed by two other rights to take that left that I couldn't take. Basically like slingshooting myself in the right direction.

The other memo I missed was that the city was in all respects, under construction. The Palace of Fine Arts was covered with scaffolding all over, and certain portions of the Golden Gate Park was under construction as well. Seems like if we had hit the city in the summertime, it would have been perfect timing. The stuff is still for the most part visitable, but just not photo worthy.

We spent a couple hours at the Exploratorium, a science center that's actually well designed to keep the hands busy. There was a plethora of school tours there as well, so our kids were being muscled over by older kids quite often. We had to leave a little prematurely because the two hour parking limit was up and we had to skedaddle to the Golden Gate Park.

After taking a series of right turns, we eventually ended up near the music concourse, so the kids had a muffin/apple snack before we headed to the Japanese Tea Garden. We also hit the other portions of the park, including a Shakespeare garden. We got a little lost trying to find the Conservatory of Flowers, and then Zoe had to go potty, so we close sprinted in that direction. Alas, it closed at four thirty so we just got to go to their bathroom, and that was about it. My unforunate bathroom experience invloved the number 2, an absence of toilet seats, and a fair amount of hovering supported by one hand bracing against the wall. Defeated, we ambered back to the minivan and headed toward Chinatown.

Since we didn't really know where to go, I just pulled up randomly to some street and waited. Then I had to deal with the parking debacle but it was worth it, another 40 bucks saved. After a tasty takeout at the hotel, wife and I headed down to the Wharf and had a walk, just the two of us. It was pleasant for a while until the weirdos and miscreants started showing up, including a weird homeless guy holding up a palm leaf and scaring passerbys. More on him later.

Going to bed at 11 pm did make me feel old.



Because we had spent most of the day at the park, I got the feeling that my Mom was a little bored, so we decided to go to Union Square, which is the shopping mecca of SF. I myself was a little mixed about this, since I only care about electronics stores and since all these stores are basically franchises, there wasn't really any unique shopping experiences, just different versions of Gap, Macy's and whatnot. We took the cable cars and if you're a tourist, there really isn't much information to tell you what's what. Two of the lines run almost the same, and if you don't know where you're going, there's a strong likelihood you'd end up somewhere else. I read about having the optimum experience of standing on the cable cars and holding the poles, so my wife and I did that both ways.

We were on the way back when my wife told me that she had seen a decapitated pigeon on the tracks, and I was a little bummed having missed it. We were trying to see the crooked street on Lombard, but was on the wrong end of it. We hit the Wharf again, and just walked around for a little bit. We had Ghirardelli's for a snack (I had a really rich raspberry chocolate milkshake), and then back to the hotel. I tried to get some night shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, but having no tripod yielded no good results. We were all beat by the end of the day though.



Waiting in line for the Alcatraz cruise, its a fairly big crowd generating what I imagine is a lot of dough. We spent the earlier part of today at the Museum of Modern Art, which had some Picassos and Matisses, and Riveria and Pollock. At least those are the ones that I remember. We experimented with taking public transit, and that particular line ran through Chinatown, and at times we were just overwhelmed with elderly Chinese people. But we found our stop just fine, found the museum, and dragged the bored kids through some great art, and some not so obvious art. There was a photo collection that looked a lot like I took the photos, and that's not a compliment in any sense.

We did come across a great Catholic church, and despite feeling really wrong about being a shutterbug while some folks were having conversations with God, I clicked away anyway. I'm a bastard like that.

After that, we just fell back to the hotel and snacked a little, before walking down to the pier.

The Alcatraz night cruise was interesting, though I wished they hadn't scheduled the talks over each other. We missed a couple of the talks because we were a little behind, and then we caught a little bit of one and a talk about escapes. My wife missed a chunk of one because Alex had to poop. She huffed up the hill but not before smacking me in the back, like some kind of physical release. It was a pretty neat tour, though I think in the end the numbers underwhelmed me. Here I was thinking it was this big time prison, which it was, a maximum security affair, but it was only operational for about 30 years, and only a thousand plus people throughout its stint. It was still impressive to go through there, certainly my first time in any sort of correctional facility. We stayed and took the last boat, and by then it was 9 something and we hadn't eaten dinner yet.

So anyway, on the way back my wife and I were bickering over something, so my mood wasn't really that settled. We went into a McDonald's right when they were closing and managed to get some food, but we couldn't eat there so we headed back to the hotel. We were walking down Fisherman's Wharf again and I saw the homeless guy with the palm leaf. From Tuesday's post. Initially I thought he was just some guy with some friends doing this, but then I realized that's his schtick. Like the homeless guy who was dressed as Chaplin, played with the kids, and then tipped his hand for some change, this guy was just scaring people for kicks. Anyway, I saw him down the street and I was just worked up because I knew it was the same guy. I saw him see Zoe, who was holding my Mom's hand, and then he stopped, pulled the palm leaf up to his face, and I shouted at him, "Don't you be doing that, man." He shouted back about being able to do anything since this is America, and I told him not to scare my kids. Some other words were exchanged, but we pretty much just passed without much incident. I had sized him up and he wasn't someone I couldn't handle. Of course, it shook everyone up but I'd rather that happen then have him scare Zoe. If he had scared Zoe and she had cried, I would've probably thrown him or something at him because any normal person with common sense would know that toddlers are off limits.

Anyway, it was a really uneasy night but it needed to be done.



Today was my Mom's birthday, and I decided that screw it, I'll just take the minivan out and worry about parking later. So we went to Chinatown and found a good garage for a reasonable price, and then walked around. Lots of elderly Chinese people around, and my Mom asked around for a good place for dimsum. We found a nice grand looking restaurant, had breakfast, and then walked around some more. Alex didn't want a wooden sword, so he opted for a bobblehead dog instead, as did Zoe. We spend a bit of time at the playground, and then decided to hit the Conservatory of Flowers again, this time with actual directions!

After the conservatory, we went to Crissy Field which is in the shadow of The Golden Gate Bridge, and had some time there. And we had dinner at McCormicks and Toleutos? Overpriced and not so great seafood. I didn't mind spending the money, but my razor clams tasted like eraser, and the crabcakes were really too expensive. They also gave the kids burgers with red in the middle. Oh well.

Since I had given up my parking spot, I actually had to park twice because of the time limits and restrictions. I managed to find free parking 3 blocks from the hotel, but I had to get the minivan by 10am, which wasn't too bad.


An early start.

We headed off without breakfast, just snacking in the vehicle, and managed to make some good distance on that. After that, we only had about 4-5 stops, twice for food, twice for gas, maybe once for bathroom break. We had fed the kids a little and didn't give Zoe the dramamine, and gave her a Nintendo DS instead. When we pulled up for lunch, she said she was getting sick and had a terrible look on her face. So I pulled the game, her blankie and kiddie off and my wife yanked her out of the car. Afterward we realized that people at McDonald's could probably see the whole upheave. Funny thing was that we didn't even eat at McDonalds. We ate at KFC, where they had watered down gravy and some really dry chicken.

We also stopped at a gas station where they had a mannequin in the bathtub, which startled my Mom. The kids were really good on the way back, though they watched like 4 movies. The googled time of 12 hours turned into 18 hours. I was seriously listening to my iPod, furiously lip syncing the songs quietly and air drumming to keep myself alert and awake while everyone was sleeping. We left at 9:30 in the morning and didn't get home till like 2:00 am.

So that's the travelogue. I'll have photos tagged and organized soon.