San Francisco, CA

Home: Lone Mountain VRBO

4 days in San Francisco

Day 1

First requirement was getting to Ariscault Bakery before they opened to be 5th in line to pick up a bag of croissants. They lived up to their reputation well enough that being 50th in line probably would have been worth it. Well, at least 25th in line.

Then we did a line of big-city errands, all conveniently along eclectic-commercial Clement St.: CVS, toy store (gift for Simon), sewing store (more patch options for my shirt), and finally Richmond Republic for burgers and beer.

Simon with Dani the Dragon.

Dinner was deep-dish pizza!

Day 2

Rett went out to do some exploring on her own (being underwhelmed by the Painted Ladies) while I caught up on some deferred bike maintenance: finally swapped out the “temporary” tire the bike shop in Astoria let me have for free, tried to figure out what’s made my right shifter be wonky for the last couple weeks, and replaced Rett’s rear brake pads to prevent a reoccurrence of the weird and scary braking loss she experienced at the start of a giant downhill a few days ago.

I then met Rett for lunch at Barrelhead Brewhouse, after which we walked to her favorite grocery store: Trader Joe’s! Maybe mine too, given their non-San Francisco prices!

Stopping on the street to talk to a random couple about how they’ve stayed married for 46 years.

Day 3

Back to Clement St., with Alex and Simon for their impressive Sunday Farmer’s Market. More “work” at home, including patching my shirt, and plotting out future days/weeks of biking.

A few days ago we had booked a campsite at a hard-to-get spot back north across the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands for our first post-San Francisco night. But after a stretch of good weather while under a roof, another atmospheric river was predicted to pass through on Monday night and stay into Tuesday, making for a miserable camp. Somehow, another night opened up for Tuesday night, so we switched our camping reservation, and thus decided to stay another day in our San Francisco VRBO to, once again, wait out the rain.

Clement St. Farmer’s Market (flowers courtesy of the more-thoughtful-than-me Alex).

Rett and I went to lunch at a Louisiana-style place, Brenda’s Meat and Three. Walking home we visited the hilltop University of San Francisco campus, which, as Alex noted, you somehow barely realize is there in the middle of the neighborhood.

Up the “Spanish Steps” of USF.
West into the San Francisco sunset from the USF hill.

We finished the night with another lovely home-cooked meal with Alex, Jen, and Simon.

Day 4

Today’s “work” was re-stringing our tent poles with new shock cord to replace the stuff that had gone limp. The cord was one of the nearly dozen packages we’d had sent over the previous couple weeks to Alex and Jen’s place after they generously offered to take on the job of being our personal shipping and receiving department (on top of their actual jobs).

And then it was time for the actual San Francisco tourist stuff! Staying local to our VRBO for the first three days was cool, and made us feel like we were genuinely “living” in a San Francisco neighborhood, but Rett had never been to San Francisco, and it had been decades for me, so getting out of the neighborhood was a must too.

We took an express bus downtown and walked by a surprising amount of cool architecture and art. San Francisco is so physically small (47 sq. miles compared to 227 sq. miles for Chicago), so it’s kind of wild how much iconic stuff it packs into that footprint.

At the Ferry Building, we met my friend Devan, for maybe the second or third time since high school. He’s a San Franciscan now, and being better than me at social stuff, was thankfully proactive and reached out when he saw we were in town. It was great to catch up, and for me, to have an excuse to mutually reflect on how those two high school guys might look at the old-but-not-too-old men we’ve become now: no doubt with a significant amount of scoffing, but hopefully with some grudging admiration.

Neil and Devan and the Bay Bridge

Then Rett and I walked up the nearly-empty waterfront, past a load of piers, and on to chowder-filled sourdough bread-bowls from Boudin Bakery at the tourist-crowded (like someone flipped a switch) Fisherman’s Wharf.

Then over to Ghirardelli Square, where we visited their shop for ice cream sundaes, but laughed-cried at how much Rett’s mom would have flipped over the hundreds of forms and varieties of Ghirardelli chocolates for sale, because she always had their squares to share as gifts or any time you came visit her.

Rett at Ghirardelli Square

Then up a load of stairs, past incredible houses with more-incredible hilltop views, and back down “the world’s curviest street”.

Alcatraz from Russian Hill.

And finally, as the predicted rain began to fall, we hopped on a cable car, both as tourists, and also to take us back to our bus route home. While I remembered most of the other things we did from our family vacation in 8th grade, I’m pretty sure we did not ride a cable car; luckily I think I enjoyed it just as much as a 44-year-old as I would have as a 14-year-old. And honestly, at $8 (vs. $5 for an all-day bus pass), I kinda get it, Mom & Dad!

Cable car as actual transportation!

And then one final night with family, this time excellent Burmese takeout from Mandalay, coincidentally the exact restaurant immediately recommended by the Garberville innkeeper weeks ago!

In all, it was a fantastic stay. It let us catch up on things in the way that our previous middle-of-nowhere 5-night rain wait-out did not, it gave us a solid marker to anchor our travels to, both forward and backward in time, and most importantly, it let us build new and deeper bonds with family, which is the beautiful opposite of what you would expect for two people abandoning their homes to live a nomadic life.



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