Our last two days involved a LOT of driving. We had the option of taking it a bit more leisurely and not getting to see much of San Fransisco, or doing a push and spending a whole day there. Ultimately we, or rather I, chose the whole day. I’d not been and really wanted to check it out. Unfortunately though, that meant other things got a bit tight.
We stopped in Fort Bragg in late afternoon. Inside MacKerricher state park is a beach known as Glass Beach. In the early 1900’s they used to use certain spots off the cliffs as town dumps. When one spot filled up and fires wouldn’t reduce it further, they’d start a new one. They did this until 1967 when it seems they realized what a horrible thing they’d been doing and they cleaned up the beaches. They removed the stuff that wouldn’t break down and left the glass behind as it was of no harm and kinda pretty. Now, the place gets a ton of tourists every day and while they ask folks not to collect the glass, everyone does. The stuff that’s left is usually not much bigger than grains of rice. Nice beach though, and still fun to look.
We saw the most beach glass at a little place right outside of town called (appropriately enough) The Sea Glass Gallery and Museum. Run by a salty old dog named Captain Cass, he makes jewelry, leads the occasional tour and hosts a free museum displaying a wide variety of sea glass with informative displays. Marc and he really hit it off and they chatted for a bit while I gawked and snapped pictures. He also sells chunks of half tumbled glass that people can buy to chuck into the ocean as a reseeding effort. Due to the constant grinding action of the waves, and people’s tendency to want to take home a few souvenirs, the amount of glass on the beaches is being reduced all the time. Made me want to start collecting glass shards to throw overboard the next time I’m at the beach. How cool would that be to be part of someone else’s lucky find?
We managed to get a couple of tramps to lighthouses in on one day. Our first was to Point Cabrillo lighthouse. It was a nice half mile walk mostly down a slight slope to get to the isolated station. The only sounds, the occasional cry of a gull or the far off bark of a seal. The view was amazing and we even got lucky enough to spot a couple of seals relaxing in the sunshine offshore.
There was a quick stop in Mendocino for lunch before we had to get on the road again. Gotta say the town was beautiful and we’re sorry to have missed seeing more of it. But here’s a quick picture of a beautiful repurposed church I took on the way out-of-town:
Next up was the Point Arena Lighthouse located on the Mendonoma coast. This point of land is the closest to Hawaii in the continental US and the lighthouse itself is the tallest on the pacific coast. While we decided not to climb to the top, we did stay for the guided tour of the museum below and saw a beautiful Fresnel lens on display. These were used to reflect lights out to sea and by the series of light flashes, length of time between flashes and colors associated with the flashes, ships at sea could figure out where they were. These lenses were made in France, shipped here and elaborately reconstructed in the towers.
The rest of the day was spent in a nausea inducing drive trying to follow the coast the rest of the way to San Fransisco. Honestly, for anyone taking this route north to south, we would recommend not bothering. By this point, you’ve seen plenty of the coast and the roads through here are rough, very twisty and with big variances in altitude. Instead, take Highway 1 to 101 south and save yourselves some time. By pushing hard, we were able to make it to the Golden Gate bridge right as the sun was setting. It was very windy, but an amazing view.
It’s a good thing we did visit the bridge that afternoon. The next morning, the whole place was shrouded in a fog so thick it was hard to see five feet in front of you. In the morning, we went to a scenic overlook called Twin Peaks park that sits near the center of San Fransisco. From the top, we could see 180 degree views of the bay area. It was weirdly beautiful with patches of fog pushed by strong winds alternately revealing and hiding the surroundings. Nature playing peekaboo, if you will.
Hunger was the impetus to move on to our next destination. The world-famous Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fransisco is a tourists dream. The area is loaded with seafood restaurants, buskers, charter boats and shops of all kinds willing to sell you whatever you’re missing. We got really lucky to get a parking spot right in the middle of the craziness that validated with a restaurant visit. While it wasn’t the best crab cake I’ve ever had, it was far from the worst. What a first world problem, eh?
One of the neatest things we found while walking around Fisherman’s Wharf was a place called Musee Mecanique. In a unasuming building right next to the water is this huge collection of antique penny arcade games gathered by the late Edward Zelinsky. He started collecting them in 1933 and there is an amazing variety of games of skill, fortune tellers, early peep shows and even matchstick artwork made by the inmates of Alcatraz on display inside. Best of all, everything works and you can play anything inside! I think the latest games I saw might have been from the 70’s, and there weren’t many of them.
We had three more destinations in mind for the day and we needed to get to them fast! First up was Lombard street. Known unofficially as the twistiest street in the world, it was eight switchbacks in a one block area. It goes one way only on red brick pavement and seems to be constantly navigated by tourists. Kinda feel sorry for anyone who lives there, but then again, you’d have to know what you’re getting yourself into.
We booked from there over to the old ruins of the Sutro baths on the western side of San Fransisco. Built by a former mayor of San Fransisco, these were the largest indoor swimming pools in the world for their time. Unfortunately, they never made any real money and closed in 1966. While they were being dismantled, arson was responsible for destroying what was left and the developer took the money and ran. Now, it’s a part of national park service and a home for all kinds of birds with hiking trails and a couple of small restaurants where you can sit and people watch and bird watch from a warm, non windy spot inside. It’s also is a great spot for wedding pictures.
Our last stop was really special. We managed to hit the Castro district of San Fransisco on the first day of Pride on June 26th. The same day that the Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a right afforded to all people in our country, gay or straight! The atmosphere was jubilant and the energy of the crowd was amazing. People were walking around with the biggest smiles and the most outlandish costumes, hugging and cheering and just generally carrying on as you do at a Pride celebration.
We had so much fun just generally being part of the celebration, people watching, doing a little shopping and getting some photos taken with other celebrants. What an amazing way to end an awesome trip.
We wanted to find a place to eat in the middle of the chaos, but the lines were super long and in the end, we opted to leave the party and head back towards our hotel. We ended up at this cool little family owned taqueria near our hotel that had the most amazing food. Our last night was spent eating authentic mexican food and watching the San Fransisco Giants baseball team play a tight game against the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies won, 32 to 40 at the last minute and I think we were all a little deflated after that. Still, the food was great and it was really neat to share that time with the family.
Our trip home was uneventful and the supershuttle got us home safe and sound. I swear I needed a vacation after my vacation. LOL. Luckily, at that time I wasn’t working that much so it wasn’t too hard to get rested up again. Would we do it again? Definitely! Although next time we’re thinking of sticking to the Seattle area and participating in the bike ride and exploring Olympic National Park/ Forest. There are so many places we want to visit and only so much vacation time to go around so we have to be judicious. But traveling with Marc is the best part of any trip. He sure knows how to fit a bunch of stuff in a short time and make the most of any trip. Looking forward to the next trip already!
Bye all and thanks for following along with us on Chasing Summer!