Today is a day of rest for Rebecca and I. The trip has been great but day after day of driving, walking and getting lost takes a toll on a body. Since we needed to do some laundry, this seemed like a good day for laying low.
Some thoughts on what we’ve seen follow.
The MacBook has been a fantastic addition on this trip. The last time I did a driving trip like this one was about 15 years ago. I think I may have still been a student at the time. We did not have a portable computer and even if we had, there would not have been wifi hotspots all over the place. The MacBook has been even more useful and fun than I imagined it would be. We can (and are!) posting pictures on the web for friends and family to see on the same day they are shot. We are using Skype to call home for free. We are using Google maps to find our way to various sites, and also to find simple, needed things like food or other supplies.
The food has improved a lot since we left the I5 interstate. That seems to be a world unto itself, with food only children and truckers could enjoy for more than a day at a time. Food in Napa, Sonoma, San Fransisco and Santa Rosa has been very good, and much healthier.
We saw San Fransisco yesterday, for the first time since we came down to Santa Rosa, our home base during this stay in California. We drove south east to a town called Vallejo and walked on to a ferry there. That turned out to be a fantastic decision. I remembered how stressful being a stranger in a bustling big city can be from my last trip and wanted no part of it. It made the day one of our best on the trip. The ferry dropped us off at the San Fransisco Ferry Building Pier One, a beautiful location with lots of Granville island style shopping and eateries (Vancouverites will know what I mean). The city was jammed with people, people, people everywhere doing everything very, very quickly. The taxis honked at just about anything.
We walked over to Market Street, which cuts diagonally across the city, and made our way to Stockton St. What was at Stockton, you ask? One of the premier Apple Stores, of course. There is an Apple store here in Santa Rosa, in walking distance from where we are staying, but it is just a small white cubicle, not at all what I had heard about. The SF store did not disappoint. It was two floors separated by a very cool glass staircase. The lower floor was about models and sales and the upper floor to software, accessories, and teaching. Yes, there was a movie theatre style lecture area with big plush chairs and a young Apple nerd named AJ giving a demonstration of how to use iDVD. It was great – I wish there was one of these I could visit close to home. I’m pretty sure Vancouver could support one of these; it has a good community of techies and art geeks.
After were were done with AJ and his talk, we hopped on a historic street car (not a cable car) that rattled and squeaked all the way back down to the waterfront. We got off at Pier 39, which is a big fair with shops, food, and a carosel. It wasn’t highbrow but it was big fun. We got gifts for the family, saw Alcatraz and the ferries, and Rebecca was taken with the Sea Lions. We had diner in the Sea Lion restraunt with a window seat so that she could watch them bellow and wrestle with one another as they fought for the best sun tanning location. I sat facing Alcatraz and watched the boats come and go.
When diner was done, we were in a hurry to catch a ferry back to Vallejo and since there were no street cars in sight, we took a ride on a petty cab. Since it was a short ride he gave us a deal on the fare and peddled us right to the commuter line for the ferry. Try that in a car! The drive back was uneventful except for one thing. Vallejo sits on the north east side of San Peblo Bay. On the way out we drove past the swamp in that area without giving much thought to it. It looked like a bird refuge; nice but unremarkable. One the way back the sun went down and all the flying bugs that make their home in those waters came out. We thought the pop pop pop noise was a few large raindrops hitting the windsheild at high speed. We qucikly learned that the pops were bugs hitting the windshield and making a big mess. In the daylight today I saw what there were – they looked like very large, very healthy misquitos. Yuck.
On Wednesday we drove the coast (highway #1) from Sebastopol to Muir beach. This was an odd drive. It started out nicely. The area west of Sebasopol is sparsely populated farmland, with rolling hills, scattered trees and lonely cattle. We stopped to take pictures of two old Catholic Churches. The first, St. Teresa of Avila, was small and looked deserted. It turns out that Hitchcock filmed part of The Birds here. The second, The Church of the Assumption, was much more attractive. We took some nice pictures of the stained glass and stauary inside.
When we got to the coast things got less interesting in a hurry. The road was so windy and slow it was nauseating. There wasn’t much to see except fishingboats and bicyclists. In truth, this was a road better suited to them than our Ford Escape. Eventually we left that part of the road. The highway climbed rapidly after Stinston Beach. It was still narrow and windy, with no guardrail in sight. It freaked Rebecca just a little. I can’t imagine driving it at night (no lighting either). Muir Beach was nice, and it has a tremendous overlook, were we saw some retired naval guns and a Bhuddist Monk taking pictures of the sea.
From Muir Beach we got onto highway 101 north, and stopped in San Rafael for lunch and a visit to the Mission there. This one, unlike the one in Sonoma, is still in use. The original buildings are long gone, rebuilt in ~1949. We got some nice pictures there as well.
People here are friendly and the weather has been fantastic – sunny in the high twenties celcius everyday! There are roses blooming in just about every store and home. The palm trees are a nice touch.
We are probably going to see San Fansisco again tomorrow, but this time my cousin will will meet us and act as a guide. I hope to see gardens in Golden Gate park, the Mission in San Fransisco (even nicer than the one in San Rafael), and a few other standards like Coit Tower. The city has a wealth of old buildings, making it a real pleasure for the eyes.