above: driving towards San Francisco from Santa Cruz
So far, with the exception of Los Angeles, we haven’t hit really bad traffic in California until we got to San Francisco. Yeah, I thought Northern Virginia traffic was bad, we don’t have anything on these guys. I bow down in awe to those who commute in this every single day.
We originally didn’t plan to “camp” inside San Francisco at all, mainly due to the high prices and dealing with driving Rover in heavy traffic. Instead we thought we would find a campground or RV Park outside of town and drive in a few times in our tow car Red, or maybe take a ferry in. But when we did the math on how many trips downtown we would need to make, how many hours in the car (it’s about an hour and fifteen minutes each way from the nearest campgrounds outside the city), and how long we could leave the dogs alone in Rover, we decided to make a quick stay (just three nights) close to downtown. Our “RV Resort” in Pacifica was just a parking lot, but it reduced our one-way trips to downtown to around 30 minutes. Unfortunately it was very cold, cloudy and foggy during our whole stay, but the parking lot served its purpose.
My sister ended up being in S.F. at the same time as us, so we met up with her by Fisherman’s Wharf after her business meetings were over. I miss my family so to see Jen is like getting a slice of home. She wasn’t able to smuggle any good bagels with her but we did get to catch up, cackle a lot, drink, and just have a really fantastic time.
Since we were only in the area for a couple of days, we decided to come into the city a few hours earlier to walk around before meeting Jen. San Francisco really does have some ridiculous hills and we didn’t even drive on the steepest streets either. It’s an odd feeling when you’re driving up the hill, get to the stop sign at the top, and cannot see the road in front of you. Even with the hills, we saw plenty of cyclists through the city. The cyclists must either have some fantastic bikes, or have calves of steel. Just walking a few blocks had us huffing and puffing. We walked up and down Lombard St. (no, as much as our friends egged us on, we did not bring Rover), walked around Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ghirardelli Square.
Most of Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square are fun to walk through but they’re mostly shops and restaurants. We really enjoyed Musee Mecanique (Mechanical Museum) though. It’s a privately owned collection of antique arcade games and entertainment machines from the 1800s and 1900s. All the machines are fully operational and cost 25 or 50 cents to operate. They have mutoscopes (some racy), strength games, fortune tellers, animatronic circuses, and even one where you could watch a prisoner being electrocuted! They had old video games like Pac-Man, Spy Hunter, Pole Position, Galaga, etc. They even had a fully-functional steam-powered motorcycle on display. It is a great place to visit, especially if you have a slightly geeky frame of mind.
Later in the week, we met up with an old college friend of mine and his family at the Exploratorium, a hands-on museum that has lots of great exhibits that explore science, psychology, math, physics and so many other things. It’s a fantastic place for kids (and adults) to visit. Unfortunately since we spent so much catching up and chatting, we didn’t spend much time on the exhibits. The entrance fee is pricey but it is a wonderful place for kids to explore and learn.
Apparently S.F. is the place to go if we want to see old friends. One of Mike’s college friends also happened to be in town for a conference so Mike was able to have lunch with him for a few hours before he had to get back on a plane to London.
We spent very little time being tourists in San Francisco but had a great time visiting friends and family! San Francisco will always be there (hopefully) so we’ll just have to be tourists the next time we come back.