Las Vegas to San Francisco
It was another cold night during which the furnace came in to its own, providing us with hot air central heating. We’d decided to go in to San Francisco using the Larkspur Ferry which is about a 15 minute walk from the campground and although it costs $7.10 each, would hopefully give us a hassle-free journey in to the city.
Soon after sailing we passed San Quentin prison. All this time, and we hadn’t realise we had a bunch of criminals for neighbours. Only a strip of grass and water divides us. There were a large number of prisoners taking exercise in the yard. The Chef said it was a shame we hadn’t bought the compact camera along to get a picture, at which point I pulled it out of my pocket. I told her that when it came to it I just couldn’t bring myself to come out without a camera. Having taken a few pictures Rosina wasn’t sure if the men wearing bright orange overalls were prisoners she’d photographed until I pointed out that the only people in the prison were inmates and guards, they don’t yet run coach trips around prisons. After passing San Quentin the ferry crossed San Francisco Bay passing Alcatraz, which we had visited only a couple of days ago. Maybe they should call this ferry trip ‘The Prison Cruise’. We arrived at Pier 1 in the city which is on the edge of the Financial District.
We had a quick lunch in a Chinese fast food restaurant. The Chef didn’t eat much of hers and so further down the road we stopped for a coffee at Lori’s Diner www.lorisdiner.com a 50’s style diner and a great place for a coffee or meal. Afterwards we made our way towards the Cable Car Museum at the junction of Mason & Washington. This was very interesting and somewhere worth visiting, ideally before taking a cable car ride, so that you can appreciate the engineering that goes on behind the scenes. This was more than a museum it was where the current operation was centred. We purchased a souvenir mug from the museum to add to our collection and a postcard to send to my mother. We then needed a 90 cents stamp to put on it, - and only Post Offices sell them, so we made our way slowly towards Chinatown, which we had visited on a previous day, and knew where their Post Office was located.
Passing the food stalls and shops in Chinatown reminded us of the back streets of Hong Kong where we have recently visited. It was the real thing, basically if it lives it can be eaten, no matter what it is or what part of the body it comes from, there’s a market for it. I understand this goes back to the ‘good old days’ of Chairman Mao who gave the impression to the outside world that everything was going well, but in reality millions of his people were starving to death, and had to resort to eating anything, just to survive, though many millions didn’t.
After getting the stamp and posting the card we made our way home.This is a lovely city; we’re so pleased we came; our ‘extra day’ today yielded so many more pleasant surprises. The city has a nice comfortable feel to it, it feels quite intimate. The people are chilled and friendly (except the bus drivers), the general pace is comfortable, and they have done so much to preserve and maximise what they have. We’d come back again, provided somebody else paid the airfare!
On our return to the campsite we got our folding bikes out and took a ride to 'Lucky’s' supermarket again, where we bought some bits and pieces that we needed.
This evening has been spent doing a few chores, as tomorrow we move on down the Pacific Coast Highway. Despite reading glowing reports I have serious reservations about this route as I’ve not been able to identify any suitable campgrounds en-route, so tomorrow I think we’ll take a ⅓ tank of fresh water in case we need to wild camp along the way.
Over the evening meal we chatted about our experiences over our first 3 weeks here, the unpredictability of each coming day, and how much of an education it all was.
LOCATION TONIGHT: Marin RV Park, 2140 Redwood Hwy, Greenbrae, CA.
I wondered up to the campsite office first thing to enquire about a local dentist who may be able to fix my broken tooth. To my surprise the receptionist didn’t know of one locally, as she used one in the city. Now that surprised and annoyed me, I would have expected all campsites to have an arrangement of some kind with a doctor, dentist, vet etc for guest emergencies. I ended up walking back to the RV and searching the internet finding one just down the road. Unfortunately on phoning them, the first available appointment they had was next Tuesday, five days away, which is no good to me and so I’ll soldier on and perhaps try and book one ahead in a town we’re due to pass through.
Today was chores day and I duly washed the RV with my new brushes, gosh isn’t life exciting. The detergent I was using suggested that all you have to do is brush it on and that’s it, no rinsing, no streaks, no smears, but like all such products, it doesn’t matter what it says on the label they all need a wipe down afterwards and so I wiped dry the whole vehicle with a face flannel-sized cloth which we’d got as a free gift at a gas station. It’s moments like that you ask yourself if perhaps you should have bought a smaller vehicle.
Following our visit to Las Vegas The Chef was used to machines that gobble money, and so was well prepared for the campgrounds washing machines and tumble driers. On her return we decided to live dangerously and put up our clothes airer down the side of the vehicle on which I could dry the micro-fibre towels I’d hand washed, together with clothes The Chef had ironed. I should have sought permission to wash the RV which I hadn’t, and putting clothes out to dry or air was a no-no on this and many other campgrounds.
At one point the Kamp Commandant walked by with the clothes outside on the airer but she said nothing, just as well really as I’m not too impressed with this campground and just might have bitten back.
With our campground chores completed we set off for a walk carrying empty backpacks. Our destination was Lucky’s supermarket about two miles away as we were getting low on some bits and pieces and this was one way of getting some exercise and groceries at the same time. The sun was really hot and my thermometer measured 90F on our return to the RV with backpacks full of groceries.
This evening we had a barbecue out at the front of the vehicle as the pitches are too narrow to do anything down the side of. I’ve modified our gas BBQ grill by adding lava rock courtesy of a campground we visited earlier on our trip, they had loads of it in their garden borders. I also added wet pieces of wood chip for a smoky effect.
Tomorrow we’ve decided to catch the Larkspur Ferry www.goldengate.org which leaves somewhere behind the campground, and crosses the bay to the city, for a more relaxing day wandering around town. This has been brought about by the fact that we only remembered about cancelling our last day here an hour after the mid-day cut off time, and they weren’t prepared to budge, so now we have an ‘extra’ day here. We’re not taking cameras with us, preferring a day free from them.
LOCATION TONIGHT: Marin RV Park, 2140 Redwood Hwy, Greenbrae, CA.
Today we made our way back in to San Francisco but this time inadvertently catching a number 60 bus service instead of the 70 or 80 which should have been on. It was going near Pier 33 which is where we needed to get to, so that was a bit of luck.
We arrived in good time for our 11:00 ferry trip to Alcatraz Island, home to the former well known prison. www.alcatrazcruises.com This was a very interesting trip indeed and well worth the $26 ticket price. The ‘Audio Tour’ is included in the price and we found it interesting and informative to have former prisoners and guards as our audio guides around the complex. Prisoners who were incarcerated there had a pretty grim existence, though the food had the reputation of being among the best in the prison system. We were over there nearly 3 hours, which we felt was about long enough.
After a quick snack back on the mainland we made our way to the cable cars, as we were keen to do the tourist thing of riding on the side of one. After a wait of about 20 minutes we managed to secure two spaces on the side of ours. It was a great feeling to be participating in something we’d seen on TV many times. It was made all the more challenging because I had only one hand with which to hold on with as the other was holding and pointing the video camera.
At the end of that particular route I asked if we could stay on and pay for the return trip. I was told pleasantly that it was a nice try but we would have to get off and join another queue to get a cable car back. Before doing so we took a look around the local shops there including Bloomingdale’s. On the trip back we wanted to ride on the back platform, and again we were lucky enough to be right near the front of the queue for our tram, and managed to grab the platform. This area is limited to two people as the conductor/brakeman has to work there. This position gave us a really good view of everything as we passed it, and the views back down the hills we had just climbed were great.
At the end of our ride we treated ourselves to a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and afterwards agreed that they were very sickly and so won’t be buying any more. Then came the time we had not been looking forward to – the return trip home by bus.
After a few false starts at several bus stops asking very unhelpful bus drivers as they pulled up if they went to the Golden Gate Plaza we finally hit on one helpful driver who gave us a free lift there where, he told us, we could catch a service 14 taking us to Lucky Drive which is near the campground. He even provided us with the missing link – a bus timetable and map, now we could understand which bus went where and at what time.
I wanted to give him a tip as he hadn’t charged us for that leg of the journey, and had really helped us out of a hole, but he wasn’t allowed to handle money, even the fares must be tendered exactly and fed in to a machine. The Chef and I both commented how the people we wanted to tip for being helpful, couldn’t or wouldn’t take it, whilst there were others who expected one no matter how little they did or how undeserving they were.
We decided while waiting for the next bus at Golden Gate Plaza that we really didn’t need the hassle of getting in and out of the city by bus. We agreed that the San Francisco public transport system is probably a very good one indeed – provided you understand how it worked, and we didn’t. We decided that tomorrow we would get some chores done, including a load of washing which had built up, plus, I was keen to wash the RV as she now had over 2000 miles of dirt on her. We would also book out of the campground a day early, putting us 4 days ahead of schedule, time we could spend elsewhere. We’d done all we wanted to do in the city, and were ready to move on.