Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Shaky Town.....how to do it in 2 days!

     This is another one of those destinations we were always curious to visit.  Not that we like big cities AT ALL mind you, but just to experience a unique culture in a setting all it's own.  Researching the camping opportunities for this proved to be a bit mind boggling.  Many of the camping spots very near or in the city itself were 'tent only'.  Those others that were close and catered to RVs were somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 or had such ridiculous rules I couldn't believe it.  For example, one park specifically stated that if you parked your trailer there, you COULD NOT REMOVE YOUR TOW VEHICLE FROM THE PREMISES.  Worried about 'drop offs' I guess.  Although I am not a huge fan, we booked our stay at KOA in Petaluma, CA, about 39 freeway miles north of San Francisco.  $49 a night with all the family-type amenities that go with 'suburban pretend' camping.  I did like having cable TV for the Super Bowl though. 

     Our first day consisted simply of traveling to Napa in the morning to do some sightseeing.  It is nowhere near grape season, but it was fun to take a drive through the Sonoma and Napa Valley Wine Country.

We ran a few other errands and then returned home in the afternoon to begin making snacks and enjoy the 458 hour Super Bowl Pregame Show. 
      Day #2 we headed into San Francisco to knock off some our sightseeing list as well as meet with a high school buddy of mine and his fiancé for dinner.  As I said earlier it is a straight 39 mile shot down the freeway to the big city so the commute was pretty easy.  The scenery wasn't bad either. 

     I found San Francisco pretty easy to get around in even with my truck.  The entire city of over 825,000 is only 49 square miles (of mostly hills) and if you have a good map it is just a matter of finding well located, reasonable parking to begin your day.  Now when I say reasonable parking I mean the cheapest we found was $35 for an entire day.  Once parked we toured the waterfront and got a good shot of Alcatraz Island and perhaps it's next likely inhabitant, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, and saw some of San Francisco's most famous mode of transportation.  We topped off our day meeting an old high school buddy and his fiancé for dinner. 


      Day #3 found us once again in the city this time to ride the trolleys and visit China Town and sample the wares at Ghirardelli Square.  We visited Golden Gate Park and the Presidio just to get a better look at the bridge and town and then headed back to the waterfront.  This time we parked right down from Ghirardelli Square and next to the Trolley Car Switch Station at a metered spot.  A spark of brilliance?

      At first we walked up to Ghirardelli Square and did some shopping, to include several bars of delicious chocolate and sample their famous Chocolate Sundaes.  This brand of San Francisco chocolate is to die for and at the showroom if you buy 4 bars you get the 5th one free, plus Barb had a 10% off coupon as well.  The sundae?  It was not the best I have ever had, but it was pretty good nonetheless.  I did pick up several very nice hard to find spices at a local shop for future meals of lamb and buffalo.  Barb is smiling below cause her sundae cost less than my spices....
      We journeyed back down to the Trolley Car Switch Station where we rechecked the meter and made a decision.  We decided to put the maximum $ we were allowed for 4 additional hours and decided that this $10.95 spent on a parking meter was a much better deal than what we paid the day before.  Lesson learned?  The Trolley Car Switch is the end of the line at the bottom of Hyde Street where all the trolleys finish their route, but it is in effect a dead end.  They drive the car onto to a moveable turntable and then the car is manually rotated 180 degrees and sent back out on it's next run.  It may be a bit antiquated, but entertaining to watch.
      There are only 3 routes, but they take you to, or within a short walking distance of, any of the major sights you wish to see.  The cost to ride is $6 one way or $17 for an all day ticket.  They accept cash only and the conductor seldom has change.  This mode of transportation is strictly ambience and not made for comfort.  The journey from Fisherman's Wharf to Chinatown took about 15 minutes and took us up and down several STEEP hills.  Runaways?  No, but several eyebrows were raised!  Trolleys always have the right of way and they know it.   
      The conductor on our trolley was very entertaining and provided us with several useful travel tips as well as information about the San Francisco area.  For instance nearly all of the housing in the downtown San Francisco area is either apartments or houses that are two story and 'stacked' side by side. 
      Although this architecture may appear quaint, the costs will baffle you!  These houses often cost from 1 to 2+ million dollars and if you choose to rent the monthly costs run from $5,000 to $18,000 per month!  He showed us a pretty small 3 bedroom 2 story on our route that recently sold for $2 million! 
      Once we ended up in Chinatown with our mouths still agape, we headed out in search of new adventures.  What we found was unexpected.......complete high speed confusion. 

      This is the largest such 'Chinese American' community in the world outside of Asia and so it becomes a world all it's own.  There are literally dozens of blocks of open air markets, grocery stores, produce markets, mini-malls, butcher shops, and souvenir shops.  This combined with literally tens of thousands of locals and a few of us tourists made simply walking the sidewalks interesting.  There is little politeness, but with such a dense population I would imagine this is just part of the culture.  You have to pretend you're Marshawn Lynch behind your blockers and go 'Beast Mode' to get from here to......anywhere. 

      Where we went after about 30 minutes was the New Asian Restaurant, recommended for it's authentic cuisine at reasonable prices.  Once we were seated the experience heightened quickly.  We were handed a picture type menu and quickly bombarded by one cart after another of menu items already prepared and ready to serve us.  After our heads became 'swivel ready' switching from the menu to the current server & cart we made our selections.   You are actually eating within 5 minutes after you walk in the door.  The noodle selection, the shrimp/pork dumplings, and the spring rolls were delicious!  We both had water with our meals, but I enjoyed the hot herbal tea afterwards while I relaxed.  Cost for lunch:  $17.50
      Afterwards we did a bit more traversing the crowds before we searched for the nearest trolley stop where we could catch the return trip to Fisherman's Wharf.  Yeah, Chinatown is exhausting.  By the time we returned to the truck we were both pretty tuckered out.  The drive back to the RV was much earlier today, but we did spend some time in 'getting the hell outta town' traffic.  Still it was good to get back and do some prepacking.  We head out to the coast and north beginning tomorrow, just in time to hunker down and ride out a pretty good winter storm coming in off the Pacific for the next 4-5 days.  We thoroughly enjoyed the bay area and glad we did it.  The food and culture are wonderful.  I gained a whole new respect for the folks who live here cause I don't know how the hell they afford it, and are yet so very friendly.
      We end this chapter of our blog with a simple, yet very informative quiz about visiting the San Francisco bay area. 
What is the SFMTA policy regarding vehicles that are longer than the currently painted metered curb spaces?
1)  Nothing, after all not everyone is driving a Toyota Prius
2)  Nothing as long as you don't hit the car in front of or behind you
3)  They leave you a warning ticket informing you that next time you should seek alternative parking options.  After all, you paid the meter properly and still had 1 hour 11 minutes of time left. 
4)  They write you a ticket for $103 for obstructing parking perhaps because they spotted your out of state plates realizing the perfect opportunity to help balance their out of control budget or are still sore that the 49ers Coach Harbaugh left SF for Michigan. 
(Answer:  Barb is currently writing the check...)  Lesson learned? 
WiFi provided by the Petaluma, CA KOA Campground.



1 comment:

  1. Old buddy, I am so sorry you got a parking ticket.