Day Forty Three: California is a Garden of Eden, a Paradise to Live In or See : California (San Francisco, Bolinas, Bodega Bay)

(Events of Monday, April 27th, blogged Friday, May 1st)

I’ll be honest, I had never been that all fired up to visit San Francisco to begin with. It made the list because it was on the route, and everyone says it’s awesome, and how can you not. But I had thought

of scratching it on several occasions to make room for other things. But SF surprised me (other than just being ridiculously expensive, even more so than California in general). It was coastal, and walkable, and mega dog friendly, and has a lot of historical charm. And one of the main components of that charm is the iconic cable cars. How can you think of San Francisco and NOT think of cable cars?! I had even done my research to learn that dogs are allowed on public transportation, so off we went.

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And we waited in line with some other amiable folks while a guy who looked like Theon GreyJoy twitched and mumbled nearby. Fine. And we got to the front of the line and the driver said: “And your dog is?” Now I HATE cryptic questions like this, but I seem to get them a lot in regards to Annie. Is what? Spayed? Friendly? Black and white? Adorable? WHAT?? I never received the exact answer to that question, but was informed that in order for Annie to board she would need a muzzle. A MUZZLE! The thought of trying to put a muzzle on Annie, and the contempt with which she would hold me in forever after was not worth even the thrill of a cable car ride (also I don’t have a muzzle, and wasn’t about to invest in one just for this). No attempt to convince him of Annie’s peace loving ways would move him, so we were left to watch them ride off without us.

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Next on the list was a visit to Lombard Street, also known as the Most Crooked Street in America. Now, interestingly enough, our motel was on Lombard Street, and in returning to it yesterday we had walked it for at least a mile. And it was straight as an arrow. But apparently this crooked business is really only for a block-so off we went to find the block. Have I mentioned how hilly San Francisco is? It’s mega hilly! Lots of hills. Lots of huffing and puffing. And we made it! This is the bottom of the street, you really need an aerial shot to see how twisted it really is, and I was very sure I didn’t want to attempt it on Marigold.

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And here we are after huffing and puffing our way to the top! I would have liked to get a photo with a better view, but a group of clueless and utterly self absorbed French tourists (two of which you can see below) monopolized the one good spot for far longer than any decent human would, and even after they had taken roughly 857 photos, they then STOOD IN THE SPOT CHATTING AND LOOKING AT THE PICS SO NO ONE ELSE COULD USE IT EITHER! I even made several snarky comments to no avail.

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After all the exertions and annoyances, I figured I had earned a treat. And it didn’t seem right to leave the city without sampling some of it’s legendary Ghirardelli chocolate (MUCH better than Hershey’s for all you furrners who doubt the quality of American chocolate!) So a Salted Caramel Quake Shake was had and boy did that hit the spot! The guys at the ice cream parlor were also super nice and gave Annie a bowl of water and some cute little girls there made a big fuss over her, so in your face Cable Man!

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And with that it was time to continue northward and out of the city across the Golden Gate Bridge.

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On the other side there was a pull off for additional photo ops, which… this classic convertible apparently driven by oversized teddy bears in San Francisco Giants uniforms was also taking advantage of?

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When I returned to the car after my selfie break, it became clear that the teddies had distracted me into making a fatal error. And that I was not the only one who appreciates fine chocolate…

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Lesson learned. (Not.) Our next stop was to be Muir Woods, but when we got there, and I went to pay (read: flash my handy National Park pass), and I gave my standard “one human and one dog” reply when asked how many, the ranger looked as though I had said I was bringing BigFoot himself on to their precious property and in a shocked tone advised me dogs were NOT allowed. Now, I know the National Parks can be strict, but I had yet to come across one that had ZERO areas where a dog could have a little wander. And this was a National Monument which I had found to be much less strict in those regards. So it had never occurred to me Annie wouldn’t even be allowed out of the car. And this was definitely turning out to be NOT her day. So we blew that popsicle stand and drove on further where we could at least check out the scenic overlook of Muir Beach.

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With a little extra time on our hands now, and while getting lost trying to find Point Reyes, we stumbled upon the little hamlet of Bolinas which I had actually pre-researched and then forgotten. But I pulled out all my papers and read how it’s so dog friendly that no dogs are on leashes EVER< and they practically run the joint! Bolinas is a curious place-it’s a little community of nature loving social activists located on a gorgeous coast just 13 miles from a really wealthy city. And they REALLY don’t want to get overrun by tourists, or worse, developers. So there are literally no street signs indicating it’s location, and whenever the county puts one up, the residents tear it down. And it definitely has a funky vibe. The picture on the left is a public meditation space created in response to 9/11.

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And most of the houses have a quirky feel as well.

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The town is surrounded on three sides by water, and the beach is nice, if nothing special.

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But apparently everything is closed on Mondays (and most of the week): the one cafe, the galleries, the gift shop, the museum, everything except Smiley’s Saloon where at 2PM I could hear people inside shouting from across the street, and the co-op/grocery store where I was told in no uncertain terms that dogs were NOT allowed. So it didn’t quite live up to the idyllic wonderland I had imagined in my mind, and we kept on trucking.

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I never did find the beach at Point Reyes (which is supposed to be an AMAZING place to hike), my GPS took me to a parking lot with some inland trails that didn’t allow dogs, and my personal radar located this adorable little bookshop. So the attempt wasn’t a total bust.

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I was starting to get tired, and it didn’t look like I was going to make it to my intended stopping point, so on a whim I pulled in to a random campground on Bodega Bay. The very nice young man collecting fees tried to warn me off by saying how “cold and windy” it was, but I assured him we were made of sterner stuff. And in return we scored a prime spot, right on the bay (views obscured by the misty fog that was rolling in), with hardly anyone around us, and a wind that was not strong enough to rock the van, and a chill that wasn’t deep enough to require me to sleep in a hat. Paradise.

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Day Forty Two: San Francisco Days, San Francisco Nights: California (San Francisco)

(Events of Sunday, April 26th, blogged Thursday, April 30th)

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and it was a glorious morning! And I still had to drag myself out of bed, because man am I getting tired. And I wasn’t the only one in no hurry to rise and shine…

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But rise we must and shine we better, because we have a day chockablock of San Francisco treats ahead of us! First a little spin around the motel property to get our bearings, and tend to our morning ablutions.

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There were loads of colorful flowers everywhere, along with the world’s most patriotic sewer grate.

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Our lodging was just a quick stroll to the Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace was originally built for a big World’s Fair type exhibition in 1915, and though it was only ever intended to be temporary, it was so loved that the people demanded it be preserved. But to what purpose? Since then it’s been home to 18 lighted tennis courts, used for military jeep storage, served as a telephone book distribution center, and even housed a Fire Department!

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A shortish stroll from there brought us to Crissy Field, a gorgeous and huge dog beach with an excellent view of the Golden Gate Bridge!

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I pointed out Alcatraz Island to Annie and threatened to ship her off there if she didn’t cool it with the BARKBARK, but she just laughed in that way that says: “Mom, I could so break out of there before the locks were shut!” And I wouldn’t put it past her.

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Annie even had a brief romp with a chocolate lab, it was a near perfect morning in the sunshine with my toes in the sand and my best girl by my side. I wondered what more we could ask for…

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And the answer was a random market entirely filled with free giveaways including Kind Bars and lip balm and dog treats?! And a tote bag to carry it, and any other goodies I might find, around in? I was so excited I almost did a woogle myself!

Feeling energized, we decided to keep waling to Fisherman’s Wharf. And walk, and walk, and walk we did. We even had to stop at one point and refuel with some of our newly acquired free snacks. And yes, Annie readily agreed that these bunny grahams were indeed her dearest friends.

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At last we made it to the beginning of the wharf, with a great view of the bay, and looking back at the shining city on the hill.

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There were loads of boats milling about on a picture perfect Saturday afternoon, including this one which appeared to be leading its little baby boats behind…

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There were even people SWIMMING in the bay (along with at least one rogue seal I was never able to get a snapshot of).

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After some MORE walking, we made it to the heart of the Wharf area, and it was PACKED with people!

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It was packed and noisy and there were street performers and dumb tourists and blaring music coming from every direction. And then I realized I was having a “shoulda had lunch” moment, when my blood pressure drops, and my energy sags, and I am done. So I’m trying to find a restaurant to accommodate us for lunch, but we’ve made it to Pier 39, which mostly has restaurants with indoor seating only, and this is where the seals hang out, so we can’t leave here without seeing the seals, and by god we are going to see some seals!


Seals seen. Check. LUNCH NOW! Luckily, I spotted a dog boutique and the lovely fellow running it knew just where to point us for lunch. And it was some of the tastiest Dungeness Crab (and the sweetest Diet Soda) I’ve ever had. The waitress even fashioned a water bowl for Annie out of a to go chowder cup.

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Side Note: almost every restaurant, convenience store, gas station, and taco stand on the West Coast served Diet PEPSI instead of Diet COKE, which is more de rigueur amongst the more discriminating palates of the East Coast. I am so sick of Diet Pepsi I could wail. Add that to the list of things I will be most excited about on my homecoming.

We were duly refreshed, but still tired, and with a long walk home (we did around seven miles that day, in full sun, which for the two of us is a lot!) We made note of the local floralized fauna and were on our way.

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I could tell we would fit right in here, because even the TREES had outfits!

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It was only 4pm once we got back to our suite, and at one point I entertained thoughts of venturing out again for dinner. Or anything. But it was not to be. Stick a fork in us-we were DUN!

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Day Forty One:There’s SNOW in Them Thar Hills! : California (Yosemite, San Francisco)

(Events of Saturday April 25th, blogged Thursday, April 30th)

(Side Note: I really hate being behind because the posts lose so much of their immediacy, and I have to recreate how I was feeling at the time, and half of it has been spoilered on FaceBook, and someday they need to invent worldwide cell service/WiFi.)

SNOW! OMG!OMG!OMG! There is SNOW all over Marigold when I awake! And SNOW falling from the skies and on to the trees! And SNOW making this incredible scenery unbelievably picture postcard wondrous! SNOW!

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And… OMG! It’s falling really fast! And I need to get out of there today! And I have NO idea how a campervannie drives in these sort of conditions. And since I don’t think anyone was expecting this, I doubt the roads have been treated. SNOW! So I quicklikeabunny retrieve all my food from the bear locker, toss my chair in the back and head off to the park store for some proper snow gloves and to get a read on things.

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The place is abuzz with excitement. As I walk in I ask a guy shoveling snow for his thoughts on the roads. I heard words like “chains” and “Level One” but the rest was so unintelligible it wasn’t even worth it to ask him to repeat. Inside I sought out the counsel of a cashier. She said that the roads were TERRIBLE and it was FORBIDDEN to drive without snow chains, punishable by a hefty fine, until you got to the “141” which would take at least a half hour in her opinion. Now I don’t have snow chains, don’t know anything about snow chains, and didn’t relish the thought of the hassle and expense for a half hour of driving. And then I recalled (as I often have on this trip) the advice of my friend Andrew who said “The main two things are to Have Fun and Be Safe. If you’re doing one, make sure you’re also doing the other.” And at 45 I really shouldn’t need to remember someone else telling me to be safe, but it has made me take a few more precautions than I normally would. So I went over to the garage. Where, after a time, the nice gentleman informed me that they were OUT of snow shoes in Marigold’s size. Of course. Well, I tried, and they can’t fine me for something I can’t obtain right? As I left, he also told me that the “141” actually started at the stop sign a block away, so I should be fine in that regard.

As I drove out of the park, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road with scenes like this all around me…

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But before too long, as I went further down in elevation, the snow gradually shifted to rain, and I waved a fond farewell to Yosemite…

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And was left to ponder… is there anything more forlorn than a solitary flip flop in the snow?

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As we drove west, we watched the scenery shift away from Alpine forest, and I peeled off layers of clothing (including the unnecessary snow gloves) as the temperature kept rising.

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As the adrenaline rush faded from the morning’s excitement and the long drive began to wear I decided we needed a bit of a pick-me-up. And what trip to the West Coast is complete without an In N Out burger…served animal style of course!

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The In N Out parking lot was a crowded noisy nightmare, so I drove around a bit trying to find a tranquil spot to dine. Whatever this random town was clearly lacked such niceties, and we were forced to settle for the pack of the van in the parking lot of a questionable looking party supply store. Such is life on the road. Annie remained true to form, and despite being doused in tasty sauce and meat drippings, politely declined the vegetable toppings.(I downloaded the wrong picture-this one shows the bun, which she also ate, but it does have her cute little tongue, whereas the other one was just a sad tomato slice and limp bit of lettuce on a napkin.)

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Tired and frazzled, we finally hit the Bay Bridge and were rolling into San Francisco! Lacking only the requisite flowers in our hair!

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I figured we both needed some fresh air and to stretch our paws a bit, so the first stop was Fort Funston. Perched on bluffs above the ocean, and originally a harbor defense sight for the San Francisco Bay during the Cold War, it’s now a really cool dog park where obedient pups can frolic off leash, and others can… have a nice walk.

It was BEYOND windy, but we poked around on top of the cliffs, wandered down to the beach, and enjoyed some lovely views of the city in the distance. There were loads of other dogs there, and it looked like a lovely place to linger… in calmer weather.

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By now we were growing hungry once again, and, as luck would have it, I happened to know of a happening little sports bar that has customers spilling into the streets by 5pm! The famed and acclaimed Giordano Bros (#2)

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The place was hopping and packed to the gills, but I managed to get a prosecco and personal welcome from the owner himself-Adam DeMezza (brother of my dear friend Mia). I couldn’t stay long, but highly recommend the yummy sandwiches and laid back yet energized atmosphere if you’re ever in the Mission District.

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Adam gave me a tip on driving up to nearby Twin Peaks for the best views of the city. Which was an excellent suggestion and did, in fact, produce the desired views (although viewed through winds at about Warp Factor One Billion), but MYHAPS inadvisable on one and a half glasses of Prosecco on VERY narrow and VERY steep and windy streets, and I MAY now have a passenger side mirror which is lacking the minor detail of a mirror. Onward!

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The weary travelers made their way at last to the adorable Marina Motel which has a cute little courtyard and a kitchenette and is very near Fisherman’s Wharf. Family owned and reasonably priced-couldn’t ask for a better spot to make our newest temporary home.

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