Sourdough Crabs

Hello again friends,

Cody and I have just left San Francisco. Today’s entry really will be a more traditional travelogue. Well, maybe more of a list of some places we went and the same six or eight adjectives in different configurations but you get the idea. There was simply so much to see and do that we just picked what we were most interested in and left the rest alone. No regrets.

I should start by saying that we did cut our visit short. Our hotel was right on Fisherman’s Wharf and that part was great. The lodging was however lacking air conditioning which does not seem like such a big deal until the sun beats on the windows all day and when the balcony door is open the deafening sound of thousands of tourists and transients coupled with high volume city traffic and busses is funneled into the room all night long only to drop the temperature a few degrees. Also – tourists smell like garbage. Now “A tourist” may actually smell quite pleasant, like lilacs or the sea air but a large collection of them, and their food, in the sun, on the street, build up a thick and unmistakable smell that is at its best, not a delight.

So hot and stinking room aside we pressed on with our adventure. As we did not plan our trip more than a month in advance we were unable to sojourn on to Alcatraz Island but we did take an Alcatraz Bay tour by boat.  Our vessel took us out under the engineering marvel and death trap that is the Golden Gate Bridge, through the bay and then sailed around The Rock several times. All the while we were treated to a recounting of the discovery of the bay, forming of the city and so very much history of the prison, guards and inmates of Alcatraz.

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While out on the water and under the bridge, we spied a couple of whales. To be more accurate, the captain saw some whales and interrupted the audio tour to announce that there were whales and everyone onboard rushed over to one side of the boat causing me to fear that we might be in for a recreation of the Poseidon Adventure. I was also worried that in our version I might be playing the Shelly Winters role and (spoiler) she does not make it to the end of the film.

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As I am sure you have guessed by now, we did not capsize and there was indeed a morning after (if you have seen the original film that joke is hilarious). We did see whales and they were majestic, really, genuinely majestic, but also a little lazy. They did not leap from the sea (rude) but they did sneeze at us and roll over a couple of times. The kind of reminded me of giant wet versions of my mom’s pug dog. All in all it was a beautiful trip around the bay. We did get a little sunburned but only because we did not think ahead or prepare in any way for our high sea adventure.

Back in the city we spent a fair amount of time on the piers sticking close to the cool breeze coming off of the water. We saw an incredibly beautiful and ornate double decker carousel. I killed an oyster with my bare hands and ripped an actual pearl from its flesh. That’s right, the big city inspired me to take a life and make a trophy of what I found inside. The piers were super crowded with families and all manner of feral children running amok with sticky hands. I’d say the restraint showed by only slaughtering an oyster was admirable.

While on Pier 39 we visited the aquarium. I never fail to be fascinated by the jellyfish at these places. They float along, in a hundred different ways just looking beautiful and killing things. I always expect to see a brain when I look at a jelly fish, I know they have them, but where do they keep them? This particular facility had one of my favorite features, a walk-through shark tunnel. Okay, there are other fish in the tanks too but the sharks swimming all around the people are just breathtaking. This particular place was unique in that past the requisite poke-at-stuff-that-does-not-want-to-be-poked tank, they had otters. While we were there the otters were sleeping in their den but we could still get a pretty good view of their butts. That is until one of the otters rolled over, splayed his tiny otter legs and showed us all that he was indeed a he. I have nine pictures on my phone and many of you have received them a text messages . . . moving on.

All along the boardwalks and street corners there were musicians everywhere. Something I think you should know about me. If you are in need of two dollars grab an instrument and a coffee can and stand on a corner in front of me singing anything. The two dollars will most certainly be yours. Every time I see a street musician I think about our friend Aaron Lindstrom. When he was in college he used to play from time to time on the street at the farmers market in Missoula. He now lives in Seattle and if you have the opportunity to check out his band Lindstrom and the Limit you absolutely should. These are some very talented musicians and Aaron is one hell of a songwriter. Anyway, when I see street musicians I think about Aaron and his struggle and his dream and it inspires me. SO, I give money to just about every street musician I see. There was a guy playing just next to the cable car station who had me singing along the whole wait in line. He definitely earned his two dollars.

Obviously, since we were in San Francisco we had to ride the cable car. We stood in line for about 40 minutes with our freshly minted sunburns digging in BUT we did get to see the process of the cable car turnaround which still fascinates me. I am amazed that after 100 years of innovation, the whole thing is still managed by just a couple of dudes pushing the trolley in a circle. The ride to Union Square was interesting but the ride back was amazing. After we got off the trolley downtown and had lunch at an authentic noodle place, we explored the area. I had the honor of a visit to the mothership . . .Tiffany’s. When we hopped on the cable car to take us back to our hotel near the pier, we got to stand on the back of the trolley. Up and down the rolling hills the trolley lurched and squeaked. I imagined us Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and I wished I’d had a big hat. It was a GREAT time, bumpy but great.

Everyday there was plenty of good food everywhere.  Lots of fresh crab and fish and scallops and whatever that thing floating in my noodle bowl was (Cody thinks maybe octopus). There were also sweets. It did seem a requisite part of our trip to hike up to the Ghirardelli plant. I’m not really a chocolate person but even I thought it was compelling. There was a definite Wonka vibe in the air. Our hotel was very near the Boudin sourdough bakery. In their window they displayed these fun sourdough loaves they make in animal shapes like crabs, bears, turtles, alligators . . . yeah alligators. As a side note here, Sourdough Crabs would make a great band name. Back to the bakery, they had loaves and buns but also pastries and I was amazed by how surprisingly buttery and light they were for sourdough.

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Because of the proximity of our hotel to the bakery there was a constant sour smell laying over the city smell so it was nice to get a little further out from time to time. Down several blocks from our home base was a maritime museum operated by the National Park System. I’m just going to leave this here: “Support your National Parks.” The place was immaculate and the boats were absolutely stunning. Here we boarded a former ferry that used to run between San Francisco and Oakland. To our surprise there were a bunch of classic cars aboard too. We were able to take an up-close look at the riggings on a very large antique sailboat and explore an old houseboat turned summer cottage.

Along with museums we visited some brilliant galleries, one of which was showing hand produced works of Theodore Geisel . . . Doctor Freakin’ Seuss. The intricacy of the art coupled with the whimsy of the subjects was staggering. If those images of Lorax and turtles, whozits and wuzzles did not bring out the kids in us our next stop did for sure. We visited this phenomenal collection of vintage amusements at the Musee Mecanique.

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This place had everything from turn of the century zoetrope image machines to player pianos, to skee ball to pin ball to Centipede and Space Invaders. There were so many antique machines that showed scenes of adventure or had dancing dolls it was hard to know where to look. Love meters and strength testers lined the walls. All coin operated. It was a historical wonderland and everything was totally touchable. I watched a 1 minute Tom Mix western silent movie in a machine I had to hand crank myself.

Our last real touristy jaunt before leaving the city was a trip to Madame Tusssaud’s Wax Museum. Now a few weeks ago we went to a smaller version in Newport and also a larger version years ago in Las Vegas but I think this might be the nicest one we have seen. We saw great likenesses of President Obama, Babe Ruth and Neil Patrick Harris as well as the death mask of Madame T. herself. We could not resist goofing around like kids, it was just fun. I can definitely say that through the noise and heat and people, it was still a blast to get out together and play. The spirit of adventure was indeed alive in San Francisco.

We are recouping for a couple of days in Sacramento and then Tahoe but just for the blink of an eye. From there we travel on to see our parents and collect our cats and then head back west to answer the siren call of the ocean. At least I think that is the ocean, it could be sea lions, they are very loud.

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Checks ins may get a little thin as we venture from here. I’ll catch us all up when I can. Thanks again for coming around.

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