I wake up at a decent hour of the morning sans an alarm and go downstairs. The hostel has a giant tub of pancake batter ready to go in the kitchen, along with some too-sweet syrup. I grill up a few, eat, stuff my bags into a storage room, and head out into the city.
The Amsterdam Hostel's built on a hill, and I take advantage of this by walking to the top to survey the surrounding lanscape. Far below, I see the masts of a tall ship and decide to head that way. I'm feeling pretty great.
I'm not sure what this plant is…
The ships cost money to board. Since I'm feeling rather frugal, I poke around the docks instead and examine Alcatraz, in the distance.
Leaving the shipping area, I stop into a Safeway and pick up a yogurt and chili for breakfast. Outside, the seagulls are hopping around, picking up the food people throw to them. Jonathon is not among them.
I round a corner and come up a hill and there it is… the Golden Gate Bridge! It is not as red as I had expected, but the way it interfaces with the hills, the water, the clouds, and the fog, is unexpectedly dramatic. I begin taking too many pictures of it.
I can feel the sun beating down on me, and my camera is running out of battery power. So I make a detour and head inland in search of a Walgreen's. I don't know if there is a Walgreen's in the area, so I suppose they must be sufficiently numerous and have sufficiently good branding that I have just come to believe that there will be one within a few blocks of me wherever I am. Part of me is disturbed by this.
And that's how I discover the Palace of the Fine Arts.
Sure enough, just a few blocks away from the Palace, I find my Walgreen's. Armed with sunblock, I head back to the beach and continue my walk towards the Bridge.
Is that spider meant to be a subliminal threat?
My goal is always to find the one perfect picture that captures the -ness of a scene. In this case the Golden Gate Bridgeness. Perhaps my failure to find that picture is a reflection of an internal struggle between evoking a particular feeling or artistic representation versus trying to fully represent the object or document the object. Many of the pictures work as stand-alones, but, in combination, they provide more information than a single photograph. Perhaps this bespeaks of a need to separate artistry and documentation in my blog.
On the approach, the Bridge is a serene arc over the water. But once on the deck, the cars are quite noisy and there are many people and bikers. It is not really a peaceful place to be. But I have resolved to cross the bridge, and so I continue forward.
I'm feeling hungry, but there is no food on the far side, so, after a brief exploration, I turn and head back.
Out on the pay wind- and kite-surfers are zipping across the water. I didn't realize just how fast these things could go. I'll have to try sometime…
Back on the shore, I grab a Clif Bar and take a bus to the Muni and the Muni to my hostel.
When I arrived in San Fran, I posted to CouchSurfing that I was heading North and anyone was welcome to join me. An Italian, Flavia, agreed almost immediately. Everyone else dropped out, the latest being an Australian—he'd like to leave in the morning, but I'm pretty well set on heading out tonight. I want to wake up amidst the Redwoods. Flavia and I meet on the street a couple of blocks from my hostel. She tells me she's not yet packed, so I agree to come back and pick her up on my way out of town.
The ride to the airport is interminable, but the car people are ready and waiting when I arrive. They convince me I should buy insurance for the car and, when it becomes clear that I'm driving all the way to Seattle, heap even more insurance on me. This has become a little more expensive than I'd anticipated. Bother. But I drive out of there with a 2013 Elantra GLS.
Pausing in the airport ramp, I unfurl the crap-map they've given me of San Fran. It's my favourite kind: detailed enough to be useful, but simple enough to fit on a single sheet of paper. Then I cruise out and onto the highway, singing “Northwest Passage”. Parking, I give Flavia a call. Five minutes later, we're both settled in the car and heading for the bridge.
That's when the Australian, Matt, calls asking if I can still give him a ride. Then he calls back to say he doesn't need it. Then he texts to see if I can still give him one. I pull the car over to the side of the road. We're just a few blocks from the Bridge. Flavia and I discuss it. The indecision and late notice bother me, but that can't be helped. What should we do now? I turn the car around and head back.
When I arrive, I text him and begin a mental countdown from five minutes. On the fifth minute, just as I've begun pulling away, he appears. We pick up his stuff and get on the road. Finally.
Just North of San Fran the we're confronted by a choice. The relatively-straight #101, or the coast-hugging #1. We all opt for the #1. Of course, by the time we've realized we had this choice, we've missed the actual turn for it.
Matt has a GPS-thing which takes on an insanely-convoluted route overland, but we make it there in the end.
The #1 is simply incredible. The highway seems to curve different directions every tenth of a mile. Just when you've got up to a respectable 50MPH, a curve demanding 20MPH will appear. Off to the left of the car, the ocean is a sea of lightly-chopped waves and a full moon riding close above them carpets the whole scene in a soft white light.
The Elentra is extremely responsive and I'm having a great time. I give Flavia a mission: look for deer eyes and, if they appear, say “Deer!” loudly. Thus buffered, we move forward. Four foxes run across the road and one deer. The road continues to wind and wend and bend and twist, I lean with the curves and sometimes find myself driving while looking out of the driver-side window because the curves are that tight. At one point, Matt gurgles, “Stop the car!” and literally jumps out. I see him vomiting through the rear-view mirror.
After hours of this, we cut inland and take the 101 North. I'm getting tired, so I try to find a campground. But, after ten minutes of following the signs, the KOA campground we end up at turns out to be charging $48 dollars a night for you to set up a tent. Discouraged, I follow Ajonja's strategy from Nebraska and pull into the first road I see, and then the first sub-road.
Though Flavia and Matt both said that they were okay with camping, neither of them has sufficient equipment. They tell me they'll fend for themselves in the car. I, on the other hand, have my bivy sack, pad, and a sleeping bag. Stepping outside with these, I search for a spot to camp. The night around me makes odd noises, and I flash them with my light.
Finding a grass trail, I follow it away from the road to a place where the grass is flattened and bowed. But, just as I'm thinking this is perfect, I notice the not-entirely-clean skeletons of three large rodent-like animals. Disturbed, I go and set myself up by the car.