San Francisco – Day Three15 February 2012 in Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling
We once again awoke late. This will happen when you’re out past bar time. But we pushed ourselves out the door and onto the street once again. Today we would take the bus to the western end of Golden Gate Park and make our way east, back across the park. We had a picnic of bread and wine packed along with a little tropical dried fruit.
It was a long bus ride. I’ve never understood why they have to stop at virtually every single corner. The time one saves by waiting one extra stop is lost and then obliterated by the countless stops the bus made on the previous twenty blocks. Being rookies to mass transit we made the mistake of sitting on the side radiating constant sunlight. We baked in the hot sun sweating the previous nights alcohol through every pore. I was getting progressively nauseous with each stop as I eagerly awaited the numbered streets knowing whenever they began I could start a long countdown to 47th. This would mark the first bus mishap of the day, but not the worst.
Exiting the bus I was moments away from losing my breakfast. The bus is not a place for the hungover. But within a few minutes the gentle, cool breeze blowing off the Pacific refreshed me. We got off near a small park that was just a few blocks north of Golden Gate Park. Wandering through we regarded it’s beauty, but were a little disappointed after reading a sign and seeing a picture of how the park used to look. The display described the victorian flower beds of years past and pictured magnificently groomed flower beds set in intricate designs. Later on in the park we’d find another sign and photo of a observation deck built in the late 1800s that now looked like an ancient ruin from thousands of years ago. I’m not sure what happened to this park, but someone let it go to hell.
We had the option of cutting down to Golden Gate Park via a street or by choosing one of several winding trails leading down the hill we were on. We chose the trails and were blessed with a variety of gorgeous plants and flowers, massive and wild, carpeting the hillside. At the bottom we made a quick stop at the beach and stuck our feet in testing the water. It was pretty cold, but much warmer than the coastline by us.
The west end of Golden Gate Park has two large windmills marking it corners. They look a little out of place in an urban setting. They looked to have been transported from the countryside of the Netherlands in the 1600s and were surrounded by well manicured flower beds. Walking east past these massive gatekeepers we followed a winding road watching several people zipping by on bikes and wondering why we had left ours at home. There’s nothing better than a bike ride on a sunny afternoon. The wind blowing through your hair. It’s such a basic pleasure so many abandon with age in exchange for a car.
With our legs reminding us we had already walked twenty miles in the last two days and our stomachs recalling it had been a few hours since our PB&J roll up breakfast we promptly found a small lake and a bench for lunch. To accompany a leisurely, simple day in the park we had a simple lunch of bread. Delicious sourdough bread. We had to be careful though because while searching for this bench we had encountered some particularly aggressive squirrels looking for their own lunch. These squirrels probably would have climbed up on our shoulders and eaten out of our hand had we not shooed them off.
After lunch we continued through the park stopping again because of our weary legs and feet, and because the lush green grass was just to inviting to ignore for a couple of lushes totting a bottle of wine. We spent the next two hours sipping wine and laying in the warm sun watching people and dogs come and go. The afternoon was quickly fading. We had wished to make it to the Haight Neighborhood for happy hour, but our bodies now heavy with wine and sunshine were like flies on fly paper. It took several attempts to actually stand up and depart from such a wonderful setting, but we final did.
With a third of the park between us and the Haight we picked up the pace as much as the scenery would allow. Which wasn’t much. We passed a small waterfall, meandered past a botanical garden—which was closed, but had a small drum circle/jam session taking place outside of it. We contemplated entering a few museums and a Japanese Tea Garden, but opted instead to enjoy their beautiful courtyards and the view peering through the gate. The clock was ticking through happy hour and more importantly approaching diner. While bread and wine had sufficed for a lazy afternoon the episodes of movement in between had easily burned through the bread and our stomachs now were inquiring about diner.
Eventually we made our way to the edge of the park and then the entrance to Haight St. We had entered from the opposite end on our previous visit and were unfamiliar with the wall of marijuana smoke one must make passage through entering from this end. There was about a solid block of smoke. Not visible, but definitely potent. Damn hippies trying to give me a contact high and increase my hunger with the munchies. Emerging from this haze we walked past record shops, coffee shops, restaurants, and of course several head shops. A sufficient number to serve the population.
We were keeping an eye out for happy hour specials, but nothing was jumping out at us. On our previous visit we had been patrons to a bar called Molotov’s. With other prospects falling short we soon found ourselves entering familiarity. Here we had a Tecate and a Hamm’s before wandering out for dinner. We had thought we’d be back in the area of our hotel by now and could enjoy some cheap and plentiful Indian food, but we had to settle for over priced Indian in the Haight.
The Indian Oven seemed reasonably priced on the surface, but out west there seems to be a trend of not including rice in the cost of many eastern meals that traditional come with rice. I mean how are you going to eat a thick Indian gravy-like sauce without rice. Do people actually just sit there and sip it with a spoon? I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of this if the rice were reasonably priced, but it was almost $6 for two servings of rice. Rice! The stuff you can by for a dollar a pound and double with water. When you’re paying $12 a plate you think they could throw that in. Anyways the meal was delicious and we weren’t made aware of the price of the rice until the check came so that didn’t ruin it for us.
Our next destination was bingo with Bunny down in the Mission District. This would be another long walk and so we opted for the bus. Bunny told us the bus to catch and where, as well as where to get off. The where to get off part was a little vague, but completely reasonable under the assumption we could read a map. So I place no blame on her. What would next unfold was entirely our fault. We looked at the map at the bus stop, studying the route and the streets. We both to this very day swear that bus stop had a faulty map. We both came to the conclusion after brief study that the bus went straight down and intersected with the cross street Bunny told us to get off on.
So we boarded the bus and patiently waited for our cross street. Bunny had stated it would take about twenty minutes so we got a little nervous after that amount of time had elapsed and the bus began to make several turns. Again from the map we had gathered it was a straight shot. Soon a half an hour had passed and the bus was now weaving through semi-lit residential areas, then industrial areas, then the edge of the city. There were less people on the bus and those who were still riding seemed less than friendly and I swear were sending us questioning glances as we pulled into the last stop. Here everyone got off of the bus so we did too. This was not our stop and after consulting the map we realized we had missed it several miles back. Looking around we were in a very rough neighborhood. I don’t say this as a virgin to urban environments. I’ve made my way through tough parts of Milwaukee at 17 on my way to shady punk rock venues. But this was an unfamiliar place, we were lost, and no one appeared to be the sort you’d want to admit any of this to.
Thankfully after exploring our options via the transit map we decided to take the same bus back before it departed and left us stranded. I can’t imagine what we would have done had this happened and I don’t care to. Back on the bus we waited for the driver to start his route back up. I was strangely comforted to share the bus with a little old lady and her grandchild. If they could survive in these parts at night we certainly could. As the bus pulled off and turned suddenly we were in a affluent neighborhood of fancy, new condos and apartments. San Francisco is a strange mix. You have expensive housing butting up against poverty stricken areas. We saw a homeless man passed out next to the Hilton sprawled flat on the street in the middle of the afternoon just steps away from rich old couples exiting hired cars.
We rode the bus back up and past our stop to meet with Bunny. We were done with the bus and decided to call it a night. We had a long bus ride ahead of us either way so why not just get it over with. The bus chugged and stopped, chugged and stopped. It would just get up to speed before stopping again. People got on and off in regular intervals. There seemed to be a quota to make for weirdos. We always seemed to maintain at least one. Whether it was a guy with white empty frames for glasses drumming loudly and frantically to presumably bad house music, a lady willfully and proudly singing off key to herself—and the rest of the bus, or a woman playing Family Feud on her phone without headphones, the theme and sound effects constantly blaring.
We were approaching the two hour mark and had transferred once when we finally began to recognize some of our surroundings. I’ll leave out the details, but the stopping and starting of the bus, the hard uncomfortable seats, the annoying passengers, and a large dinner of Indian were beginning to wear on us. Something had to come out and the bathroom of our hotel still felt a million miles away. After exiting the bus our stiff bodies hobbled home just as fast as our clenched cheeks would allow and we made it back not a moment too soon.
The rest of the night we’d spend in mild anguish our bodies still sour over what we had put them through the last few days.
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