Thursday, November 7, 2013
Our adventure begins!! The flight landed at 2pm, but that was 5pm Eastern time and my sister Cindy and I had both gotten up early, so we didn’t really plan to do any sightseeing that day. We took the airport train to the rental car and drove out of the airport to Oakland. How exciting! We checked in to the hotel, and we have a king bed with a small kitchenette. We got directions to local shopping so we could get a few items. There was a Panera Bread right near the Target, so that was our dinner and shopping, and then we headed back to the hotel and to bed.
Cindy and I have been in San Francisco together before – in 1992, we came with Vic and Alyx. Vic had a business conference, so he brought us along. We were there for a few days, and then drove down the coast to Disneyland (of course!). Vic and I were also here in 1989.
Friday, November 8
Today is the only day on which I had made specific plans. I booked a Segway tour for the two of us! A great way for two women with MS to see a city full of hills! ;-) The tour was scheduled for 10am, so we called the front desk the night before to see how long we should allow for driving there. I was thinking an hour, because google maps said it was a 20 minute drive and that way we would be safe and could find parking. The front desk said a minimum of 90 minutes, maybe even two hours. Rush hour traffic. Oh, man! Great!
We left the hotel around 8:15 and the traffic was HORRIBLE! We raced like crazy and finally made it over the bridge and into the city and found the parking garage the Segway tour directed us to and found the Segway tour place and arrived at 10:03am. Phew!
I have done probably 8 Segway tours before, and Cindy had done one. This was the longest orientation I had ever ever had – 45 minutes! There were 12 of us in the group, and we each had to practice every maneuver – slowing down, stopping, turning, obstacle course of cones, etc. Way too long.
Anyway, after finally leaving, we headed up to Coit Tower Hill, for awesome views of San Francisco. We could even see Lombard Street (the crooked street) from up there. Then we went down by Fisherman’s Wharf and as passed Pier 45, the tour guide pointed out a submarine that was in the harbor. He said it was the same one that was in the movie “Down Periscope”!
Then we went out on to a long pier where we had a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the city.
We finished the tour around 12:30, and headed back down to the Wharf for lunch. The tour guide had recommended a couple places, so we headed to a place called Scoma’s.
And who did we see there? 4 of the other couples from the tour! The Segway company should get a commission for all the referrals! LOL!
After an awesome lunch, we walked around the wharf and the pier. I was disappointed to see that the Disney Store I remembered was gone, but we wandered through some of the other shops. The weather was in the 50s and windy, so I was wearing a heavier jacket, and had a scarf and gloves handy.
We had fun watching all the seals!
We stopped and did a hydro-massage – you lay down and they close the tube down and the water jets massage you through plastic. Very relaxing ☺
We walked up to Ghirardelli and I looked for a souvenir for Alyx (she worked at the local shop for a while in college).
We also stopped in a spy shop – lots of interesting things! Wish I could have taken pictures but they didn’t allow it. My son Trevor would love this shop!
The drive back to Oakland wasn’t too bad – no more rush hour traffic! We went to Jack London Square and ate at Il Pescatore. It was a nice restaurant, and we had a good dinner.
Saturday, November 9
Walt Disney Family Museum. It was created by Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, to remember Walt and honor the legacy he created. It's in San Fran, because this is where she lives. It's in the old Presidio (a large area on the bay that used to be an army base, but was closed for that purpose years ago). It's being developed for private and public use.
After breakfast at our hotel, we headed in to the city around 9:30. The drive wasn’t as bad today, as it wasn’t a workday. We arrived at the museum just 2 minutes before opening time of 10am. It didn’t look like I expected – it's actually an old barracks building (not very large). There was a hall from which the views of the bridge were magnificent. Both Cindy’s and my favorite display was the scale model of Disneyland.
The variety of displays include many pieces of Walt’s private life – family vacation photos, his collection of miniatures (pieces from doll houses) – and the progression of ups and downs as he created the company that is the global Disney institution in our everyday lives that it is today. There were hands-on activities, videos, drawings, pictures, information about projects that never came to be, and lots and lots to read. The last room was very sad, as it showed the worldwide mourning after Walt’s death.
We took our time exploring the museum, and including the separate display in a building out back, it took us about 3 hours. I was surprised, because I had heard others say one day isn’t enough, you need two. Maybe we should have stayed longer? But I truly felt like I saw everything, so we headed out. On the porch, we sat for a few minutes, and started talking with another couple that was sitting there. They were locals, and recommended a place for lunch – Pluto’s.
We decided to head to Golden Gate Park to see the Botanical Gardens. On the way, we found an overlook to the bridge – it was a little bit of a walk, but worth it because it was from the other side of the bridge from what we had been seeing so far. We had some challenges trying to find our way in to the park, and then finding the Botanical Gardens – it was probably about an hour of driving around and around. We finally found it and a place to park, and as we got to the gate, it was around 4pm and they closed at 5.
For the past couple days, we have seen lots of signs for “electric bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge.” That sounded so cool, so we stopped at one point to ask details, but it was $70 per person, so we decided against it since we had already done the Segway tour (also $70 per person). But we kept talking about it, and it was obvious we both wanted to do it.
We wondered if you could do the electric part on the bridge, and when I searched online, it said you could not use the electric power on the bridge. So again, we thought we shouldn’t do it. But tonight we kind of looked at each other and figured with our MS if we were ever going to do this in our lifetime, we should do it now. So I called the company that we did the Segway tour with, because they offered a $10 credit per person if you did it with them after the Segway tour (like a package deal) and booked the 10am tour for tomorrow morning! Woohoo!
Sunday, November 10
We got a nice early start today, and there was absolutely no traffic on the way, so we decided to drive down Lombard Street (the crooked one) on the way to the bike tour! It’s funny, there were people walking down the side of the street, taking pictures… of us!
We got to the Segway/bike place just before 10am, and we were told that our tour guide had called in sick. They said we could go for a later tour, but we wanted to go see the Redwood trees this afternoon. They said we could go with another company, or we could do it by ourselves. We talked about it, and decided by ourselves would actually work out well, because that way we could go at our own speed, without others having to wait if we were slow. So they showed us how to use the bikes, gave us a map, and we headed out!
They told us that the battery would run out if we ran all the time on battery, so we should also pedal to build up the battery, but to watch the gauge. The map had us riding in the city until we got to parks and paths closer to the river, and then over the bridge, then down into Sausalito where we could take the ferry back (for free, included in our price).
We rode on the city streets, where there was often a bike lane, and even traffic lights for bikes. We were to stay close to the river until we got to the Warming Hut, which was a National Park location with a store and café. From there, we would go up the hill and over the bridge.
Because it was a Sunday, there were a lot more pedestrians on the bridge, so they allocated the left side to the bikes and the right side to the walkers. Sure enough, as we came up on to the bridge, we used our electricity, and no one was any the wiser! At times I tried to do it on just my power, but the climb was steady and steep, and I don’t think I could have made it without the power.
We stopped often for pictures, of course. 45 minutes later, we had gotten to the other side, with Sausalito down below us. It was 12:30, so we had missed the 12:15 ferry. We didn’t really want to wait until the 3:30 ferry, so… we turned around and headed back across the bridge!
We returned the bikes around 1:15p.m., and I figured we rode 8 miles, according to google pedometer. We headed back down to the wharf and went to lunch at Cioppino’s on the Wharf, an Italian restaurant. Then we headed north out of town to visit Muirs Woods, a redwood forest and national monument.
Before the trip, the only things Cindy and I talked about doing was the Segway tour and the Disney museum. I had made notes of some other things, including Muirs Woods because I really wanted to see redwood trees. When we were on the plane out here, I was showing Cindy some of my ideas, and when she saw Muir Woods, she couldn’t believe it – it was the one thing she had heard about that she really wanted to see too! Sisters.
We got to the park and parking was a challenge, but we finally found a place. We stopped at the park guard shack and asked recommendations of an easy walk that would let us see the trees, and she directed us along the main path. It was easy to walk and pretty and shaded. The trees were not as large around as I expected – I guess those redwoods are further north. But they were very tall! It was hard to capture it in photos.
We stayed there until about 4:30pm, and then drove back. The sunset seemed a perfect way to end our last day in San Francisco. We went back to Jack London Square for a special last dinner at Scott’s Seafood.
Monday, November 11
Since we were flying standby (Southwest buddy passes), we ended up not being able to fly out as planned on Monday – flights were too full because of Veteran’s Day. We made new arrangements to fly out the next day. We also changed to fly out of Oakland as she said our chances of getting out of there would be better.
We made arrangements to stay another night at our hotel, and got a new rental car for one day. We didn’t really have a plan, as this was totally unexpected, and frankly we were a bit tired, so we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch. We had a nice lunch at the Fog Harbor Fish House, overlooking the seals.
Then we just walked and did sightseeing. We had fun watching a guy who was hiding behind a branch and then scaring people. We also went into a national park museum, and went over closer to the “Down Periscope” submarine.
Then we into a museum of old amusement displays, called the Musee Mecanique. Some were very, very old and funny! We found a photo booth and had to do it, of course.
We stopped on the way back at a Subway and brought it back to the room to eat. We were back at the hotel, and back in our room by 5pm. We kind of needed to be because our first flight the next morning was scheduled for 6am, so we had to leave the hotel by 4am. They say your best bet when flying standby is the first flight for a better chance of getting on.
Tuesday, November 12
Altogether a rather uneventful day, which is a good thing. We left the hotel at 4am and returned the car. The drive from the hotel to the Oakland airport was like 10 minutes. Yeah, that close. We flew together to Phoenix, landing at 8:50am. My flight to Orlando left at 10:15am, and Cindy’s flight to Atlanta left at 12:20pm.
Overall it was an absolutely awesome trip, and I came away with three resolutions: I will NEVER, EVER, EVER again stay at a hotel outside the city to save money. It is not worth it for the time and aggravation of getting into the city. I have made this mistake too many times now, and will not repeat it. Even if the trip doesn’t happen because the hotel costs are too high, it is just not worth it. Paper maps. Yeah, they are still a thing and we should have had one. We relied on the GPS on our phone, which was not always accurate, especially when the network signal was temporarily lost or we ran out of battery power. The biggest picture of the layout of the city would have been very helpful on Sunday afternoon when we were trying to get to the Golden Gate Park, and back from that park – we were going in circles at some points.
If you are on a trip and a unique experience presents itself, just do it. If you don’t, you will always wonder and regret not doing it. And it just might yield the most memorable moments of your trip, like our bike ride did for us.