Day 1: Thursday - October 7th
When Dunkard Creek Betty said of my last trip to SF: "I see you are returning to your roots." it struck a cord with me.
I realized how true this observation was and it gelled for me one of the main reasons I seem drawn back to San Fran.
So, when I decided upon a return trip to San Francisco it occurred to me I may as well go ahead and think of it as a pilgrimage - and an annual one at that.
First things first: I set about trying to get my lodging in order in preparation for the trip. The past two visits to San Fran I have stayed with Bruce in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of SF. I tried to get in touch with Bruce to see about staying with him again. Bruce travels a lot and I had difficultly reaching him. I began to think I might not be making the trip. But, I decided to go ahead and get a plane ticket and let the chips fall where they may.
I finally realized things were not going to work out to stay with Bruce. His brother had contacted him and gotten the "OK" for me, but I did not feel right about never getting in touch with him personally. So, now what? Where would I stay?
I had two possibilities. One was staying with Irving Rosenthal in the Mission. Our family knew Irving when we lived in The City from 1968-72. Now, 40 years later, I barely remembered Irving, but brother Sutton had kept in touch with him over the years. So, at Sutton's urging I contacted Irving about the possibility of staying with him on my upcoming visit. Irving responded : "Tryable--just come on over for lunch or supper ... and we'll see how we all fit each other." This sounded reasonable to me. But, I still needed a place to bed down upon my arrival.
Enter the Hotel Potter. I had seen this place on my visit in 2009. I had done a little bit of poking around on the web and had found a few comments about the place and it seemed like it might be OK. But, given the weekly room rates of under $300 and the fact it is commonly thought of as an SRO hotel, I was a bit nervous about staying at the Potter. But, I decided to give them a call and check on rooms. The phone was answered by Sarah(?) Patel. She was polite and informative. I told her the type of room I was looking for she gave me the room rate and suggested I call back closer to the time of my arrival. I told her I would.
Several weeks passed and I realized it was time for me to take the plunge and book my room. I called the Potter again. The phone was answered by a different woman.
I told here I wanted a room for the following week. She said "OK" and was obviously ready to hang up. I asked if she wanted my name. She seemed distracted and impatient and said "OK." I gave it to her. I then told here I would give her my credit card info to hold the room. To which she replied: "We don't do that. You just come here and check." Great. The idea of getting to the Potter's doorstep and not finding any rooms available did not thrill me - too say the least! However, I felt I had no choice. If I got there and there was no room, I would have to look elsewhere.
Now that my accommodations were arranged for (not!) the next step was to start contacting folks I knew in the bay area and let them know I would be back in town.
So, I went down the list and sent out the emails. Ed was on that list. I had met Ed in 2009. How? When I mentioned to Jerry in Philly I was going to be visiting SF he said I should contact Ed as he was sure we would hit it off. Turns out Ed was an old college chum and long time friend of Jerry's. Now, I have to say, Jerry is one of my favorite people to hang out with. Interesting, easy going, and always fun. And, my skinny-dippin' mentor to boot!!! Given this, I figgered Ed had to be an OK guy. He is.
So, on that visit in 2009 Ed and I got acquainted over dinner at the Tadich Grill and later in my visit we had a really nice hike at Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin county. This was a place I had not been to in many years. And, it was the site of the infamous Hemlock Incident which nearly killed some of the Breiding Clan.
To me, there is nothing like a hike in the woods with someone to find out if you have anything in common and are at all compatible with someone. This may seem like strange criteria for sizing someone up, but it works for me. And, like Jerry, I found Ed a great person to be out in the woods with. And I trust I was tolerable company as well.
Hmmm... where was I going with this? Oh yeah, the emails to friends in the Bay Area, I remember now.
I contacted Ed about my upcoming visit and plans to stay at the Potter Hotel. The latter must have caused him concern. He knows San Fran well and knew what type of hotel the Potter was. Plus, there was the current Bed Bug hysteria which was sweeping the country. Ed had heard about it. Who hadn't. I know I had and it was causing me
some paranoia about staying at the Potter.
Reflecting that concern was Ed's email reply to me "You know, I do have a spare room, so if you need it for part of your stay, it can probably be worked out."
I didn't need that offer twice so I immediately contacted Ed and we set the wheels in motion. The upshot of this is that I am now sitting in Ed's spare room typing my report. Ed has been very gracious and accommodating in getting me settled into my new digs. Me lucky guy.
Now, on to the beginning!.
Day 1 started early. Betsy and I arose before 4:00AM, got our stuff organized and were out the door by 4:30. Next stop, Pittsburgh airport.
We arrived without incident and I was soon smooching my wife good-bye yet again. I was soon in line at Southwest Airlines check-in and making my way through security. All with no problems or delays. At boarding time I was to find out Southwest Airlines has no assigned seating. You can "buy" a seat on-line. If you do not you board according to your assigned position and then grab what ever seat is left. Interesting. But, the loading was fast and efficient.
The first leg was a ninety minute flight to Midland/Chicago. Then onto SF from there. At touch down in SFO we were about 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
I made my way to baggage claim and waited with everyone else. After about 20 minutes I heard someone yell "We have movement!" and the carousel started to turn and disgorge the content of the planes' underbelly.
My suit case was the second one to be up-chucked. I grabbed it and then followed the signs for the Air Train which would take me to the BART platform.
I had my BART fare already portioned out - $8.10 to get me to downtown and the Civic Center station. Here I would pick up the outbound "N Judah" a MUNI Metro Line. At least that was the plan.
All went well until I hit the Civic Center platform and was greeted by an announcement that the N Judah and all other trains were down due to a power outage. The announcement then notified us surface transportation would have to be used and shuttles were being set up as fast as possible.
So hauling all my luggage I headed to the exit only to find the escalators out of order.
I made my way up the stairs to Market and then crossed over to the platform to see what I could get a ride on.
Unsure what to take I asked the first driver to pull up how to connect with N at Church and Judah and he suggested the F line.
The platform was jammed with regulars and about a dozen or more school kids and their teachers.
When the F came I wormed my way through the crowd and got on board.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
At Church and Market Streets I exited, still a bit foggy where the N stop was and then remembered it was in back of the Safeway. When I got near the stop I saw several MUNI workers running around and one came over and asked me where I was I was headed. I told him the N outbound and he pointed to the platform and told me to go over and wait for "something". And wait I did along with a number of obviously impatient and confused riders.
A inbound N Judah then showed up and was detoured down Church. To where I do not know.
Another inbound arrived and the driver stopped and looked questioningly at the MUNI men down the way. One came up and they had a chat. Then the MUNI worker used a long rod to adjust the tracks. The driver then switched seats to the opposite end of the train and opened the doors.
Finally, when all were loaded, we headed outbound on the inbound tracks, crossed over and then were on our way.
What a relief. Now I would be on Ed's doorstep in only a few minutes. Those few minutes were added to by my getting confused and disembarking 3 blocks too soon which meant I then had to cart my luggage the remainder of the way to Ed's place. Oh well, I got a better work-out that way...
My new digs at 12th and Judah. Right next to the stop for the N. Handy.
Ed, being the considerate guy he is, had express mailed the keys to me. This was a god send since Ed works downtown and it meant me and my luggage did not have to make the extra trip to the financial district to pick up the keys. Yes! I made my way up to Ed's door and let myself in. His place is open, with good light and very homey feeling.
Ok. First things first. Call my wife? Nope. See if I have a wireless signal? Yep. Ed had left me the details, I got connected and immediately sent Ed an email I was there and a heads up about the train problems. (Fortunately they were corrected by rush hour.)
Then, I called Betsy and filled her in on my day thus far.
That done, it was out the door in search of a FastPass, lunch and a few necessities.
My exploration of the neighborhood turned up all the important places.
A beverage store is nearby.
As is a bakery.
And, I found my lunch spot - Hing Wang bakery at 337 Judah. Here, I found all manner of tasty treats!
Mmmmm... dim sum. 3 for a $1.60!
I had no idea what any of them contained or what they were called so I just pointed out some and they were dished up.
I polished off 4 of them and then ordered 2 more.
While I ate, grandma worked on slicing up a large quantity of broccoli.
They also had steamed and baked chai-seiw bow.
The Hing Wang bakery is small and seats only about 12 people. The lady here told me they get a lot of business at lunch from the folks at UCSF Medical Center which is just few blocks away.
This is where Ed suggested I go for my
FastPass. In 2009 I paid $45 which included use of Bart in the City Limits. Now the price is $60 for MUNI only and $70 for the MUNI/BART card. I got the MUNI only card.
Even though I am going to be here only for 18 days, at $2 per fare I will get my money out of it. Plus, it is very convenient and allows me to ride the bus for pleasure, not just transport.
All monthly passes are valid for one calendar month and are valid for unlimited use on all SFMTA/Muni vehicles, including cable cars. Source: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)
Along with my FastPass I bought a 6 pack of Pyramid Brewing "Haywire Hefeweizen" and a loaf of Oatmeal soda bread which I have not tried out yet.
I then dropped off my purchases at Ed's and then headed out the door for a walk up to Grandview Park which I visited in 2009. The park offers stunning views in all directions.
This is Sutro Tower and the Eucalyptus Forest which is on the property of UCSF Medical Center.
A closer look at the houses perched on the hillside. This shot clearly shows the telephoto limitations of my little Canon PowerShot SD970IS.
While climbing the steps to the park I saw this flower popping up on a naked stem with no leaves. It reminded me of Amaryllis and probably was one of the cultivars or species.
Amaryllis flower buds.
A nice interpretive sign halfway up the steps.
This detail of the interpretive sign shows where I walked.
Looking down on St Anne's at Funston and Judah and the stair-step houses marching their way up the hill. Note the weird black tower in the background. This is Harmon Tower at the de Young Museum.
Here we see the east end of Golden Gate Park along with the Panhandle trailing off the end. Behind that is downtown San Francisco. You can barely make out the TransAmerica Pyramid at the far right.
When I descended the park steps on the west side I noticed this old stub of a shrub.
As I walked up 19th towards Golden Gate Heights Park I spotted this decorative water meter cover.
Now I was at "The Rocks" section of my walk.
Here 19th Ave gets pretty "twisty-turny".
Succulents and some cacti do when in the San Francisco climate. This person really did a nice job of putting the little garden together.
Below are some detail shots of plants in this garden.
Now, up to other summit park. This is the old stone step entrance which leads up to the tennis courts. They looked unused and abandoned to me.
There were lots of dog walkers here. All were in violation of the leash law.
The shrub on the right had some interesting flowers.
Flowers from the hedge shown above.
I wandered around the park for a while then made my way back to Grandview along the same route.
Looking back along 19th Ave, The Rocks and Grandview Park.
I have seen Rosemary used for hedging and filler in lots of places. It is always a treat to see it and smell it.
A closer look at St. Anne of the Sunset Catholic Church.
Last shot of the day.
This is not the first and will certainly not be the last bike I have seen like this in San Fran. A good reminder not to leave your bike locked up in one place for two long.
I made my way back the one last block to Ed's, grabbed the latest copy of the Bay Guardian and a beer and relaxed for a bit.
Around 6:30 Ed made it home from work. We spent some time catching up and I filled him in on the details of my trip out. We then decided to get Chinese take-out for dinner. After both of us choosing something from the menu of Andy's Chinese I called it in. By now Ed was into the Giants game so I walked the 3 blocks or so to pick up our dinner. Ed had ordered Broccoli with bean curd and I ordered chicken with mixed vegetables and asked them to fix mine "hot". They did. Whew!
Ed and I enjoyed our meals while watching the rest of the game. At 9:00 (mid-night for me with the time change) I called it a day and flopped into my comfy bed.