At long last. We were finally going to a place that I have been wanting to see for years. One of the coolest cities in America that is often the icon of California…
Oh goodness, San Francisco. What an amazingly fun and frightful weekend. Guess what we did! Failed to plan our trip here. It worked but also didn’t but also kind of did?
For this destination we found another Couchsurfing host to house us for a couple days while we played around in the city. We were very fortunate in the face that our host, Al, and his roommates lived on Treasure Island, a manmade former navy base that sits in between Oakland and San Fran. We rolled in to the island late on Friday after our exploration of Monterey. The island was very plain, to say the least. Considering it was built as Navy housing a while back every building was exactly the same and there were very few businesses. Driving through it at night left you with an unsettling feeling but it really was a quaint place to stay, especially if you’re visiting the city. As soon as we got to Al’s we passed out shortly after introductions.
The next day was where the real fun started, and by fun I mean frustration. We spent an hour trying to figure out the best way to commute into the city and seeing as we were used to driving our own vehicle, public transportation sort of put us on edge. We ended up facing our fears though when we caught a bus and then another bus and then another bus that brought us into Chinatown. Now, fair warning to you, you will not get far without cash in hand. The busses call for exact change in exchange for your tickets and from what we saw, restaurants in Chinatown only take cash.
We successfully got into Chinatown around lunch time and ended up grabbing lunch at a little hole in the wall fast food place that Eli was really excited for. For the hefty price of $3, we got five huge sticky buns, two red bean and three barbecue. Apparently the red bean buns are supposed to be a dessert but it was the only thing that was obviously vegetarian but I’m not complaining! Everything was delicious. Afterwards, we perused the area and got some Japanese sodas and candies before we spotted Coit Tower in the distance and made our way towards that.
Walking from Chinatown to Coit Tower was the Vernal Falls hike all over again. You might not realize this but San Francisco is very hilly. Imagine that. We climbed up two very steep streets and then up a few flights of stairs and at this point I’m starting to think that we are going to have some really beefy legs by the end of this trip. All pathetic-ness aside, we paid $16 to go up to the top and get some of the best views of the city, which included Lombard Street, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. It was cold and windy up there but definitely worth the trip.
From there, we walked down to the piers and enjoyed the various street performers, which included a man offering free hugs (which I totally took him up on). We walked down the infamous Pier 39 and I’d say it was my favorite touristy thing that we did. There were big fatty fat seals lounging in the water and colorful little shops dedicated to people who are left handed, pet owners, candy lovers, and those who are obsessed with Christmas. We enjoyed watching a 60-year-old woman do an incredible balancing act and ate pizza while looking out over the ocean. I remember reading online that it wasn’t even worth going to because of the crowds of tourists but I wholeheartedly disagree. I will admit to it being crowded but that factor is overshadowed by all of the fun things to see on the pier.
After we ate, we continued walking past all of the other piers until we got to the marketplace. By then things were closing up so we really couldn’t continue on our touristy ventures, unfortunately. It was a little upsetting too because it was so early in the evening on a Saturday. We had hours to kill before our Couchsurfing host would be home and we were running out of options as far as things to see and do in the city. In the end, we decided to go see a movie. We were exhausted from walking around all day and just wanted to relax so we walked two miles to the Metreon to catch the new Guardians of the Galaxy. The theatre itself was pretty cool but not because it had a food court downstairs and definitely not because there was a really gorgeous park outside of it but because it had a robot arm that would make you coffee. It was the coolest thing ever.
The movie itself was awesome (Marvel, you’ve done it again, good job). It was around 1 o’clock in the morning by the time we had finished it and were on our way home. That was a whole new set of problems and complications. Since the city of San Francisco likes to completely shut down by 8, there are limited options for when you need money for bus fare or directions. Having two dying cellphones didn’t help much either. We spent an hour trying to find a way to get some money for a bus ticket as well as find the bus stop we needed. It was quite the expedition but we made it back to Al’s safely and promptly went to bed.
Waking up the next day was challenging after our long day of braving the wilderness of San Francisco but we eventually rolled out of our hibernating spots. We were invited by Al to go see the Institute of Science in Golden Gate Park. It wasn’t the biggest museum I had ever been to but we easily spent four hours there with all of the amazing exhibits that they had. It was pretty pricey, unfortunately. We got a free pass in, thanks to Al, but we still had to buy a second ticket at $35, food was around $30, and parking was $30. It was brutal but we still had a really great time. They had an amazing rainforest biome, an aquarium with a huge octopus, a planetarium, and so much more.
Our final stop in the city was, of course, the most touristy one of all, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was intended to only be a quick stop as we found our way to a visitor lookout area and scavenged for a parking spot. It was such a crowded and frustrating experience that we decided to forgo the whole thing and leave. We had people honking and yelling at us, a long line of waiting cars, and no patience. But, as we headed toward the exit our van decided to do the unthinkable. It suddenly died. Luckily we didn’t end up blocking traffic too much and with the help of some friendly drivers, we were able to jumpstart our little van house to get it back on the road and towards an AutoZone.
At least, we thought we could get it back on the road. The power in the van was weak but we thought we could attempt to make it the five miles to the AutoZone across the bridge but those plans quickly unraveled. We made it under the first support beam on the freakin’ Golden Gate Bridge and the van lost power AGAIN. When I say it lost power, I mean all power anything. The power steering and braking shut off, the tail lights weren’t working, we didn’t even have enough battery to put our hazards on. Our only option was to slowly coast to a stop and hope that everyone behind us was paying attention enough to not hit us.
We were both absolutely terrified but attempted to stay calm as we called AAA for help. Lucky for us, our incident had been captured by the bridge security cameras and CalTrans was on the way to save us. While we waited, we made the decision to get out of the van and stand in the pedestrian area just in case the van got hit by anyone. It was maybe ten minutes later that our savior came to push us off of the bridge and to the safety of a second lookout spot on the other side. We were stranded there for 30 minutes while we waited for the tow truck that would take us to Eli’s aunt’s house so we took advantage of our time and location and got our pictures of the bridge.
Finally, the tow truck arrived. Our van was loaded up on the monstrous machine and we took off out of the city. It was a very chaotic and eventful weekend but we made it out alive and everything is fine.