California Coast: Roadtrip Number Two

This Time Solo

Highway 1, Big Sur, California

This summer has been the summer of roadtrips.  How this came to be is a bit non-sequential and unexpected, like most of my life “decisions”.

At the beginning of this year, I would be sitting at my desk at work in Startuplandia (SoMA San Francisco), and daydream about getting out on the road.  I’d stare at Google Maps and National Park websites and put together all different combinations of routes and stops.  There were a couple hinderances at that time though, stalling these thoughts as just a mid-workweek fantasy.  Such roadblocks (get it???) included that I worked full time and so do all of my friends, I sold my car before moving to the city, and I’d never done a true American roadtrip on my own.  Having camped a lot back in Arizona, enjoyed Thanksgiving jaunts to Big Sur, and hitched around South America with a friend, I felt I had some relevant experience to backup my daydreams.

Well, soon enough my opportunity came.  This has happened to me often, where thoughts that had crept in a few months prior become realities later.  This time, it started with my becoming restless in June and asking for some time off from my job.  Wish granted, I sublet my room and my apartment in San Francisco and came back to my family in Arizona.  After spending time with my dad and my family, I came to realize going back to San Francisco was not in the cards for me.  So………….

Here we are.  2013 has offered me three opportunities to jump on the road, my prior hinderances melting away.  I was now free of commitment, my dad has given me his little Tacoma truck, and I am feeling pumped to try new things and meet new people.  Below is the route and journey of Roadtrip Number Two (Roadtrip Number One was longer and will need a bigger post, so therefore will come later 🙂 )

The Route/The Plan:

Phoenix to San Francisco Route

Things to consider:

  • How long do you want to drive each day?  Some days, I don’t mind just driving all day, but other days I want the freedom to get out of the car and look around on a whim.
  • Where will you stay each night?  I chose my destinations because I had places to stay in each.  Two of the cities had friends there and one I found a couchsurfer willing to take me in for the night (you know how much I love couchsurfing!!)
  • Will you be making stops along the drive or just drive straight through?
  • What are the average temperatures?  If you are camping, hiking, galavanting, partying, or just walking around, you will need to know this.

Really, all that is required is mental flexibility and willingness to get out there.  Feel free to message me for more advice on how to do such a trip.  Going solo is a whole different idea than doing a group roadtrip.  There are lots of resources out there for those striking out on their own, especially if you want to be social and meet people.  You will find that the open road can bring quite a wonderful and unexpected world.

Below find the highlights of this Solo Summer Roadtrip Numero Dos.

Prescott, Arizona

Sunset Point Vista, Prescott, ArizonaMingus Mountain, Prescott, Arizona

Joshua Tree, California

Joshua Tree, California IMG_0708Joshua Tree, California

San Diego, California

San Diego, California, La Jolla Cove San Diego, California, La Jolla Cove

Roadside Highway 1

Highway 1, CaliforniaHighway 1, Elephant Seal Rest Stop, California

Highway 1, CaliforniaHighway 1, Big Sur, California

Morro Bay, California

Morro Bay, California

Monterrey, California

IMG_0797 IMG_0824Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CAFort Baker, San Francisco, CaliforniaDolores Park View, San Francisco, California America's Cup Pavilion, San Francisco, CA

14 Hour Drive Back to Arizona

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San Francisco Living: Top Sunny Day Retreats

San Francisco, California, Things to do in San Francisco, Visiting San Francisco, Living in San Francisco

Saturday morning in San Francisco.  As usual, I wake up around 9am, sun or no sun.  I’ve come to rely on my internal clock far more than I’m used to in this city.  Being from the Deserts of Arizona, I learned to wake up with the sun.  Summers meant rising a bit earlier, winters a bit later.  It felt natural to have the cliched morning experience of the “sun warming my face” as I’d blink my way into a new day.

Well, now I live in San Francisco, where mornings are a bit bitchier (or maybe it’s me that’s bitchier?) Here, the Sun and the City have a rather complicated relationship, in which neither knows who is in charge.  I feel like the child of a tumultuous marriage, who gets the short end of the stick as I wait perpetually in confusion as to which parent will reign supreme that day.

Today, it is Mama Sun.  She has awoken me this fine morning with a soft nudge, whispering that the City is busy with work today.  Get out there kid before he comes back with his gloomy mood and foggy disposition.

I wander out my door in jorts, a tee, tennis shoes, and a hat (wool sweater and scarf in tow of course….because although I love her, I know what a fickle woman the Sun can be), and head to my favorite SF bakery, Arizmendi.  A 10 minute stroll down Valencia, including a pit stop for some 2 buck earrings courtesy of Joe Sidewalk.  This is of course not his real name, but what I have come to call the scruffy sixty-year-old man that occupies the corner of Valencia and 19th streets most Saturdays, and whose weekly sidewalk spread has provided my apartment with such “treasures” as a hundred-year-old victorian picture frame that included in the price the wedding photos of the original owners in it, a llama scarf acting as our kitchen’s tablecloth, and an assortment of library book pages photographing 1930’s San Francisco.  Back at Ariz, I score an almost empty bakery, meaning I get first pick of the fresh baked coop’s morning assortment. One Olive Snail and one Ginger Pear Scone later, I’m outside pondering my array of Sunny Day San Francisco options.  It’s been about 6 months now of chasing the playground of opportunities that arise when my dear Sun graces us with her presence.  On a day like this, this 7×7 mile chunk is filled with mini paradises.  It amazes me that by the end of this day, I will have felt as if I visited an exotic location, when in fact I simply hopped on my bike and rode a few miles from the comfort of my Mission apartment.

So here we are.  Some of my favorite adventures for those rare and glorious days when you get to live a cliche, as the Sun actually does warm your cheek in the morning, letting you know She’s waiting if you’d only get your ass outside.

SUNNY DAY SAN FRANCISCO

Wildflowers in the apartment

Pick Wildflowers at Sutro Tower

Click for map

Find a friend with a Scooter.  Best tip for this one.  Getting up to the top where Sutro Tower sits, and where lovely wildflowers bloom year round, is worth the journey, but much more pleasant when not gasping for breath.  Also, don’t pick too many, just enough for a small bouquet will more than satisfy your need to bring nature into your apartment.  Finally, windy is an understatement up here (notice the pictures below).

Sutro Tower, Living in San Francisco, Moving to San Francisco, The Castro, Gay Pride

View of Sutro Tower (where your headin’) from the Castro


Sutro Tower, Living in San Francisco, Moving to San Francisco, Things to do in San Francisco

Urban Hike in Bernal Heights

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My favorite quickie way to feel awed by this city.  Easy hike up from the Mission.  Don’t miss the Bernal Slides (like the Castro Slides) hidden in the winding hike through the neighborhood on your way up.  I’ll let you discover this path for yourself, as it is part of the fun.

Bernal Hill, Bernal Heights, San Francisco, San Francisco Living, Moving to San Francisco

View from top of Bernal Hill looking toward the Financial District

Bernal Hill, Bernal Heights, San Francisco, San Francisco Living, Moving to San Francisco

Find Solitude at Fort Baker

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Fort Baker provides one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but without the swarm of tourists.  There is a quaint little harbor, marina, and yatch club, all a bit scruffy and all a bit lovely.  If you can get off mid-week, you will probably see 0-3 people here in the span of a few hours.  Hike around to get close to the water, and you have the chance to see tiger sharks, crabs, and other sea wonders that the cold Bay waters support.

San Francisco, Things to do in San Francisco, Living in San Francisco, Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands

Crossing Golden Gate through the fog

Fort Baker, San Francisco, California, Sunny Day San Francisco

Solitude in San Francisco

Fort Baker, San Francisco, California, Sunny Day San Francisco Fort Baker, San Francisco, California, Sunny Day San Francisco

Play in the Sutro Bath Ruins at Ocean Beach

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It may not be the kind of ruins that Rome and Greece or Peru and Mexico boast, but they are ruins nonetheless!  This used to be a natural bath house fueled by the tides and power of the Pacific.  Sounds like a great investment to rebuild if you ask me……..

After clambering around the ruins and caves, grab a hot cocoa or grilled cheese at Louis, a fabulous little spot serving up classic american dinner gr sitting over the baths for the last 75 years.  There is the fancier Cliffhouse down the road a bit, but for a casual experience with an equally great view, Louis is the way to go.  But hey, I skew towards the rougher, scruffier, and hence, cheaper options.

Sutro Baths, Sunny Day San Francisco, San Francisco, CaliforniaSutro Baths, Sunny Day San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Have a Beach Bonfire in the Presidio

Click for (a general but not exact) map

All I will say, is that there is a Secret Spot off the Legion of Honor in the Presidio, where you can have a huge bonfire, see Golden Gate from the city-side, get a clearer sky than you thought possible just minutes from the downtown of one of the biggest cities in the world, and feel like you are camping in a San Francisco of decades ago.  It’s Secret only because it is as of yet fairly undiscovered, and although I would like to keep it that way, I do encourage those who are interested to set out towards this part of the Presidio.  Perhaps your Secret Spot will prove even more beautiful than mine (although I doubt it).

San Francisco, Sunny Day San Francisco, The Presido, Bonfire

Plethera of Starfish

San Francisco, Sunny Day San Francisco, The Presido, Bonfire

Hike down to the Secret Spot

San Francisco, Sunny Day San Francisco, The Presido, Bonfire, Golden Gate Bridge

Venture out through the surf and climb up one of the big rocks to get this view of Golden Gate

San Francisco Living: Part I

So the trend continues.  Every 8 months, another city, another move.  This time?  San Francisco.  I had heard it quite a few times when I mentioned I was moving there, “Oh you are sooooo San Francisco.”  Nice sentiment I suppose, but not the most helpful of responses.  Isn’t San Francisco one of the biggest, most recognizable, iconic cities in, oh I don’t know…the World??  Well, to find out what that meant, I up and moved.  And shall now present some of the memorable (and helpful?) things I took away from this seriously unique city.

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THE MOVE

Step 1:  Surviving the Apartment Trenches

I’ll keep this next bit short, because you will find all this out soon enough the day you cross the Bay Bridge and enter “The City.”

Fist thing to know when you move to San Francisco: YES, finding an apartment is as hard as they say.  YES, it is as expensive as they say.  Take it in to your heart, let it settle there, then release it.  You won’t find inner peace (at least in this city) until this fact is just part of your SF armor.  It doesn’t have to been this second, but the sooner, the happier.

Do what we all do, open up that computer (that you obviously have since you’ve chosen to live in a city that shuns those without…and those without iPhones.  Believe me, I attempted a month with no phone and was hard pressed to get any solidly encouraging response from anyone.  A tale for another time) and jump on the ole’ Craigslist.  Sublets and temporary housing are great options that can often turn into long-term situations.  Filter by neighborhood (see below) if that’s your gig, or price.  But let thee be warned, being picky isn’t going to get you far.  Write personalized emails that show your personality and that you’ve taken the time to get a sense of what they are looking for.  Hit send, and get. out. the. door.  Be prepared for lots of people at open houses.  Have a positive attitude.  And don’t forget the most important resource:  friends.  You’d be surprised if you throw a wide enough net saying you are moving to the city, who might be able to connect you with a friend of a friend of an aunt’s brother who has that killer room opening up in North Beach.  Miracles do happen my friends.

Step 2:  The Neighborhood Game

Some might place this before apartment hunting, but either way it is good to start knowing your hoods around here.  People in San Francisco love to talk about them, as if each of the neighborhoods are themselves their own little cities.  And actually, there is some truth to this.  Two great neighborhood guides can be found at The Bold Italic (great resource for what’s happenin’ in SF), and Airbnb’s San Francisco Neighborhood Guide  (Airbnb is also a great option for temporary housing while you are looking for a permanent spot).  There are some who move to the city and know exactly where they want to be and get an apartment there.  Great.  Some, like myself, fall into the neighborhood and find it fits.  Everyone has their opinion, but I’ll let you get out there and wander the streets for yourself.  I personally live in The Mission District, and jive quite well with it.

The Women's Building in the Mission District

The Women’s Building in the Mission District

The Mission has all that I need.  It’s flat.  It’s sunny.  Both of which is like finding a bright yellow unicorn in the middle of San Francisco.  It has every kind of delicious food you can possibly imagine.  Two of my favorites are Pakwon for BYOB Indian Food and Sunflower for delicious Vietnamese Pho — both on the corners of 16th & Valencia.  It has Dolores Park, where every kind of weirdness takes place under the sun (be ready for the Mushroom Man).  Think of it as the neighborhood’s Living Room, where you just lounge with friends, smoke, drink, read, hula-hoop, eat, sleep, be merry, and be yourself. Art is also everywhere here — especially on the street.  From graffiti to live music, you never know what will be the visual or auditory treat of the day.  I happen to live on Clarion Alley, which I will just say is worth a stroll down.  And finally, I will admit it….. Yes, it’s hipster here.  There’s no escaping it.  But it also maintains the latin roots it inherited from the 1940s-60’s influx of Mexican immigrants, and then the later 1980’s-90’s Central and South American refugees.  Take your pick — walk down Valencia Street for boutiques, mustaches, fixies, hour long lines for craft ice cream at BiRite, and the likes, then cruise just one little block over to Mission Street for full blown churches inside open street side rooms all in spanish, the best burrito you’ll ever have, and very little of the English language.  To me a little hipster, well, okay…a lot hipster, is stomachable for all the weird, scruffy, tasty, and delightful wonder that is this neighborhood.  Oh, the Mission, how you feed my soul…and stomach.

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Ice cream delights and people watching at sunny Dolores Park

 

Well, hopefully I have begun the whet your appetite for moving to this city.  This is an incredibly small taste of what living here is like, but it’s some of what I learned in the first month or so of getting here.  Welcome to San Francisco, and don’t worry, none of us are from around here either.