San Francisco, CA
Another fine morning and another fine breakfast at ‘The Home Plate’. Far fewer customers than yesterday, which means it must be a local Sunday treat for some. Never mind, we’ll be back tomorrow, but for the last time.
Today the plan was to follow another of the popular guided tours but doing it ourselves at our pace instead of the ‘all on: all off’ of the tours. Also at $49 each these tours are hardly cheap when we have a car sat idle. Anyway first trip out was to Muir Woods, which is right next to Mount Tamalpais State Park and the closest giant redwood forest to San Francisco. It’s about 11 miles from our motel north along Hwy 101, which means it’s over the Golden Gate Bridge, yay! I’ve already crossed it twice in a tour coach, but does it count if you can’t see it? So it was straight out over the bridge, trying to take in the views whilst not accidentally changing lanes (very tricky) amongst quite heavy traffic. From the bridge it was off at Hwy.1 and follow the frequent signposts. No bother to do. Hwy.1 is quite narrow and twisty and has speed signs for 25mph and even 15mph bends. I couldn’t but reflect that the average New Zealander would be taking the road at about 60mph with the cellphone in one hand and probably a coffee cup in the other.
Even though we were early at the woods, we ended up quite a long way back in the parking lot. It felt like there was going to be a lot of people there, which is not so good. However, once we’d paid our 5 dollars at the entrance station the car park noise and people quickly thinned out as we entered the redwood forest proper. Apparently redwood trees are the tallest living things, and some of the trees in these woods were over 250 feet tall and 1000 years old. The trails through the woods were easily accessible boardwalk paths, a bit like we saw in the Kauri forest in New Zealand. However instead of one walk there was a choice of routes ranging from the shortest 25-min walk to longer 3 and 4 hour walks. I was determined to get out to the so-called Cathedral Grove which is the largest single stand of trees and actually on one of the shorter routes. It’s also where an international meeting was held that brought to life the idea behind the United Nations at the end of the second world war. The woods were beautifully looked after and there were a small army of rangers and volunteers flitting hither and thither with barrows of tools and soil and seedlings off to do some maintenance somewhere. It’s also unusual as they don’t allow pets or even food and drink into the woods. They take it pretty seriously. The trees themselves – well, words don’t really do them justice. One one hand it’s just a lot of very big trees, but on the other it’s a kind of spiritual place. They do a nice hot chocolate at the ranger station as well!
From Muir Woods we returned a different way under a blazing Californian sun round the mountainside and back on to Hwy. 1 to Sausalito. This is a very posh little town full of yachts and mansions overlooking the city from the other side of the bay. The main street runs along the foreshore of Ric*******s Bay and is lined with little cafes and shops selling more upmarket tat than you’d find at Fisherman’s Wharf. The views across the bay were also pretty stunning. The whole town if famous for it’s artist community, many who used to live afloat in the marina. Alas I think the town is a victim of it’s own success because most of the boats there now are more likely to be owned by dot.com millionaires than Bohemian artists. We spent the afternoon here, inc. a late lunch at a little cafe where I tipped the waitress entirely too much purely because of her resemblance to Keira Knightley. I wonder how many others do the same?
Eventually we left Sausalito and allowed Jane the SatNav girl to take control for the first time today. She got us back across the bridge very quickly indeed (requiring a $6 toll fee this time for southbound traffic) but I’m afraid I have to report that she threw a hissy fit after she brought us down Lombard Street southwards. The trouble is Lombard Street has a median with trees and bushes in and our motel can only be accessed going northwards… She went very quiet as I sailed helplessly past. I got her out of her mess by doing a U-ey 2 blocks down. Girls and maps, eh?
Tomorrow afternoon we fly out of ‘fall’ in sunny San Francisco to winter in cold and rainy England. Been a long journey and a lot of miles – something like 31,000 km so far and another 9,000-odd tomorrow. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.