Even without the parents San Francisco was still a city we would have gone out of our way to visit, but the parents made it a whole lot easier by renting a downtown hotel with parking for the Hulk. Without the hotel it would have meant day trips into the city and not quite as many libations.
On route into the city we decided to test our newly downloaded GPS app Skobbler GPS Nav. Skobbler utilizes open source maps, and relies on user input. We had read fantastic reviews of the app, so decided to invest. The App itself was a whopping $0.99 and to buy access to the full world (cheapest way to go if visiting multiple countries) was $7.99, so for a total of $8.98 we should be all set for the rest of this trip. This is a fraction of the cost of Garmin maps, and is actually considered more accurate in many of the countries we will be visiting.
As a test we set both skobbler and our Garmin to take us to the Muir Woods National Monument just outside San Fran. Both devices gave the same information, therefore both devices seemed bound and determined to take me down the narrowest of streets in what felt like completely the wrong direction. Eventually as both ladies* requests I make a 160 degree turn in a road inches wider than the Hulk, we gave in and asked a local. Both devices it turns out were lost, we later consulted our paper maps and found that they took us off the highway 1 exit too early. So it would seem that Skobbler is just as good or bad as it’s more expensive counterpart. We have used it subsequently and found it to be very effective, the one weakness it seems to have is exact street addresses, it seems to have a tendency to overshoot by several hundred meters**, a pretty small issue especially when you consider the value for money, will continue to test, but so far would say this is a must for anyone (not just overlanders) looking for a GPS on their phone or tablet.
We did eventually make it to Muir Woods Forest, home of giant redwoods, and had a good wander around, the size and the age of these trees is staggering. They predate Columbus landing in America by up to 600 years, that any living organism can survive to long is mind-boggling, even numerous forest fires often only leave the behemoths with mere scars. These reflections were cut short by the influx of multiple tour buses, to have a degree of solitude arrive before 9am.
Leaving the giant trees behind we headed towards another giant of sorts, the Golden Gate Bridge, I didn’t expect it to be such a cool experience, it is just a means of crossing water after all, but I had a grin plastered across my face for its full expanse. We continued on into the city to our hotel in the Cow Hollow neighbourhood. Arriving at the hotel we were a tad worried as the specified clearance was a few inches to low but a visual inspection and Heather’s insistence to the front desk that they move the pylons and free up a staff space meant that the Hulk had a lovely home for the next three nights.
Our first afternoon was spent eating lunch in Fisherman’s Wharf and wandering the surrounding neighbourhoods, which included a stop at the “Windy” street. I honestly cannot fathom why it would have been built this way, it is ridiculous, but I am quite sure that it was not, as another tourist suggested built as tourist attraction.
Our second day in the city started with Alcatraz. Not sure why an old prison on a little island interested me so much, but I certainly wasn’t alone the tours fill up months in advance, and our early morning sailing was no exception. The waters were calm and the views across the city scape and the Golden Gate Bridge were as unfoggy as San Francisco gets. Once you are on the island you can take any boat back so book an early boat if you want to make a day of it. We wandered the grounds for a while before heading into the main cell block to take the audio tour. The tour has won numerous awards and is included in the cost if your ticket. It is narrated by a former prison guard, and also includes the recollections of several other prison guards and inmates. Telling tales of the prisons conditions, daily life and of course the escape attempts, ranging from the elaborate to the violent. It was fascinating, and well worthy of the acclaim.
We were back on the mainland for the early afternoon, and headed across to the Hyde Street cable car stop. Riding one of these things should be on everyone’s to do list, sure the line was really long to get on one, at around 40 minutes but worth it. I chose to ride on the running boards hanging off the side, as did Heather’s parents, we ended the ride at Union Square, and as we hopped off Heather’s Mum and I had big grins on our faces. We then made our way to the 21st Amendment brew pub to try a few beers and grab a bite before heading to watch a ballgame.
San Francisco Giants are good team and seem to be a lock for the post season. Oddly it was bring your dog to the ballpark night, and was only made odder by the fancy dress competition before the game. The stadium is fantastic and has views across the bay, I would imagine it would be very easy to get hit by a foul ball while being distracted. The Giants prevailed over the Brewers, I think if the Jays don’t make it the Giants will be my fall back team.
Our last day was spent poking around Height Asbury, stopping off at Toronado a beer lovers paradise. Too many beers on tap to count, and a bathroom worthy of visiting just to read the graffiti, highlights include;
“The barman is not rude, you are just a p@$$y”
“The beer here is great” another patron responded with “it’s better at the bar”
Finally that evening we met up with Heather’s cousin David and his wife Kristen, the 8 of us then went for a delicious fish supper.
Next up Big Sur
*The skobbler lady seems altogether more patient and less curt, but this could be because she has only just started directing us, and is not aware if our propensity to disregard all her input.
** So far this has been the case in California and Baja (spoiler alert we are in Baja)