"Back on the Road..."
Day Five, Friday – San Francisco:

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The Route of Day Five Once again I awoke at dawn and went for a little walk. Nothing near us was open - and there were no handy rivers to visit - so I basically just wandered around and admired the oaks and wildflowers that were growing on lots not yet converted to "Starbucks" and condos.

A little later in the morning found us both awake in Rocklin and on the road...comfortably early. Soon we were zooming west along the 80 again, heading for San Francisco.

After you pass through Sacramento, the land surrounding the 80 for a good many miles is a big flat series of farms, orchards and wetlands. It's easy to tell that the difference between "Sea Level" and "Current Altitude" can be measured in fractions of a foot - and the sole reason you're not driving through beach-front property is that the Sacramento River dumps a lot of silt.

Eventually, though, the river curves to the south and the 80 begins to climb (very) slightly into the hills that surround San Francisco Bay. At about this point, we started looking for a fruit stand (dozens of which we had passed earlier...of course) as Dee Dee and I were feeling a bit peckish and San Francisco was still a good few miles away.

We pulled off just past Vacaville when a sign declared there was just such a stand at the next offramp. Unfortunately, if there was such, it was very cleverly hidden, because after a good ten minutes of driving around, we decided that "finding it" was a hopeless cause.

We did, however, find the park that holds the "Vaca-Peña Adobe."

We stopped for a while to investigate and stretch our legs. The adobe (and park) sit in a small valley, surrounded by green hills. The park is filled with tall oaks and other trees and the adobe itself (built in 1845 and - surprisingly - still owned by descendants of the original family) is long and narrow, maybe ten rooms maximum.

Vaca-Peña Adobe It also wasn't open for viewing when we were there - so we were reduced to peering through the windows.

Following our "peer," we walked about the park for a while, enjoying the nice day, the green grass, and the noisy, noisy bugs...

...we don't know exactly what was making all the noise - we never saw any of the insects in question - but the surrounding air was solid with a loud buzzing insectile hum everywhere in that park (and possibly beyond - we couldn't tell you).

It was a strange sound, too, as no matter which way you faced, it was always coming at you from the left and right sides, you could never hear it from directly in front of you. I don't mean that, as you turned to face the sound, it stopped like you disturbed the bugs or something (I'm pretty sure they were high up in the trees and wouldn't be disturbed by anything we did anyway), it was just as if the sound moved around you as you moved - like you were hearing it though headphones.

Weird effect.

Legs stretched out - and listening to bugs paling - we got back in the car and headed off once more towards San Francisco. Somewhere around noon-ish, we're crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge and finally entering the town.

Next trick: Finding a place to eat.

This is surprisingly difficult. Now, San Francisco is just stuffed with restaurants, big and small. Unfortunately, it lacks any place to park near those restaurants - or, indeed, anywhere at all (this is the city that invented the term "hydroparking" to describe the fact that every single fire hydrant has a car parked in front of it at night - illegal or no). However, I happened to know that there was parking - in structures - next to Fisherman's Wharf...for obvious reasons. The tricky bit then was making our way from where we got off the freeway to Fisherman's Wharf through the convoluted grid that is San Francisco.

There are an alarming number of "you can't get there from here" roads, all the roads are packed and signage is...problematical. Still, I knew that the Muni "F Line" ran along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf and since I'm a trolley nut, I could find that...

...and follow the tracks (and classic trolleys that Muni runs on that line) all the way to Fisherman's Wharf, a parking structure, and Pier 39...

Pier 39 and Muni Pier 39 is - essentially - a mall stretched out along the length of the pier. Going by the (rather confusing) signs at the entranced to the parking structure, we thought we had two-hours worth of time with a validation (which we'd have as we'd be eating there), so we wandered across the pedestrian bridge to the pier and checked out the directory to see what places there were to eat. There were actually rather a lot, but we ended up right at the end of the pier at the Sea Lion Cafe.

Why? Well, because it overlooks the napping sea lions, that's why. World Famous Sea Lions Cam

Down in the little harbor area next to the pier are dozens of small floating platforms meant to tie boats up at. But ever since the big quake back in '89, these platforms have been taken over by sea lions who use them as resting places (they're now officially "World Famous Sea Lions," BTW).

We had a good lunch, got our parking ticket validated, watched the sea lions nap (and occasionally fight one-another for a good napping place) and also watched as the fog swirled around the Golden Gate and Alcatraz. We were in the clear, but stuff to the west of us was now totally socked-in.

Sea Lions SleepingDee Dee watching them sleep
FogMore fog

After lunch, we did a slow stroll back down the pier, checking out the shops. Then picked up the pace a bit to get back to the car before our two-hours of validated parking were up...

...only to find that - due to arcane and ill-posted rules - our validation didn't actually count for two-hours parking, but instead only one, and we had to pay almost seven bucks for that "extra" hour...

Annoyingly poorer but well fed, we got back into the car and I started to try and work out how to get over to the Pacific Coast Highway going south. This is trickier than it sounds, due to SF's maze-like street pattern and my need to work from the small "close up" map of San Francisco in the corner of my California map, but eventually we got onto Market and started heading south-east.

Market eventually went from straight to squiggle as it started climbing the hills to the west - then turned itself into Portola, which morphed into Junipero Serra heading due south...

...and that connected to the 1, which then started to curve towards the coast.

Now, at this point the plan was that we'd head down the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Cruz. Why? Well, it's darn scenic and I haven't been on that particular stretch of the 1 for fifteen, twenty years now - and never with Dee Dee.

So we were going to do this nice scenic drive - right up until we hit Pacifica.

Okay, we knew there was fog rolling in - heck, like I said, we were watching it do so as we had lunch - but I personally had just hoped that said fog didn't run all that far down the coast from the Golden Gate. Or at least, that it wasn't too thick and all encompassing if it did...

...well, it was.

Pacifica was inside of a white cloud. Worse - from our viewpoint - the ocean, only a few hundred feet away from where we pulled off, was completely invisible. The hill/mountainsides above the town were completely invisible. Heck, the highway wasn't visible more than a few hundred feet in any direction and it had lights.

Unfortunately, "invisible" and "scenic" are two terms that just don't go together well.

Add in the fact that it is a rather squiggly road we would be driving on (not seeing scenery) while other cars zoomed by in the thick fog without a care in the world (which they do) - and suddenly we made a quick change of direction...

Turning around, we headed back a couple of miles and then turned back onto the 101 heading south. The 101 through here runs along a long narrow-ish valley - otherwise known as the San Andreas Fault - with large chunks of urban interspaced with even larger chunks of farmland, parkland, and Stanford University.

We've been on the 101 through here many times (another reason for our original 1 plans), so it lacked the scenic potential we wanted - but, OTOH, the fog hadn't crossed over the mountains yet, so at least we could see how much scenery we...um...weren't looking at...


Temps went up a bit as we headed south. From "cool" (Dee Dee: "Cold") it got nearly to hot by the time we neared the outskirts of San Jose and turned off on the 17 towards Santa Cruz.

The 17 is in theory a freeway for much of its length. That is, like a lot of Northern California highways, it's posted as "Freeway" for long chunks in between "offramps" - which are actually at-grade crossings - at which point there's a "End Freeway" sign until those crossings are...crossed. Then there's a "Begin Freeway" sign until the next crossing.

Oh. And the road is a meandering, narrow strip with railings/walls about a foot from your car on one side and other cars about a foot away on the other (and this is on a Honda!).

Or, IOW, it's pretending to be a freeway. This is probably some funding scam or another (like L.A. declaring the 105 to be a "feeder" for the 5 to get Federal Interstate Funds for it - in spite of the fact that this "feeder" doesn't actually directly connect to the 5 anywhere), but in spite of its lack of any real freeway-ness, people on it are driving it like it was. It doesn't help that this is the most direct route to Santa Cruz for those coming from the north, so traffic is rather heavy.

Surprisingly, though, we got safely through to Santa Cruz, then went looking for a motel.

This was somewhat difficult, as I'd gotten off the wrong offramp (at least they were actual offramps again) and Santa Cruz can be maze-like if you don't know where you're going (or really, where you are - I lacked a Santa Cruz map. I believe I've mentioned this trip was somewhat lacking in planning...).

It took a while, but we finally found a place to sleep for the night. Then - much to our annoyance - we discovered that in the intervening years since our 2001 Road Trip, the "Pontiac Grill" had bit the big one. We were so disappointed, in fact, that we just picked up some fast-food burgers for dinner and called it a night.

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