Day 1. Sunday, December 12, 2021.
We left our condominium at 5:00 am using Uber to drive to Milwaukee General Mitchell Airport to travel to San Francisco International Airport. Our Delta flight had a stopover in the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota to change planes. We elected to fly Delta Comfort to enjoy extra legroom as it prevents the passengers in front from reclining their seat into our faces. We appreciate this upgrade on both the outbound and return journeys. We had a special good fortune on the Milwaukee to Minneapolis leg in that we received a free upgrade to first class. What a way to start the vacation, for our 25 days in California.
UberX 4:43 am New Berlin, 5:03 am Milwaukee 15.21 miles, 19 minutes
I received an early morning text message from Audrey. I thought that it was my youngest granddaughter. On closer inspection, I discovered that she was our Uber driver. Using the Uber app, I was able to track her route to our condominium including her nearby wrong turn. Audrey was delighted to have as a driver sharing with us that she has four children and three of them have graduated from university, with the youngest completing high school in the summer. The small SUV was equipped with plastic screens between the driver and passengers to protect us from getting a COVID infection, or us infecting Audrey. We have been fully Pfizer vaccinated and boosted, so that was unlikely to happen. I cannot deny that I was concerned that by reserving a ride so early in the morning, no one would show up, but I was impressed with her and Uber’s professionalism. We arrived at the airport early and passed through security screening quickly. The Delta Airlines boarding agent advised that the flight to Minneapolis was near empty, so we received free upgrades to first class.
We were seated in the first row of this Airbus 321 for our flight to Minneapolis. Watching the flight attendants working, I was wondering what is going through their minds as they started their day. With the coronavirus a reality, wearing masks in the Uber, airports, aircraft, and hotels are mandatory. Today we established a record in that we wore our N95 mask for 12 hours continuously. The flying time to Minneapolis is 1 hour 23 minutes. The flying distance is 300 miles (480 kilometers).
Thus far in the US this year there have been over 5,500 incidents on flights with passengers refusing to comply with the mask-wearing mandate. In one extreme situation, a passenger punched a flight attendant in the mouth, removing two of her teeth. That passenger is barred for life from flying on any aircraft in the US. Several flights have been diverted to airports to remove aggressive passengers. One flight from Miami to London turned around after one hour in the air when a passenger in first class refused to wear her mask. All other passengers were booked on other flights. Any passenger causing trouble on an aircraft will lose any TSA (Transportation Security Administration) privileges they may have if they can ever fly again. I paid for a TSA frequent traveler pass so do not have all the security checks such as removing my shoes, belt, removing my computer, and other electronic devices from my backpack.
An elderly man sitting across the aisle from me wears his mask below his nose. An idiot who refuses to comply with current mandatory rules and regulations. For most of the flight, this same idiot later removed his mask. Likely an ardent Trump supporter, and a Republican who all clearly understands that this COVID virus is a hoax perpetrated by Democrats. We are requested to wear our masks, and if being served food, drinks, or a snack, to only remove our masks as soon as the flight attendant has moved past our row, and to replace the mask again once we have finished eating.
Our flight out of Minneapolis was delayed by 10 minutes due to a flight attendant arriving late for work. The flight utilized a Boeing 737-900 ER, accommodating 180 passengers. Flying time to San Francisco International Airport is 4 hours 9 minutes, 2,870 miles, or 4,522 kilometers. On this flight, we gained two hours due to time zone changes, from Central Time to Pacific Time. I was offered an upgrade to first class. I declined because they only had a single seat available, and I thought it unfair not to travel with Linda.
Having woken up at 3:00 am to shower and pack the last few items before the drive to the airport, we had no time for breakfast. By the time it got to 10:30 am while flying to San Francisco, I had hoped to get a meal on the flight. No such luck. We were fed snacks with a choice of baked cheese treats, chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, water, a fruit drink, Coke, Sprite, or coffee.
Today is our first flight since our dramatic departure from Cape Town to New York on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, catching the last flight out of South Africa due to the coronavirus. I find it interesting to see the subtle changes provided during the flight. Previously trash would be collected using carts where recyclables were stacked on top, and trash was dispensed into bags within the cart. Now the flight attendants use large plastic bags, and everything is dumped into them, carts are no longer in use. I have no idea if the contents are sorted after landing to separate the recyclables from trash.
Taking a quick walk to the toilet, I estimate that the flight is about 75% full. Linda used her flight time to listen to podcasts and read. I did absolutely nothing, except nap occasionally and add content to this blog. Relaxing. Today was unique in that I elected not to wear my hearing aids. They tend to conflict when wearing a mask and glasses, so I dispensed with them for the day. We were only born with one pair of ears and there is just so much that you can hang on them! In the unlikely event that you remove your mask, the mask often unhooks the hearing aid. I lost one on a drive home from Florida in March, and it cost me dearly to purchase another pair.
Our motivation to travel to San Francisco is to support our daughter Robyn, her husband Darin, and 14-year-old identical twins Olivia and Isabel relocating to the Bay area. The family left yesterday for a new position after Robyn started working remotely from home on October 18, 2021. Eight years ago, Robyn and Darin built their home in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, a 20-minute drive from our condominium. They had no difficulty selling their magnificent home. After 18 years with her former company, fresh opportunities were presented to them. Robyn was one of 4.2 million workers in the USA who quit their jobs in October 2021 to search for new and better opportunities. In addition, 4.3 million Americans left their jobs in October, and an additional 4.4 million resigned in September, 4.5 million in November, and 4.3 million in December. The period became known as “The Big Quit” or “Great Resignation of 2021.” Darin continues to work from their California home for his Wisconsin-based company, 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) away with two-time zone differences. It requires Darin to begin working at 6:00 am in California. The twins will take a test tomorrow, Monday, at their new school to determine their best-suited class. Their new school year quarter begins on January 5, 2022.
February 1, 2022, update. Employers reported some 10.9 million job openings in a survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, well above pre-pandemic averages. Parents scrambled to navigate their work lives as schools and daycares closed due to growing virus cases. Employees grappled with sudden outbreaks at work, with little of the social safety net protections or pandemic-controlling measures that helped cushion the blow from earlier waves. And the vaccine-evading omicron variant shook the nation’s confidence that a future without the virus was on the near horizon. These forces magnified the desire for many workers to quit their jobs. At least 4 million workers resigned each month during the second half of 2021, with many of them departing to find work that had better pay, better benefits or more flexible schedules. That shortage has meant that many companies have been racing to compete with each other for workers, raising wages, adding cash bonuses, and sweetening the pot in other ways to try to attract applicants. And that in turn has created a climate for workers to have more leverage and options than at perhaps any other time in recent history. Nick Bunker, an economist at the jobs site Indeed.com, said that the data showed that the omicron did not have a big effect on demand for workers in December. “It really paints this picture of a job-switching boom,” he said. Industries with the highest levels of workers quitting or leaving for other jobs in December were accommodation and food services, with 6.1 percent of workers quitting, retail (with 4.9 percent quitting), trade, transportation, and utilities (3.8 percent), and professional and business services (3.7 percent).
The Fisherman’s Wharf is located in the north of San Francisco. The map has a point to the Marriott Hotel where Robyn, Darin, and their family stayed. It is immediately alongside the Marriott Pulse where we stayed.
Linda and I checked into a timeshare at the Marriott Vacation Club Pulse, San Francisco, located in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Our “home” timeshare is in Palm Beach Shores, Florida. We exchanged for this Bay area facility convenient to Robyn and her family until they moved into their home after their furniture and vehicles arrived. Robyn and Darin have job responsibilities. Our task will be to entertain the twins. They will be residing at the San Francisco Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf, across the street from the Pulse.
Some features of this hotel fascinate me. The shower, or bath if that is what you select, has limited settings to control the temperature of the water dispensed. It uses Goldilocks settings. Neither too hot nor too cold, just right. We found a way to make incremental adjustments. The washbasin water has almost no pressure. You run a weak stream of either hot or cold water or mix the two. Here my mind wandered to the water shortage crisis facing California. Preserve water at all costs. I am not insensitive. I was in Cape Town during their drastic water shortage in 2018 when the six storage dams almost ran dry leaving nearly five million people without water. The little water available had to be used very sparingly.
From Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov’d him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,
Quite vanquish’d him: then burst his mighty
heart. . . .”
And now for my unkindest cut of all. We purchased our timeshare in 1998 and have stayed in many locations across the US over the years, including in the Caribbean and Hawaii. Over time we have become accustomed to the facilities and comfort provided. Our home timeshare has some unique features not shared by all vacation spots. In Palm Beach Shores, Florida, we have a one-week platinum unit that comes with two adjoining rooms. A lock-off that we can use for a week, followed by the main unit for the following week. A great escape from Wisconsin’s winters. If we travel with one of our children and their family, we let them stay in the main unit while we stay in the lock-off. The lock-off has a double bed, kitchen, refrigerator, and freezer, together with crockery and eating utensils. Also provided is a bathroom with a shower. Sufficient to be very comfortable for a week. The interleading main unit has all the comforts of the lock-off but in addition has a lounge with sleeper beds, a bigger kitchen, and a washer and dryer.
Sadly, the Pulse must be rated as the least desirable we have ever had the pleasure of staying after the many years where our expectations have been established. At the Pulse, we have two queen beds, (a king bed is optionally available) a bathroom with a shower, hardly any storage space, and no appliances such as a microwave. We have a small refrigerator but no freezer, and no cutlery or crockery. It will be our home through December 22. The Pulse does not have a restaurant. They provide laundry machines and dryers in a community area.
The wallpaper on the predominant wall in the bedroom is interesting. It took us a while to appreciate that it is artistic because the initial impression was that the wall was covered in fungus. It had us inspect closely. Equally strange are the big Dock sign, and the metal wardrobe. On the plus side, the Pulse has a terrific location in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco, convenient to innumerable restaurants, stores, public transport, and tourist attractions. We plan to make the best of what we have. To be honest, the longer we stayed here, the more we accepted the resort for what it had to offer. There is an internal courtyard where guests can relax. On the wall where we exit and enter is a large mural.
We discovered a Trader Joe’s, a three-minute walk from the Pulse where we shopped for food. We shop at Trader Joe’s near our condominium in Wisconsin and love the food they provide, including prepared meals. That will be our cuisine selection while staying at the Pulse.
Since we have been awake since 1:00 am California time, and it is currently 2:30 pm, we needed food and the Pulse recommended Cioppino’s a few blocks from here. Linda ordered clam chowder soup in a bread bowl, and I had a grilled chicken sandwich. I can say without contradiction that it was a fantastic meal. Expensive, but delicious. That is what led us to plan on Trader Joe’s so that we will not bankrupt ourselves while here, and stock up on food and fruit including apples and bananas.
It is obvious in a dramatic manner that we are in California. Before we enter a restaurant, we must show our Covid vaccination cards and entry without a mask is forbidden. Another party tried to enter at the same time as we were, and they were blocked from access because one elderly gent did not have proof of vaccination. Sadly, in the Milwaukee area, this type of mandate cannot be enacted because the Republican-led State Government sees that as an infringement on our constitutional rights. A dead or desperately ill Wisconsinite versus keeping one-and-all safe and healthy. Our Wisconsin Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have soared to new heights in the past week now with the omicron variant adding too many people contracting the delta variants.
Sitting in the back seat of the Uber on the way to our timeshare from San Francisco International Airport, I was amazed by the number of Tesla’s on the road. California is truly a different state, very environmentally conscious.
I need to pay tribute to Jungi, our Uber driver. A Chinese American gentleman met us at the airport and transported us to the Pulse. It was a 30-minute ride, and I was most impressed with his safe driving abilities. As with Audrey, this morning, both drive for Uber and Lyft. Frankly, the way we were handing out cash for this ride-share service is not cheap, but less than rental plus parking, and the drivers know how to drive the cities to get us to our destination safely.
Robyn and their family met with us at their hotel for drinks in the evening in the restaurant. The twins were tired after their long day of sightseeing at all the essential visitor spots. We did not stay long, but it was great to catch up.
Day 2. Monday, December 13, 2021
We woke to rain showers after a great night’s sleep. We walked to a local Eight AM restaurant for breakfast. It has rave reviews online. Since I have not had bacon and eggs in eons, that is what Linda and I had together with toast and a fruit bowl. I look forward to a return visit. I keep having experiences that prove that I am not in Wisconsin. Before we could enter the restaurant, they wanted to see our vaccination certificates. To verify that you are not cheating, they then required a copy of your identity, in this case, a driver’s license, and verify the name on the identity matches the name on the vaccination card. California and businesses are taking the coronavirus seriously. We have never been checked at home. We walked to the wharf area passing numerous small shops selling all manner of merchandise and souvenirs that will appeal to visitors to the Bay area.
As the rain put in an appearance again, Linda and I purchased matching rain jackets off a rack at a store selling for $17 each. They were warm as well. By the way, a few days later we were walking near the Fisherman’s Wharf and a young girl saw us in our matching outfits and shrieked with glee. That was the first of several encounters we got.
We made our way to Trader Joe’s again and stocked up with meals and treats to end up spending a fortune at restaurants. I will admit to being puzzled. The news on TV currently is all about the concern for inflation reappearing in the country. There is no question in my mind that restaurant prices are higher than we are used to at home. Is it inflation, or California’s higher taxes and cost of living?
Most communities design their cities on a grid pattern with roads running north and south, and east and west. Since most readers have never been to or got lost in Waukesha, Wisconsin, you cannot appreciate a city where roads run in a confusion of directions, especially when you have diagonal streets cutting across the roads. We live in the county of Waukesha and visit that city occasionally. Traveling with a GPS is highly recommended.
I have had a similar experience walking around our Pulse hotel neighborhood. Roads are not built on a standard grid pattern, but then again, the bay and hills make that impossible. Diagonal roads help to add to the confusion. An additional observation is that this is a truly diverse and multicultural community. Impressively so. Another sign is that we are not in Milwaukee.
As the day progressed, as with the rain, we used the time in our room to read and write. Sad to see the number of homeless people. Often, they find a store that has closed and set up living in the doorway, protecting their meager possessions. It was like the experience we had in Florida earlier this year. There, the homeless live under bridges.
July 19, 2021. Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Historic Housing and Homelessness Funding Package as Part of $100 Billion California Comeback Plan. $12 billion investment over two years to tackle homelessness, the largest in state history, focuses on behavioral health housing and solutions to tent encampments. The package includes $5.8 billion to create more than 42,000 new homeless housing units, including housing options for people with severe mental health challenges. Aid for large cities, Continuums of Care, and counties with new, strict accountability measures. $10.3 billion in affordable housing funding to spur residential construction. “I know homelessness can be solved,” said Governor Newsom. “We are going all-in with innovative solutions that we know work.
Day 3. Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Linda and I together with the twins went on a “Painted Ladies Tour Company of San Francisco.” Painted Ladies Tour Company is a small family business, so Josh and his team take great pride in making sure guests feel well taken care of and have an awesome experience. They use eight VW buses (Kombi’s) with four of them identified as Pearl, 1968 VW Type 2 Transporter Bus named after the late great Janis Joplin. Poppy, 1975 VW Type 2 Transporter Bus, named after the California state flower, the Golden Poppy. Skye, 1971 VW Type 2 Transporter Bus named after California’s big blue skies. Buttercup 1974 VW Type 2 Transporter named after the California Buttercup.
Armando met us driving Buttercup. I asked how many miles the vehicle had traveled and was astounded to learn only 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers). I was surprised that the mileage was so low. Armando explained that the vehicle had been rebuilt with a Subaru Legacy engine. That made sense to me because the old VW and Subaru both use Porsche technology employing a horizontally opposed flat-four piston engine layout. Linda drove a Subaru Legacy.
Painted Ladies are Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings repainted, starting in the 1960s, in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. The term was first used for San Francisco Victorian houses by writers Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen in their 1978 book Painted Ladies: San Francisco’s Resplendent Victorians. Although polychrome decoration was common in the Victorian era, the colors used on these houses are not based on historical precedent.
San Francisco’s Painted Ladies are iconic. Here’s what it’s like to own one of them. An excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle. George Horsfall, the owner of the light blue Painted Lady with royal blue trim, invited three Chronicle journalists in for a tour. His mother, Catherine Sheehan Horsfall, bought the blue Painted Lady. He inherited it when she died in January 2021. The house itself is stunning throughout. Much of the interior is unchanged from its original design. But the tour gets truly meditative when we’re up on the top floor, looking out the small window directly underneath the peaked roof. A steady stream of tourists walks on the grass hill directly in front of the house. There’s no sound with the thick redwood walls and the window closed; in the darkened room the feeling is not exposure but invisibility.
Linda and I together with twins Olivia and Isabel were joined by a Greek couple visiting San Francisco for a few days to attend a Metallica concert. The guy is the chairman of the Metallica Greek fan club in Athens. He even taught us how to correctly pronounce the Greek word omicron. Armando provided a fascinating and highly informative nonstop commentary about San Francisco for three hours including six photo stops. We saw Lombard Street, Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, The Marina, Palace of Fine Arts, The Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square, The Haight-Ashbury, Twin Peaks, Castro District, The Mission, and Civic Center. I wish I could recall all the historical and current facts shared with us.
Russian Hill is a quaint, upscale residential community known for the famously crooked Lombard Street, a major tourist destination. Homes for sale in San Francisco, CA have a median listing home price of $1,395,000. There are 1,371 active homes for sale in San Francisco, which spend an average of 46 days on the market.
Union Square is the heartbeat of San Francisco itself — ever-changing, eternally celebrating, yet firmly rooted in its glorious past. Two years before the Gold Rush, in 1847, Jasper O’Farrell created a design for San Francisco, with Union Square as a public plaza. By the 1880s, it was a fashionable residential district, and in 1903, the towering Dewey Monument was added, topped by the bronze goddess Victory, modeled after Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, known for her enormous influence in the San Francisco art community. After the great earthquake of 1906, Union Square became San Francisco’s premier shopping district, and, by the 1930s, the site of the world’s first underground parking structure.
Chinatown is one of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in the U.S. Beyond iconic Dragon’s Gate, a bustling maze of streets and alleys brims with dim sum joints and other traditional eateries. Dim sum is a broad range of small Chinese dishes that are traditionally enjoyed in restaurants for brunch. We did not miss out and enjoyed this treat. Also found are herbalists, bakeries, souvenir shops, dark cocktail lounges, and karaoke bars. There are ornate temples, including the landmark Tin How, as well as the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum. Immigrants from China first arrived in the 1840s, driven by poverty, hunger, and harsh economic conditions in the southern part of China where most of them originated. Most Chinese immigrants entered California through San Francisco and found work in railroad construction, mining, and agriculture.
How S.F. Chinatown’s Dragon Gate came to be. It took decades of planning, a blueprint from a man who didn’t even live in the city, and a donation of ceramic tiles from the Republic of China before the familiar Dragon’s Gate entrance on Grant Avenue came into existence. Dragon Gate was first a twinkle in the eyes of the Chinatown Improvement Committee in 1956 when the group appointed by then-Mayor George Christopher looked to improve Chinatown’s foot traffic and business. The original plan presented to the San Francisco Art Commission was $50,000 to build the arch. But the committee turned down a similar plan for a gate marking the historic entrance to the Barbary Coast and lowered the pool of funds for Dragon Gate to $35,000. The winning design was created by Clayton Lee, a San Mateo resident. In total, it would cost $70,000 to build the gateway, which provided an alluring look at the colorful shops on Gant. Though the arch was completed in May 1970, it was not officially dedicated to the neighborhood until October of that year to allow Premier Chia Kan Yen of the Republic of China to attend. Some 3,000 people—and about 50 protesters—attended the ribbon cutting. The three-portal structure was a hit. After it was officially unveiled, tourists flocked to the base of Grant Avenue at Bush Street to take pictures with the symbolic entrance to Chinatown.
North Beach, a buzzy neighborhood steeped in Italian heritage, draws locals and tourists to its checked-tablecloth trattorias, coffee shops, and retro-flavored bars. The spirit of the Beat Generation can be felt at the storied City Lights bookstore and the memorabilia-filled Vesuvio Cafe bar. In Telegraph Hill the Filbert Steps offer a scenic hike to the iconic Coit Tower, with WPA-era murals and panoramic views.
The scenic Marina District, on the city’s northern shore, is known for its upbeat bars and restaurants. Fort Mason, a former military base, is a multifaceted arts complex and event space. A connected grassy park, called Marina Green, has a running and bike path and expansive views of Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and yachts on the water. The Palace of Fine Arts, dating back to 1915, is a neoclassical landmark.
Palace of Fine Arts which is in the Marina District of San Francisco, California is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition to exhibit works of art. Completely rebuilt from 1964 to 1974, it is the only structure from the Exposition that survives on site.
The Presidio, a 1,500-acre park on a former military post, is a major outdoor recreation hub. It has forested areas, miles of trails, a golf course, and scenic overlooks. Other highlights include grassy Crissy Field with Golden Gate Bridge views, Civil War-era Fort Point, and sandy Baker Beach. Historic buildings house the Walt Disney Family Museum, eateries, homes, and businesses like Lucasfilm, with its Yoda Fountain.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the 1.7 miles (2.7 km) strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of Francisco, California—the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula—to Marin County, carrying both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. It also carries pedestrian and bicycle traffic and is designated as part of U.S. Bicycle Route 95. Being declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of civil engineers, the bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and California. It was initially designed by engineer Joseph Strauss in 1917.
Golden Gate Park, is a large urban park consisting of 1,017 acres of public grounds. It is administered by the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, which began in 1871 to oversee the development of Golden Gate Park. By comparison, Central Park in New York City is only 843 acres.
Alamo Square is a residential neighborhood and park in San Francisco, in the Western Addition. Alamo Square Park, the neighborhood’s focal point and namesake consists of four city blocks at the top of a hill overlooking much of downtown San Francisco, with several large and architecturally distinctive mansions along the perimeter, including the “Painted Ladies“, a well-known postcard motif.
Haight-Ashbury Birthplace of the 1960s counterculture movement, Haight-Ashbury draws a lively, diverse crowd looking to soak up the historic hippie vibe. Upper Haight Street is a hodgepodge of vintage clothing boutiques, record shops, bookstores, dive bars, and casual, eclectic restaurants. Bordering Golden Gate Park, the neighborhood features many colorful, well-preserved Victorian homes, including the storied Grateful Dead House. Haight-Ashbury was once the home to revolutionaries, famous singers (including the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin), and other cult leaders.
Twin Peaks, named for a pair of 922-foot-high (281 meters) summits, is a remote residential neighborhood with modern homes densely packed on steep lots along winding streets. A grassy 64-acre hilltop park is a popular attraction, with its hiking trails leading up to wind-swept peaks and 360-degree views of the Bay Area. The triple pronged Sutro Tower antenna that soars over the neighborhood is a fixture in the skyline.
The Castro District, in Eureka Valley, is synonymous with gay culture. Revelers often spill onto the sidewalks at numerous bars, like Twin Peaks Tavern, whose floor-to-ceiling windows were revolutionary when they opened in 1972. The lavish Castro Theatre and the GLBT Historic Museum are also found here, as are homey restaurants and adult shops.
The Mission. Named for the 1776-built Mission Dolores, is an exuberant, evolving neighborhood with Latino roots and a hipster vibe. Old-school taquerias and eclectic live-music clubs mix with chef-driven eateries and craft cocktail lounges. There are also tattoo parlors, gourmet ice cream shops, and Dolores Park, a popular weekend hangout with skyline views. Vibrant murals line streets such as Clarion Alley.
Civic Center is distinguished by its many beaux arts-style government buildings and performing arts venues. City Hall, a sprawling 1915 landmark with a gold-leafed dome, anchors a complex that includes the elegant War Memorial Opera House, the Asian Art Museum, and a large plaza. Entertainment seekers choose from plays at historic theaters, and concerts at sleek spots such as Davis Symphony Hall and the SFJazz Center.
San Francisco has a population of 900,000. The Chinese population of San Francisco represents the single largest ethnic minority group with 21.4% of the population. Other major Asian groups include: Filipinos (4.5%), Vietnamese (1.6%), Japanese (1.3%), Asian Indians (1.2%), Koreans (1.2%), Thais (0.3%), Burmese (0.2%) and Cambodians (0.2%). The most common Hispanic groups include Mexicans (7.4%), Salvadoran (2.0%), Nicaraguan (0.9%), and Guatemalan (0.8%). The African American population is 6.1%. White Caucasians represent 42%. San Francisco is the 4th most populous city in California (behind Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose). San Francisco covers an area of about 47 square miles (121 square kilometers), with a population density of 19,150 people per square mile.
After our tour, we walked to the wharf to visit the Aquarium of the Bay. As luck would have it, we happen to arrive in time to watch a guide feeding River Otters. I was amazed by how tame they were. The guide would instruct them to dive into the water, toss food, or tell them to lie on a rock to feed them out of the water. To list all the fish we saw would be tedious but includes Sevengill Shark, Giant Pacific Octopus, Bat Ray, Sea Star, White Sturgeon, and Jellies to name a few. “Discover the beauty and diversity of Northern California aquatic life at Aquarium of the Bay. The Aquarium is home to more than 20,000 marine animals including sleek sharks and rays, secretive octopus, hypnotic jellyfish, sparkling anchovies, frolicking river otters, and many more.”
While visiting the Aquarium of the Bay, I took a photograph of this “noise.” I sent it to family and friends in South Africa distressed by the action of Shell Oil Company. Shell will be forced to halt oil exploration in vital whale breeding grounds along South Africa’s eastern coastline after a local court blocked the controversial project. The court order calls for an immediate halt to Shell’s seismic tests which involve blasting sound waves through the relatively untouched Wild Coast marine environment, which is home to whales, dolphins, and seals. The community campaigners behind the legal challenge welcomed the court’s decision as a victory for “voiceless” indigenous groups living near the coast which hold customary rights to undertake small-scale fishing in the area, as well as a cultural and spiritual connection to the ocean.
I need to share some observations, especially by comparison to life in Wisconsin. In San Francisco, they take the Covid virus very seriously. You cannot enter a building without first showing your vaccination certificates. We carry copies on our iPhones. And do not even think of going anywhere without your mask, especially indoors. I am aware that I have made this comment repeatedly, but with only a few days in this state and city, it bears repeating. So quite different from our Wisconsin experiences.
With a densely populated community, it amazes me to see that every inch of the roadway has cars parked in the street in the residential area. I remain impressed by the number of Tesla’s and Subaru’s for that matter. The quantity of eating places is quite overwhelming and naturally caters to every ethnic group that you can imagine.
Our final stop of the day was at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant where we purchased beignet and tea for the four of us, Linda, Olivia, Isabel, and me. It was located alongside Pier 43 on the wharf.
Day 4. Wednesday, December 15, 2021
We woke to a light shower with the promise that the afternoon would be wiped out with rain. That did not happen, as, after a busy morning, we needed a quiet afternoon in our hotel room.
We met the twins at 9:30 am and arranged for Duan an Uber driver to take us to the Haight—Ashbury district former home of the Hippie community. They manage and own many of the stores and restaurants in the area. Due to their advanced age, (my cohort generation?) they only operate their businesses between the hours of Noon to 5:00 pm. This unique and colorful community was home to the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967. The Haight has a rich history and continues to thrive to this day. It’s a fun place to spend some time during your vacation to San Francisco. Top things to do in the Haight include shopping, walking tours, hiking to the top of Buena Vista Park, and admiring its gorgeous murals and Victorian homes.
11:10 am Haight-Ashbury to 11:22 am Japanese Center, 2.38 miles, 12 minutes.
Maria, another Uber driver, number four, drove us to the Japanese Center where we had more opportunities to see a diverse cultural environment. Isabel purchased two Japanese-based books requiring her to read from the back to the front but read left to right. After viewing all that was available in a large shopping mall, we decided to return to our hotel on foot. It turned out to be 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) walk, but the challenge was waking up on the very steep Russian Hill, a climb of 352 feet (107 meters), with the good news that on the other side, we walked downhill in the direction of the wharf to our hotel.
Now starved we walked a mile to Freddie’s Sandwiches, a takeout shop. Our motivation for selecting these vendors is based on their high customer ratings. We were not disappointed in the least. We joined Robyn at her hotel to hand over responsibilities for her twins, have a drink, and turn in for an early night after an eventful and exhausting day.
Day 5. Thursday, December 16, 2021.
We woke to a bright sunshine day with plans to have a late start with breakfast being the first order of business. We enjoyed breakfast at Eight AM for the second time. This time with the twins. On this occasion, I had a waffle topped with berries.
Thereafter we made our way to Ghirardelli Square to shop for chocolates and enjoy Chinese Tea at the Palette Tea House. Here we enjoyed Oolong, Jade Jasmine Pearl, and Iron Goddess. We spent a few hours walking along the waterfront, sightseeing, and enjoying a pleasant day in the open air.
We shopped at Mashka for a necklace for Olivia.
I should add that as we visit San Francisco, we learn about local life. One troublesome warning is to never leave any valuables in your motor car as they will be stolen while you are away. I am aware that we know this from our visits to Cape Town but sad to know this is a problem in the Bay area.
Motorists treat pedestrians with complete respect, giving way to people crossing the road on foot, provided they do not cross against the light. Driving on extremely congested motorways is a positive experience. Motorists are willing to open a gap if vehicles need to change lanes to exit at the next ramp or turn at a fork on the motorway.
In the late afternoon, we drove with Darin and the twins to their home in Moraga. The drive took 90 minutes, and the return trip was 45 minutes. That should be a comment on commuters driving home after a day’s hard work. We did more stops than go on the outbound trip.
We enjoyed a meal at the upscale Ristorante Amoroma in Moraga. Servings included LA MINESTRA DE OGGI (ministoni), LA PASTA ASCIUTTA DE OGGI (lasagna), and LA COTOLETTA DE POLLO AR PRESCIUTTO (chicken breast).
Day 6. Friday, December 17, 2021
The day started quietly with the need to do laundry and shop for a few groceries to support our eating habits. Robyn and their family went to their home with the twins to address issues that required the secure internet that was operational at their home. After a quiet morning, we walked the neighborhood on a pleasant sunny day. The morning provided me with an opportunity to research information about the Bay area.
We walked along the sidewalk to view the bay sharing the sidewalk with families pushing babies in strollers, straight and gay couples walking hand in hand, bicycles, skateboarders, push and electric scooters, and pedicabs. Our walk presented an opportunity to view the different piers, and an extremely large cruise ship that reminded us of a floating Covid carrier. More than anything it allowed us to get exercise on a pleasantly sunny day.
Day 7. Saturday, December 18, 2021
Today we fell in love with San Francisco. What is not to like?
A slow start to the day provides an opportunity to update my blog about Covid statistics and add comments to this blog. We joined Robyn and her family at 10:00 am after having breakfast in our room.
We spent four hours on a hop-on-and-hop-off bus tour. Spending so much time touring the city gives one an understanding of the local community. I am sure that I must have seen one million motorcars and not a single Junker among them. Then again when you consider the expense of homes in this city, why would people not all drive late-model vehicles? To repeat an earlier comment, I am struck by the number of homeless people sleeping on the streets, some begging for money at traffic lights. One beggar amused me with a bucket carrying a sign asking, “my bucket list to collect money to pay for my granddaughter’s college education.”
We started the journey at number 1 through 16 on the map, passing (but not in sequence) Lombard Street, Washington Square, Palace of Fine Arts, Civic Center, Golden Gate Bridge, Haight-Ashbury, Little Italy, Alamo Square Park, Embarcadero, Botanical Gardens, Painted Ladies, Coit Tower, DeYoung Museum, Legion of Honor Museum, Fishermen’s Chapel, and Presidio Park. The viewing places are indicated by the icon on the map. The tour included a pre-recorded soundtrack of all the points of interest together with historical and other pertinent information.
The community is unbelievably courteous. If a pedestrian wishes to cross a street where a crossing light is not provided, motorists will wait patiently for you to cross. Most intersections have a pedestrian light reflecting when it is safe to cross, with a countdown to know how much time you have remaining to cross. We went to areas that we visited yesterday near the piers on the wharf. The crowd today, being a Saturday, was significantly larger by a significant factor, compared to what we experienced yesterday.
We ate at The Cheese School, a restaurant that provides on-site and remote training in all aspects of cheese.
The family walked up Telegraph Hill to view the scenery from the impressive Coit Tower. Coit Tower is a 210-foot tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California, offering panoramic views over the city and the bay. The tower, in the city’s Pioneer Park, was built between 1932 and 1933 using Lillie Hitchcock Coit’s bequest to beautify the city of San Francisco.
Parklets wooden platforms atop what had been curbside parking spaces—and use the new structures for outdoor seating. When the pandemic hit, state and local officials relaxed various rules. Suddenly, the hurdles to converting parking spaces into outdoor seating areas were low enough for many restaurateurs to clear. Last year, as desperate restaurant owners looked for ways to protect their businesses from a coronavirus that spreads most readily indoors, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) issued emergency rules that said that if a city allowed it, they could expand alcohol sales outside. If the lost square footage denied a motorist a parking spot, it helped multiple diners. And improved urban and suburban streets were achieved at bargain prices for taxpayers, as most costs were covered by restaurateurs, who built and maintained the new spaces.
Day 8. Sunday, December 19, 2021
We had to move out of room 333 to now stay in room 336 for one night at the Pulse. It all had to do with how the Vacation Club made our reservations. Initially, we had reserved a place to stay at the Marriott across the road, but the Vacation Club found a room for one night. We did learn that on Monday night we moved to room 338. The good news is that we stay within the same general area of rooms. When we arrived back from our tour it was while our personal effects were being moved to our new room.
We caught a hop-on-and-off bus to take us to the start of the Chinatown tour and eating experience. Isabella Michon was our tour guide, a truly knowledgeable lady, and a book publicist, with a few years of experience in conducting tours through Chinatown.
I particularly enjoyed our visit to taste Chinese tea, so much so that I purchased one that I learned was helpful if you suffer from arthritis. We had an educational visit while sampling several teas. The key lesson was not to use boiling water when making tea and to not steep it for too long. Many tea leaves can be used multiple times. I purchased one where the ingredients can be used six times to make a cup of tea.
We stopped at a fun gift shop, Land of the sun. It is not a joke when I say they sell an unbelievable amount of memorabilia.
We start our San Francisco Tours of Chinatown seeing authentic Chinese antiques at one of the best places in Chinatown.
Today was a walking tour of China Town with a Chinese meal included.
- Enjoy Dim Sum from Chinatown’s Oldest Bakery
- Eat Your Way Through Chinatown
- Experience Chinatown with a true local
- Visit the little-known parts of Chinatown that only locals know.
- Savor Moon Cakes (Chinese food) from Eastern Bakery, the oldest Chinese bakery in San Francisco.
- Enjoy everything from Peking Duck to BBQ Pork Buns, Sui Mai, Rice Cakes, Shrimp Dumplings, Steamed Sesame Balls, and more from Chinatown’s Favorite Restaurants
- Experience one of the oldest cathedrals in San Francisco
- Explore authentic Chinese cookware
- Watch how fortune cookies are made.
- Experience the local Chinese markets.
- Savor Dim Sum; from onion pancakes to Shanghai Dumplings and more, at local Chinatown favorites
Day 9. Monday, December 20, 2021
With Robyn and Darin working from their hotel room, Linda and I will have a fun day with the twins. It is important that this day has decent weather, and the rest of the week looks like rain. Now Robyn plans to go to her house in Moraga tomorrow, so Darin and the girls will ride along, and we will be on our own.
Moraga is a town in Contra Costa County, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The town is named in honor of Joaquín Moraga, a member of the famed Californio family, son of Gabriel Moraga, and grandson of José Joaquín Moraga, a famous 18th-century expeditionary of Alta California.
Last night we moved to a new hotel room 336, and today we moved out to move to 338. Again, all are in the same general vicinity in this Marriott Vacation Club Pulse hotel.
I established a goal for today, for Linda, Olivia, Isabel, and me to walk the full length of the Golden Gate Bridge, all the way to the north end and back again. 1.7 miles (2.7 km) each way. It was a cool and windy day, but fun nonetheless. We shared the walkway with many pedestrians, and cyclists plus construction workers in what I might best describe as golf carts. As you start your journey, signs are posted pleading to get help if you are planning to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge. The height is 746 feet (227 meters). There is a wire fence for a short way as you start your walk, but this does not span the entire bridge. In some parts, if you were to jump you would end up in the water, in some parts on dry land, and in some parts scaffolding where the painting is taking place. Painting is a year-round operation. They begin at one end, finish on the other, and repeat the process all over again.
The color of the bridge may look red; however, the color of the bridge is officially an orange vermilion called international orange. Consulting architect Irving Morrow selected the color because it complements the natural surroundings and enhances the bridge’s visibility in fog.
Update March 15, 2022. Here’s when the Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier may finally be completed, as people keep jumping every month. Beneath the stately towers and suspension cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, engineers are building a steel net along the span’s northwest corner — the product of a tireless, decades-long campaign that hit significant delays as it inched toward completion. By the end of next year, bridge staff expects to finish the $206.7 million barrier, intended to catch any disconsolate person who leaps from the rail. Comprising enough marine-grade stainless steel to cover seven football fields, the net will flank the 1.7 mile suspension bridge on both sides, its webbing gray to match the fog and the choppy water, its supports painted the same ripe-orange hue as the bridge. As of this week, construction workers have affixed 264 of 369 orange net supports, along with 20,000 square feet of woven steel. To date, more than 1,800 people have plunged to their deaths from the Golden Gate Bridge, with 21 confirmed suicides last year alone, and another four suspected, though nobody was ever found, according to bridge officials. Two or three people jump each month as workers scramble to finish what they hope is a permanent solution. Gamboa’s son Kyle jumped to his death in September 2013, three weeks into his senior year of high school. Two months later, she and her husband began attending board meetings of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, the governing body that oversees the bridge, ferries, and buses linking Marin to San Francisco. At every meeting they pushed for a net, holding a picture of Kyle to convey the urgency.
We planned on taking an Uber to the California Academy of Sciences. The app is phenomenal as you track the driver traveling to your destination. This poor soul missed the turn just before starting the journey across the bridge, so we canceled that driver and went with another who happened to be waiting for a fare. The bad news is that we were charged for that canceled ride despite getting an email to say that we would not be billed for canceling. The new Uber driver turned out to be an American who hailed from Ukraine 41 years ago after an earlier uprising. He says that he has a group of friends who all speak Russian.
The Academy was interesting in the extreme, and expensive at $140.50 for the four of us. If we had known better, we would have arrived much earlier in the day and allocated more time to visit this multi-level exhibition hall. I was amused while watching a discussion about penguins. A woman was feeding the animals, while a guide was explaining about their habitat. Imagine my amusement when he showed a large, mounted photograph of the African Penguins in Cape Town at Boulders Beach. I had to control myself not to call out “hey, I was born there.” I recommend you click on the link to see additional details about this museum. We visited the aquarium and watched the movie at the planetarium, we could not see too much of the rainforest as we ran out of time with the aquarium closing, but the natural history museum was fascinating. All in all, a truly informational visit.
After our visit, Linda, Olivia, and Isabel decided to ride on the Ferris wheel. Standing 150 feet (46 meters) tall in Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse, SkyStar Wheel boasts unparalleled views from downtown San Francisco to the Pacific Ocean. Installed in 2020 as part of Golden Gate Park’s 150th-anniversary celebration, SkyStar will remain in San Francisco until March 2025. I decided that terra firma was a better place to watch the proceedings.
After returning home Robyn and her family invited us to join them at Scomas Restaurant. In 1965 when brothers Al and Joe Scoma heard about a small coffee shop on the Wharf that was for sale, little did they know they were on the road to creating a landmark restaurant. The brothers bought the tiny, six-stool coffee shop on Pier 47 that served local fishermen breakfast and burgers and began the long and ultimately successful process of turning the hidden local hang-out into one of the nation’s highest-grossing independent restaurants. I should add that the food and service were both outstanding.
Day 10. Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Today will be a rainy day in the afternoon, so Linda planned a walking tour of the Castro District for us this morning. Robyn and her family are spending time at their home, so we are on our own today.
Tributes to Harvey Milk.
Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk was born and raised in New York where he acknowledged his homosexuality as an adolescent but chose to pursue sexual relationships with secrecy and discretion well into his adult years. His experience in the counterculture of the 1960s caused him to shed many of his conservative views about individual freedom and the expression of sexuality.
Milk moved to San Francisco in 1972 and opened a camera store. Although he had been restless, holding an assortment of jobs and moving house frequently, he settled in The Castro, a neighborhood that was experiencing mass immigration of gay men and lesbians. He was compelled to run for city supervisor in 1973, though he encountered resistance from the existing gay political establishment. His campaign was compared to the theater; he was brash, outspoken, animated, and outrageous, earning media attention and votes, although not enough to be elected. He campaigned again in the next two supervisor elections, dubbing himself the “Mayor of Castro Street”. Voters responded enough to warrant his running for the California State Assembly as well. Taking advantage of his growing popularity, he led the gay political movement in fierce battles against anti-gay initiatives. Milk was elected city supervisor in 1977 after San Francisco reorganized its election procedures to choose representatives from neighborhoods rather than through city-wide ballots.
Milk served almost eleven months in office, during which he sponsored a bill banning discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment based on sexual orientation. The Supervisors passed the bill by a vote of 11–1, and it was signed into law by Mayor George Moscone. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, a disgruntled former city supervisor.
Despite his short career in politics, Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. In 2002, Milk was called “the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States”. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.” Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. No surprise, awarded by President Barack Obama.
Suggestion: Watch the 2008 movie of Harvey Milk. The story of Harvey Milk and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official.
Pink Triangle Park and Memorial. In remembrance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims of the Nazi Regime (1938 – 1945).
The Pink Triangle Park is a triangle-shaped mini-park located in the Castro District of San Francisco, California. The park is less than 4,000 square feet (370 m2) and faces Market Street with 17th Street to its back. The park sits directly above the Castro Street Station of Muni Metro, across from Harvey Milk Plaza. It is the first permanent, free-standing memorial in America dedicated to the thousands of persecuted homosexuals in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust of World War II. Fifteen triangular granite “pylons”, or columns, are dedicated to the tens of thousands of homosexuals, bisexual, and transgender victims that were killed during Hitler’s Nazi regime and beyond. In the center of the park is a loose rock-filled triangle that includes rose crystals. Visitors are encouraged to take a crystal as part of the memorial experience. The triangle theme recalls the Nazis forcing homosexual men to wear pink triangles sewn to their clothes as an identifier and badge of shame. The Pink Triangle Park was dedicated on United Nations Human Rights Day, December 10, 2001, by the Eureka Valley Promotion Association. According to the non-profit that maintains the space, the Pink Triangle Park serves as “a physical reminder of how the persecution of any individual or solitary group of people damages all humanity.” The Castro serves as an LGBT neighborhood for the San Francisco and Bay Areas communities, as well as a tourist destination for its part in modern LGBT history.
Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, San Francisco. The parish was established by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1900 and describes itself as “an inclusive Catholic community– embracing all people of good faith – Catholics as well as those people interested in learning about the Catholic experience – regardless of their background, gender, race, social status or sexual orientation.” In the 1980s, the neighborhood was deteriorating, and the parish with it.
Property values fell and a large gay population moved in. Seeing the change in the neighborhood, Archbishop John R. Quinn appointed Fr. Tony McGuire as pastor of the church in 1983. McGuire brought together the largely older women who made up most of the remaining congregation and the few gay men who joined the parish. Together they began an outreach to the new gay population of the neighborhood.
As the AIDS epidemic hit the gay community, the parish began providing services to those in need. The parish paired parishioners with people suffering from AIDS in the neighborhood to give them rides to the doctors, help around the house, or meet other needs. The older women in the parish were instrumental in this ministry. It became a place “that helped save souls and helped save lives.”
In 1986, a scroll was begun with the names of parishioners who had died of AIDS. Framed photos of some of them line the church. Quinn regularly visited this parish, especially during the annual 40 Hours Vigil held throughout the 1980s in support of those who were HIV-positive and their caregivers. As of 2020, the AIDS support group is active again, though it is smaller than it was in the 1980s.
The future of a large mural about the AIDS crisis in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood is uncertain after someone defaced it in recent weeks. It was created more than 20 years ago and many of the artists have died. Community members said it’s a cultural landmark that needs to be restored and protected. “This is a very large mural that tells a story. There’s so much history here crammed in,” said neighbor Dennis Richards.
The mural named ‘Hope for the World Cure’ at the corner of Market and 16th Street tells the stories behind the AIDS epidemic, remembering lives lost. “This is like gay folk art,” said Richards. It’s been up for 23 years. Time has faded its vibrancy. And in recent weeks, someone defaced it, tagging it with large black letters. “I was kind of horrified. I thought that there was a code among taggers that you don’t tag over somebody else’s mural,” said Richards. 17 artists with Art from the Heart Heals who were suffering from aids designed the mural and collaborated with Precita Eyes Muralists.
When you think of San Francisco, beautiful and uniquely designed buildings undoubtedly come to mind. You can walk down a street and see several examples of interesting architecture on the same block! From the famous Painted Ladies to the streamlined Art Deco modern structures, San Francisco’s architectural styles are some of the most distinctive in the country. With so many incredible options for architectural design, how do you identify one type from another?
Gothic Revival (1830-1890) …
Victorian Stick (1860-1890) …
Queen Anne (1880-1910) …
Shingle Style (1880-1910) …
Tudor Revival (1890-1940) …
Edwardian (1900-1930) …
Mission Revival (1890-1920)
Art Deco (1920s)
Mid-Century Modern (1950s-1960s)
I took many photographs of homes as we toured, here is a sample
Needing sustenance, Linda and I ate at The Cove on Castro. Linda had a black bean soup, and I had a turkey club sandwich.
We spent a fortune on Uber rides, and today we decided that there had to be a cheaper way to get from the Castro back to our Pulse hotel. We boarded a MuniMobile for $1.50 each. “We work hard every day to help you safely navigate San Francisco’s streets and sidewalks.” San Francisco’s network of fuel-efficient Muni buses, light rail Metro trains, historic streetcars, and iconic cable cars covers all corners of the city. “Affordable, safe, convenient, and environmentally friendly, choose Muni for your commutes and adventures.”
I do not want to be a troublemaker, but I am sure that a homeless man boarded the bus, and the driver magnanimously ignored this passenger. The driver would announce with much fanfare the points of interest at the next stop to assist passengers in deciding if this is where they wished to disembark. Locals load an app on their smartphones to pay the fare, but we used a $5 note. The driver provided us with a senior citizen discount.
Day 11. Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Today we checked out of the Marriott Vacation Club Pulse in San Fransisco, taking an Uber to San Francisco International Airport to collect an Avis rental car to drive to Diablo Mountain Inn in Walnut Creek, California, on East Bay. Walnut Creek is in Contra Costa county.
Our Uber driver, Jaime, originally from Brazil, previously worked as a truck driver. I am fascinated that all Uber drivers stick to the speed limits religiously. Not all are talkative, but Jaime was affable, despite my difficulty in hearing him with all of us mandated to wear face masks. Our 19.3-mile (31 kilometers) trip took 36 minutes, but the airport signage to find the rental cars was somewhat challenging.
I took these photographs to show the ice on our rental vehicle outside our room at the Inn.
We got lucky in landing a fairly new Honda HR-V AWD, a nicer vehicle than we requested. The 2021 HR-V is Honda’s smallest crossover SUV, slotting below the CR-V. It is a great choice among subcompact SUVs, boasting a highly versatile and roomier-than-expected interior, safe driving manners, an efficient engine, and the high reliability and resale values for which Honda is known.
The Honda was a pleasure to drive, but the first time I used the brakes within the airport building, we learned they worked instantly, jolting us with our seat belts in place. Linda did the navigating for the 50-minute drive in light rain to our Diablo Mountain Inn in Walnut Creek.
Arriving at the Diablo Mountain Inn just after Noon, I was informed that check-in time was 4:00 pm, but our room was ready so we could unpack and make ourselves comfortable for the 14-day stay. The room was more comfortable in several ways in comparison to the hotel we vacated. The room was furnished with a double bed, refrigerator, microwave, shower, desk, and an area to hang clothing and store suitcases. So what is an inn? Ours was a series of adjoined single rooms laid out in a row with access from the parking lot. We were assigned room 104, the Bunkers, Darin’s parents got 114, with a two-bedroom arrangement. For the record, if you go to their website, you will see that they offer a free breakfast. That service was canceled due to COVID.
The Inn is located just off Interstate I680, as can be seen in some of the photographs.
We found a restaurant, Ramona’s Kitchen, next to the Inn. Linda recommended that in the future we order one meal and share as the portions were large and tasty. The sad reality is that we do not plan to frequent this restaurant as qualifies as a greasy spoon. This establishment also goes by the name La Cucina di Ramona. The owners run the imported bicycle assembly and apparel operation alongside R&A Cycles.
Robyn and family, plus Darin’s parents are due to arrive later this evening, so we are on our own for the rest of the afternoon. Darin’s parents and sister will be staying in the same Inn, while Robyn and their family will stay in a nearby Marriott hotel.
After the rain stopped, Linda and I set out on foot to purchase a few groceries for our breakfast. Knowing that Trader Joe’s was nearby, that was our planned first stop. We arrived to find the store was shut due to a power failure. We turned on our heels and headed in the opposite direction to shop at Target. For those who do not know, Target is a chain that sells food, clothing, electronics, and everything except large furniture. We shop at our local Target frequently, but Walnut Creek’s Target was overwhelmingly large. It felt that it could be at least two football fields big. Naturally, we got what we wanted.
Walking around the center of Walnut Creek amazed me because of the volume and constant flow of traffic. Bearing in mind that I have been to other big cities like London, New York, and Chicago, the traffic here was more intense. I know we were walking at a time when people were going home from work, but this was crazy. As we have learned in California, pedestrians wait for the signal to cross the road, and often, due to the volume of traffic, it was a long wait.
Robyn and her family came to visit. I asked one of the twins to please go into the bathroom and open the tap/faucet. She nearly broke it trying to pull the lever up. Contrary to logical thinking, the open is a downward motion and off is up. I am not sure that I will get this right during our two-week stay here.
Walnut Creek is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States, located in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, about 16 miles (26 km) east of the city of Oakland. Walnut Creek has a total estimated population of 70,166. (By comparison, our city of New Berlin, Wisconsin has a population of 40,000). Walnut Creek serves as a hub for its neighboring cities because of its location at the junction of the highways from Sacramento and San Jose (I-680) and San Francisco/Oakland (SR-24), and its accessibility by BART (Bay Area Rapid Rail Transport). Its active downtown neighborhood features hundred-year-old buildings and extensive high-end retail establishments.
There are three bands of Bay Miwok Native Americans associated with the area of Walnut Creek (the stream for which the city is named): the Saclan, whose territory extended through the hills east of present-day cities of Oakland, Rossmoor, Lafayette, Moraga, and Walnut Creek; the Volvon (also spelled Bolbon, Wolwon or Zuicun), who were near Mt. Diablo; and the Tactan, located on the San Ramon Creek in present-day Danville and Walnut Creek.
The city of Walnut Creek has developed within the earlier area of four extensive Mexican land grants. One of these land grants–measuring 18,000 acres (73km2)–belonged to Juana Sanchez de Pacheco. The grant was called Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbones, named after the principal waterway, Arroyo de las Nueces (Walnut Creek in English), and for the local group of Volvon indigenous Americans (also known as Bolbones in Spanish). The Arroyo de las Nueces was named for the local species of walnut tree, the California Walnut. The two grandsons of Sanchez de Pacheco inherited the thousands of acres of land. One, Ygnacio Sibrian, built the first roofed home in the valley in about 1850.
As settlers from the United States arrived following the US annexation of California after victory in the Mexican–American War, a small settlement called “The Corners” emerged. It was named for the junction where roads met from the settlements of Pacheco and Lafayette. The intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and North Main Street is now at this site.
Day 12. Thursday, December 23, 2021
We woke to a rainy day, with showers for most of the day. Linda and I walked to a nearby bagel shop for breakfast and to purchase a baker’s dozen with a variety of flavors to take to Robyn along with two schmears. Later in the morning, we met with Darin’s parents Ron, Nancy, and their daughter Keri Bunkers who are all staying in the same inn as us, and drove to Robyn’s home in Moraga.
Moraga is a town in Contra Costa County, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The town is named in honor of Joaquín Moraga, a member of the famed Californio family, son of Gabriel Moraga, and grandson of José Joaquín Moraga, a famous 18th-century expeditionary of Alta California. As of 2020, Moraga had a total population of 16,870 people. Moraga is the home of Saint Mary’s College of California. The land now called Moraga was first inhabited by the Saklan Native Americans who belonged to the Bay Miwok language group.
Robyn gave us a long list of items to purchase from a few stores in the neighborhood. I will admit buying for somebody else is not always the easiest task, but we had Isabel with us who would vouch for what her mother would like.
Later that evening we drove to a very large shopping mall for dinner back in Walnut Creek. True Food Kitchen went through the process of verifying that each of the nine of us had been fully vaccinated before we could gain entry. We all ordered something different, and no one was disappointed with their food.
Linda and I retired early, not suspecting what would await us that night.
Day 13. Friday, December 24, 2021
Last night had to be my worst night over the past few decades. I wake up every 10 to 15 minutes with a coughing fit. It disturbed both Linda’s and my sleep pattern. It all started yesterday when I had an occasional coughing spell, by no means as frequent. Linda immediately decided that I had COVID, and Robyn purchased some at-home kits for us to be tested. Linda and I both came back negative. We used BinaxNOW from Abbott Laboratories, a 15-minute antigen self-test.
I should hasten to add that aside from getting three Pfizer vaccination shots, we also received our flu shots. My thinking is that this was a cold brought on by all the touring that we were doing in San Francisco. We were not always dressed to counter the cold on these two-hour walking tours. The good news is that after a hot shower this morning, I appear to be better. Time will tell. It proved to be not as intense a cough as I had experienced during the night. Linda bought me a packet of throat lozenges that I used frequently during the night. Later Linda bought a cough medication.
We spent time at Robyn’s house so that Linda could do the laundry. We returned to the Inn and watched the 1990 movie Pretty Woman. All in all, a day to recover from my cold. Linda bought additional medication and that seems to help in dramatic style.
Day 14. Saturday, December 25, 2021
Merry Christmas. No, not really. It is the first Christmas in 50 years that we have been confined to our room at the inn. Robyn and family had several plans yesterday, and again today, that we had to pass on. I had another night of coughing, and Linda has now joined the chorus, but not nearly as bad as I am coughing. I have a cough medication that I take every 4 hours, and naturally, it is difficult to know how effective it is working. The only consolation is that this is a rainy day, so we might not have ventured out.
Day 15. Sunday, December 26, 2021
Boxing Day. This is not a term or holiday most Americans are familiar with. Growing up in South Africa, as a member of the British Commonwealth, Boxing Day was a holiday that we celebrated up until 1994. In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. Today in South Africa, December 26th is a public holiday now known as the Day of Goodwill after South Africa ended its relationship with Britain. Though the name has changed, the traditions of Boxing Day remain. As it is summer in South Africa, non-traditional Christmas activities such as going to the beach are popular.
The sad reality is that last night I continued my coughing spree disturbing Linda all night. It is at times like this I wish I was at home. In our condominium, we have two bedrooms, and I can occupy the spare room and not disturb Linda. Consequently, we plan to stay in isolation again today.
Our vacation activities came to a screeching halt today. Linda and I used the same BinaxNOW Antigen Self-Test for Covid that we used a few days ago, and we both came back positive. The game plan, for now, is to stay in our room at the Inn and not meet with any family. I suspect that since we are not feeling sick, we will need to make plans to get food until we fly out on January 5th. Robyn’s in-laws cut their trip short and will fly back to Minnesota tomorrow, and Keri, Darin’s sister, back to Los Angeles.
I read today that the US will enter a forced self-lockdown phase. More so because many people will require to be self-isolated. Added to the comment that to avoid Covid was to avoid churches, airplanes, hotels, restaurants, and stores. We visited several of these places, all essential while on vacation.
What is the lesson from today’s experience? The fact that we have been vaccinated three times, is no guarantee that you cannot get a breakthrough infection. I do not believe that I was running a fever so thinking about doctor visits where they check your temperature before gaining entry to the facility may not truly help in protecting the medical doctors and staff.
Day 16. Monday, December 27, 2021
The good news is that I woke up feeling fine after sleeping all night without coughing. Linda still coughed a few times during the night and is not feeling that great today. The net result is that we will stay isolated. Robyn’s in-laws got to the airport in time for their flight to Minneapolis but it was delayed an hour. Keri’s flight to Los Angeles was delayed 45 minutes. Under the circumstances with so many flights canceled in the US, the fact that the flights took off is wonderful.
Robyn was more than a godsend. She shopped and brought us roast chicken, bananas, and apples, plus additional mini cups of chicken noodle soup and tomato soup that should see us through for a few days.
Needing to get out of our room we tried to go for a walk, but the rain put an end to our outing.
In summary, we had a quiet day.
Day 17. Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Linda spent the night coughing and only took cough medication when she went to sleep and again at 4:00 am when the recommendation is a dose every four hours. Once awake Linda is better. My problem is a tiny bone in my left-hand wrist that keeps me awake at night and is often challenging with pain during the day. I have seen a specialist on three occasions over several months and they have x-rayed, CT scanned, and done an MRI to confirm it is arthritis, and the only cure is to surgically remove the bone at my next visit in March. Why do I get the feeling that they plan for a succession of visits as a source of income? In the interim I use a CBD cream during the day, warm up a small bean bag in the microwave in the late afternoon since heat helps alleviate the pain and use a small “hot pocket” pad for 12-hour relief at night.
Our weather today is cool with intermittent rain until late afternoon when we get harder rain into the evening. Another quiet day was spent in our room at the inn. The cleaning staff provides us with clean towels, as we requested them not to service our room.
With time on my hands while in hibernation, I was scrolling through the Xfinity TV channel in our room at the Inn. There must be at least one hundred channels, including one Chinese and several Spanish channels. I discovered that the Inn has several movie channels that feature reruns from the 60s and 70s. In our condominium back home, we use the services of Spectrum for internet and cable and only have access to a few popular channels including ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, MSNBC, and PBS. Who has time to watch so many channels?
Day 18. Wednesday, December 29, 2021
We woke to a cloudy and rainy day. Linda is feeling better, but not perfect. Linda is afraid to socialize feeling we need to stay in quarantine. It will be an indoors day again today. I had a unique night. It is the first time that was able to sleep throughout the night without needing to treat my wrist due to pain. If only every day or night could it be like this. Since we will be indoors most of the day, it allowed me to address issues with my website, catch up with lots of reading, and communicate with family and friends.
I should add for the record, this forced lockdown is no fun at all. In many ways, it has spoilt the time we should be enjoying in California.
Day 19. Thursday, December 30, 2021
The weather should warm later in the day and Linda, and I plan to head out for a walk. Linda is feeling better, still has a cloudy head, but showing a slow but steady recovery. Rain chances are in the 1% to 2% range.
I was in line for one hour at Genova Delicatessen, an Italian takeaway shop that is extremely popular with the locals. And I could see why. They sell a significant amount of Italian imported food and make sandwiches and other treats while you wait, and wait, and wait. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal brought back to the Inn. Amusing too are the signs in the store begging one to maintain a social distance, an impossible mission in such a small business filled with eager patrons.
Growing up in South Africa, with British influence, I clearly understood that WC stood for water closet, a euphemism for a toilet. Today I discovered that it is also used as a short form for Walnut Creek, the city where we are staying currently.
Day 20. Friday, December 31, 2021
Today and tomorrow will be pleasant days in Walnut Creek. I set a record for 2021 and woke up at the latest I have ever woken this entire year. I am normally up at 6:00 am, today it was 8:00 am.
Having not had a chance to do laundry since December 21, we drove to Robyn for her to do a couple of loads for us today. The drive along winding roads is magnificent. Named Moraga Road, one drive along the mountainside under a canopy of trees.
As it is, we will only collect our clean laundry tomorrow, implying I do not have pajamas for tonight. Another small challenge to end this year.
Walking around Walnut Creek today, I was interested to see how progressive people are in California in general, and Walnut Creek in particular. Who carries cash nowadays? Here the parking meters take credit cards and you can set your duration and pay to park for up to ten hours! I believe these meters can take cash as well. I had no reason to try them out.
With my daily health comments, I believe both Linda and I are back to enjoying good health again.
Sadly, the year ended on a low note in that we could not have a meal with Robyn and their family. We would have loved to spend time with the family, and possibly see in the New Year with them, but with the risks of catching or passing on COVID with the more virulent omicron variant doing the rounds, we elected to remain in isolation in our Inn.
Our news is filled with statistics of the number of flights canceled in the US each day due to the virus and severe weather conditions. Over the past few days, 2,500 flights have been canceled in the US. I checked to see how many hotels Marriott had with their various brands around the San Francisco International Airport area, should that fate impact us on Wednesday. They had accommodation available. According to news reports, thousands of flights were canceled or delayed on New Year’s Day, a story that has played out repeatedly over the past few days.
Day 21. Saturday, January 1, 2022
Happy New Year. I believe it is as well to remember family and friends at least once each year to wish one and all the best as we take on the challenges of life. Living in the Midwest, each New Year we watch the Macy New Year parade from New York City. This year, for the first time, we watched the Rose Parade from Pasadena, California. An exceptionally well-orchestrated parade with magnificent floats all covered in organic materials.
The Rose Parade travels 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometers) down Colorado Blvd. and features four types of entries: floral-decorated floats entered by a participating corporation, non-profit organization or municipality, equestrian units, bands, and Tournament Entries. Rose Parade participants have long history with the Tournament of Roses and keep the traditions alive. The first Tournament of Roses on January 1, 1890, welcomed 3,000 spectators to its parade filled with beautiful, horse-drawn carriages covered in flowers. More than a century later, the parade floats are a marvel of state-of-the-art technology, all tucked away beneath flowers and other all-natural materials.
We woke to frost on the ground, and our rental car parked outside had its layer of ice covering it. Today will be a rain-free day, but not the forecast for Monday through Wednesday when we fly home, all being well with a large number of cancellations.
We drove to Robyn to collect our laundry and on the way back stopped in at Whole Foods in Lafayette. The size of the store is impressive, and we purchased a wholesome meal for lunch that we ate in our room at the Inn.
Many years ago, I purchased a dashcam that is a permanent feature in my car ready to capture any exciting scenery or incident that may cross my path. On my visits to Cape Town, South Africa I recorded the drive along Chapman’s Peak, Boyes Drive, Huguenot Tunnel on Du Toits Kloof pass, Franschoek Pass in Franschoek, Kogmanskloof in Montagu, all in the Western Cape. In the US I recorded the Singer Island drive along the shore in Florida and the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. The drive between Walnut Creek and Moraga passes along a delightful road that sweeps along the mountainside with numerous turns along the tree-line landscape. Imagine my frustration with the rental car when I connected the dashcam using two different technologies, the cigarette lighter and a USB port, and it blocks power to allow me to record the drive.
Talking to friends back in Wisconsin, we will miss a ten-inch snowfall overnight, while we are enjoying a beautiful sunny day in Walnut Creek.
Quick update. More than 2,600 domestic flights were canceled in the US today. More than 12,000 flights were canceled between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. More than 4,500 worldwide flights were canceled today.
Another thought rattles around my head. For a day or two, I did not have clean clothes to wear while we waited for the laundry to come back from my daughter. Imagine what it must be like to be homeless and sleeping on the street. I cannot imagine that those dear souls do not have a change of clothing or get a bath or shower regularly. What a tough life to end up on the streets.
Linda and I went walking around the shopping center in Walnut Creek. For the second time now, we were stopped by an elderly man, who says he is a local tour guide, to comment on the fact that Linda and I are wearing the same coats. I do find it amusing that this is such a defining image. Again, not bad for a $17 investment each.
Day 22. Sunday, January 2, 2022
We woke to below-freezing temperatures with frost all over our rental car. Today’s plans include having lunch with Robyn and her family.
Lunch was great. Robyn served salmon and salad with ice cream for dessert. Sitting in the sun was great. The view from their backyard with rolling hills is relaxing. The view of the pool adds to the feeling of relaxation.
We learned a disappointing fact. Robyn tells an interesting story. After Robyn’s furniture was packed on December 9th, Robyn had been told that the driver had resigned because of Christmas and New Year holidays, and the furniture was stuck in Wisconsin. On Thursday she learned that was not the case at all. The furniture was transported to San Francisco and had been in storage since about December 15th. Our concern that the truck would never make it over the snow-filled Sierra Nevada Mountain pass was a worry for nothing. Now it has been revealed that it was a local driver who did not want to work over the holidays. The current understanding is the furniture will be delivered on the 5th and unpacked on the 6th. The girls start school on Tuesday with the concern of COVID cases that is soaring 150% but the schools are handing out test kits and conducting thousands of tests ahead of the beginning of school.
After Linda and I drove back to the Inn, we went for a walk in the direction of the mall, and plan to do this again tomorrow if the weather permits.
Day 23. Monday, January 3, 2022
Another day waking to frost all over the rental car. The weather is warmer today with late afternoon rain. I admit that our thoughts turn to our return to Wisconsin to enjoy our home comforts.
Today we walked for one hour and twenty minutes to study the downtown business districts in Walnut Creek. We learned that there is no shortage of eating places, and based on the clothing stores, and many outlets of national luxury chains there is little doubt that this is a wealthy area. I remain awestruck by the number of Tesla’s on the road. Then too there are many high-end regular and sports cars like BMW, Mercedes Benz, Maserati, Porsche, Jaguar, Alpha Romeo’s, Camero’s, Mustang’s, some with through-flow exhausts spoiling the environment with their raucous noise. The percentage of Subaru’s on the road is far higher than back home. Our only shopping was a small loaf of bread at Trader Joe’s for dinner.
We decided that a bagel and lox would be great for lunch. We walked to nearby Noah’s NY Bagel only to find they closed their business early today due to a staff shortage. How could we not think that their team got hit by the delta and omicron virus that soared 150% in California in the past week?
Watching the news helps increase your anxiety levels when you hear that today more than 3,000 flights were canceled, the largest number since New Year’s Eve with more than 8,000 total cancelations since then.
Day 24. Tuesday, January 4, 2022
Today’s most critical task is to confirm our flights home 24 hours before takeoff. With flights still being canceled at an alarming rate, will our flight be impacted? We will pack today, leaving out a few items to finally pack tomorrow. One task is to fill our rental car, one that we have hardly driven since we arrived. We had occasional trips to Robyn’s home 20 minutes away, but little else. Isabel started her new school today in Moraga, with Olivia at home still recovering from her cold.
I must admit that I am sad that today is our last full day in California. We leave tomorrow at 9:00 am for the airport. We received the good news that on our flight from Salt Lake City to Milwaukee, we will be flying first class.
We drove to Robyn and her family late afternoon to say goodbye. The 5-mile (8-kilometers) Moraga Road alongside the hills that I so enjoyed driving with rolling hills was closed for the outbound trip. We were detoured along St. Mary’s Road, an equally impressive drive with steep hills, and trees growing on the steep side of the road giving the impression that if there was a strong rainstorm, the trees would tumble into the road. We returned using Moraga Road and stopped at the gas/petrol station across from the Inn to fill up so that we could return a full car to Avis in the morning.
To get a little exercise we went for a walk and a woman in a car stopped us to talk about our identical coats. What a conversation piece. Linda and my conversation was the goal to have a steak, something that we have not enjoyed during our stay in California. That is on the bucket list once we return home.
Day 25. Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Our day began early allowing us to shower, have a light breakfast, pack the last few items and head to San Francisco International Airport. We timed our drive to depart from Walnut Creek at 9:00 am to avoid the early morning commuters into San Francisco. The 5-lane roads, tunnels, and bridges are exceptionally impressive. The good news is that having been caught before trying to find the rental car location with the Uber driver on December 22, we were well prepared, and with Linda driving the iPhone maps arrived without missing a beat. We took the airport shuttle from Avis to the terminal departure building, arriving three hours before our flight departure to Salt Lake City. With time on our hands, we had bacon and eggs for breakfast at Farmer Brown, just outside our departure gate.
We heard great news from Robyn saying the removal truck was parked outside their door, waiting for a crew to unload their furniture. The other good news thus far is that it appears our flights will be on time. Maybe. You have to have a sense of humor. Arriving at the terminal we were directed to gate C5, then a gate changed to C6, and another gate changed to C4. The sad news is our flight into Milwaukee will now only arrive at 11:00 pm, an hour later than scheduled. We trust Uber still operates at that time of night.
Our flight to Salt Lake City was on board an Airbus A220-100, with a flight time of one hour twenty-six minutes. 677 miles (1,090 km). We “lost” an hour due to time zone changes. The sad news is that due to our flight delay, we will spend three hours at the airport in Salt Lake City. With that, we also had gate changes from A15 to A1. The good news is that I have an enjoyable book to read that will help pass the time. Salt Lake City has an impressive terminal, with the Delta Concourse flying to every city you can imagine in North America. There were even a few KLM gates for international flights. Our biggest conundrum is which restaurant we should select to have a snack. Now with time on our hands, we elected to have pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. Without any exaggeration, it was the best pizza we have ever eaten. Currently, we expect to land in Milwaukee at midnight. The flight left three hours after the planned departure time. We hope that Uber is still operating.
Thursday, January 6, 2022
We eventually got to sleep at 2:00 am. We woke up late with a mountain of laundry to do, and lots of items to pack away. Our ten Uber rides averaged $44.83 per ride. I cannot fault their apps and text messages that keep you apprised of developments along the way.
On reflection, we had a wonderful time in San Francisco and Walnut Creek, California. The brief encounter we had with Covid only required us to be isolated for a few days, but in reality, did not spoil the vacation. Everything was outweighed by seeing Robyn, Darin, Olivia, and Isabel in their new home, and hearing positive accounts as they began attending a new school. Isabel befriended a girl on her first day who happened to be a twin as well.
One bit of good news is that Linda and I both discovered that we lost five pounds (2.3 kg) in weight while on vacation.
Driving my vehicle was a treat after the rental car. I almost found it incomprehensible that our roads are so quiet. Gas/petrol $2 per gallon cheaper than in California. We shopped at our nearby Trader Joe’s. Sad to see that we are back in a Trump-infested community. A young wife, a young mother with a small child, and a 30-something-year-old guy all in the store without a mask. In fairness many of the shoppers were elderly and all wore masks.
Thank you for reading.
January 23, 2022
P.S. I added fascinating research facts about San Francisco below.
Significantly more Barbary Coast history here:
The story of the Barbary Coast, San Francisco’s first red-light district is a fascinating tale permeated by violence, exploitation, and anarchy that can be experienced firsthand by all, through a journey along The Barbary Coast Trail. The district was named for an expanse of the North African coastline, from Morocco to modern-day Libya, which was home to dreaded pirates and slave traders who terrorized the coastal villages of Europe. Similar to its namesake, the Barbary Coast of San Francisco was defined by the lawlessness and danger always present within its boundaries. This is the intriguing history of the city by the bay’s first great den of iniquity.
The process that culminated in the Barbary Coast’s final demise has its origins in the year 1911 when San Franciscans elected James Rolph as their new mayor. Supported by his allies amongst the city’s elite, Rolph launched a moral crusade against the Barbary Coast. One of the mayor’s most prominent allies was William Randolph Hearst, who used his media empire to destroy everything the Barbary Coast stood for. In 1913, resolutions were passed by the city government, which banned women and dancing from any entertainment venue that also served alcohol. Over the next four years, the lights, sounds, and spirit that had flowed through Terrific Street slowly disappeared. The closure of the brothels in 1917 symbolized not only the final death knell of the Coast’s Terrific Street incarnation but also the final page in the story of the Barbary Coast itself. The Barbary Coast’s century-long evolution passed through many substantial incarnations due to the city’s rapid cultural development during the transition to the 20th century. Its former location now is overlapped by Chinatown, North Beach, and Jackson Square.
San Francisco has eight bridges to cross the water. Below are details of those roadways.
San Francisco’s eight bridges.
San Francisco bridge research was gathered from this site.
Golden Gate Bridge:
The Bay Area has eight toll bridges that span various parts of the enormous San Francisco Bay. While the Golden Gate Bridge is the granddaddy of them all, each of the Bay’s bridges is distinctive and valuable in its own right as they help keep traffic moving in the densely populated Bay Area. Spanning the 1.7-mile (2.7 km) length of the Golden Gate Strait that separates the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge needs no introduction. Its distinctive “International Orange” color and 750-foot (231 meters) tall towers make it one of the world’s most recognizable architectural landmarks and an iconic symbol of the city. The bridge opened in 1937 and connects San Francisco with Marin County to the north and is a major commuter route. An estimated 2.35 billion vehicles have crossed since its opening. With 110,000 vehicles crossing the bridge daily, its six lanes of roadway are modified throughout the day to adapt to changing traffic patterns to help traffic flow. While driving the bridge is indeed a thrilling experience for visitors, walking or biking across the bridge is the best way to get the full-on Golden Gate Bridge experience.
Update March 5, 2022. History of the Golden Gate Bridge. Before the Golden Gate Bridge: years of yearning and dreams for a span.
The Golden Gate Bridge is an engineering and architectural marvel. The American Society of Civil Engineers ranks it as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, along with the Panama Canal, the Channel Tunnel, and the Empire State Building. But it is more than a perfectly realized set of blueprints. It is an aesthetic masterpiece — one of the most beautiful man-made objects ever created.
The story of how the Golden Gate Bridge was conceived, planned, and built is a tale worthy of the great span itself.
The first calls for a bridge across San Francisco Bay came as early as the Gold Rush. Perhaps not surprisingly, considering the impracticality of such a project at the time, three of the earliest calls came from a maverick, an eccentric, and a madman. The first proposal was made by newspaper editor William Walker, who in 1851 suggested extending the 2,000-foot Clay Street Wharf to Oakland. Walker, known as “the gray-eyed man of destiny,” was a “filibuster” who led a small army to capture Nicaragua, where he was captured and executed by firing squad.
The second plan for a bridge was made by David G. “Doc” Robinson, who in 1853 built and exhibited a model of a bridge across the Bay. Robinson was an only-in-San-Francisco character who made a pile by being the first man to harvest eggs on the Farallon Islands, then became the town’s first theater impresario and its first topical satirist.
But the most famous of all proposals to bridge the Bay came from the city’s beloved adopted lunatic, Joshua Norton, self-styled Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. In 1872, Norton proposed building a bridge from Oakland to Goat Island (Yerba Buena Island), and then to Telegraph Hill.
None of these early proposals came to anything. But a city sitting on a narrow peninsula surrounded on three sides by water was inevitably going to need bridges, and as San Francisco grew, that need became more pressing. As Kevin Starr notes in “Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America’s Greatest Bridge,” by the 1890s San Francisco had begun to take itself seriously as the queen of the Golden West and the hub of trade with Asia. Architects and planners inspired by classical Beaux-Arts ideas began to re-create the city in that august image, a trend that culminated in 1905 when the city asked Daniel Burnham, the leading proponent of the Beaux-Arts-inspired City Beautiful movement, to redesign the entire city. The 1906 catastrophe led authorities to shelve most of Burnham’s ambitious scheme, but the dream of remaking San Francisco into a grand City Beautiful remained.
Progressive mayor James embraced that dream of “Sunny Jim” Rolph. To implement it, in 1912 he hired as city engineer a man who was to become one of the most powerful figures in San Francisco history: Michael O’Shaughnessy. Rolph offered O’Shaughnessy a dream job — the opportunity to rebuild the city after the 1906 catastrophe, with complete freedom from political interference.
Bridging the Bay was not an explicit part of O’Shaughnessy’s mandate, but it was implicit. Bridges were needed not just to fulfill a gauzy City Beautiful dream, but for practical reasons. As John van der Zee points out in “The Gate: The True Story of the Design and Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge,” in 1920 San Francisco was the largest American metropolis still served primarily by ferryboats. That same year, the city suffered the indignity of being passed by Los Angeles as the largest city in California. Its constrained geography was strangling it: Both its population and its economic growth had fallen below the national average. To grow and prosper, it needed to connect with its hinterlands — both the populous and vibrant East Bay, and the beautiful, underdeveloped lands across the Golden Gate.
The immediate spur to the idea of spanning the Golden Gate was more mundane: traffic jams. Like increasing numbers of San Franciscans, O’Shaughnessy liked to spend weekends hiking and wandering around Mount Tamalpais. But like those other day-trippers, O’Shaughnessy often found himself stuck for hours in lines of cars that were backed up for miles waiting to drive onto the Sausalito ferry. As he waited, O’Shaughnessy began thinking more seriously about building a bridge across the Golden Gate.
He was inspired by a series of articles by a Marin engineer named James Wilkins, who called for the construction of a $10 million suspension bridge between Lime Point in Marin and Fort Point in San Francisco. But much more consequential was O’Shaughnessy’s encounter with the man whose name, for better and worse, would forever be linked with the bridge: Joseph Strauss.
Strauss, born in Ohio in 1870, was a complex and contradictory figure. In van der Zee’s words: “An undersized man with a Napoleonic ego, yearning for a career in the arts, with only the most modest amount of formal engineering training, gifted with the ability to recognize in others the greater talent he longed for in himself, driven by a persistent energy that rivaled that of the lone, cold-call salesman, Strauss was a strange, at times almost self-canceling mixture of conflicting traits: promoter, mystic, tinkerer, dreamer, tenacious hustler, publicity seeker, recluse.”
Strauss had grown up in Cincinnati, home of America’s first long-span suspension bridge, the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge across the Ohio River. It was built by John A. Roebling, who went on to design the Brooklyn Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world. This bridge provided the driven, ambitious, big-dreaming young Strauss with an example of the towering achievement he longed for himself. That insatiable drive to create a masterpiece was also reflected in the senior thesis he read at his college graduation, in which he proposed to build a bridge across the Bering Strait.
But well into his middle age, Strauss’s career had not lived up to his dreams. He had become an expert in designing and building movable, counterweighted bridges known as bascule bridges, his company, the Strauss Bascule Bridge Co. of Chicago, had built bascule bridges all around the world. But although he was professionally and financially successful, he had not yet carved his name in the annals of history.
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge:
San Francisco’s “other” bridge, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (or simply “Bay Bridge”), is the Bay Area’s most heavily traveled bridge and the third busiest bridge in the country, carrying approximately 247,720 vehicles every day. The Bay Bridge connects San Francisco with densely populated East Bay communities like Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and Richmond. Completed in 1936, the Bay Bridge is two separate bridges: a two-tiered suspension span from San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island and a single-tower, self-anchored suspension bridge between the island and Oakland. Together they form one of the longest spans in the United States. The eastern/Oakland span features a protected bicycle and pedestrian pathway where you can take in San Francisco views from a completely different perspective.
San Mateo-Hayward Bridge:
Opened in 1967, the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge crosses the Bay to link the Easy Bay with the Peninsula, offering drivers in those communities’ faster access to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Its eastern end is in the East Bay city of Hayward, and its western end is in Foster City in San Mateo County on the Peninsula. On average, the bridge carries about 115,712 vehicles daily. Designed with aesthetics in mind, unique and innovative architectural design makes it the world’s longest untraced girder span, meaning there are no towers or visible support structures. When seen from above, it resembles a long, thin ribbon cutting across the Bay. It’s the longest bridge in California and the 25th longest bridge in the world at seven miles in length.
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge:
The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge bridges I-580 from the city of Richmond on the east to San Rafael on the west, linking North Bay and Contra Costa County with Marin County and the Sonoma and Napa Valley wine regions. It is the northernmost of the east-west Bay crossings. Often derided for its lack of aesthetics and its less famous prestige of other Bay Area bridges, at 5.5 miles (8.9 km) in length, it’s one of California’s longest bridges. For over 50 years, it has been serving thousands of drivers, with 78,750 vehicles crossing its scenic views of the San Francisco Bay daily.
The first of the Bay bridges, the Dumbarton Bridge was originally built in 1927 and replaced in 1984 with an earthquake-retrofitted structure that efficiently moves traffic while being aesthetically pleasing. Like the San Mateo-Hayward bridge, it has a long, ribbon-like design that lacks towers. At 1.6 miles (2.6 km) in length, it is the shortest of the Bay bridges. It’s also the southernmost of the Bay bridges, crossing the narrowest portion at the Bay’s southern end. Carrying 76,334 vehicles daily, it connects San Mateo County and the Peninsula with Alameda County across the Bay. Its main job is to relieve congestion along the heavily traveled commuter route between the East Bay and the Lower Peninsula. It has a pedestrian and biking walkway on its south side.
The Carquinez Bridge is two bridges that sit side by side as they span the northeastern end of the Bay at the Carquinez Strait, forming part of I-80 between Contra Costa and Solano Counties near the cities of Vallejo and Crockett. Built in 1927, the first Carquinez Bridge formed a direct route between San Francisco and Sacramento. A second parallel bridge was built in 1958 to alleviate increased traffic congestion on the first bridge. Due to earthquake concerns, the 1927 bridge was replaced in 2003 with the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge which carries westbound traffic 3.5 miles (5.6 km) across the Strait. It carries approximately 117,898 vehicles every day and features a dedicated pathway for pedestrians and bikers.
The Bay’s fourth most traveled bridge, the Benicia-Martinez Bridge is two bridges that span the Carquinez Strait between the industrial North Bay cities of Martinez to the south and Benicia to the north, joining Solano and Contra Costa Counties on I-680. Another heavily traveled Bay bridge measures about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) in length and carries approximately 111,786 vehicles daily.
The Bay Area’s least traveled bridge, the Antioch Bridge, is the only bridge that extends outside of the nine-county Bay Area, crossing the San Joaquin River in northern Contra Costa County to link the city of Antioch with southern Sacramento County. Staying on I-160 after crossing the bridge puts drivers on a direct route to the city of Sacramento.