San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Cruz – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 1

I noticed that a section of my scratch-off map of the United States was unmarked between San Francisco and Portland, so we had to scratch that itch.  The flight from Columbus to San Francisco had a connection in Minneapolis.   The one and one-half hour flight was uneventful up to Minnesota but the flight to San Francisco had a delayed departure for almost two hours due to inclement weather in California.  After a dinner at a sports bar so that we could watch the first period of the hockey playoffs between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, we moved on to our gate.

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Delta Airlines had bought pizza and drinks for the delayed passengers but we passed on the hospitality since we just ate.  After another hour we boarded and left the gate, only to wait another twenty minutes on the tarmac before taking off, arriving at SFO about midnight California time, where we hit another snag trying to rent a car.

After waiting in a long line to rent a car, we tried to leave the airport garage when security denied us exit stating that the car’s ID number did not match the paperwork and sent us back to the rental office, so it was back to the office.

At this point it was about 1 a.m., we were frustrated and tired but had no choice but to go back and work out the problem.  Finally we made it out of the airport and to our Hilton Garden Inn in South San Francisco at 2 A.M., a scant 12 hours after we left the ground in Ohio.

After a nutritious and delicious Denny’s breakfast (starting a theme of this trip), we took off to go into the city, going first to Twin Peaks for a great view of the city which we shared with a tour bus mostly of French tourists. The view to the northeast looks straight up Market Street through downtown San Francisco, while to the northwest you could see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge over the hills (and through the low clouds).

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Not far, on the next hill, is Grandview Park where we found a group running flights of stairs with a personal trainer. While we made it up the steps, not nearly as fast as the exercise class, we were rewarded by another great view, this time to the west and southwest towards the Pacific.

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On the other side of this park are the 16th Street Mosaic Steps. The runners had warned us not to leave valuables in the car, and the numerous signs in the area said the same thing, but the neighborhood looked ok, much better than say Cleveland or Detroit.The mosaic steps were very artistic with tiles of fish and birds on the front face of each step as it rose up the steep hill in the park, as well as landscaped hills along the sides.

Next, we drove to the Cliff House for a view of the beach.  The Cliff House was built in 1858 which survived the 1906 earthquake with little damage and offers a beautiful view of the beach as it sits upon the headland of Ocean Beach.  The structure has had five major rebuilds or renovations through the years and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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The Sutro Baths were a large, privately owned public saltwater swimming pool complex below the Cliff House.  The Sutro Baths, named for its owner, were built in 1896, but the facility burned down in June, 1966 and is now in ruins. We did not go down to the ruins but viewed them from the Cliff House.  A driveway into the grassy hill above provided a perfect spot in the park to see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

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We continued our drive into the city to the Haight-Ashbury District to see the leftover hippie shops and uniquely named stores.

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I had made a list of attractions to find on our trip noting one as the Isotope Comic Store in San Francisco.  This store is known for staging famous comic book artwork on toilet seat lids.

We met the owner, James Simes, who related how it all began when a famous comic book artist got really drunk at his party at the store and doodled artwork over all the bathroom surfaces.  The owner liked the art on the toilet lid and hung it on the store wall. Now more than 400 comic book artist have their artwork featured on toilet lids.  The owner hangs about one hundred doodled lids in his store for display.

Isotope Comics has been noted on social media throughout the world noting the unique sketched artwork of some of the most famous comic book artist in the world on the white lids.

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As our journey through town continued, we wandered just to find the steepest steets, or to follow the cable cars and other scenes.

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Having seen the highlights we headed across the Bay Bridge, getting off at Treasure Island.  Treasure Island is an artificial island in San Francisco Bay built in 1936 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition; the island’s World’s Fair site is a California Historical Landmark.  A naval station still stands on the island with a few neighborhoods and recreation fields.  We took in a broad view of the city from across the bay.

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Afterwards we headed down the peninsula to meet relatives for dinner in San Jose. After dinner we drove up into the Santa Cruz Mountains where his mother was raised. It was amusing to me that the hills about Santa Cruz looked much like West Virginia, if West Virginia had an ocean view.

Finally we went down into the town, and walked along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk passing shops and amusement rides. I came home with a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs t-shirt (for those Pulp Fiction fans).

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As the sun set the boardwalk lit up; the view from the pier was great, all the while listening to the seals below the boardwalk.  As we headed back we could see shadows of the seals on the rocks below the boardwalk where wells opened a view on the rocks below, as well as a spectacular full moon.  All in all a great first day, despite a bit of rain.

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