US Road Trip Travelog: 25th March 2005

After two pots of coffee and a few hours (I think I may have overdone the beers yesterday) I'm off for a walk around San Francisco. This is not a driving city - the traffic on the way in yesterday was horrible and parking, as mentioned, is impossible or expensive.

A few things first about San Francisco itself. There are a lot of homeless people and a lot of beggars (not, of course, necessarily the same thing) on the streets. There are also a lot of complete nutters - I mean people who should be locked away for the protection of themselves and others. Like New Orleans, this is not the Disney version.

There are also a lot of relatively harmless eccentrics, and I have a theory here. I reckon that at some point the US was tilted up on its west coast axis and sieved. All the vaguely normal people stayed where they were and the rest fell through and ended up in San Francisco. You won't find that theory in any textbooks, mainly I suspect as it's too radical. It could, of course, also be complete tosh.

In the 60's a lot of these eccentrics found their way to Haight Ashbury and created some great music as well as starting the whole hippy thing. That'll be the first place to walk to then. Despite the souvenir shops and the 'smokers' shops (nothing to do with cigarettes or cigars) the place still has a nice vibe to it. Nothing worth taking a photo of - I resisted the obvious one of the Haight and Ashbury junction roadsign itself - but still worth a look.

Presidio National Park
Presidio National Park.

After two hours walking around the city, the park is a welcome break. I was expecting a normal city park, with lawns and clear paths, but this place is much better and seems completely unspoilt. I picked up a map on the way in but it only shows the roads and not the footpaths. After a while wandering in what I think is the right direction I begin to see markers for a 'Ridge Trail' and decide to follow them. Well, it has to lead somewhere and it's got to be better than my sense of direction.

Of course, I manage to take wrong turns a few times when the markers are a bit ambiguous. Yes, it happens on foot as well as when driving. Despite that this is a really lovely place for a walk. I have no idea where I'm going, but it's still really nice.

Fort Winfield Scott
Fort Winfield Scott.

In the middle of the park is this place, a huge complex of buildings built in the early part of the last century. What I can't really work out is why the whole place looks uninhabited. The buildings themselves - and there are a lot of them like the ones above - are massive, and could certainly be used for something worthwhile rather than sitting empty. That's the military for you I guess.

If you were paying attention (doubtful) you'll have noticed a couple of red structures at the top right of the last photo. Yes, it's the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge from the top of the battery buildings
The Golden Gate Bridge from the top of the battery buildings.

After an hour of walking through the park the bridge finally comes into view. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be climbing on the roofs of these old fortifications, but with no-one around to stop me it's a good opportunity to get a decent view of the bridge. It is possible to walk along the bridge itself but by now my legs are beginning to ache a little and I think I'll give it a miss.

Golden Gate Bridge from the side
Golden Gate Bridge from the side.

On the other side of the bridge it gets a lot more crowded as there are car parks all around and plenty of folk who've stopped off for their photo opportunity. As for me, I'd like to head back into the city and find a bar. Unfortunately that's another hour and half of walking away.

After 4½ hours of non-stop walking, I think it's fairly safe to say that I'm knackered by the time I get back to the wharf area. Only one thing for it - beer, as not recommended by any top athletes but definitely recommended by me. A pint or three in a bar on the wharf restores equilibrium (or destroys it, who cares) but, of course, I'm still an hour or so's walk away from my motel.

San Francisco hill
San Francisco hill.

The shrubbery behind the cab hides a roadsign for drivers on the way down. It reads 'Hill'. Hill! This isn't a bloody hill this is a vertical drop, and I'm trying to walk up it.

Once back near my motel, the last thing on my mind is going out tonight. Then I see the The Great American Music Hall just around the corner from my motel. Even I can manage that distance, and on the bill tonight are The Radiators, a New Orleans band who sound as though they could be worth a look.

After some Vietnamese fast food (a first for me, and if that's typical then the last) I make my way around the corner. The support is a young guy called Javier Matos, and he's very good. It's just him on guitar and vocals, another guy playing a washboard and a third on some sort of bass made out of an old broomstick. It ought to be terrible but it's not. It sounds like a bit of blues, a bit of country and a bit of the combination that would make rock 'n roll.

After chatting to a few of the locals, who all tell me I'm going to 'just love' the main act (I think I've heard that before somewhere), The Radiators come on. Technically they're spot on but it's all a bit sterile. They're all older guys who've obviously been touring together for a long time and there's no real spontaneity or spark. I can't help but think of The Mavericks. The crowd love them, though, so maybe I'm just being picky.

After an hour or so it's time to give my legs a rest and head back to the motel, where I soon fall asleep and don't awake for 10 hours. I think that walk may have taken it out of me more than I thought.

US Road Trip Travelog: 26th March 2005 >