Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 USA Tour : March 27th, San Francisco

Waking up in El Capitan’sCapitan

I believe we woke to a vacationer’s dream. Warm sunshine, the calling of tropical birds and the relaxing caressing sound of crashing waves on a sandy shore.

Claire and I were up early to enjoy a short vacation moment before our day’s travel. We skipped down the flowers and herbs rich path down to the cliff steps and down to the fairly remote golden sand beach to walk the shoreline a little and enjoy our arrival at the Pacific coast. We celebrate having truly travelled coast to coast from Florida beaches and California beaches.

Alas, we realised our time here had to be short due to a long drive to San Francisco.

to San Francisco

Being such a lovely sunny and clear day I would have loved to have driven the stunning and legendary Route 1 Pacific Highway through Big Sur, featured in so many movies. We did drive this during a tour three years ago but just did not have the time for the route this year. Instead we drove route 101, a compromise instead of the relatively boring I5.

This took us through beautiful green rolling hills and past several fascinating California wineries, the USA name for vineyards, that hosted label names we were familiar with but now forget to repeat here. The wineries led into very fertile lands growing all kinds of crops in abundance such as strawberries, cabbages, broccoli, corn, and various beans. Very little coffee. I remember driving California 10 or 12 years ago and seeing lots of coffee plantations, but not now.

Our lunch stop was fascinating among big cactus just coming out in flower with lizards and salamanders darting in and out of them alternating between curiosity and shade.

Like Los Angeles, it seems San Francisco’s commuter belt stretches 100 miles beyond the centre because, again, that where traffic flow quickly turned from an empty “Easy Rider” style “lonely road” road trip to multi lane congested highway. As we approached the hilly city and steps of houses Claire and I were quickly excited about being here.

Entering the city from the ramp on the freeway was daunting as I was anticipating some difficult driving. No need to worry as I quickly discovered that drivers of San Francisco are mainly incredibly courteous and patient, which must be very unique for a USA city. This must be due to a realization that everyone is in the same situation, trying to not only get around the narrow hilly roads but also having to dodge around and flow with the multitude of trams and trolleybuses.

San Francisco is all you see on the movies and more. The charm and beauty of this city is indescribable. Alas, our visit here was far, far, far too short.

The only, and expected, challenge is to find somewhere to park, especially with an RV that probably should not be in the city anyway.

The Melt Cafe

When Claire and I were booked into a cafe, no matter how much we were told it would be good, we were sceptical. Cafes are generally not the best for us. House concerts, community theaters and churches are for us.

When we walked into Melt Cafe we were sure our fears of the place were real, and more ….. but they were not !!!

I am not sure what happened next because we unloaded the harp and props in the busy street where i certainly could not park for long. Even the trolley buses had to manoeuvre around us.

The Melt Cafe owner, Gaynor, was extremely kind and offered to tour around the city with me to find a parking spot. Through this I truly had an unintended guide of the city up and down those famous roads with trams crawling up the hills and rushing down the other side with people not only sitting inside but holding on, hanging on, the outside. I thought this was marvelous to see as it seems like a just and worthy rebellion against the over enforced bureaucratic legislation in the USA that would normally say “you can’t do that”. I was great to see such free spirits daringly holding onto the sides of the trams. I’m not a city person, but to me San Francisco translated as being about “living”. I love this city !!! …. along with New Orleans and Chicago, so far.

After awhile of searching I parked in a bus park and started to get shaved and ready in the RV, ready for doing some of this evening’s show. Gaynor then set off by food to find a parking space. I was risking getting as ticket or even being towed away while shaving by being here, but all was ok. Gaynor returned with news of a found parking space. It was not “legally” available until 10:00 pm and it was 9:00 pm at this time. I said we should take a chance, and we did.

We walked back to the Melt Cafe, almost a mile away from where I had parked, and Claire was in action and had completely wooed an eating and drinking cafe into complete attention and dreamtime. One of the customers DeForrest, had set Claire up with a very nice sound system. He performs in the Cafe himself with a piano player so was very familiar with how to sound good there. Claire had already performed about 40 minutes while we were finding a place to park, so I stepped right into performing my Pottering Harry story, which was received with very humbling rapture, again amazing myself with the response of an eating, drinking audience.

Claire went on to perform a second set for about 30 to 40 minutes but I left out performing the Ogma’s Tale Of The Trees so I could become part of this magical “go for it” multi racial multi age audience that took away every boundary that man has set up between people. Claire’s performance of Essence on the piano at this cafe was so, so fitting for this song. They loved it and understood it.

We left the Melt Cafe with its joy and charm, with lumps in our throats though a desire that we did not want this magical experience to end. Yes, we were melted.

into the forest

RV camping in San Francisco is expensive and not very nice so we decided to camp about an hour out of the city, among the redwoods. To get there needed a crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge. I was hoping for a parking spot to take a photo at night, but could not see any. Also even late at night traffic over the bridge was thick and the lanes very narrow. It took quite a bit of concentration to get the RV over, so my Golden Bridge Experience was far from what was hoped.

Over the other side we soon found that the traffic thinned out to nothing, very different from the south side. Our road was a narrow winding and climbing road that soon took to the coast. It was stunning to look down on lighted San Francisco below. Like in the movies there were various lovers in cars parked there to admire the view … I suppose.

From the coast the road entered into redwoods which looked beautiful at night, and broken up by a couple of beautifully restored and kept 18th and 19th century small towns. After about an hour’s drive we were in our redwood campsite for the night. The pitches were very intimate, in tight circles with other campers, quite unique, but not sure of the benefits of that. It was a warm evening. We enjoyed having that again.

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