Thursday, October 28, 2010

With Flowers in My Hair: San Francisco area (11th - 17th Oct '10)

San Francisco treated us to some pretty stunning weather on our arrival. We rode over the Golden Gate Bridge into the city on a beautiful sunny day, we could see the full stretch of the city and the bay area. We had organised to stay with a Warm Showers host in San Fran so that we could have a few days rest from the bikes and time to check the place out. Heidi and Martin were a wonderful couple, living in a great area and we felt very lucky to be able to stay with them while we did the touristy city things.
In the few days that we were there Jules and I fell in love with San Fran. There was so much to see and do.. we explored the funky old neighbourhoods, found the American version of the kebab (the burrito), discovered exactly how many hills San Fran has, Jules got read poetry to at the local lesbian bar (I meanwhile found a hidden talent for pool and swept the table, right up until the time that Jules poetry reading ended and she came to watch me, whereby I found I could not hit any of the balls), we ate donuts and sat on the beach in sun, watched the beautiful men and their beautiful fluffy dogs (with matching jackets), we wondered Haight-Ashbury, and the Castro, and Mission, picnicked on dim sum in Golden Gate Park, discovered the “San Fran shot” - a herbal shot of alcohol that tasted like it should be sold in a health food shop, browsed the wicked Green Apple bookshop (from which Jules had to forcibly remove me), ate a lot of great and cheap food and drank lots of awesome coffee. We also managed to catch up with some fellow cyclists who we had met further up north, and who made it to the city around the same time as us.
On our first night in San Fran we made dinner for Heidi and Martin, though I am not sure if this was the best idea as I am clearly out of practice with cooking in a nice kitchen with a full range of tools. The last few months I have had to get used to cooking with two small saucepans and with a limited range of food products. Recently I have gotten very experimental in my cooking as I have worked through most of my tried and tested recipes at least once. One of my most questionable of meals I made a few days before San Fran. I had bought a gigantic bunch of fresh organic basil so I decided to make pesto. In lieu of a blender, Parmesan and pine-nuts I simply smushed up a whole lot of basil, added sunflower seeds, cream cheese, some oil and some seasoning... and Voila – a green and white paste not dissimilar to that weird herbal toothpaste that mum used to make me use as a child.
Anyway, back to cooking in San Fran – while dinner was not my best effort I decided to try again another night and make some desert. However, this was not helped by the fact that we shopped for most of the ingredients at the market in Chinatown (Chinatown is the best place to shop in San Fran!), which meant that my berry and apple pecan crumble could either be accompanied by yam, red bean or (my personal favourite) 'corn and cheese' ice-cream. Luckily hidden behind the assortment of root vegetable sorbets I found some coconut ice-cream, which actually went quite well and the desert was saved!
Coincidentally, Heidi and Martin were also hosting another two cyclists, a Spanish couple, Javier and Sylvia, who we had cycled with further up the coast, and who were also cycling the Alaska to South America route. While in San Fran, we had a great time sharing stories and plans with them, and attempting to practice our very dodgy Spanish. A couple of the nights that we were there we had dinner with the four of us cyclists, Heidi, Martin, plus Martin's amazingly sprightly 92 year old mother, Alice. A fun, if eclectic, family dinner. We enjoyed Heidi's awesome culinary skills ,the great conversations, stories of San Fran's history and explanations of the complicated nature of American politics. Jules was also very happy to have a rest from my “experimental dinners”!
In San Fran we had to buy new tyres for the ladies (Norma's tyres were held together only with a few bits of thread and Betty was getting heaps of flats). We felt bad for leaving poor Norma and Betty suffering with second-rate tyres so we forked out for the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tyres but had to get them ordered in. As we had to wait for a couple of days we decided to go camping in the Marin Headlands in the national park on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The sunshine disappeared the day we headed out to the headlands and our trip took place through the fiercesome San Fran fog, with the chorus of fog-horns to accompany our progress.
The Marin Headlands were beautiful, reminding me of the coastal scrub-heath back home. We spent a couple of days there and hiked out over the ridgelines, giving us great views of the valley (and the fog). We also did a short walk out to the lighthouse at the entrance to the San Fran bay. We wanted to stay at the headlands for a few days but could not get another reservation in the campsites (which are free by the way and our site had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city behind!) so luckily Heidi and Martin took us back in for another couple of nights so that we could pick up our new tyres and so we could avoid leaving town on the weekend and running into a “pumpkin festival” further down the coast (I was a little nervous about what a festival of pumpkins and the 300,000 people that were supposed to be there would involve!).
The first few days in San Fran we had had such a good time, and I had decided I wanted to live there. This was until the beautiful sunny, barmy days ended and the cold and rain moved in.. ahh this is the San Fran that I was expecting! The cold weather made it easier to leave, although we were both still a little sad to say goodbye to the city's vibrancy... back to camp life and meals of questionable taste!

1 comment:

  1. It's funny, you girls had a much different experience in San Fran than we did. We kind of just wandered blindly around the city and into a bar when it got dark. We did get to hang out with Miles, which was a blast, and we ran into Javier and Sylvia as well, which was really funny and random. It's good to hear an account of such a fun time. Plus I'm SUPER jealous of your photography skills. I might have to steal them and pass them off as my own :)