With Summer coming to a close, and all the hustle and bustle of summer BBQ’s behind me, It’s time to have some fun and post the antics of a summer vacation to San Francisco, California. SF to me is full of memories through sight, smell, textures, sounds, and tastes. It’s full of laughter and tears, new life experiences, and ones better forgotten. With the trip condensed down a few days due to children’s work schedules it was a packed iteniary where everyone was told that sleep was under rated. There would be plenty of time to sleep on the 14 hour drive home. I wasn’t kidding! We headed into the City hoping to avoid traffic. For any of you reading this who have been to a larger city, avoiding traffic is impossible. In fact, it’s one of the joys of a big city. The congestion of lane jumpers flying at warp speed like a fine orchestrated mess of spaghetti. haha. In record time we arrived in the city in 53 minutes. Considering we started in East Bay Area and even on a good traffic day it takes an hour and 15, doing this drive in 53 minutes was monumental. We were blessed with light traffic our entire trip! Phew. I loved it. In any case, the first glimpse of the City was the smell of the ocean, the salty water, the cool breeze kissing my face and there it was…. San Francisco just across the Bay Bridge, like a huge welcome home sign with out stretched arms. My heart jump a beat and the smile flooded my face with excitement. It was home. That cozy warm feeling like sitting by a fire sipping hot cocoa. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, for a moment it was decades before when I ran the City, when life was carefree, when I played to play and relaxed to enjoy.
I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and into the culture of the City. I love diversity. I love experiencing other cultures, the hustle and bustle of life experiences, people watching galore. It’s addicting. Now, somehow as excited as I am arriving in the city, my Idaho boys have eyes bulging out of their heads in sheer terror that I would call this place “Home”. We arrive and park the car in a parking structure and walk down the 2 flights of stairs to ground level, the stairs are filled with an aroma of stench, foul rotting food laced with released bowls and the stench of urine covering the walls. You would have thought we had to step over countless homeless individuals in our plight to fresh air. The boys thought the worst was over and grateful to be on the street. Did I mention, I love people? I love watching people. There is never a shortage of unique characters begging for money or trying to convince you the world is doomed and will surely explode at any moment. I wasn’t let down by our first encounter. I was leading the way with Troy holding my hand has we approached a very disturbed wheelchair bound individual, who was proclaiming the worst with F-bombs spewing from his slang ridden vocabulary. Troy stopped dead in his tracks. There was no way that kid was going to walk by this man. He looked to see if we could cross the street. With Taxi Cabs, buses, a long line of cars on top of a train of bike messengers it was impossible to even think we could cross the street in the middle of the block. We forged on and I don’t think that Troy will ever be the same. But to me, I could take a breath of air that I hadn’t had in so very long. I was home.
This was vacation of course and it was important to me to let my family see some tourist sites of the city. So I set aside my wants to places that would bring me the most joy for them. To let them experience a small sample of larger city life. With great friends in tow, we hit Pier 39, The Warf, and Alcatraz. There was of course a few items that I wasn’t willing to give up completely. I remember as a kid walking the canal paths or hikes up Mt. Diablo seeing the wild California Poppy’s in their stunningly bold golden glory growing wistfully in small patches basking in the sun. Oh how I loved them. I was taught young that it was not permitted to pick the California Poppy but to enjoy the freedom as they scattered the countryside. I adored them. I so wanted to see them growing in the wild, free. They were not only gorgeous but so symbolic of the history of California and to me, was part of that “home” feeling I so adore. Ironically enough I found them in the least expected place. I laughed with the irony of it all. It was incredible how symbolic the sighting was.
Did you notice the caption? The State Flower, a symbol of hard work, exploring adventure, wandering growth, and freedom has planted itself on Alcatraz, the prison of all prisons, a place where no one ever left (presumably). Where freedom was lost. Was this just one more egging stab to the prisoners who lost everything reminding them of their poor choices? Who knows! But finding them on Alcatraz made me smile. They were gorgeous, just how I remembered. Of course my boys did not seem to understand my excitement, nor would they pose for a picture. I accepted their rolling eyes and snapped a few shots.
Moving on in our tour of the island I had hoped to see my bridge, the Golden Gate. The Golden Gate is a symbol of strength and beauty, it protected those inside of the bay and kept the evil out. To go under the Bridge, was as if you were going through a “gate” to the world outside. To new adventures, to explore the world. I thrived on it in my youth. I couldn’t get enough of that feeling. As I was walking between buildings on Alcatraz, I noticed a small gap in the fence looking west. The fence was tall and private. There was really nothing to see but a barrier wall. You felt trapped and alone as I ‘m sure many prisoners did. Through the hole you could see a glimpse of freedom, the outside world. The Golden Gate right there. How many men through the years enjoyed this view of the Golden Gate Bridge? How many men, longed for it’s securing nature of protection and how many wished they had the freedom to leave?
I’ll spare you the details of the antics of the day but rest assured that we had a blast! Spending the day with my husband and boys and sharing the experience with a childhood friend and his daughter was priceless. I loved every minute of it! If you have gotten the feel that I have a deep connection with the Golden Gate, you are right. It’s just my bridge. I would have loved to have spent a couple of days in her majestic beauty capturing her at sunrise and well past sunset, walking across her span while the ocean mist kisses my face. I would have adored that time. It wasn’t however possible. So I took what I could get (about an hourish of time) and got closer and closer until I could touch it.
My heart will always be among the diversity, the culture of life while I embrace the beauty of San Francisco. I will always be a California Girl at heart.