San Francisco

I had a the opportunity to spend Memorial Day weekend in San Francisco thanks to my company sending me to training the three days prior to the extended weekend. I was able to live in SF for the extended weekend for only $10 out-of-pocket. SF was awesome because I was able to meet up with some people who knew the area. Overall, I have concluded that hanging out local people makes the trip exciting rather than just going to touristy places with other tourists.

So, I know I haven’t talked about my experiences in a while. So here goes.

Getting There

Tuesday, I left work early to go to my dentist appointment where I found out that I will need to have at least two wisdom teeth removed. I can’t wait to get that taken care of – apparently, half of one of my wisdom tooth is rotted out. The dentist said I should be in a lot of pain, but it only hurts mildly occasionally.

I then went out with my realtor to look at few houses. I saw two houses that weren’t that suitable for me and then found one that was exactly what I was looking for (5501 36th St N). I spent quite some time looking it over and talking about with my realtor. Finally, I had to leave to make my flight to San Francisco. I got on the road, hit some traffic, but eventually made it to the airport about an hour before departure. I then had to park my car, get a bus to the airport, check-in, go through the security checkpoint, ride the stupid Dullas cars to the terminal and fun onto the plane. They took my carry-on from me, but I made it on the plan. Before I was able to get into my seat the final call was made saying that the door was closing and we would be taxing momentarily. I think I cut things too close sometimes.

We landed; I got my rental car and made my way to my hotel about 45 min drive south of SF. Then I was on the phone with my realtor talking about how to write up a contact and make an offer on a house. We talked for quite some time until we needed some sleep, I got up around 6AM to talk more and get the contract finalized. Around 9 AM West Coast time the contract was complete and I got into class a little late. I found out later that day that there were 10 offers in on the house and my offer wasn’t going to make the cut.

Class

Class wasn’t very eventful for the three days. I believe I was the only person there that had some background on testing and the products. I was able to ask useful questions and to get some additional resources from the instructor for later use.

Thursday

Thursday I managed to meet a local girl from the area, Gemma. I met her and some of her friends for pizza and beer and then we went to Palo Alto to check out a few bars there. The little plaza centers over here are laid out quite nicely. It was good to get to talk to somebody who grew up in the area to show me around. I learned how to play shuffleboard. Turns out, I’m not terrible. I beat Gemma pretty bad on the first game, while she beat me the second game. We walked past the bar my co-workers went to that night which was incredibly crowded (I think because they were having specials on 60 oz margaritas).

Friday

Friday, I got out of class early and took to a scenic drive along the coast on route 1. I can’t imagine driving a manual car around here. There are so many hills, twists and turns, and stop signs. The drive along the coast was very pretty. I would be up on cliffs overlooking the water then down along the beach. At the top of some cliffs, I could look into the valleys to my right and the water on my left, which just makes you think of how magnificent God’s creation is.

I made it into the city and drove around trying to get a feel for where things were and thinking about what I wanted to do. I finally found a place to park along the north shore to park. I then changed in the car and put on an additional layer, because the constant wind made it chilly out. I got to walk around Pier 39 and along most of the other piers on the north shore. I walked until I couldn’t go much further and turned around. I got to see the bushman on my way back and I had the famous clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. I made my way back to my car to get lost, figure out where I needed to be, and find a place for dinner. I met Gemma at this tapas place for dinner, which was quite a bit of fun. I must say that even though I knew that SF was friendly to gays, I was caught a little off guard by how many gay couples I saw. I guess I’m just not used to it in DC or UVa.

After dinner, I thought it would be fun to see some more of the city at night. We drove around a bit getting lost and the like, but eventually made it to the crooked Lombard St. I don’t really get the point of the street other than to be a tourist attraction and to cause stupid people who drive SUVs to turn over their gas-guzzlers. After that, we made it up to Coit Tower, a monument that overlooks the city, quite beautiful at night. There were a lot of people there for being after midnight. Gemma and I sat on the ledge (a little scary for me) just talking for a while just looking out over the many empty streets.

Saturday

The next day I was up bright and early, ready to experience a bit of northern and southern SF. I wanted to see the redwoods, the wine country, and bridge Friday. So that is where we started. Gemma and I headed over the Golden Gate Bridge around 9 AM after a simple (and cheap) breakfast at a small diner. The bridge wasn’t as exciting as I was hoping. I was thinking it would be some amazing engineering feat, but it wasn’t very long or otherwise as big as I imagined. I followed signs for Muir Woods at the recommendation of my instructor. After a lot of twists and turns down small roads over many hills and into and out of valleys, we made it to the park. There was an entrance fee of $3/person to go into the park, and then they said they were only going to give us one brochure because we came together. Then on top of that, they wanted another $5 for a little map of the paths through the forest/park. So, we just wandered around looking up at those magnificent trees. They are so large and so tall, nothing like we have on the east coast. I didn’t see the tree that apparently you can drive through, though. After a little time there, it was time to get on the road to make it to Sonoma Valley for wine tasting – just like on Sideways (which they played on the flight to SF.

I found a visitors center on the way into Napa and Sonoma valley. Again, they were charging $2 for this basic map of the wineries in the area and $7 for a map that was actually useful. I bought the $2 map because it had enough information for somebody that didn’t know anything about wine. We made it to our first winery where we could have some Merlot and Chardonnay. I remembered my wine tasting class from UVa and tried to look sophisticated by swirling the wine, smelling it, then taking a small taste and making some random comment about dryness, tannin, acidity, fruit flavors, or sweetness. After a short time there, we were on to our second winery. This one charged a solid $5 for a taste of four wines. Well, even though I’m a cheapskate, I paid the money because that was the reason I was there – to taste wine. Again, I tried some wines and verified that I’m not so much a fan of red/dry wines. I was thinking that I probably preferred dessert wines. So, we tried this wine that was mixed with Brandi. It was sweet, but also carried a bit of a hard-liquor kick. It was definitely something I wouldn’t consider as a wine but probably more of schnapps like I tried in Europe.

We went to one other winery where it was $5 for a tasting but we could taste as many wines as they had available for tasting. So, we pretty much tried them all. The person that was pouring the wine was very friendly and told us to stop by this other winery to try some other dessert wines in the area. After leaving this winery, we stopped for lunch at an Irish pub. I was getting fairly tired, so I took a few minutes out to lay in the grass, but the wind didn’t make that as pleasant as I was hoping. The constant wind was beginning to annoy me.

Finally, we made our way to the winery the last person recommended (after getting lost) which happened to be on the way back to SF. The last winery was a lot of fun because it was setup for tours and other occasions (like weddings, etc). A tour bus happened to be arriving just then, so we pretended to be part of the group, grabbed a few glasses of wine, and walked around the winery (which had a couple pens of birds on display, a couple ponds, lots of flowers). We waited until the line to taste wine died down a little before trying another half dozen wines. Gemma ended up buying a bottle of wine, while I just had a good time tasting. I bus was blocking in my car, so we went to lie in the sun for a little while. I found a place where the trees seemed to block most of the wind and I could actually feel some of the warmth of the sun.

Back on the road again to SF. I made back the rest of the way without getting lost, paid the $5 to cross back over the Golden Gate bridge into SF. Gemma invited me to hang out with her and her friends in San Jose for karaoke night. I thought that would be fun considered I have only done karaoke at SA school. So, I met a bunch of her friends and was eager to sing Love Shack, You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling, or Time (Pink Floyd), but I guess everybody that was at the bar really wanted to sing and it got late before I could get up and sing anything with anybody.

Sunday

Sunday was another event-filled day. I met up with Jessica and Kitty also whom I had never met before, but Jessica was part of Chi Alpha at UVa and was a first year when I was a fourth year. We headed to the 10 AM church service and then into SF. We made our way back to the north shore and walked along the piers to head to this amazing seafood restaurant. I had some tuna (done very rare) which was quite amazing. Kitty then picked up the tab (which wasn’t cheap) even though I offered because the both of them were so hospitable. We then wanted to Ghirardelli Square where I imagine many girls would love to be because there are chocolate and other apparently amazing deserts. I wasn’t so impressed so we walked back to the car and headed to the baseball stadium. Kitty is a huge baseball fan. We were able to watch a bit of the game from the free viewing section. Kitty was all into the game, and starting talking baseball with some older man standing near her. Jessica and I walked around a bit because I wasn’t so interested in the game. Eventually, Kitty was ready to roll and we made our way back to the car. Some person was driving out of parking spot when we were walking through and made an offensive comment about Asians. I was amazed; some people are just jerks for no reason. I figured it would be appropriate for me to punch him in the face, but that isn’t really my way of handling situations.

After the stadium, it was time to drive a ways south to Stanford because Kitty and Jessica had decided that I had already seen all the SF attractions the previous couple days. We stopped by the Stanford mall where Jessica bought some cooking stuff because she wants to focus on perfecting her tart-making abilities. Kitty, Jessica, and I walked around Stanford. Jessica and I decided that UVa was much better than Stanford. We couldn’t even get into any of the buildings to check things out – Honor System represent.

Kitty and Jessica then wanted to stop by a friend’s place where Jessica lived for a while. This older couple were almost finished remodeling most of their home (the day we stopped in for a surprise visit was their first night that they had spent in the house). These people had done a very nice job with the new design of the house. It was quite impressive and they were very funny people with a very pleasant demeanor. They were very excited to show us around the entire house talking about the renovations and the like. The wife was a talker and it took us a while to finally make it out, but I wasn’t in a hurry; I enjoy people that are excited about what they are talking about.

As we were making it back into the city, I was of course getting quite hungry. Kitty made some phone calls and found an Indonesian place that we could go to. We managed to get lost a bit, but we eventually made it to the restaurant. Jessica did all the ordering because she is the culinary expert. Jessica and Kitty thought it was funny that they were ordering food in their native language to a white person. The food arrived after a little while, and was quite good. Kitty picked up the tab again even though I wanted to as a thank you for their hospitality and fun. I must say that American food really doesn’t cut it when put against some solid Asian food.

Back Home

I was exhausted at this point and wanted to get some sleep. Kitty happens to work at this very nice hotel in downtown SF and she had already made a reservation for me to stay there for the night. It cost $50, but is normally several hundred a night. I took a long relaxing shower and slept very well on my king bed 31 floors up. I woke up before my wake-up call and alarm (as usual) and got packed-up and checked out. I found a McDonalds on the way to the subway system. I headed to the airport earlier than I wanted, but that turned out to be crucial.

As I was getting off the train to head into the airport, I looked at my flight itinerary to notice that my flight was for Tuesday! I should have realized this earlier, because I had to check out of my hotel a day earlier than I made the original reservation for and I had booked the rental car for a day longer than I intended. So, I wasn’t too worried, but just realizing that I am an idiot, but I do blame the blunder on SAP. The calendar that they show us is weird because I think it starts the weeks on Monday rather than Sunday, like every other calendar in the world!

I waited in the long line to get to an actual clerk person and told them I wanted to switch my flight to the one leaving in one hour. She said that I would have to go stand-by but that I would be able to get on the flight for an extra $100. Well, I didn’t want to stay in SF for another say and have to take a day off of work, so it was a done deal. I was then selected to have the pleasure of going through the rigorous screening process because I was stand-by. After they went though everything I had (even flipping through my notebooks) I was on my way to the terminal. I walked up to the counter and the attendant said that I was already approved to fly on the flight. Perfect I thought. The plane had just started boarding.

Conclusion

I had am amazing time in SF even though there was little sleep for me, but it was fun because I got to be a part of the lives of some of the locals. I was able to go to restaurants that were off the beaten path, meet and talk to the people to understand their lifestyle, and just meet new people in general. I don’t know how much I would like to live there because I personally don’t think the houses are that pretty (there are no brick houses), and the hills are kind of fun, but still I think a bit annoying. The roads are much more organized (I imagine because there isn’t as many constraints from prior roads and buildings simply because the cities aren’t as old).

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Jason Lund

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