Sunday, 2 July 2006, Schoolhouse Canyon Campground, Guernville, CA
It was about 4.00 when we finally got on the road out of Monterey on Wednesday. The truck was still smoking profusely, but only because the exhaust was full of oil and the only way to get rid of it is to burn it off as you drive. We drove north to Santa Cruz, without much idea of where we would stop. In the Lonely Planet guide we had read about the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk which boasts a 1911 carousel and a 1923 Giant Dipper rollercoaster, both of which are National Historic Landmarks. We decided to take a look since we were passing through. The Boardwalk, the oldest on the West Coast (and not a board in sight!) is next to a wide sandy beach and even on a Wednesday evening was quite crowded. The carousel was restored beautifully and housed in a glass-walled building - probably to protect it from the ocean air. The rollercoaster was a typical clickety-clack wooden rollercoaster of earlier times. We decided against trying it because I don't really like rollercoasters, and on closer examination, some of the cross-beams looked like they could use a little help... But I'm sure the city takes care that it is very safe!
By this time it was definitely late enough to look for somewhere to stay and think about dinner. We found a small state park, a few miles north of Santa Cruz which had a vacancy. More and more we are discovering that the parks here in summer are mostly by reservation, and when you travel like we do, with little forward planning, it is sometimes very difficult to find somewhere to spend the night. The Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is in a much wooded area, with a lot of the Coastal Redwoods (near cousin of the giant Sequoia). The campground provides relatively primitive sites, but there are flush toilets and paid showers available, so it was quite comfortable.
On Thursday morning we made our way up the coast to San Francisco. The coast is actually quite scenic, with craggy cliffs and lots of rocky outcrops. It reminded us a bit of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Unfortunately, we had fog most of the way, so photos are again lacking. This fog is amazing to me. It makes the summer feel like winter because it is all grey and damp. And along with the fog there is more often than not a really strong wind blowing. But still we saw a lot of people making use of the beaches, especially where there was a sandy bay between the rocks. I guess it is summer and you have to make the most of it if it's the only summer you have!!!
We arrived in San Francisco early afternoon and went looking for a motel, preferably with a kitchenette. We looked in the area of Millbrae, which is just south of the airport, as we expected it would be easier to find a place where we could park the truck. The first place we tried was the right price, in the right location and had kitchens in every room, but had underground parking that was nowhere near high enough to fit the camper. Whilst checking out the street for available parking, we spotted a smaller motel across the street which had outdoor parking. They offered us nearly the same price, although no kitchenette (only a fridge and microwave), but as the people were really friendly and helpful and the room they showed us was really clean, we decided to stay there.
We left almost immediately to go into the city and have a look around. This entailed a 5 minute bus ride and a 35 minute train ride (with BART - Bay Area Rapid Transport) to bring us to the Civic Centre. The train trip was very interesting and much of the early part of the journey is above ground. It stops at the San Francisco Airport and then goes through the cities south of San Francisco - Daly City, Southern San Francisco, San Bruno and Millbrae. These areas are just crowded with hillsides full of multi-coloured houses. It reminded me of the old song 'Little Boxes', and I'm sure whoever wrote this song was a resident, or at least frequent visitor to San Francisco. Once you reach the city of San Francisco, the train travels underground, and goes so fast it makes your ears pop - that explains the 'rapid' part of its name!
The Civic Centre, just off Market Street, contains buildings such as the City Hall, Library, Symphony Hall and the War Memorial Opera House and War Memorial Veterans Building, which are most famous as the birth place of the United Nations. Our first impression of the city, which I had last visited in 1979 and Juergen had visited in 1988, was of a rather depressing place. The area around the Civic Centre was crowded with homeless people, looking for a place to call their own. The City is obviously trying to discourage this by surrounding statues with police barricades and warnings 'do not cross'. They still find places to stay and seem to be quite a community. We walked north-east along Market Street and reached the Union Square area which is the main shopping area with all the up-market stores. The people here seem totally oblivious to life being led by their fellow citizens a few blocks away.
From there we wandered rather aimlessly through the streets - along side streets which ultimately took us to Chinatown, where we ate a less than satisfying dinner, before the journey back to the motel. The return journey took a bit longer, mostly because of the long wait for a bus at the end of the BART line.
Continuation on > Page 2 > !