We are parked in a RV Resort in the coastal town of Pacifica, California. Sounds dreamy doesn’t it? We quickly learn that the California Coast is nothing like the East Coast, these resort towns are okay but they are definitely not full of the exciting tourist trap, bathing beauty, arcade kind of life. This one is just a suburban bedroom town for the middle income working class of San Francisco. As for this RV “Resort”? It is a large parking lot and you better park between the lines or you won’t have room to open the slides without bumping the next guy over. It does have one Huge benefit though… It is right on the Oceanfront. In fact, it is so close to the ocean that the front row is closed off with chain link fence and caution tape due to beach erosion!
Time to see the city. This is not going to be one of those sophisticated, wine tour, fancy dining type of trips. We are packing up Elmo and Bonnie and going in to check out every tourist trap, boat ride and bus tour we can find! First Stop, The Visitor Center downtown, so we can score some tickets to Alcatraz and other fun stuff. Elmo and Bonnie get a quick introduction to inner city life as they step over the “street people” of San Francisco and watch open drug use and dealing taking place. It’s a little eye-opening.
San Francisco is a visual experience kind of town with its excitement kind of scattered around so we toured around by car, trolley, boat, and cable car. Unless you’ve been to San Francisco it is easy to confuse a trolley with a cable car, but don’t make that mistake here or you will be quickly corrected. A trolley is powered by electric cables strung above the road but a cable car is actually powered by a moving cable under the street and all of these cables are powered from one location with gigantic electric motors and tightly tensioned pulleys. It is a fascinating place to visit and also houses The Cable Car Museum.
Learning all about the history of the Cable Cars of San Francisco was enlightening but actually riding on them was AWESOME! It is a hop on, hop off, and throw caution to the wind kind of ride with people crowding in and hanging off the sides of a car traveling up and down the hills at 9.5 miles per hour. This is not your 21st Century, Mom Approved, Safety mode of transportation! It is WAY cooler than that!
For our next trip, we all piled into the Mini Cooper, complete with seat belts, air bags, and crumple zones and took a nice safe trip to Coit Tower, The Painted Ladies, Lombard Street, and then across The Golden Gate Bridge and out to Muir Woods National Monument, home to a breath-taking Redwood Forest.
The redwood forest is difficult to photograph and impossible to describe. It is something that needs to be experienced in person. The entire forest is a quiet, reverent place full of wonder and reflection as we meander down the pathways and gaze skyward to try to catch a glimpse of the tree tops. It’s the kind of place that tells you “Everything is going to be alright, the sun will come up tomorrow, and life will go on.”
Now it’s off to Fisherman’s Wharf so we can jump on a boat for a tour of San Francisco Bay and a close up view of Alcatraz. We tried to score tickets for an actual tour of Alcatraz but apparently those are sold out months in advance so we only get to do a drive-by instead. The boat tour is excellent, the weather is decent and we have a great view of Ghirardelli’s and the waterfront. We continue on past the Presidio and out to the Golden Gate Bridge where we pass underneath it and then turn back toward Alcatraz.
Stepping off of the boat and back onto the pier, we enter Tourist Trap Central. This is Fisherman’s Wharf and it’s time to shop! The fancy stores and restaurants are on the wharf side and the t-shirt and trinket shops are on the street side. What’s the difference? Well on the wharf side an Alcatraz shirt cost $20, on the street side your whole family can get an Alcatraz shirt for $20! Same quality? NO, but how many times are you going to wear an Alcatraz shirt anyway!
Well now it’s almost time to put Bonnie and Elmo back on the plane to Boston but not before we fulfill Bonnie’s Wish. We stop the car, all pile out and walk about a quarter mile across the soft sand and give her and Elmo a chance to walk in the waters of the great Pacific Ocean, a once in a lifetime experience that encapsulates what a great few days we have had.