California 2022: Part 2!

~The San Francisco Chronicles~

Going to step back in time a few months for this opening story – our very first trip driving the Sundancer OVER the Golden Gate Bridge! It was so exciting. We stopped at our favorite cliff spot the night before for sunset. On the way up we grabbed sandwiches from an Italian delicatessen and they were massive!

After Daly City, the 1 takes you through some classic SF neighborhoods, through Golden Gate Park and joins back with the 101 right before the bridge. It’s funny, you expect to see it coming from a long ways off because of how big the iconic landmark is, but as you’re driving up from the west side, it’s kind of blocked by trees and houses and then all of a sudden you turn a corner and BAM, you’re on the bridge. And of course, always mindful of a contextually applicable and well-timed song for the moment…we listened to Lights by Journey as we crossed 🙂 Another thing that was well timed was the fog. It stayed away just long enough for us to cross the bridge and have 30 minutes or so by the Presidio Yacht Club to enjoy the view. Then it slowly drifted in from the bay engulfing the bridge and eventually the whole city, which you’ll see in the latter half of the pictures below.

A few months later when we again journeyed north across bridge, it was sunrise. Even MORE perfect for listening to Lights by Journey, which was written about the San Francisco Bay…at sunrise. Maybe we’ll just make it a tradition and listen to that song every time we cross it. 

But I digress. Rewind back to our first trip north of the city…to a little town on the waterfront (bay side) called Sausalito! Adorable and happy little area filled with thriving shops, houses on hills, and docks and marinas all over. Otis Redding wrote Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay about Sausalito. It happened to be super bowl weekend, so on Sunday we wandered into a few bars and restaurants trying to find a seat with a view of the game.

Little did we know the one we picked was a haunted bar. Straight. Up. Haunted. 

The first time I (Gabrielle) spilled a beer, I thought it was my fault. I told the waitress I didn’t think I’d hit the table, but I guess it was possible. With the replacement beer, I made sure to be extra careful. However, when it started sliding from the middle of the table to the edge of the table and then spilled over the side a second time, David and I both witnessed it with wide eyes. Neither of us were touching the table. 

The bar is No Name Bar. Come to find it’s this historic, well-known bar, having entertained famous actors, musicians, artists (and of course normal people like us) from all over the world since 1959. They have live music every night and right after the super bowl they were setting up. The table we picked, along the wall underneath their red bar flag, was apparently where a couple musicians that regularly played at No Name used to sit. It was THEIR table at this bar, up until the point they died. The bar has since put up each of their portraits above the table as an homage, on the wall across from where we were sitting.

Since their death, the bartenders have had a plethora of patrons from all over the bar who have had their drinks tipped over without anyone close to touching the table, beers lifting a little off the table – hovering – and then spilling over the edge. Entire drinks being flung by nothing but pure air and shattering against the wall in front of their faces….sometimes people even hear music being played that’s not there and voices singing along with it. And the waitress told us the table we were sitting at, “their table,” was the hot spot where people had the most amount of…er…encounters. 

It was such a cool, eerie, “supernatural super bowl” night. Let’s be honest…I barely remember paying attention to the football game, except for the Snoop, Dre, & Co. halftime show, which the bartenders cranked. In the words of Dre and and the legendary Tupac Shakur…California knows how to party. (The middle picture below we found on Google, posted years ago showing the original stage. Note that the ghost portraits are conspicuously absent!! They’re presumably still alive at that point.) Next time we’re in Sausalito, I’m definitely going to have to go back and ask the ghost artists’ names to look up some of their music.

Switching pace to a totally different weekend, we joined our friends Tricia and Damian for a fun day trip in San Francisco. There is just SO MUCH to do and see and feel in this city. Below are some photos of us checking out the splendid vistas from up at Twin Peaks, playing mini golf at Urban Putt in the Mission District, and then a relaxing afternoon chilling on a blanket and people watching at Mission Dolores Park. 

Urban Putt is an awesome indoor mini golf course with a bar and restaurant and some arcade games. The course is filled with all kinds of crazy mechanisms that carry the balls all over the place, Rube Goldberg style! We had so much fun.

Dolores Park is iconic. Folks have been spending the day on these grassy hills with swoon-worthy city views for as long as long as anyone can remember. There are photos from the 1960s, from the 1910s even of folks doing exactly what it is folks are still doing today: spreading a blanket, cracking a cold beverage, doing nothing, and enjoying being alive. It is a gathering place for all people and colorful personalities, and perhaps because of that it is excellent people watching. And there are all manner of things being sold by people walking around, you never know what you’re going to be offered – drinks, chips, jello shots, hand woven clothing, board games, card games, ice cream, Brazilian Brigadeiros (delicious little fudge balls), magic mushrooms, freshly rolled joints, hand made edibles, kids toys and favors, fireworks, hot dogs, you name it. 

Here are some comparison pics from the 60’s to today!

The vibes are joyous and palpable at Dolores Park. People cheers beers and laugh alongside others openly smoking weed and conversing alongside others quietly enjoying a book or napping in the sun alongside kids and their parents throwing a frisbee or playing at a playground just down the way. Music drifts through the air. We can always find some time for Dolores when we’re in the city. We even brought David’s parents when they were in town, for an afternoon and sunset.

There’s always something happening in San Francisco. I know that’s technically true for any city, but it feels like SF is especially dynamic. The day we went in with Tricia and Damian just happened to be Chinese New Year! After China, San Francisco has the largest Chinese New Year celebration in the world. What a NIGHT we had, oh my goodness. The parade around Union Square had sooooo many electrically lit dragons of every color dancing through the streets, an entirely epic fireworks show over Union Square that was so loud and close to the buildings that it had us all wondering questioningly about how safe it was….but still! AWESOME. 

Also, we need to emphasize the firecrackers and fireworks. It outdid the 4th of July. They were literally everywhere. Most of the streets in Chinatown were blocked off for cars, and as we walked the streets, you’d turn a corner and somebody would be setting off a mortar in the middle of an intersection. Firecrackers were thrown all over the place, and the red tissue paper from used firecrackers littered the streets. 

At a different point in the parade (see above screenshot from phone video) we watched as a crane lowered a live 30-ft line of firecrackers into a circle of people dressed like dragons dancing around it as they went off at ground level…never seen that before. 

Anyways, it was a blast, pun intended. We topped off the night right by of course having some authentic Chinese food for dinner. Sat in-house at a really cool, low key Chinese place – all of us totally pooped, mind you – and devoured some of the best Mongolian beef we’ve ever eaten for dinner. I’m salivating just thinking about it. 

Another weekend this spring, we went to a Giants vs. Cardinals baseball game, which the Cardinals ended up winning (David was happy). The Giants stadium is situated in a really nice spot along the bay, so that you walk the whole right field side and the water is just beyond the wall. It’s cool when someone hits a home run or a foul ball out of the right field side, because kayakers sit during the games and paddle up to grab the floating ball! Too funny. Gabrielle’s new *2nd* favorite baseball stadium. 

We were lucky in our weather and had a lovely day out at the ball park. And the seats David got were KILLER!! First row along the first base line, right next to the Cardinals dugout. Gabrielle didn’t even know where we were going to be sitting, he had the whole thing set up as a surprise. It was a great game and we took a couple innings in the middle to walk around the whole park. David got 5 autographs on a ball before the game, including Willie McGee. After the Cardinals won the game, we hung out on the right field wall as long as we could until security ushered us out.

Lucky for us our frequented Ft Collins brewery, New Belgium, and the well-reputed 21st Amendment both had taprooms next to the ball park for us to explore! After waiting a while for beers at New Belgium we ended up befriending the bartenders and getting a bunch of free stuff (to make up for our wait) and a couple of free cans of barrel aged stuff to go! Which TBH is totally on-brand for things that happen to the Hamiltons when they go into craft breweries. We got to try some of their brewed in-house beers that you can’t find anywhere else.

At 21st Amendment, we sat at the bar and met Blake from SF who had also just gone to the game. He was pretty sloshed but we enjoyed his company having fun discussions on who were the best catchers in baseball, past and present. He wasn’t moving from Buster Posey and Gabrielle said Mike Piazza which he scoffed at. Blake also said Yadier Molina but David said yea he’s my favorite, but best of all time might have to be Yogi Berra. This entire time random drunk dude across the bar just keeps yelling Barry Bonds!!!!! And Gabrielle yelled back at least 3 times that we were talking about CATCHERS. It went on and on – best players or hitters while the pints kept rolling and the hilarious bartenders lined up shots. 

…side note, our new friend Blake texted Gabrielle this below picture and said “I better see this on the blog.” Hope you are reading this, buddy – cheers!

On their move from CA to IL in June, Gabrielle’s brother Jake and his wife Allie did a couple of days in the bay with us on their trek back east! It was nice sharing our love of this area with them, and we squashed a whooooole lot of sights and activities into just 2 days. Redwood forest hiking at Henry Cowell SP one day w/ downtown Santa Cruz shopping, dining, and boardwalk exploring the first day…and San Francisco the second day, which included a ride on the famous Powell/Hyde cable car, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 wanderings and shopping, ice cream at Ghirardelli Square, stopping at Tricia and Damian’s housewarming party at their sweet new digs in the Bayview neighborhood, and then meeting up with some of Jake’s friends to stroll the Castro late at night amongst the wildness of Pride Weekend festivities. I think we were all pooped by the end of the 48 hours!

They lived down in Ventura, CA just north of LA for the past 3 years. You forget sometimes how expansive California is to the north and south along the coast….SoCal is often completely different habitat. While big hikers themselves, Jake and Allie hadn’t yet had the chance to go hiking in redwood forests because their native range doesn’t stretch that far south. It was lovely being able to hike in Henry Cowell SP with them and share NorCal redwoods with peeps from SoCal. 🙂 We added most of those hiking pictures in our previous blog in the grouping with the other Henry Cowell pics. 

On Sunday after Jake and Allie headed out to continue their road trip, David and I ALMOST started back down the peninsula to south bay before remembering…wait! Today is the Pride Parade!! (Along with its Chinese New Year, SF also has one of the biggest Pride Parades in the country…I mean, c’mon.)

Remember earlier in this post when I said there’s always something happening in San Francisco?

Just as much of a wild ride as you would expect it to be, with all of the positive-charged energy of empowerment and everyone turning out to celebrate. There were people dancing in the streets everywhere you looked. Outfits were spectacular, the only limit seeming to be the extent of one’s imagination. We’d watch the parade pass for a little while, then hop to a different vantage point a block or so down for various parade viewing perspectives. The dancing and singing along to music from the floats was contagious, and that Sunday afternoon was just the embodiment of real pride in being exactly who we are and who we were meant to be, in whatever way, shape, form, or color that speaks your soul. 

How fun it is to be living your best life. 

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