Setting the cruise control for 85, we took off from Portland and set our GPS for the city of cable cars, hills, sourdough bread, and the Golden Gate Bridge…but more importantly: Full House and one of my all-time favorite movies…Mrs. Doubtfire.
Helloooooo, San Francisco!
Bonus points if you read that in the Mrs. Doubtfire voice where Robin Williams is spontaneously painted for filth (as drag queens say) in birthday cake realness.
Leave it to us to get distracted though and turn what could have been a quick 10-hour drive (or 8 hours with us at the helm) into a full two days of driving thanks to a state-line sunset and a trip through the Redwood Forest.
As we closed in on the Oregon/California state line, it was nearing time for sunset and what better way to welcome us to California than my first official California sunset?
We pulled off in a town called Crescent City and found a harbor where we could watch the sunset. Let’s just say that after seeing a California set I was officially sold. Nothing I’ve seen before compares.
Figuring it’d be fun to camp again, we called to reserve a campsite in the Redwood National Forest. Wrong.
“Sorry the campsites in the park are first-come first-serve. You need to book your campsite at least 48 hours in advance, and we don’t know which campsites have availability or not.”
Dear campsite booking people: your customer service sucks. How do you have no idea if a campsite has availability or not? Your booking system doesn’t feature live updates to show if you have open campsites or not? Can’t you put me in touch with a person there who might know and could take my reservation over the phone? Last I checked, it’s 2014 and this is possible.
Apparently not in California.
So rather than drive another hour to the closest campground inside the Redwoods and risk finding out it was full then having to drive to the next and potentially running into the same issue, we decided to camp out at a hotel in Crescent City.
Behold…only the best-preserved time capsule of a hotel room from 1984. Maroon carpeting. Floral polyester bedding. Framed floral prints. Green jacquard upholstery. AND A SILK HANGING PLANT IN THE CORNER OF THE ROOM.
Oh. My. God.
I wanted to gouge my “well-trained design eyes” (as one of my former coworkers calls them) out of their sockets. What an atrocity. It was like a scene from either a bad porno or a 80’s murder movie. But for $54 and some change, we had a place to call home for the night and a hot shower the next morning. By golly, we survived.
As we took off the next morning, our goldfish-length-attention-spans were quickly distracted by a sign for an off-roading trail that went down to a beach. With absolutely no willpower when it comes to the option of sticking to the highway or taking a detour and using the all-wheel drive feature on the Juke, we turned off the main road and headed for the beach.
Several miles of dirt and gravel roads, streams running across the road, and more pot holes than the entire city of Chicago in the spring, we finally made it to the beach. Despite being covered in a blanket of fog, we found ourselves faced with more wildlife than we’d seen in all of Yellowstone.
Elk, elk, and more elk. Elk on the beach. Elk in the woods. Elk EVERYWHERE!!!
It was like Christmas for those of us (a.k.a. me) who wanted to see wildlife outside of a zoo…except I still wanted to see a bear. I mean, what better way (other than a California sunset) to welcome us into the Golden State than seeing a bear, right? I mean, if you’re going to have a surplus of elk (elk? elks? elken?) perhaps change the animal on your state flag to an elk instead of a bear. But I digress…
Having finally seen our share of wildlife to last a while, we headed onward and inward into the Redwood National Forest. When people say the trees are huge, they aren’t kidding. We didn’t make it to the one that’s supposedly wide enough to drive a car through the middle of it, but the ones we saw before we got bored (having both grown up in the middle of nowhere with lots of trees around, neither of us was a stranger to seeing trees upon trees upon more trees) were big enough to satisfy our cravings for massive amounts of thick, hard wood. Besides, we had places to go and things (cough cough “people” cough cough) to do.
With it being only two days before the kickoff of the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, we knew we’d be in for a treat as the earlybirds migrated into town for the festivities. It was time for some prime people watching at its finest.
Knowing we’d be out and about being adventurous (and drunk) doing a lot of walking in places that probably wouldn’t be dog-friendly – and because our friends who’d graciously offered to let us stay with them had two cats who didn’t get along well with dogs – we decided to opt for boarding little Miss Baker for two days. Without paperwork on her shot history, however, boarding would prove to be impossible without any kind of shot records or paperwork….unless of course we should opt to take matters into our own hands.
No. We would not be giving Baker shots. What kind of people do you think we are?
It’s called “Google” and “vets near San Francisco.”
We managed to find a low-cost vet clinic that was able to squeeze us in for a quick appointment to get Baker’s first round of puppy shots that was relatively on our way to San Francisco.
A couple hours and a few shots later, we were back on our way with one happy sound-asleep puppy in the backseat. As we called the kennel back to arrange a drop-off time…only to find out that there was a 48-hour wait on one of the shots before any kennel would be able to take her in.
Good thing there’s an app for that. Welcome to Rover. It’s like AirBNB but for pets. Animal-lovers can register on the app/website to open their homes to dog-sit. Some of them, like the girl we decided on for instance, even have another dog of their own to be a playmate for your dog while you’re not there. Plus it was a way to teach Baker how to play well with others. She’d get to have fun while we were off having fun. It was a win-win situation for all three of us.
She even sent pictures and videos of the two dogs playing while she was with them so we wouldn’t suffer from separation anxiety. Winning!
Dogless for the first time in over a week, it was time to get crazy.
Commence martini night in sweatpants with two friends, their two cats, and a sleeping child in the other room.Living on the edge, right?
The next morning, we headed into the city to start checking off our list of must-see places. Dolores Park, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Ferry Building (since we were craving oysters and had been told that we couldn’t visit San Francisco without visiting Hog Island Oyster Co.), and the Castro – San Francisco’s version of Boystown.
Several miles – in boots that weren’t made for walking nonetheless – and hours later we’d checked off everything on our list except for the Castro, but the night was young and so were we.
The photo below pretty much sums up what I remember of our night out in the Castro. When you Google “blurry picture san francisco castro district” this one of the first results that comes up. Judging from the blog it was on, it sounds like this Scott guy probably had just as fun of a night as we did since he ended up at a bunch of the same bars as us (or at least the names sound familiar).
What do I remember of our night out in the Castro? Bars, shots, drinks, whiskey and more whiskey. Strippers, more drinks, more strippers, strippers with awesome tattoos. Leather harnesses, chaps, drinks, getting separated from my friend. Sitting on the sidewalk by the car since he had the keys. Multiple walks around the block(s). A guy trying to convince me to blow him on a side street. Me laughing at him and calling him basic and telling him I’d see him on Grindr later. Waiting by the car again. Trying to find someone on Grindr who’d let me crash on their sofa for a couple hours and charge my phone (since somehow my charger was in my pocket for once). Realizing it was almost 5am and I was sobering up. Finding the closest Starbucks, an Americano, and a power outlet. Getting a call from my friend around 5:15am asking where I was because he’d just woken up and left some guy’s place that he’d apparently gone back to after we’d gotten separated.
But hey, at least we were alive. What’s an adventure without some excitement?
I picked him up a coffee and met him outside. Recounting the bits and pieces of the night that we could remember, we set off to find an Apple store to celebrate the most exciting day of the year: The Release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. With a shattered screen (no, not a result of that night) that was unable to be replaced per the Apple store in Portland, we’d find ourselves waiting in line for the next ten hours – a few less for me since I decided to protest and take a nap in the car – in order for my friend to replace his phone before heading back to grab our bags, pick up the dog, then continue on our trek down the coast. After two full days days and a night in San Francisco, I still hadn’t had any authentic sourdough bread nor had I figured out why it’s called the “Golden” gate bridge when it’s actually red. Alas, there’s always next time.
A few hours later, we rolled into Los Angeles. Friends of ours had offered to let us crash at their place since they’d gone to San Francisco for the weekend for the Folsom Street Fair. After our wild night the night before and only a few hours of restless sleep in the car that day, we opted to bypass going out on a Friday night in LA (call us crazy) and go to bed early. Besides, we had plans to go hiking the next morning in Runyon Canyon – after brunch of course…I mean, let’s face it – we all know brunch is the most important meal of the day.
After a quick pit stop at The Farm of Beverly Hills the next morning, we headed up the hill wondering which celebrities and we’d see since they’re always Instagramming themselves hiking Runyon with their dogs. I was determined to put Baker to good use and find husbands for the two of us amigos – who knows, maybe we’d even find a dog-friend for her too.
Needless to say, we didn’t end up spotting any celebrities on our hike, but we were able to see this awesome view of LA, the Hollywood sign, and what I’m sure are probably the homes of more than a few of the celebrities (who’d apparently decided not to go hiking that day). With a tired puppy in tow we made our way back down the hillside and piled back into our home-away-from-home, dropped by FOODLAB for a quick coffee, then continued down Santa Monica Boulevard (with the classic Sheryl Crow song stuck in my head of course) to hit the beach, the pier, and find some dinner.
As the sun began to set, we wandered down the beach toward the pier: California’s equivalent of a midwestern county fair. Sweet mother of god, we had found the mecca of people-watching. We were way too sober to be around such a melting pot so we Yelp’d our way over to Taberna Arros y Vi for some tapas before booking it back to our crash pad to get ready for the night. We’d already let one night of LA-style shenanigans slip through our fingertips, and we were determined not to let it happen twice (or to have an encore performance of San Francisco happen). Decked out in our never-fail black-on-black, we hopped a cab and headed for WeHo to hit up The Abbey, Here, Robertson for their infamous Rasputin night, and a few other places that escape me thanks to my dear friends Jack, Jim, and Jose.
The next morning after a quick brunch stop at Urth Caffe to cure our hangovers, we set off for our final destination: SAN DIEGO!!
…to be continued