July 03, 2006

It's Like Road Rage, But Not As Intense

The drive to San Francisco on Wednesday (flat tire excluded) was another pretty one. It started off winding through more redwood forests, which, to be honest, was getting a little old by that point— but I did get to drive through a tree (one of the few goals I had set myself at the beginning of the trip) so I was happy.

The amazing thing about the California landscape is that just when you’re beginning to feel like you’ve seen it all, it changes into something completely different and equally stunning. As I moved further south, the redwoods dropped away into puckered hillsides, the most brilliant shades of golden white and yellow, cris-crossed with Morse code lines of dark green trees. This, my friends, was wine country.

(South of San Francisco, on the way to L.A., the landscape changed again, trees being replaced at first by windfarms, and then by, well, nothing. The wild grasses lining the hills grew even finer and more golden, transforming them into giant dunes flapping like towels across the view; then the hills settled and disappeared giving way to giant plains of flat emptiness. Locals had described the drive as boring and lifeless, but for me there was a beautiful thrill in seeing just how much sunny nothing could stretch out in every direction.)

Once in San Francisco I did a whirlwind driving tour of some of the major landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, etc. Then I ditched the car at my hotel and took off on a stroll around North Beach and the surrounding area, ending up back at Fisherman’s Wharf in the evening to catch my ferry to Alactraz.

Though the old prison was just as crammed with tourists and obnoxious money-spinning as I had expected (Have Your Picture Taken On the Dock! Last Chance For Food and Drink! Visit The Bookstore! Visit the Gift Shop! PAY MY RENT!), the audio tour that was included in the price of the ferry ticket was actually really excellent— well-produced, entertaining, and consistently interesting. And the island itself was an atmospheric delight, once you could break off from the sticky hordes of people. I was there for the hour and a half surrounding sunset, and the evening light made the place seem all the more desolate and creepy.

Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the city, I had missed the seatings for the comedy stylings of both Kevin Pollak and (even more disappointing) Dustin Diamond, so I contented myself with a slow stroll home along Columbus, some pizza, and immature giggling at this button in my hotel’s elevator:

For the love of God, don't press it!!


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