Yesterday was my birthday.
Thanks, but a gift is not really necessary—well, I might accept a drink, or few.
I spent the first 23 years of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, having been born and raised on the so-called “east bay” side. That did not preclude countless family visits to friends and relatives across the Bay Bridge to many areas of the eclectic, world-class city of San Francisco.
At 15½, I got myself over to the city of ubiquitous hills to rent a small motorcycle, figuring if I could handle a clutch there, I could drive anywhere.
Of course, the motorcycle’s mechanics of left hand clutch, right hand throttle and front brake, left foot transmission, and right foot rear brake is obviously very different than driving a car with a manual transmission on those same hilly streets.
Something about three pedals, but only two feet to operate them.
Why didn’t you tell me that before I took my Datsun 1600 over there? Do you know how difficult it is to drain all the salt water out of a convertible, once it has rolled backwards into the San Francisco Bay?
After many years of San Francisco visits for ball games, shows, sailing, fast forward to last year when I saw a story in the Sacramento Bee about a hiking tour of the Telegraph Hill area, which I “filed”—and I use the term loosely—where filing means adding it to a three-foot high stack of stuff to get to someday.
So, it is not amazing that I saved the newspaper section that described the hike.
What is amazing is that over a year later, I found it.
Little did I know, it was there all the time, archived on the internet on the Sacramento Bee website. Since this happens to be one area of The City that I have never explored, I appreciated the excellent map contained in the story.
So, after I redacted the mention in the article of the 11,000 steps involved, I talked the wife-person in accompanying me on this road trip.
After all, there was a promise of tapas and paella, once we completed this little walk.
In this case, our road trip involved driving from near Sacramento to the nearest BART train station, then hopping on board a packed Muni bus through Chinatown to the North Beach area, to the base of Telegraph Hill; specifically, at Washington Square Park and The Church of Peter, Paul and Mary. (I may have included one too many band members in the name.)
In my recent online trip planning for our actual visit, I also discovered that National Geographic posted their own version of the existential Telegraph Hill trek. While their route was a little different, there was more in common than not, and Nat. Geo. included a few more interesting stops at the end.
Other than to post a number of pictures from the hike, which truth-be-told did include a fair number of steps, I will let you check out the aforementioned links from the Sac. Bee and Nat. Geo. for more details on that area.
By the way, we did see, and most definitely heard, the famous flock of feral South American parrots. Surreal.
Just for orientation, the high point—at least in altitude—was the top of iconic Coit Tower.
(The high point in attitude came after the hike.)
I mentioned some additional stops that Nat. Geo. included.
This became valuable, as I was in dire need of a muscle relaxant after our hilly hike.
(I believe I mentioned there were many steps involved.)
The first being The Saloon, said to be San Francisco’s oldest continuously operational tavern (since 1861). The story in the link mentions something about having survived the big ‘06 earthquake and subsequent fire, thanks to the fire brigades’ concern about the hookers who lived upstairs.
On this visit, I did not go to the second floor. Actually, I did not even make it to the bar. The place smelled of a major cleaning in progress, and the thought of a gin and tonic that tasted like bleach did not sound appealing.
That stop did nothing to make me forget that the steps I just climbed were
not even close to the equivalent of a trek up Kilimanjaro.
We headed to a couple of places that became legendary during the Beat Generation (remember Kerouac and friends?), which, thankfully, included another tavern.
After over 32 years of marriage, this is what is known as a true win-win situation.
The wife-person improves her already excellent intellect and I work on gaining a higher attitude of life in the big city.
After a successful stop for both of us, we hopped upon a crowded bus that might as well have been in Beijing, as headed through through Chinatown and to a promised meal of Spanish cuisine…which just happened to be at a local microbrewery.
This place proved to be another marital win-win situation, as the food was fantastic; from the bacalao appetizer, to the gambas tapas, then an amazing valenciana paella, and finally there might have been some dessert.
As someone not unacquainted with quality beer, my samplings proved to be more than satisfying. I started with a pint of ESB pushed with nitro (ask a beer aficionado), and then went on to a pint of a strong golden ale they call Locavore, which is made from locally produced ingredients.
Apparently, all their beers are organic, so drinking it must be a healthy proposition.
I also sampled their Rum Runner—a dark ale brewed with blackstrap molasses, which I did not like too much—and then a cask conditioned something, which was pretty good.
Seemingly, continuing on our theme of the day of “How many steps are there up that hill?” even the brewery required conquering yet more flights to find relief from my generous consumption of liquids during the afternoon.
While I was drinking partly to recover from our nice, little hike (see, I am starting to forget the more painful adjectives), I must say that sometimes it is a fine line between a nice beer-buzz, to being unable to walk.
If there were any steps involved between the brewery and BART, I can’t say that I can recall them.
A good time was indeed had by all…the best that I can remember.
But, from a standpoint of journalistic integrity and full disclosure, while I might not clearly remember everything, I did find photographic evidence that I took many more pictures of stairways than I have included here.