July 18, 2005 – Monday – Day 23

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 173 – Total Miles: 5,675 – Average: 246.7(travel days)
10:30am-8:30pm (with serious sightseeing)
Willets, CA to San Francisco, CA
(-staying at June & Neil’s — June, a former 2nd grader of mine -)

It was about time for another Shadow oil change and on my morning run I went by a place that could have done it, but the mechanic was off on Mondays, so it didn’t work out.

It was a delightfully cool day as it turned out and we enjoyed it especially so, since we were expecting an inferno. Traveled through all kinds of grape growing country today.

It seems to take us longer to get places in an amount of time when we have to go 45-55mph instead of 90! I guess there’s some kind of scientific theorem or mathematical equation to prove that’s really a fact and not just my imagination…

Along the way we passed a dog with his head over the railing of the 60-mph truck that was passing us. His tongue was out and he gave us a tongue’s up instead of a thumbs up! Right after that I saw a bumper sticker that read: “My Road to Success is Under Construction.”

Our next stop was an on-line friend in Santa Rosa.

Mary, who goes by the screen name “Shortredheadlady” is exactly that. As we pulled in front of her home she acknowledged that she was as her screen name described. As Karen got off the bike, I said to Mary, “Well, as you can see, I like short redheaded ladies!”

Mary had a great friendly smile and some seriously cute freckles that danced all around her grinning face. We are in the same health discussion group on-line and were hoping to meet on the trip. Thank goodness she emailed when she did yesterday or we would have passed right by. She took us into her home, a rancher, which had an immediate aura to me of friendliness and warmth. And we three chatted a lot. We got to see her daughter’s room. Her one daughter in her early 20’s, had painted the room for an art class project – it was blue all around it, with a spreading yellow sun on the ceiling and stars and other designs around. It was very effective and easy to see why she got an “A” for the project. On the door was a colorful scene from Alice in Wonderland.

Mary’s daughter was also vegetarian and Mary had thoughtfully prepared a lunch for us that was one of my very favorites. There is a brand of fake bacon which she prepared and with fresh lettuce and tomatoes we savored BLT’s! I had two!

Karen and Mary seemed to enjoy chatting and I was feeling drowsy from the riding and the delicious eats. I stammered out my excuses, and laid on the couch, and very shortly, with the sound of friendly conversation in the background, a fullness in my belly, and a heavy lethargy drifting over me, fell into a sound nap for about 45-minutes. I awoke totally relaxed and more refreshed than I had felt for days! It was clearly a needed rest and I was appreciative of Mary’s understanding about my time away.

There was a big cage in the back room for the family dog, Roxie, a young black lab, who was now outside. In the cage was a little black dog which didn’t move. Mary said affectionately that was the black lab’s baby. I kept looking at the black blob from the distance, trying to see some kind of movement in it. I was alarmed that it wasn’t moving at all, but shortly recognized that it was just a little stuffed animal about which the baby reference was made. I deadpanned up to Mary, “I am awfully sorry to be telling you this, but I think Roxie’s baby is dead!” Mary looked dismayed for a split-second then got the misunderstanding/joke and explained with a smile about the stuffed animal that Roxie had adopted.

It was like a little dream stopping at Mary’s house… my nap, the delicious sandwiches, good conversation, and a nice smile to say good-bye.

After some pictures outside we left our new friend and to the tune of “San Francisco Here We Come”, we headed south toward that big city by the bay.

It was about an hour to San Fran as Mary had said it would be. The highway riding was good. Once, an impatient guy passed on our right zipping by as I had my turn signal on to move into that lane. I hate surprises like that. Just a good thing I didn’t move into that lane faster than I did!

I felt a lot of emotion as we approached the Golden Gate Bridge. Twice before I had crossed it on a bicycle on sun-drenched days – but those approaches had always been long, somewhat hazardous, and meandering. It was always difficult to find a route onto the span that allowed bicycles. It took me awhile to get it into my head that wouldn’t be a problem this time.

We weren’t as lucky with the weather, however. It was extremely foggy, but still, as we rounded the bend, and the first view of the bridge popped up over a mountain crest, it was hard to control the lump in my throat at the emotional sight. Karen took some video as we crossed.

After we pulled into town proper over the bridge, we had to ask directions a number of times to get to the cable car area. Once, a athletic pretty blond woman with flair in a convertible accompanied by her little dog tried to help us. She also gave us passes to her massage place, and we were sorry we didn’t have time to take advantage of them. We eventually made our way to the cable car area and found a parking garage nearby. The fellow running the place, who said he was “Ace”, kindly let us park in a little space near the entrance and then let us keep our helmets and some other gear in his car while we were away seeing the sights. We told him it would be only an hour, but it ended up much longer.

We scrambled over to the slow moving long line that queued around to the cable car ticket area. It then ran down a sidewalk where local artists and vendors plied their wares. The sky was blue but a chilly breeze continued to blow.

We chatted and made friends with people in line and I took some photos of them and promised to send the photos if they emailed me. Got a cute picture of a dad and his baby. We spent the most time chatting with a couple, George and Barbara, from Charleston. The affable fellow told us all about his trailer and how they were pulling a car and some of the problems they had with it. His wife had dyed her hair for the trip – it had been a bright silver, now it was brown. She said that some people didn’t recognize her and that she was sure going to be in for some ooo’s and ahhh’s when she got back to her relatives. We thought it looked very good.

I left the line a bit to go over to a camera store across the way. I got a wide angle attachment for our digital camera. Might have been a mistake because I noticed later that when zoomed the lens gave a little ring of out of focus around the edges. It worked great for extreme close-ups and wide angle though.

There was a street player next to the line who strummed an electric guitar. The blues he played and sang was very good. He came over and chatted with us all a bit and was personable though his face had some kind of distorted mottled imprinting and he was hard to look at for very long.

I originally was also going to get us something to eat because by now we were very hungry, but I totally forgot to go into the store next to the camera place.

After an hour or so we finally came up to within about 15 of the ticket area. The car about to leave was loaded and ready, but the friendly conductor guy took a look at Karen in the line and asked her if she wanted to get on, and she said I’d have to come with her. And he took us both in front of everyone else. Then, apparently mistaking us for firefighters because of our bright yellow suits, didn’t charge us for the ride.

The cable car ride was sure worth it. The “clang clangs” were fun to hear for the hour we were on the car. The views were awesome down to the sea, a mile or more up the steep inclines, and of the passing folks. The conductor who let us on had a great gift of gab as he called out to people on the street, or jokingly bantered with tourists in the car.

It was chilly riding hanging onto the outside steps on the first half of our ride and also as we sat on the outside on the way back. We enjoyed the music provided by street musicians along the way, especially a drummer on the sidewalk outside a department store. He was drumming on buckets and containers of varying sizes.

When we got back to the wharf area, it was very cold, damp, overcast, and somewhat drizzly with just little cloud-droplets of heavy mist. We got right to the parking garage. We had been in contact with June by phone throughout the day and called again now to tell her we were on our way. It was about 6:45pm.

We put on all our layers in the parking garage and we needed them because it was cold out there. Ace helped us retrieve our stuff from his car, showed us where a bathroom was (thankfully!), and eventually, after we had packed up again, processed us through the exit after we paid our $12! We then wound through the streets of San Francisco.

The streets of this place are famed for being steep. I found myself at angles, too, had trouble maneuvering through. Occasionally, I had to just move around by walking the bike – not beside it, but straddling it and sort of stepping. I thought it must look like I was duck-waddling through San Francisco. At one point though we were on a very steep hill going up and we were stopped at a traffic light. I had to gear up on a monstrous hill!! Now, THAT was a challenge to my motorcycling skills. At one point we looked down a street which had an amazingly sharp angle. We couldn’t imagine a dropped bike there – it would skitter a mile to the bottom!

After getting some misdirection, redirection, and then correct directions, we eventually made our way through the city to Route 101 south.

After we left San Fran proper and headed down the freeway to June’s, the cloud-drenched views were amazing. It was like cities in the distance afire with clouds. We arrived about an hour after leaving town and pulled up to the beautiful modern home and into the driveway. It was emotional for me seeing June coming out the front door to meet us and it was sure good seeing her again.

On the other side of the continent, 11 years ago, on my 1994 (Five Hundred Florida Miles trip of Jacksonville to Tampa) I stayed with June in Jacksonville. She was in one of my first second grade classes back at Coopertown School in Pennsylvania. (For readers who may not know, I taught early elementary school for 20 years between 1969 and 1989.) Since then she has moved to various places around the country plying her writing and editing skills, and now, with her husband, Neil and young son, she resides in Foster City, just south of San Francisco.

June was in one of my award winning pictures – her huge, huge second grader eyes superimposed in a cloudy sky and it’s always been one of my favorite photographs. That photo is on the living room wall at home and is often commented on by prospective clients who come to the house to see albums.

We got to meet Neil and precocious Sam, their 2 year-old. Sam was as bright-eyed and eager to learn as any kid I’ve met. One could see a simmering intelligence growing behind those huge eyes.

We got to spend some time talking about our trip ahead and catching up about our lives. June had made a delicious healthful dinner for us which we eagerly gobbled up. There was a wonderfully comfortable air mattress up in the second floor loft office and after trucking our stuff up, settling in, showering off the day’s grime, we settled in for a sound sleep.

Author: Joel Perlish

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