Byline: October 2, 2018 – San Francisco, CA
As we left the San Francisco Airport in the Marin Airporter (a bus service that would take us to Marin County, our initial destination) I remembered what I always notice about this place. California feels, looks, and smells different. The sunlight falls in an unusual way; the air carries haunting, unfamiliar scents (“Is that…..eucalyptus?”). The landscapes seem alien. Parched hillsides and clusters of homes, gaggles of housing seem to have landed on the rising earth in the distance. And ROADS everywhere, bejeweled with franchise stores (The Dollar Store, McD’s, Laz-Y-Boy, Burger King, etc.) Unending traffic and more SUV’s than you can shake a stick at (or count!). Solar panels on Parking Garages! Neo-penal looking "public housing" for the “less able” (though far more elegant than Robert Moses’s cruciform brick towers in my home town). South San Francisco’s 19th Avenue is dotted with “Lodges” and “Motor Inns” for the weary traveler (or hot sheet business exec). The El Camino Real is one long strip of burgers and banks. Tract housing on distant hillsides overlooks it all.
The street names are distinctly Californian: Junipero Serra Drive., Balboa, Anza, Park Presidio, etc. To sustain the green economy gas prices are high, $3.43 (the cheapest we’ve seen) to $3.89 for Regular. The Stonestown Galleria features Nordstrom, Target, Chase Bank, and the City Sports Club. We roll past churches every few blocks.
I’m fascinated by the cramped single-family homes (No room between lots!) and the interesting (and odd) variety of design. There’s a Spanish influence for some, lots of weird kinds of “modernist” (“I failed that course on Frank Lloyd Wright but still got my architect’s license") shapes & sizes, and then an array of cookie cutter cluster housing as we get closer to the city itself. The traffic starts to really choke up as 5:00 pm rolls around but we eventually make it to the Golden Gate Bridge, still a marvel and treasure after all these years.
Marin County, according to Wikipedia, “is a county located in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 252,409.” Marin is the home of San Quentin Prison and George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch. The population is about 80% white and “as of 2010, Marin County had "the third highest income per capita in the United States at $89,936.” (wiki) Despite the high income “the county is also well known for its liberal politics.” (And 56.5% of the population claims: "no religion") It is a bastion of left-leaning communities and Fairfax, the town we stayed in, is actually the home of the “Mountain Biking Hall of Fame” (who knew? --- Mountain biking, apparently, began on nearby Mount Tamalpais). Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Civic Center, in San Rafael(the county seat), and there are a number of natural sites (the Muir Redwood Forest & Point Reyes National Seashore) that attract thousands of visitors each year.
As a result of staying in Marin, we had the unique experience (as “tourists”) of taking ferries into San Francisco (once to see the Giants/Dodgers game at AT&T Park and then to start our stay in San Francisco proper). Aside from the incredibly scenic views these trips provided we also got to see just how busy the San Francisco Bay is (something the Staten Island Ferry doesn’t particularly provide --- especially since the “Port of New York” has shifted, essentially, to New Jersey). SF Bay is filled with Container Tankers headed to Oakland, the 5th busiest port in the U.S., and you really appreciate that once you are on the water, seeing those massive ships up close. It provides a perspective you might not really appreciate if you simply do the “tourist thing” visiting Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Terminal.
Today we start our two days in the City by the Bay and are hoping to explore familiar and unfamiliar places while, once again, enjoying the company of old friends who are far too geographically removed. The privilege of being able to travel to new places (or even “old” places you know a bit) definitely opens one’s eyes to seeing the world in new ways again and again, stimulating and energizing your mind and soul. It reminds us of the vast world we live in as well as how much more there always is to learn.
Stay tuned . . . and thanks for reading!