My Trip to San Francisco Part 4

Leaving Monterey I’ve taken the Route 1 again on a whim and after about half an hour of driving in almost complete darkness I started to get a bit edgy. On my right there was the darkness of the ocean with occasional gleams of lights from the oil rigs, on my left I had the darkness of the mountains, occasionally pierced by the lights of solitary houses. There were not so many cars on the road anymore as it was after 8pm already and I realized that I might be needing a faster way to San Francisco if I were to make it to the hotel at some point of the evening.

About that time I’ve noticed a sign pointing in the direction of the Route 17 and remembered that my cousin’s husband sort of mentioned that it is better to approach San Francisco by Route 17. Making another split second decision I took a turn to Route 17 and very soon started to get even more concerned. Route 17 was taking me through the mountain pass with a lot of twists and turns, where the speed limit was between 25-45 miles and the road seemed interminable. Moreover, I did not see many signs of inhabited areas as well and I began to wonder if I ever make it to that city where so many people seemed to have left their hearts. That opportunity for me seemed more and more distant at that moment…

However, by some miracle, around 10pm I’ve realized that I was getting close to San Francisco, all signs were pointing at that. I’ve entered the city on the last whiff of gas, almost missed the last exit before the Bay Bridge (which would have taken me to Oakland instead of my hotel and much desired rest) and somehow managed to find my way to the corner of Broadway and Van Ness, where I found my hotel, the Castle Inn.

As it turned out it was a great location – just at the end of the Russian Hill and close to Pacific Heights, the cable cars, the Fisherman’s Wharf, the piers and other most famous attractions, which meant I could get there on foot.

I ended up with a rather large suite, quite unexpectedly, but very luckily for me and, though it was a bit noisy – Broadway and Van Ness buzzing with traffic at all times day and night – I’ve slept for 8 hours straight without any problem at all. I must admit I was quite tired on arrival, but the next day turned out sunny and rather warm and I felt myself ready for venturing into the city.

My initial plan was to walk to the adjacent attractions on foot and visit as many as I can without the car, so I would be going to the Golden Gate bridge on the next day only, before leaving the city. However, when I stopped at the reception on my way out the lady at the reception very nicely pointed out to me that the weather in San Francisco is unpredictable and I should use the chance to see the bridge and the city from the bridge in the sunlight, otherwise that chance may not arise tomorrow. I am still eternally grateful for that suggestion, because that’s exactly what happened – the day I was leaving the city was gloomy and cloudy and a torrential rain started just as I was entering Bay Bridge heading for Oakland.

Since I’ve been warned, I’ve quickly reworked my plans and headed for the Golden Gate bridge, which was really only about 10 minutes away from the hotel. The bridge was magnificent in the sunlight, gleaming red from the vista at the other end of it, just before the tunnel leading to Sonoma county. I have to admit to my ignorance – I’ve seen the pictures of the Golden Gate many times, but I never realized that red is its trademark color, silly me! Then again, my skills as an observer very often leave much to desire as many of my friends know very well, so it’s not that surprising…

I have to admit that the view of the bay was also completely unexpected. I never thought it is so narrow and long (though if I’ve read more on the history of San Francisco before I went there I would have realized that it is the shape of the bay that actually protected it from being discovered by the Spanish for so many years).

From the vista above the bridge I’ve enjoyed greatly the San Francisco skyline. The view of downtown with the high rise buildings is always very fascinating for me. I’ve roamed about San Francisco downtown quite a bit on the previous night, trying to find the way to the hotel, but up close these buildings sometimes don’t look as impressive as from the distance, because you simply can’t see the grand design of a skyscraper, being close – you’d barely see anything past the second floor. The darkness of the night did not help either…

The wind was getting bitingly cold at the vista and I’ve decided to go have a look on the vistas on the other side of the mountains next to the bridge – I was told the road is leading right to the top and there are fantastic views of the Golden Gate and the city below. I’ve stopped at a couple of them, making pictures – the view was indeed fantastic. I wish I’ve had more time to savor it – I’ve seen people having a picnic there with the full view of the bridge – that must have been great! I’ve had one more turn to go before I’d reached the summit when suddenly the gas pump light and alarm in the car went off and I have realized with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that here I am, almost on top of the mountain, with no gas left in the tank and no gas station in sight. I have completely forgotten to fill up after leaving the hotel and now I had to find the way out of my predicament!