This has been a while coming but finally I have managed to stitch together all the footage from the dashboard camera we took with us to the US (you can read more about the £20 camera here).
Every day that we were in the car we took a short bit of footage to give an idea of what the local scenery was like that day. I have now edited that down into the short video below. I think that this gives a good idea of the huge differences in landscape we experienced over the three weeks we were in the States. In fact, as you will see, there can be great differences even within the space of a few hours. Enjoy!
All over San Francisco there seem to be places that will hire you bikes. At first you would think you would need to be some kind of special masochist to want to cycle the steep roads. However, there is one route that does make sense commonly called “bike the bridge”. And that is exactly what we did today.
We picked up a couple of bikes just off Ghirardelli Square and set off along what, to begin with at least, is a flat cycle route that follows the coast towards the bridge. Today was a wonderfully clear day and so we got some great views of the bridge as we crawled ever nearer avoiding the Saturday strollers and runners.
As you get nearer the bridge it becomes clear that the deck is a lot higher off the ground than you and so some climbing is going to be necessary. Cars are given a nice long run up to the bridge but cyclists and walkers are expected to just get on with it. Once up you do get some great views over the bay and the bridge itself is a great thing – even if it could do with a lick of paint.
On reaching the other side of the bridge we then made our way towards the town of Sausalito. On the video we were shown when collecting the bikes we were told that it was a nice downhill run to Sausalito where we could take the ferry back to the city. Let’s just say that their idea of downhill and mine are very different!
Sausalito is another pretty little place. Helen has got it right though that a few too many of the towns we have visited just look at little too much like Seahaven – the fictitious town in The Truman Show.
From Sausalito we caught the ferry back to San Francisco before cycling back to return the bikes. This was a round trip of about nine miles and we exercising different muscles to those used when walking. I suspect we shall be reminded of our ride for the next few days every time we move our legs!
This evening we dined at a restaurant called The Stinking Rose where every dish has garlic in it. The slogan outside says “We season our garlic with food” and they were not wrong!
It has been about twelve years since I last visited San Francisco and I’d forgotten just how steep the roads are here – it’s come as a bit of a shock to my calves! I know what you are thinking – “he’s exaggerating. I bet it’s not that steep.” It is. Unfortunately the pictures just don’t do it justice.
Fortunately our first appointment was all downhill as we made our way to pier 33 to get a boat to take us the one and a quarter miles to Alcatraz island, home to the infamous prison. Access to the site is free which is very laudable until you realise that the reason nobody escaped was because of dangerous waters so you have to take the boat which isn’t free! There’s no such thing as a free trip round a disused prison it seems.
We are not normally guided tour type people but in this instance we made use of the self guided audio tour provided and it really was excellent. Narrated by ex-guards and inmates you really did get a sense of what it was like to be there. I was surprised to learn that it was a prison for only a relatively short period (29 years) but in that time it forged itself a formidable reputation.
A year before it was closed three prisoners escaped their cells but nobody knows if they actually made it off the island and they remain officially absconders. We, however, made it safely off having thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
We spent the rest of the day ticking off the list of things that one must do when in San Francisco including riding the cable car, Coit Tower and the zig-zag road.
These sites and the eclectic mix of buildings make San Francisco one of my favourite cities. Tomorrow is our last day here and apparently there is a bridge that’s worth seeing…
Today we learnt two things about the US – it can be both as frustrating and as boring as the UK when it really puts its mind to it.
Today we had intended to travel up via Highway One to the Big Sur and take in the views over the Pacific. Unfortunately the Pfeiffer Canyon bridge is being rebuilt and mud slides have closed other parts of the road making it impassable. This meant travelling along bigger freeways which were, quite frankly, pretty dull.
We also had to fill the fuel tank in the car for the first time today and what a faf that was. When buying “gas” you have to either pay by credit card or go in and pre-pay to the cashier. This is presumably to prevent you driving off without paying. No trust here.
The credit card route never seems to work for us, mainly as it seems to need to be US registered so we have to go the pre-pay route. Problem with this is that you need to know how much fuel you need (in dollars) in order to be able to pre-pay.
This in means that you need to know how big the fuel tank is in your hire car (in gallons) and roughly how much is left in the tank. To help I have created the following formula that you can use to help work it out:
$required = (1 - amount left in tank) * capacity of tank * price per gallon
To make matters more interesting the colours of the hoses for diesel and unleaded are the reverse of what they are in the UK.
On the way to San Fran we stopped at Carmel-by-the-sea, best known for having Clint Eastwood as its mayor at one point. Again it was a very pretty and neat and tidy town full of up-market boutiques. How anyone that lives there does any day to day shopping I don’t know.
We arrived at San Francisco late afternoon and did a small walk away from our hotel to orient ourselves before the big sightseeing day tomorrow.