Friday, March 1, 2013

Urban Hiking Through San Francisco

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

If there ever was a city made for walking…San Francisco is it.

After arriving late on a Tuesday night I was chomping at the bit to get out and walk and explore the city.

For the uninitiated, I love to walk and hike. I love urban walking mainly and walk an average of 25 miles a week down from 35-40 a few years ago.

First of all, I hate to admit this to you all….but I go as inexpensive on the hotel room when it is just me or my son and I. I don’t see the purpose of paying a lot of money for a room that you hardly ever see because your eyes are closed. And it was just us guys anyway….so Motel 6 it is.

I found this room down on Geary Street near Van Ness for around $80 night. The one thing I can always count on with Motel 6 is a clean and comfortable room. The area immediately around it is another matter .

After checking my email (this Motel 6 has wi-fi) and putting on my trusty black Reboks and pocketing my I-phone  I am out the door with my son. First order of business before hitting the road is to grab breakfast.

We stop at a place next door to the motel called Moulin’s. Moulin’s is run by a husband and wife, Janet and John. The food is sustenance….nothing spectacular. Felix and I have the same thing…something resembling a Denver Omelet, fruit, and dry toast with coffee. John will not reveal what kind of coffee he is using or what the third fruit was in my fruit mix.

After suffering some playful verbal abuse from John at Moulin’s, Felix and I toss him some cash and proceed east down Geary and hit first Market Street and then hang a right at Embarcadero.

Mo, the Wonder Dog and AT&T Ballpark

Let me digress a little. I do not pour over those books about Things to Do in Whatever City they are about. I’d rather just get out and explore. And this is what I did in San Francisco this time. I did have a goal this day and it was to see the home of the San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park.

 Somewhere in between, I had my photo taken next to a large spider and met a handsome 2-year old Golden Retriever named Mo who was out with his owner and owner’s baby.

I wanted to go inside the park. I attempt to bribe the guard but nothing doing. We thought about running inside and doing a guerilla type photo shoot in right field but cooler heads prevailed. Mo’s owner , an Asian woman tells me about the tour. She also tells me that she and her husband have Giant season tickets and then I’m envious.

This is the most interesting and beautiful ballparks I’ve ever seen and it's a great place to watch a game there. I get Felix to take my photo next to the Willie Mays Bronze Statue.

 I was going to get my picture next to the Juan Marichal statue but I never got over him throwing at Don Drysdale’s head.

I have this thing where I try on different baseball jerseys and keep the photos as souvenirs. So I couldn’t leave San Francisco without trying on the Giant jersey and cap. Felix snapped that photo, and we shot a few exteriors by McCovey’s Cove and we left.

This is where Felix and I split up. My son met a good friend, Alex Cruse, at the Borders across from the Ballpark. Alex co-wrote Hugging Headgear with Felix and was the lead actress in that film. She moved to the Bay area last year. The cool thing about the writing of Felix’s film, Hugging Headgear is that Felix wrote all the parts for males in the movie while Alex wrote all the speaking parts of the females in the movie. And the formula worked in this coming of age love story because you get real perspectives from a young lady and from a young man. Her acting as Lotus in the film is very well done and natural. Felix also directed Alex in a short film based on the Adrienne Rich short story Living In Sin in 2004.

Alex and Felix take off for China town on a bus and I walk across the street to Panera Bread where I check for emails. That’s the cool thing about the I-phone. I just carry in my pocket and I'm good to go. No more carrying around my laptop. I go light on this hike. After Panera, I’m back on the road and heading toward the Bay Bridge.

I proceed into this industrial section of town, and I’m starting to wonder if I’ve made a mistake. I continue up a hill. I do a lot of hill walking but this hill is challenging Gilbert hill back home for steepness.

I get close to the top of the hill and I realize I am in the little Victorian community of Portrero Hills. I instantly fall in love with the place. From the top of the hill I get a great view of San Francisco (see photo). I eat a late lunch at a small place called Gamins. I am in the mood for fish and chips and a coke and the food, while not great, really hits the spot. ESPN Sportscenter is on the TV there and I’m loving life.

After that I check out this wonderful pet store called Pawtero Hills. Get it? Paws down the best pet store I’ve been into and in a great setting. Chad, my Yellow Lab, would approve.

I next walk into this tiny and old mom and pop grocery store, Hilltop Grocery Store, where I meet Linda, who is around 80 years old, and originally from Arizona. She lets me know that the store has been around since the 30’s. We also talk about this game show she saw on TV the previous night where they had asked if you dug a hole straight down from Los Angeles where would you end up at. The choices were China, Australia, and some other place. I told her China is too obvious so go with Australia. Everybody says you end up at China.

After saying goodbye to Linda I go to another great store that specializes in natural foods and I buy a Harvest Bar. There is also a book store called Tom’s Books where I read about the history of Portrero Hills. Another book store that doesn’t carry my friend Bentley Little’s books in hard cover. There is also a great Graphic Art Studio called the Big Idea there and they have a mini art exhibit outside their shop. I talk a while with one of the Creative Directors there before ending up at the Thinker’s CafĂ© for coffee before I head down the hill.

They have fair trade and organic coffee which is really cool. I start talking to Julie who is sitting outside with her 1 year old daughter. Julie, who has a law degree from Georgetown, moved a few years from Connecticut to Portrero Hills with her husband who works as a lawyer for the Public Utilities Commission. She’s taking some time off to raise her daughter but she is chomping at the bit to get back to work.

Julie and her husband love the community here and I can’t blame them. I enjoy the quaintness and the views and the old Victorian homes are to die for. Julie and I discuss baseball.  We also talk about her disdain of Southern California and I try to persuade her that SoCal is not so bad.

It’s starting to drizzle as I walk back down the hill. I cut across the UC San Francisco campus and watch an intense table tennis battle between two students in the Commons area. Great campus they have there but the students have either left for the winter break or just finishing up finals so it is getting quiet around the campus. I get back on fourth street and walk through the city. I get back to the hotel around 6 PM. Felix is back and we head over to Irvings Pizza down the street where we grab a couple of slices of Vegetarian Pizza.

Felix is meeting up with his good friend Danielle who literally lives two blocks from our Motel. Danielle is working on her Masters at Berkeley and had just finished her final. So she was ready for a nice break.

After a shower, I hoof it back up to Van Ness and walk down to the Art Conservatory to catch Sharon McNight’s show. After the show I stop by a tacquieria on Geary and have some carne asada tacos for late dinner before heading back to the Motel.

Next up…Walking to and across the Golden Gate Bridge and Into Sausalito.

Photo: From Portero Hills looking toward San Francisco.
Photo by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

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