Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 4: Santa Cruz to San Francisco

Posted May 24, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
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Airstreaming to Alaska
Airstreaming to Alaska

Chapter 4 in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series.

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.” 

Magnificent bridges,

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We rode our Dolphin eBikes over the Golden Gate Bridge

beautiful public gardens,

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Japanese Tea Garden San Fransisco

the oldest Chinatown in North America,

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an old island prison,

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Taking a moment to honor our dear friend Larry Benegas (Kumeyaay Barona) who occupied Alcatraz with UIAT in the 70’s to raise awareness of the intergenerational trauma indigenous people suffer.

and we don’t know a soul who lives there.

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‎⁨Marin Headlands⁩, ⁨Sausalito⁩

That’s all we had on San Francisco.

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We figured The City would be cold, foggy, crowded and expensive.

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Not so.

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Enjoying the Painted Ladies of San Francisco

We arrived in mid-February as a dry, warm front moved in and SF (in the early stages of re-opening) had no crowds at all, and prices were competitive even in the touristy areas.

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Ghirardelli Chocolate in San Francisco since 1849

This was my second visit to SF. Twenty years ago I flew in for a weekend with friends, Lori and Marsha. But in almost fifty years as a California couple, we never visited The Bay Area together, and that’s a shame.

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San Francisco is beautiful.

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As with New York City, we were surprised by San Francisco’s compact size. At only seven-miles by seven-miles everything is within reach.

We explored the city on foot …

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We found Pico’s yacht!

from the top deck of a tour bus

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Double deck tour buses are a great way to get city photos

and with our folding Dolphin eBikes.

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Getting There

Bundled up like French trappers, we pulled out of Santa Cruz. It felt odd to wear our “Canada Clothes” in central California, but our artichokes were freezing off.

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Coffee cup clenched to my chest I whimpered, “Who’s idea was it to travel north in winter?” Then, in Living in Beauty tradition, Jim played Willie and my spirit gradually lifted as we sang together…

Going places where we’ve never been,
       seeing things that we may never see again …
Willie Nelson from his song “On The Road Again”
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Entering Pacifica

“Suck it up, Buttercup,” I thought. Adventure means high stakes and bizarre weather events are par for the course these days. I just hope that, up the road, there’s never a reason to name a pass after us.

Winter cold fronts in California are usually periodic events. Within hours or days the sun pops out as if to say “Just kidding!” and the shorts and t-shirt rut resumes. Californians use cold weather as an excuse to stay home and remind ourselves why we live here.

Entering San Mateo County, we felt transported. That seventy-mile span of coastline took us from rolling grasslands to lush evergreen forests, and finally to …

The Edge

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Our view from our campground

Pacifica

We pulled off Hwy 280 at Pacifica, our home for a week.

We stepped out of the truck and the warm California breeze hugged our bones like a good old friend. Tony Bennet is right, the golden sun really does come out. Of course the freeze was a joke. Haha. Good one. We couldn’t shed our coats fast enough.

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Some of the campground is eroded into the ocean

The Campground is all about location. San Francisco RV Resort is merely an asphalt parking lot on a cliff overlooking the Pacific.

In fact, part of the campground is actually in the Pacific but you try not to think about that as the white horses kick the rocks. Sea cliff erosion is a decades-old issue for this surfing community with an unquenchable c’est la vie vibe.

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Pacifica, California

The breathtaking riviera threw us off our mission. With only a week here, we reasoned, “Why go into the city at all?” This is relaxing. Cities are tiresome.

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A view of Pacifica from Mori Point

We took a long walk to sort out our priorities.

The beach was winning by a mile.

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Sharp Park Golf Course on the beach near the campground

But then, a little bird suggested that if we take small steps we can enjoy both the beach and San Francisco: Pacifica during the best beach hours (morning and evening) and San Francisco in the mid-day.

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“And,” this amazing and articulate little birdie added, “You will like the food.”

Yes. Small steps. What a wise bird.

If we get weary with sightseeing in SF, we can simply BART home.

Thinking about all that fine San Francisco cuisine made us hungry. So we walked home to toast our arrival and whip up an early dinner of Pasta Pesto Presto

and settled in for the sunset show.

We were on a roll.

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Downtown San Francisco

Every morning began with an oceanside walk to The Chit Chat Cafe where we dug into flaky freshly baked croissants, strawberry preserves and coffee …

From there we Uber’d to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) …

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into downtown where Second Breakfast …

fortified a San Francisco walking tour.

Then, we BARTed back to Pacifica for Happy Hour featuring our own homemade Nekid Lady Greek Salad at Pedro Point Brewing.

We got into a routine

The itinerary worked beautifully, every day, with few variations: Morning Chit-Chat;

pacifica chit chat

BART,

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San Francisco,

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Pedro Point,

Sunset.

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We love cities, all of them. Big and small.

pacifica chit chat

But rushing around can be exhausting …

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Afternoon tea at the Japanese Tea Garden

and the details, which are key to a city’s character, are overlooked.

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If we miss something spectacular, we can return someday.

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There will always be plenty to see.

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Cities are worth exploring.

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They are humanity’s cluttered workshops where the best and worst ideas share dusty corners

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where myth, rumor, legends and secrets beget cultures;

where outdated technologies that once served as cutting edge solutions continue to function beside the latest high-tech digital can-do creations;

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where obsolete and failed attempts at progress still inspire utopian dreams.

Cities are a solution to the problem of alienation

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and a place where it is easy to disappear into the crowd.

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People go to the city to recreate themselves.

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Take it from someone who grew up in Naples, Italy – the more dirty, raucous and complex the city is, the better.

The grimy business of rebirth may not be the city’s intent, but it is its best commodity.

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The grotesqueness and chaos function like a cocoon or egg seeping with the mucus of percolating creation.

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For those with ears to hear, cities are humanity’s genius holding forth.

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San Francisco may be a bad place to leave your car unattended …

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but it’s a great place to park your heart

If you can find a level spot.

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We came to San Francisco with the question, “What took us so long?” and, though we didn’t see it all, at least we got our feet wet in The Bay Area.

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On to Dillion Beach!

What’s your favorite thing to do in San Francisco? Please tell us in a comment block below.


Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series


If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


37 thoughts on “Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 4: Santa Cruz to San Francisco

  1. Pictures wonderful. What a great review of one of our most favorite places. Great reflections too!

    1. Hey Paul! Thanks for the feedback. We ♥️ SF! A world-class city on the beach. What’s not to love?

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  2. I noticed you said you hadn’t visited SF in “fifty decades as a California couple.” Are you vampires?😉

    1. 😂 Good catch, Melody! Thank you so much! It’s fixed now 🤪 🧛🏻‍♀️

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      🦇

      Carmen@LIB

  3. If you find yourself back down that way I’d really recommend a trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum out on the Presidio. Perhaps my favorite Museum anywhere in a beautiful location. I wonderful way to while away a day and absolutely fascinating.

    1. Thanks Greg! What a great suggestion for our next trip to SF. I told Jim that I could live on that asphalt parking lot in Pacifica for an entire summer and just explore the area. We may do that someday. The museum sounds fabulous: https://www.waltdisney.org

      We’re so happy to have you with us.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  4. Have you noticed the homeless in excess?? Last time we were there it was worse than San Diego. Safe travels.

    1. Hey David! San Diego did seem to be more impacted than SF. So far, the impact of homelessness was most visible in Santa Cruz. I think there is an encampment behind a fence in the Tenderloin District but we only rode the bus by there. The city almost looked too clean to me, but I’m from Naples 😉

      Safe & Happy Travels to you and Mary Ann!

      Carmen@LIB

  5. Great article! Favorite things to do in SF: Eat and drink tea at the Russian Tea House in Union Square, take a trolley down to Fisherman’s Wharf, have a meal in Chinatown, drive across the GG Bridge to Sausalito.

  6. Oh, we adore San Francisco! And Boston! And Chicago! And as you said, big and small and in-between cities. We also love our nature adventures (and need them), but as you said, cities are exciting and invigorating and filled with interesting sights and sensory experiences.

    You certainly found a wonderful rhythm for your days, with your city time bookended by your beach time. We stayed in Marin across the bridge at an RV park where we could walk to the ferry. The ferry delivered us right to the Ferry Building, which is a grand attraction in itself, with all kinds of food purveyors and fabulous restaurants. We also enjoyed biking across the Golden Gate from our campground, riding the streetcars, Golden Gate Park, the de Young art museum, Coit Tower…now I want to go back! (If you return and are interested in the RV park, there’s a link to it on our blog in the San Francisco post.)

    1. Laurel!

      I LOVE your blog about San Francisco. We will refer to it the next time we go there:

      https://ravenandchickadee.com/2015/07/how-to-rv-in-san-francisco-2/

      Holy cow! The food 🤤 …

      And we can’t wait to go back now that everything is back to some kind of normal and see the art museum

      https://deyoung.famsf.org

      and Coit Tower

      https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/california/articles/the-history-of-coit-tower/

      But most of all I want to go on a sourdough bread tour (that alligator is insane!) …

      https://www.california.com/invented-california-san-francisco-sourdough-bread/

      and try several mission burritos:

      https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/california/articles/a-brief-history-of-the-mission-burrito/

      So great to hear from you, Laurel!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  7. Love San Fran…used to live there, back in the Height – Ashbury days. Fabulous city..with it’s own atmosphere and personality. Used to be a great restaurant on the wharf called Alioto’s on pier 39, I think. Great city.

    1. Hey Linda! I had no idea you had lived in SF.

      Great to hear from you! Be looking for us when we pass through TX next year.

      xoxo,

      Carmen@LIB

  8. Every trip to “My City” is to a different area of town. My last trip took me to my very first home near Presidio Park. The last time I was at Haight Ashbury was 1968. It was more fascinating this time around and brought me back in time. We like to take the trolley to “somewhere” then get out and walk. Fun to pass through the various cultures of the City, savor fine foods and move on. Next time try the Italian pastries.

    1. Barbara! Ah, we should have consulted you before we dove in. We were fascinated by the neighborhoods and their distinct personality. I think a bakery tour is in order for our next visit. When I read your post I could smell the anisette, my favorite. Do you have a bakery to recommend? I noticed many Italian delis and groceries in Chinatown. This list of bakeries looks very interesting:

      https://sf.eater.com/maps/best-san-francisco-bakeries

      Great to hear from you!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  9. I was so relieved to see that this is in February. I thought, at this rate they won’t get to Alaska until next spring, lol.

    1. 😆 I know it can be confusing in this age when everything seems to be published “in the moment.” We’re currently in the mountains of British Columbia taking in the beautiful snowcapped mountains and crisp, cool air. The Great Northwest skipped Spring this year. We had about two days in the 60’s over Victoria Day Weekend, but now we’re back to the low 50’s again. In a few days the real fun will begin as we head into even more remote areas. Connectivity will be a problem – but at least we will see moose!!! Thanks for sticking with us Helen.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Our pleasure, Dean! We hope to go back in two years to catch some highlights we missed due to closures.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  10. Thank you as always for your narrative and beautiful photos. Safe travels my Friends!

  11. Hello Jim and Carmen.
    We enjoyed your visit to San Francisco. I used to travel to San Francisco in the late 70’s. Our Regional headquarters was there. Two of my favorite places were Edinburgh Castle on Geary St and Original Joes. I have a question. We have a 30’ 04 Airstream. We are considering a 3 inch lift. What made you decide to do the lift? Hope to run into you on our travels somewhere sometime.
    Thank you and safe travels.
    Hugh and Joni

    1. Great question, Hugh!

      We love the lift. It’s amazing the difference a few extra inches can make.

      We had the lift done to help us do more off-road camping. The first week we owned the trailer, we realized that we liked to off-road. Unfortunately we bottomed out while off-roading and did some damage. Then, the next week we bottomed out at a truck wash with a very steep grade. When we learned we could lift her, we knew we’d have it done as soon as possible.

      Since we bought an old trailer, we decided to proactively replace the axles which should be replaced about every 20 years anyway. While that was being done, we opted for the lift. Both were accomplished at the Mothership.

      We know the lift has prevented damage while off-road camping. But there are other benefits.

      1) It’s just nice be higher. It feels good. The view is better.

      2)The trailer stays cleaner. I don’t really understand why, but it does. The undercarriage, the exterior and the interior. Maybe there’s less dust because we are further from the ground. We had to get an extra step, but we really like the step and feel that it’s just part of the usual equipment now. So it’s all good.

      3) Repairs are easier. I don’t think we could have done some of our “on the road” repairs without the lift. A few inches make a huge difference when you are under there patching a water leak.

      4) The extra under carriage space creates a nice storage area when we’re camping long-term. Cleaning the truck is easier because we can store the bins under the trailer and stretch the job out over a couple of days without cluttering up the campsite. Now it’s high enough to easily store the kayaks out of the weather and sun.

      Additionally, if we switch to an ONAN Cummins generator: https://www.cummins.com/generators/rv-generators/onan-rv-generators
      we already have the lift which is an expensive part of the installation. We are considering the ONAN conversion because it’s a greener solution and we like not having to smell gas fumes when we run the generator. However, we’ve found that propane can be difficult to find in many areas. Many national parks do not sell propane (but they always have gas) and you have to drive long distances sometimes to acquire propane which counters the “green” aspect of the ONAN. Still, it’s something to consider.

      We would love to meet up with you Hugh. If you think we are nearby, simply email us and we will try to make plans.

      Thanks so much for being with us!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Jerry! Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful website:

      https://www.jmitchellsmith.net/about-5

      “The memories of a lifetime are an inescapable part of each new day.” ♥️

      I hope the road brings us to the same piece of ground someday. It would be great to meet you.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  12. Our favorite thing to do in SF is no more. The Club Fugazzi in North Beach had a show that ran for decades called Beach Blanket Babylon — one of the best entertainment experiences of my life
    Riding the Trolley to the Buena Vista for breakfast then sitting at the bar drinking the best Irish Coffee in the world (it’s all about the cream) while watching the bartender do card tricks
    Eating clam chowder out of sour dough bowls at Fisherman’s Wharf

    On your way back down let’s meet there

      1. Excellent
        Thought about flying to Fairbanks and joining you in the hot springs and scoping out the aurora

  13. Living the good life! It’s so nice to see how you three are enjoying yourselves and finding great balances while traveling and camping. And Pico can come along easily in the train and on the bike. It wouldn’t be possible with Maya.

    I love SF, for the same reason I love Washington DC. They are both breathable and walkable and cultural and diverse. The biggest plus of San Francisco is the waterfront – the icons of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz raise it up a step. And so many (dog-friendly) parks that surround the city as well. You captured the spirit of the city really well.

    1. Hey Liesbet!

      Pico was born for this journey. Fourteen years ago I picked him off the road in Mississippi never dreaming he’d be anything other than a house dog, but here he is this contented little canine traveller. He’d even be happy on a motorcycle or maybe wearing his own jet pack. Travel suits him sometimes more than it suits me!

      SF was not an intimidating city at all. It reminded me very much of San Diego. We felt at home there. I only wish we’d had more time.

      It’s always wonderful to hear from you. Be safe out there.

      xoxo,

      Carmen

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