Read part one here
(Editor’s Note: More pictures will be added for the July 20 portion later. This is obviously taking me forever).
Saturday July 19
Day three was centered around a trip to Alcatraz, which we unfortunately didn’t get to visit in 2006.
Tickets for the tour of the prison were purchased well in advance because of its heavy popularity in the summer months.
We arrived at the docks where the Alcatraz ferries were about an hour early. No reason to take the city bus tour again and risk missing our 11:30 trip to the island.
There was plenty to read and study about the island while we waited anyway, including a replica of the island which pointed out where all of the key structures were as well as some pivotal moments in the prison’s history.
Anyway, the wait went fast and soon enough we were boarding the ferries, which are described as the nation’s first hybrid ferries.
It was a short ride over to the island, less than ten minutes I’d say. I couldn’t help gazing back at the city and admiring the skyline, rather than looking forward towards Alcatraz. San Francisco really is a beautiful and colorful city, as evident by the number of multi-colored buildings. Something you don’t really see in East Coast cities.
After we disembarked onto the island, we were given a brief welcome and introduction from one of the employees.
There were some speakers as well as guided tours, but we settled for the self-guided audio tour which we and pretty much everyone else seemed to take. It was nice to explore the prison at our own pace.
It was striking to see how small the cells were, especially when you think that they housed real people at one point. Especially the ones designed for solitary confinement. Here’s my dad standing in one of them.
It was a pretty comprehensive tour, and we left no stone unturned on The Rock. Once we’d been there for more than two hours, it was time to head back onto the mainland for lunch.
And by lunch I mean the gloriousness that is In-N-Out Burger. It would be my second helping in two years, so consider me spoiled. However, last year at our stop heading to LA, the In-N-Out was so crowded, that I didn’t get a chance to enjoy my meal. With all of the restaurants in the Fisherman’s Wharf Area, surely this In-N-Out wouldn’t be a mob scene, right?
It was jam-packed with a line almost out the door. But hey, for affordably-priced and delicious burgers, I guess I can see why. At least at this location, we were able to grab a table outdoors, so I didn’t have to scarf down my double double squished next to some stranger.
After lunch, there was nothing on our itinerary for the rest of the day, so we basically just hopped back on the City Bus tour and explored the entire city again. My dad really wanted to see Chinatown, possibly(I can’t remember) the first of its kind in the U.S. or at least the biggest.
We decided to make our way back to the Wharf, and fortunately for us, we grabbed the last tour bus of that afternoon. If we missed it, we were probably looking at a long cab ride back across town.
Back at the Wharf, it was jam-packed and there was more stage performances ongoing, which we naturally stopped and watched.
It was another magician, and he did some interesting routines, including a balancing act of sorts on top of some cylinders. The reason I mention it is because these street performers, had some of the most aggressive begging techniques I’ve ever seen. Now, I have no clue what these guys make and I do believe them when they see they pier doesn’t pay them.
They put on a good show, which we, as guests on a public property, paid zero dollars to see. But man, these guys must have talked for five to ten minutes straight, this guy on Saturday, much more so than Friday’s performers.
I wouldn’t have minded giving the guy a couple bucks, but I was just turned off but how long his money-requesting spiel went on. And it worked, because there was hundreds of people there and they all (in the form of the kids) went up after the show and give plenty of cash.
After the magician, I went and bought the first of three t-shirts on the trip, a Golden State Warriors, “The City” blue and gold shirt. I don’t buy souvenirs for myself very often, but I had to grab that shirt.
We made our way to another souvenir shop to buy shirts for my aunt, mom and sister.
By this point it’s early evening and we’ve been out all day with not much time to rest except for In-N-Out Burger.
It was time to head back towards the hotel, but not before stopping for dinner.
Another scoping out a seafood place, we decided to head to Cioppino’s where the atmosphere was more vibrant and it just looked like a better place to have a meal. The management does good job at designing the exterior of the restaurant, because it just looks like a place you’d want to eat.
I enjoyed a fantastic Chicken Risotto dish(below), and washed it down with one of the local brews, an Anchorsteam. We also shared an appetizer of calimari, and it was really different than any other calimari I’ve had. It was much more authentic, and by that I mean really chewy. Normally I enjoy it, but this dish was a little too authentic for me.
After our meal, we went back to the hotel to rest up for the drive north. It was two very jam-packed days in the city, and I felt like I had seen all that I had wanted to and more. Yet, I was still already planning my return visit in the future.
San Fran is a true jewel of a city.
Sunday July 20
We embarked on our 12-plus hour journey northward by hitting the road a little before 7:30. Before heading out of town, we did drive down Lombard Street, which is one hell of a way to start a morning.
There was tourists standing directly at the bottom of the street taking pictures. Since we we’re the only car on the street at the time, we’ll probably be a special addition to someone’s photographic remembrance of San Francisco.
We drove out of town on the Golden Gate Bridge, with the fog still heavy, so we couldn’t get a could parting shot of the bridge above us or the city in our rearview mirror. Still, it was a neat way to make an exit.
The journey northward was a very visually-pleasing drive, as we first drove through the countryside of Mendico County. It’s a region known for wineries, but it wasn’t Napa Valley. Still it was neat to drive past so many vineyards.
The extreme California drought was evident, as the rolling hills were a yellow-brownish mixture. Still, while the drought is a huge problem for the locals, the landscape wasn’t unsightly for this tourist.
About a couple hours into the drive, we were definitely in more rural territory and had begun to notice some Redwoods. One of the most interesting aspects of the drive is the many roadside attractions we encountered.
Many were centered around the gigantic Redwoods. There was attractions that included miniatures houses made out of the trees, and one stop that let cars drive through them.
Another place we stopped at was called Confusion Hill, an attraction that offers a gravity house, a sort of seeing-is believing-type of experience. We didn’t partake, but it seemed interesting nonetheless.
Along the way, we also encountered some seemingly authentic Native American shops that sold such delicacies, including some fresh-smoked salmon jerky and traditional Indian garb. My Dad bought some of the regular jerky and it was pretty good,
By this point it was early afternoon and we had made a ton of stops, with at least-six plus hours left to journey to Oregon.
We journeyed through the Avenue of Giants and stopped for lunch at a little roadside cafe, where everyone else ordered a burger, but I nabbed a turkey club sandwich.
By that point our sightseeing was over as we still had a long way to venture. We only made one or two more stops, one of which was at a beach in the town of Eureka.
I dozed off multiple times, and couldn’t believe when I kept waking up that we were still in California, even though by this part it seemed more like Oregon. One of the things that remains with me from that drive is how long we drove along the Smith River, seemingly in perpetuity. Everytime we would make a left turn around the bend, I would see a repeat of what I thought I had seen several minutes before.
Not complaining, because it was gorgeous to look at, just showcasing how long of a ride it was.
We pulled into our Springfield ,Oregon hotel around 10 p.m. If we didn’t take a single stop, we could’ve arrived at least four hours earlier, but it didn’t matter to us. We saw a fascinating part of the country, that we likely wouldn’t see again anytime soon.
I would definitely make that drive gain, although it is easy for me to say, since I didn’t spend one second behind the wheel. Shoutout to my Uncle Bill who did all the driving.
Still, I was excited to finally get some sleep in a spot other than the backseat of the car. And in the morning, we would make the final journey to Seattle.