Pictures – lots of ’em

Ok – there are many many stories behind most of these pictures, but I don’t know what I will have time to blog them all – but hey, they say a picture is worth a thousand words… Just click on any of the pictures to see the larger album of photos.

Zander being awesome!
Zander being awesome!

San Francisco
San Francisco

Alcatraz
Alcatraz

Muir Woods
Muir Woods

That's a big Tree!
That's a big Tree!

The Beach!
The Beach!

Rule Number 5

Rice-o-Roni... The San Francisco Treat!

Today was awesome!  Ok, we started toward San Francisco Tuesday night knowing that there was only one ferry that you can take to get to Alcatraz Island and that it was sold out.  I knew we would be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge (I didn’t know that a heavy fog regularly rolled in so thick that you wouldn’t be able to see the bridge!).

Behind all that Fog is the Golden Gate Bridge!

I knew we would be able to see a trolly cable car.  And I knew we would be able to see the rolling hills that San Francisco is famous for (although I wasn’t aware of exactly how steep they truly were!).  But I must be honest – I wanted to tour the Rock!  I kept hope that we would be able to get on that sold out ferry.

Pier 33 - the only way to get on the Rock!

We left early from the hotel and crossed the Bay Bridge that we had crossed the day before, took at least one wrong turn in town, headed to Pier 33, hunted for close parking, all while Stephanie continually reminded me of the prior day’s event (see A Great Adventure) and respectfully asked that I not turn up any steep hills.  We finally found a public lot for a mere $20 a day…  What a deal… for the parking lot company!

Despite the large signs reading, “there is no attendant on duty, pay only the machine” and “This guy (picture of a guy) is an imposter, DO NOT GIVE HIM MONEY, pay only the machine” and “DO NOT PAY AN ATTENDANT, HANDWRITTEN PARKING SLIPS WILL NOT BE VALID!”, there was a short asian man in a parking-lot-looking attendant shirt, taking cash from cars that pulled into the lot.

A Copy of the rules went to every inmate

I hesitated, but pulled out my credit card and said to the impostor who was blocking the machine, “excuse me – I need to get to that machine”.  This sly guy – grabbed my card out of my hand, turned around and swipped it into the machine, then handed it back to me – took the ticket that printed out and walked over to my car.  I followed him after checking the machine to make sure it didn’t have any strange looking devices covering the card reader.  He wrote down part of my license plate on the parking slip and handed it to me – asking that I put it on my dash.  I couldn’t believe I let this guy take the credit card out of my hand!  I called the number on the signs and reported this strange behavior.  The lady that answered assured me that there was no attendant on duty and that she would send a manager out.  I figure, as long as I max my card out before this guy gets to try it, I’m good… :o

Anyway, We walk to pier 33 and ask the question I already know the answer to because I had just confirmed it online that morning –

“Are there any tickets for Alcatraz today?”

“Yes, 10:30am.”

“Are you sure, we would really love to go to …. uh?  oh… umm… ok – I’ll take two adults please!”

Busted!
Behind Bars!

That’s right – we got on the ferry!  Apparently there are several hotels that are granted several tickets and ‘sell’ them back if they cannot fill the seats.  If you get there early enough, you can get on a sold out boat!  We took several pictures on the way over, several while we were on the Rock, and several on the way back.  I stood in a prison cell, walked the corridors, listened to the self paced audio tour, and loved every minute of it!  I enjoyed listening to former inmates talk about how bad it was.  One of the prisoners stated that he was there for four years and it “straighten [him] up”.  Later on the tour it talks about when they closed down the prison because the correctional system changed from punishment to rehabilitation.

Zander in front of the Rock! (bad hair day?)

That struck me as odd since I had just heard  an old prisoner say how it straighten him up.

My favorite part of the tour was rule number 5.  Its in every inmate’s hand book and it goes like this:

You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else is privilege.

I almost purchased a copy to give my children as they grow older…

A Great Adventure

Lexi stretching her legs
Lexi stretching her legs

Stephanie and I have been married for nine years, yesterday.  I took several days off work to celebrate the occasion, even though we had not made any formal plans.  Back when Stephanie and I got married, we used to take day trips on a regular basis, even some weekend driving trips on a whim – trips to near by cities a few hours away, trips to the beach or to Washington DC over 8 hours away, and even longer trips to see family in Maine or Charlotte NC weren’t uncommon.  But as we got more busy, added children to the mix, and moved across the country, those driving mini-vacations all but vanished.

J-Haul - that made me laugh!

We both miss them despite all the ups and downs of being in a car for several hours at a time, so when I suggested we hit the road and head to San Francisco – Stephanie said yes with enthusiasm!  Wednesday night we headed out and got as far as Blithe, CA.  We stayed in a cheap (in every sense of the word) hotel.  The next morning, we hit the road with a San Francisco or bust mentality.  Zander and Lexi have been been great for being trapped in a car most of the day, but we did stop to let Zander climb a tree or two at rest areas and we took a few pictures along the way.  We got into San Francisco last night at about 9pm.

Zander being awesome!

After paying $4 to cross the bridge from Oakland to San Francisco, calling several area hotels, attempting to drive around to look for a descent place to stay that wasn’t $200 bucks a night, and climbing the scariest hill of my life in a stick shift four cylinder, please never do that again to me car – we left San Francisco and headed back to Oakland for the night.  Let me pause here to say, if you ever drive to San Francisco and get there after dark and you are in a Hyundai Elantra – don’t climb the hills!  It was difficult enough just driving up them, but when we got the red light, and my wife started yelling for me to run it, then panicing that I stopped, then screaming when I rev’ed the engine to over 5 thousand RPM with the emergency break on, dropped the break, came off the clutch, in first gear, only to still travel backwards, I must say I was beginning to doubt turning up a street that looked like it went straight to up to heaven.  It was only after I rev’ed it to 7 thousand RPM and quite possibly damaged the transmision that we started to move forward at a pace of about 1 mile per day.  The entire time, my son was saying, “Its OK Mommie, I’m not afraid.” and my wife was trying to remember the number for 911.  We are on a great Adventure!