Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Getting Out of the City

It's flashback time. Let's pretend it's early June. Joe and I have just spent four action packed days running all over the city of San Francisco. I'm in need of a break from the city vibe for a bit. I'm ready to get out and explore the rest of the Bay area and see some open spaces, some grass and some trees. I miss trees. It's Wednesday and we have a rental car and we are hitting the 49 Mile Scenic Drive before we drive out to Marin County.


I assume that if Joe had been alone he would have happily driven the entire 49 Mile Scenic Drive and it would have taken him two full days to complete it with the number of photography stops he might have taken. But we managed to spend around two hours and hit the highlights.


But first, after Joe's long morning spent trekking to the airport to pick up the rental car, we needed sustenance. Thanks to a recommendation from our San Francisco friends, we grabbed a quick lunch at Underdog before doing some serious touring. We ate organic weenies and tator tots, perused the flyers on the wall looking for vegan roommates, fencing instructors, drum circle friends and the next date for the Green Peace meeting.


We watched a curly haired imp climb all over the very small restaurant while his mellow parents watched and continually reasoned with him to sit and eat. "Sit down, Sebastian, don't you like your lunch?" Mom said this 150 times in the twenty minutes we were in the restaurant. Sebastian did not like his lunch. We all knew it, except Mom. At one point he threw a tater tot at Mom, and then lunch was over.

We hopped into the convertible and began our 49 Mile drive. We drove along the coast and through Golden Gate Park, past the De Young Museum, The Japanese Tea Garden, and then on to Lincoln Park to stop and take some photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. We lingered and took in the view. I sat on a stone bench and watched golfers while Joe ran around taking photos. It was a lovely half an hour just staring at that big bright orange engineering marvel.



After Lincoln Park, and some pestering from me to get a move on, Joe convinced me to head up Twin Peaks instead of going straight out of town. It was worth it. The views from atop Twin Peaks were insane. So was the wind. It felt like November instead of June, it was so damn cold. We got lucky that there was so little fog that afternoon too, we could see nearly everything. It was stunning, and a reminder of how big this city truly is from up so high.



Finally after roughly fifteen miles of the 49 Mile Drive, we finished the last five miles by heading to Marin County to see the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Marin County Civic Center. But first, driving over that 75 year old bridge we had spent so much of our afternoon staring out. The Golden Gate!




You might have seen the Marin County Civic Center in the movie Gattaca, that creepy sci-fi film set in a future where only Jude Laws or Uma Thurmans, models of genetic perfection, are allowed to succeeded. Or maybe a Dr. Dre video? Or maybe you're a Lucas nerd and saw it in THX 1138? This building gets some coverage because it is so unique. It has a curving, sweeping look about it that is incredibly distinctive and rather strange. Long lines of circles and arches mixed with shades of terracotta, gold, sand and a bright blue roof that mimics the bright blue sky that peeks through the skylights.


We took a lot of time to wander around since we got to the building close to the end of the business day. Most of the offices were closed inside so it was nearly empty. We had the building nearly to ourselves. We walked up a large hill right next to the building to get good views, we walked around the outer balconies and inside where the sun coming through the skylights heated up the atrium so that it felt like a stuffy 90 degrees inside. Beautiful, but much like other Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, not the most practical.



We finished appreciating this gorgeous building, Frank Lloyd Wright's last commissioned work, a powerful example of the kind of beauty and ingenuity that human beings have the ability to create. And now we headed to see the kind of beauty that only nature can create.



Joe wasn't particularly excited about Muir Woods until we got there. Then we we arrived we both got quiet for awhile. It was the very late afternoon, early evening. The park was nearly empty as we wandered up and around the trees.


Because the park was closing fairly soon, we took the shorter mile and a half walk up to the cathedral of trees and through the dark, shaded peaceful paths. The trees are just a big and impressive as you would imagine. Ancient and restful, we found ourselves staring up a lot and craning our necks to see the tops of these treasures.


This was my favorite part of the day. We hardly spoke. Separating to take photos and catching up with each other, smiling and pointing out little things like fallen branches covered with moss or babbling creeks filled with little fish.


The park prepared to close so we climbed back in the car and took the curvy twisty drive back through the mountains. The cool fog descended onto our car, we turned around the next corner and up and around a cliff or two until we found the highway and we made our way to Sausalito for dinner.


This is where the magic of the interwebs and Yelp comes in handy. We quick used the magic iPhone to conjure up some dinner options and here we go. Joe pulled into a small parking lot next to the bay and we went up a flight of stairs to the cozy, wood paneled Harbor View Grill. The food was wonderful. Service was eh, but we were in no hurry. We lingered over our meal while going back over everything we'd crammed into this Wednesday and realized our vacation was only half way done. Thursday starts the second leg of vacation, the Monterey/Santa Cruz/Pacific Grove/San Jose leg, filled with more friends and tons of family. Stay tuned, I promise to post before it's October already.


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