Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Further down the coast

Bodega Bay was next on my stops.. and I didn't even stop. Just a dinky little town as usual, but more scenic and more surfers. The signs for San Francisco just kept decreasing in mileage, so I was highly motivated to just hit the city I'd been waiting to go to for a few years now. Closer and closer the moped brought me, and the excitement (and traffic) just kept growing. Finally I see it: signs for the Golden Gate Bridge! Almost there! Wait.. traffic was gridlocked. Good thing I was on a moped, and could (later found out, legally) split lanes. Goodbye 2 hour wait, hello GGB! The large hill right next to the bridge entrance provided for an excellent first view of the bridge.. and an epic one it was. The fog had just cleared enough to see both towers. It was probably due to the extremely intense wind I had to fight with in order to stand up. What is it with this coast and wind? Sheesh.

View from the top of the hill

Same view, other direction.

My ride along the bridge was slow, but fun. A few near accidents were thanks to me staring at the huge towers and lines of red that were above and around me. Sorry folks, it happens. At least I didn't actually hit anyone.

Getting off the bridge was a mad scramble of cars, right into downtown San Francisco. Now, I had no intention of actually figuring out where I was at this point, because I was too concerned with observing everything (a surprising amount of adult entertainment right on Lombard) and just taking the city in. I really just putted my way through traffic, and up the hills for an hour or two before I decided I needed a place to stay that night. A hostel by the name of Backpacker's Inn Hostel was my choice. And here's what happened.

I was lucky enough to get 1 of the last 2 beds available that night.. not a room, just a bed. I hadn't really thought about why a hostel is much cheaper than a hotel, but I figured this is why. No big deal, I was tired and ready to just sit down.. even if it were around a mess of people. I put my stuff in my room, threw the sheets on the bed, then 'ventured to the upstairs social room that I overheard someone speaking about. The room was simple, but accessible. 2 couches, a breakfast table and some chairs, 2 computers, and a little kitchen with lots of cooking supplies. I sat down and hopped on blogger to keep you kids updated on where I was, and started to upload some photos. Not a few minutes later, a kid by the name of Dan, from London, England came in and had a seat on the couch. We exchanged hellos, and basic traveler's questions. The conversation kept going as a few more people slowly trickled into the room. A few German kids, some Italians and a few Dutch scattered here and there. Before long, we were all involved in a whole room/group conversation and shenanigans about who knows what. It was a lot of fun... then the German kids proposed we all go out drinking. Go figure! There were about 9 of us wandering the streets of San Francisco without any sense of direction except to find beer. 25 minutes later we FINALLY found a bar. It was a little, yuppie bar, but whatever, they sold beer so everyone was happy.

Dan tried his hand at photography, but Freddie wasn't having it. This is in the communal room

The night concluded with a handful of us sitting on the porch, discussing random things... and eventually just myself and a girl from France named Julie were on the porch, talking about life. A good night in all.

The following day was my day to explore, and that I did. From the Embarcadero, Coit Tower and Pier 39 to Golden Gate Park and Alamo Square (my favorite place of all times). I probably lost 5lbs hauling all my gear up the steps to Coit Tower, only to find out there is a ROAD that takes you to the top. Doh. C'est la vie.

Here's where things turned a little sour in my mind.. where was the real San Francisco? All I saw were crowds of tourists and others scrambling around with their DSLRs that they didn't really know how to use. Where are the artists? The musicians? The hippies? I was really let down by what I had seen (in a social aspect, not landscape.. the area is just amazing). I had gone out to a bar, and ended up just sitting there without one person who seemed interested in a conversation. Awkward. No where else on the west coast have I felt that alone just hanging out somewhere. C'mon San Francisco, why aren't you living up to the hype? The next 36 hours really drove the nail home... I'll just provide a clifnotes version, since anyone reading this has probably already heard the details from me.

Bar 'til 2am, talking with some people
Leave bar, hop on moped with all my gear
Come to my senses at 7am while walking around, 6 miles from the bar and missing everything but my phone, debit card and license.
Police/walking/homeless shelters/panic ensued, followed by a horribly stressed stay at a hotel.

At this point, I had lost everything. My life had just been put on pause, and I had no recollection of where it could have gone. Fuck. How did this happen? What do I do now? Do I go home or attempt to make it to San Diego? Many thoughts went through my head in such a short amount of time, and I couldn't comprehend any of it. Eventually I had come to terms with losing everything I had, cutting my losses and heading back to Baltimore. It hurt, pretty bad. Finally I contact my mother to let her know what had happened, since I had my feet on the ground at this point, and anything sooner would have caused her to panic. Not 15 minutes into the call, I hear a beep.

Katey: "Dude, they found your stuff. Call the Daly City Police."

Holy. Shit.

I was saved. I was redeemed. My trip was redeemed. I've never felt such a rush of pure relief and joy. I frantically called the police station, attempting to locate my stuff. It took about 30 minutes of phone tag between 3 police stations, and an hour of standing around before I received a phone call informing me of the location of my stuff. I punched the address the officer had given me into my phone, and saw that it was 3 blocks away from where I was, on the OTHER side of the street that I had been looking.

There it was. The little, slow, Slovenian noise trap that is more of a social nuisance than a mode of transportation.. but I couldn't have been more excited. I ran 3 blocks, keys in hand, ready to just hug the damn thing. Right as I arrived and caught my breath, this little Japanese lady comes out of her garage, right where the moped was parked. "Is this your bike? I see it here for many hour so I call police! They talk to you?" Broken english or not, this old lady's concern for a moped being parked on the sidewalk saved my life. I asked her how I could repay her, only to hear "I'm just glad you're not hurt. Be careful!" Just amazing. Not long after, I drove happily to the police station, where my bag was waiting for me. Everything was there except my Ukulele.. but I'd much rather have lost a $30 uke than the other valuable things in my bag. I was back on my feet. It was amazing. I can't thank that old lady, Katey, Susie's Mopeds, and the officers involved enough.

Whew.. time to get out of San Francisco for a few days.

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