San Francisco Treat
Arrival at San Francisco Airport
America in Two Weeks
After my Indonesia Christmas trip, I began to quickly fall in love with travel and I wanted to do more of it. Since I still had a job in China, I couldn't just travel anytime I wanted. But the Chinese Spring Festival was shortly after Christmas, so I decided that I wanted to see more of my own country in the two weeks that I had off work. So, I planned a seven city trip that would include California, the Midwest, the South, New York, Florida, and Texas. Boy, was it an exciting trip and a memorable one that further confirmed my God-given "calling" on this Earth to be a traveler, explorer, and career vagabond.
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, California
The first leg of my seven city tour during my "America in Two Weeks" campaign was San Francisco. It made sense to hit the West Coast first and I really needed to see more of California. I had been to San Francisco before, but only in transit at the airport. I wanted to really see it and soak it up. I also have a couple of friends who live there, so that would make my visit more enjoyable. I was looking so forward to seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and riding the cable cars up and down the hilly streets. I only had a couple of days because I still had six other cities to visit and two weeks goes by pretty quick when you're having fun.
Orange Village Hostel (http://orangevillagehostel.com/)
I arrived at about 6am in the morning and was able to get a great window-view video of my arrival into the Bay Area. I had already booked reservations at the Orange Village Hostel, which I managed to get a four person room for a ridiculously low price of $30 per night. I was impressed with the accommodation and services of the hostel and I plan on staying there again in the future. When you travel like I do, you ALWAYS look for bargains, especially in a city like San Francisco, the second most expensive city in the U.S.
San Francisco Arrival from Beijing
After checking into the hostel, I took a shower and went to bed. I stayed in a four person two bunk bedroom. I didn't really talk to my bunkmates, since I wasn't at the hostel that much the two days that I was there. I did end up talking to one person one morning while we were eating breakfast in the dining area. He was an IT person from Boston. He seemed like a nice guy. I didn't want to sleep in and waste the entire next day, so I made sure that I got up at 12pm. Should I have rested more than that? Yes, but I wanted to see as much of the city as I possibly could because I didn't know when I would come back to this iconic city that they have sang songs about, made movies in, and where many cultural and historic events took place.
I woke up around 12pm, got cleaned up and sat down in the lobby area while I mapped out my Day 1 Itinerary. I figured that I would save the Golden Gate Bridge for last, so I decided to head toward Powell Street and jump on a cable car that would take me toward Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz. I had seen these cable cars on TV, online, and in magazines my whole life and watching "Full House" on TV as a kid made me want to ride them that much more. Powell Street wasn't too far from the Orange Village Hostel and so I took a stroll on the crisp, cool morning toward the Powell-Hyde cable car station while grabbing breakfast at Starbucks. The line was kinda long but it didn't last long. I was able to get some good photos and videos on the way to Fisherman's Wharf and we had a great view of Alcatraz. We also passed through Chinatown and was able to see much of downtown.
Ticket for the Cable Car, Powell-Hyde Station
Powell & Hyde Cable Car
On the Way to Fisherman's Wharf from the Powell & Hyde Station
View of Alcatraz toward Fisherman's Wharf
Cable Car ride from the Powell & Hyde Station toward Fisherman's Wharf
Once we arrived at Fisherman's Wharf I did a little bit of shopping and took some photos of the great scenery around me. The weather was great as it was in the mid-60s. San Francisco has a year-round Mediterranean-type of climate where the daily mean temperature is in the 50s and 60s.
View of Alcatraz from Fisherman's Wharf
View of Golden Gate Bridge from Fisherman's Wharf
I spent the rest of the day just walking around downtown and going in and out of shops and meeting new people. Just the fact that I was actually in San Francisco was surreal, so it didn't really matter what I was doing, just as long as I kept moving and seeing new things. I wasn't there long enough to see everything I wanted, but I was able to see the best of the city. I had already made plans to see my friends and meet up with them for dinner the next day at night, but not until after I saw and jogged the Golden Gate Bridge. That's right, I jogged the Golden Gate Bridge. In just a few more days, I'd be jogging the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. The Golden Gate Bridge is about 1.7 miles long. My goal was to jog the bridge from one side to another and then walk back and enjoy the scenery and get some great photos of the Bay, the Bridge, and the city. I had dinner that evening at a hotel nearby and then I turned in for bed around 10pm. The next day was my last full day there and I wanted to make the most of it.
I woke up pretty early and grabbed some breakfast and coffee at the hostel's dining area that they had. I was able to catch some Bay Area morning news and catch up on all the happenings in San Francisco and in California. It was weird, in cool kinda way because I still couldn't believe that I was actually in San Francisco. I'm just not West Coast kind of guy and experiencing a new part of America was just awesome, in itself. The people in San Francisco are very liberal, but for the most part very friendly. I'm a small town guy from the southern Midwest and the people in San Francisco are NOTHING like the people are where I grew up, but it was all good. I was already a vagabond before arriving in San Francisco, as I have a habit of moving to a new place about every two years or so. In other words, I'm an open minded countryboy. As far as my politics, I'm a moderate who used to be a conservative. While having breakfast and watching the local news, I jotted down my itinerary for the day. Soon, I stepped outside the Orange Hostel, ready to rock, and to enjoy another beautiful, crisp, cool, sunny San Francisco morning.
There were a list of places that I wanted to see, but being new to San Francisco and not doing adequate prior research, I wasn't all too familiar with my transportation options. The taxi driver that gave me a ride from the airport to the hostel the day before was a great guy, who gave me a lot of information about San Francisco, as a local who had lived there for 30 years. Believe it or not, I pick taxi drivers' brains on these airport-hotel trips when I arrive in a brand new city for the first time. This is because these people know the city that you're in and they will tell you things that "Wikitravel" and other sites will not. They give you insider information that is invaluable, along with a lot of opinionated garbage that you don't really need. But I've learned to get along with the taxi drivers simply for the useful information that they give me that I can't find anywhere else. If I like them then I will tip them.
Two things that I had to do on Day 2 were to see the Golden Gate Bridge and to meet up with Jacque and Phil, my friends who lived in San Francisco. Thanks to the BART transit, people who live in and around the Bay Area can easily get in and out of the city. As I mentioned earlier, San Francisco is the 2nd most expensive city to live in (under NYC) and many people who do live in the city, live with other people to share expenses. Also, many people who live in San Francisco take serious advantage of phone apps, especially the Millennials, since they tend to be very tech oriented relative to the older folks. Frankly, there's nothing wrong with using technology to make life easier, even if people do use it too much. And just look at all the tech companies in California.
Since I decided to postpone many places for my next San Francisco visit, like Chinatown, the University of San Francisco, and the Twitter headquarters, I focused on how to best get to the Golden Gate Bridge. I did some sightseeing, some research, and then early afternoon rolled around and I decided to head out there and see the immaculate Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge (Gallery)
I took a bus to a certain location and then I grabbed a taxi the rest of the way. At the time, I hadn't joined the UBER revolution because I was still pretty much a novice traveler. But the taxis in San Francisco were great compared to the ones in Asia that love to rip you off. There was a lot of great scenery along the way and man oh man, talk about some prime real estate. I've had several people tell me that San Francisco was taken over by a bunch of rich assholes. I really don't know how true that is, but there's a clear reason why it is so expensive to live there and why it keeps getting more expensive. It has something to do with the demand to live there, and once you visit it you will understand why it is such a fabulous place.
It's not just the scenery, the weather, and the culture, but the history that makes it unique. The California "Gold Rush" of 1849 brought rapid growth to the area making it the largest city in California. San Francisco is home to the first and oldest Chinatown and is where the first Chinese settlers made their home in the U.S. It is also home to Levis Strauss & Co., Uber, Lyft, Mozilla, Twitter, Pinterest, and Airbnb. San Francisco is home to the "Peace Movement" and the "Hippie" culture that was born in the wake of anti-war protests during the Vietnam War. It is also a city that has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights for decades. There are also many financial companies that were founded in the city such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Bank of America' headquarters is now located in North Carolina.
Golden Gate Bridge
When I arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge I was amazed that I was actually there and I couldn't stop staring at it. I just wanted it to really sink in, so that I could recall being there, even in my sleep while I'm dreaming.
Golden Gate Bridge
I took some good photos of the bridge before I stretched out and decided to give it a run. I thought it was cool that I was actually about to jog across this historic American landmark. I wasn't in very good shape, but I was going to huff and puff and force myself across without stopping.
View of Alcatraz via the Golden Gate Bridge
There were a lot of people on the bridge, couples holding hands, cyclists, people walking dogs, groups of teenagers, police, and just about everyone else. The sun hit the Bay just right and along with the weather and the location, it made for a very memorable experience. That had to be the best jog that I've ever had, aside from the jog that I would take just a few days later in NYC across the Brooklyn Bridge. Why did I jog it? Why not? I thought it would be something cool that I could brag about to others. It's not like I did anything spectacular, but c'mon, it's the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE and I was there and to me, that was an experience of a lifetime.
San Francisco Bay via the Golden Gate Bridge
After running across the bridge, I caught my breath, got a bottle of water and then walked across on the way back. On the way back is when I took all the pictures and videos and stood and stared at all the cool things that there was to see. There was a great view of the city, Alcatraz, and all the variety of colorful boats that danced on the water along with the sunlight. Wow. I wanted to stay right there and not leave. EVER. But all good things must come to an end, unfortunately, and I needed to get back to the hostel and get cleaned up and get ready to meet up with Jacque and Phil for dinner.
My San Francisco Friends, Jacque & Phil
We all decided to meet up across the street from the Orange Village Hostel at Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen (https://jasperscornertap.com/), a restaurant/bar type of venue. It had a nice, relaxed atmosphere to it and the food was great. I had known Jacque for years, and I met Phil for the first time in person. I actually met Jacque in Tampa back in 2004. I envy Jacque and Phil because they are living the "American Dream." They live in an All-American city, both have jobs that they love, and at the time that we met they were talking about purchasing a home. Recently, it was announced that there would be a new addition to their family and for that I say, CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Since I never distract myself from talking too much and I always remember what I'm supposed to do, I forgot to get some photos of us and our wonderful evening that we had with each other. But it's all good, I know where they are and they know I'm a traveler so chances are we'll see each other again real soon. I'm grateful to have such great friends in my life. Phil actually designed the very first logo for my blog, Outcast Vagabond.
Original Logo for Outcast Vagabond
The next morning I got up early and had breakfast again in the dining area of the hostel, and was able to get somewhat acquainted with one of my bunkmates from Boston. He seemed like a smart guy with great plan for his life and I enjoyed hearing his story. That's one of the beauties of being a traveler, is that you meet so many interesting people. Even when you meet weirdos or bad people, they can still be interesting and they make for great stories to share with your friends, family, and blog followers.
I checked out of the Orange Village Hostel around 11am and took a taxi to the airport. My flight was early afternoon and I always follow the "two hour rule" and show up two hours before my flights. This is especially helpful when I'm new to an airport and don't quite know my way around it. Going through security was a bit of a pain, with people arguing and yelling, but I think it caught me by surprise because I was back in the States and I was experiencing "reverse culture shock." Off I went to city #2 (Chicago) and the scenery of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains from about 35,000 feet was incredible. Good thing I got a window seat. It was about a 4 hour flight from San Francisco to Chicago.
Homelessness in San Francisco
Homelessness in San Francisco is such a problem that I feel the need to mention it on my blog. It is dubbed "San Francisco's Most Intractable Problem" by various guidebooks. It is noticed by travelers and residents, alike, and there have been extensive efforts by the city to address the growing problem. I noticed it while I was there and I really didn't see it as a problem that is different from any other major American city. But the homeless population remains at about 13,500, altogether, with about 7,000 living on the streets, alone. In 2002, the city adopted a "Care Not Cash" program to shift from less monetary assistance to more skills training and housing assistance. One reason that people believe is the cause for the homeless problem is due to lack of mental health services and Vietnam War Veterans who returned to the States after the war and joined the "Hippie Movement" and became consumed with substance abuse. Of course, there are a lot of young homeless people and there are many factors contributing to this problem. Also, the homeless problem in San Francisco is minor relative to other U.S. cities.
I didn't learn until after my visit to San Francisco about the facts of the Golden Gate Bridge suicide problem. Between 1937 and 2012, there have been an estimated 1,600 bodies that have been recovered from jumpers who have committed suicide from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. This doesn't include the five years between 2012 and 2017. Had I known this before my jog across the bridge, perhaps I would have felt differently about it. I mean, I would have viewed the bridge as more than just a tourist attraction. About 98% of the people who jump from the bridge die after hitting the water. There is a story of a man who jumped and survived, and then jumped again and was killed. The city has proposed several measures to prevent this fatal phenomenon from persisting, which include more bridge personnel to save jumpers, hotline phone numbers, and even a safety net which was proposed in 2014. It's creepy to think about this, but it is a problem and I feel that it is worth noting because I feel that awareness is important to assist with prevention. There is an excellent documentary about this phenomena called, The Bridge by Eric Steel. It was released in 2006.
The Bridge by Eric Steel
Click on link below to watch movie
A Broken Tourism Industry
San Francisco rakes in about $10,000,000,000 from tourism every year. With these numbers, you'd think that the city would hire top-notch, well trained, enthusiastic, educated people to help give visitors who are spending their hard earned money to support the city, a GOOD experience to remember. But sadly, this isn't the case, at least not in many parts of the city. In 2014, there was a video that went viral of a young female tour guide on a "hop on" type of bus rolling through Chinatown, with a bottle of beer, that was shouting some awful racist things about Chinese people. Since San Francisco has a very rich Chinese and Asian heritage, this was something that forced even the mayor to respond and apologize for. The former mayor, Ed Lee, is actually of Chinese descent. You can actually watch videos about it or the complete video on YouTube or below:
Racist Drunken Tour Guide Rant on a "Hop On" Bus through Chinatown
I had a bad experience myself on the cable car on the way back to the Powell & Hyde station from Fisherman's Wharf. I was on the side of the car, hanging on with one arm and taking pictures with the other, like everyone else on the side was. The car operator decided to be an asshole and single me out as I was trying to take a good shot of the Transamerica Pyramid. He told me that I needed to hang on with both arms. I told him that nobody else was doing that and even the guy directly in front of me, right next to him, was taking pictures just like I was. After exchanging a few words with him, I complied and did what he wanted me to do. Everyone else, including the guy in front of me next to the operator continued to enjoy taking his pictures. I tried talking to the operator after we reached the Powell & Hyde station, but it turned into a shouting match.
Since I didn't want to go to jail in San Francisco, I just walked away and later called the 311 number and complained, and also sent a couple of emails to city administrators giving them details of the incident. Other than this, my time in San Francisco was wonderful and I will most definitely be back and I will most definitely ride the cable car again. But I will also continue to try and encourage the city officials and the tourism boards to be a bit more selective with their hiring and at least find people who have something more than but a grade school level education, and who actually like being around tourists. It also wouldn't hurt to test these new recruits, somehow, and teach them how to be good at what they do, even if it is just a minimum wage gig with no benefits.
I'm pretty sure that I could have taken that guy in a fight.
San Francisco Facts
San Francisco is a consolidated city-county.
San Francisco is named for St. Francis of Assisi.
San Francisco has about 4.7 million people, including the metro area.
San Francisco was founded on June 29th, 1776 by Spanish colonists.
San Francisco has had two major earthquakes, in 1906 & 1989, with the former destroying about three quarters of the city with the help of a fire, and the latter occurring during the World Series between the Giants and the Athletics, dubbing it "The World Series Earthquake."
The United Nations was founded in San Francisco in 1945.
San Francisco is home to the "Peace Movement," the "Hippie Counterculture," the "Sexual Revolution," and some of the earliest gay rights movements in America. This has made it a very liberal place, culturally & politically, and as a result the city widely votes with the Democratic Party.
As of 2017, San Francisco ranked high on "world livability rankings."
There are no Wal-Mart stores in San Francisco.
For more information on San Francisco tourism, check out:
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