Tag Archives: San Francisco

Your SatNav is Shouting!

If you’re interested, we got lost in Oakland California. After Jimmy had said, “I’m not towing through any more big cities,” my bad angel made me say, “Well you’re going to tomorrow!”

Remember our towing-the-trailer-through-San-Francisco-and-over-the-Golden-Gate-Bridge blooper?

I shouldn't really have been messing with the camera at this point, but you know me!
I shouldn’t really have been messing with the camera at this point, but I can’t help myself.
Jimmy was all smiles once the narrow roads of SF and the narrow lanes of the bridge were behind us.
Jimmy was all smiles once the narrow roads of SF and the narrow lanes of the bridge were behind us that time.

With our last fiasco in mind we were trying so hard to avoid the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge leading into central San Francisco to the west of us, that we turned east and became embroiled in Oakland Good Friday traffic.

I’d studied the road atlas for several days leading up to the journey. We’d studied it together the night before. I’d memorized every route and bridge leading out of Alameda County and planned for every eventuality except the one that transpired.

After we left the campsite south of San Francisco I sat with the atlas on my lap and plotted our course inch worming my finger up the page, not daring to read a book or magazine, play on the laptop or daydream.

Maybe I daydreamed a little. We passed the top of the famous Lombard Steet on the streetcar, I took a photo and didn't even know it until I downloaded it! I should do more homework on our destinations like Mona Lisa!
Maybe I daydreamed a little. While on a trolley car I’d snapped a photo not realizing it was the top of the famous Lombard Street until I downloaded it. I should do more homework on our destinations like Mona Lisa.

On the outskirts of Oakland I began to chant directives. We stay on 880 North. We don’t want 80 West. We don’t want 80 East. We do want 580 West,” and repeated it several times to plant it in my brain, and hopefully Jimmy’s.

When I’d chanted myself into a trance and was staring fiercely at the map Jimmy said, “The sign says take I980 for 580 West.”

I looked up too late to see the sign. “980? We don’t want 980. We do want 580 West, though.”

“Should I turn off?”

“I don’t think we should go that way.”

“Should I stay on this road?”

“I don’t know now.”

“The exit is coming up. Should I turn off?”

“Y-y-y-y-ye . . . Um-m-m-m . . . N-n-n-n-n . . .”

“Say something!!”

“YES!” And Jimmy wrenched the wheel to the right with our trailer snapping smartly round to follow us. “Oh no, this isn’t right. We’re going east. According to the map we should be going north.”

“Oh great. Now look,” he said with that Dammit! look on his face. Six lanes of traffic was coming to a standstill ahead of us.

“We should have stayed on the road we were on,” I whined, wanting but not daring to blame Jimmy for making me say yes when I knew I should have said no.

Oakland drivers have a bit of southern California driving mania about them and they were changing lanes in a wild free-for-all across our bows.

Other road users don’t account for the fact that we have 7,500 pounds of rolling stock slamming into our rear end every time Jimmy brakes. If Jimmy tailgates, he’s on edge. If he leaves a safe braking distance between us and the car in front someone nips into it in their bid to gain 50 feet and he’s still tailgating. He was now displaying his don’t-mess-with-me rigid posture behind the wheel but trying to remain cool.

“There’s a sign for 80 West,” he said helpfully. “Should I go that way?”

Now let me see. Hmmm. Whoops. Too late!

“DO NOT TAKE 80 WEST!” I shouted. “Don’t take 80 West,” I repeated a tad more calmly. We didn’t want 80 West. That much I knew. That was all I knew. That was the way to the Golden Gate Bridge via central San Francisco. The traffic jam gave me a chance to study the map. “I think I can see what we’ve done.”

“You’re priceless.”

“I’d like to see you navigate through this mess.”

“I can’t. I have to drive.”

“Well that’s lucky for you. I always get to take the blame,” and fumed for a moment until I saw the sign I‘d been praying for, “580 West! Keep to the right. If we can get on 580 West we’ll be okay.” Gleeful now, I informed Jimmy, “I know where we are now. We‘re on Eastshore Freeway.”

“Brilliant.” How can he infuse so much sarcasm into a single word?

Once we were on 580 West I relaxed a little and attempted to lighten the mood.

“Right! That’s got rid of the 80 West specter. At least we’re not going to get snarled up in San Francisco today.” Silence. Not even acknowledgement that I have spoken.

Couldn't he chill and remember our cruise on San Francisco Bay past Coit Tower?
Couldn’t he chill and remember our cruise on San Francisco Bay past Coit Tower?

So I tried again. “We just need to avoid 80 East or we’ll end up in New York! Hahaha.” Jimmy didn’t join in.

 . . . . or remember this view of the street(s) of San Francisco?
Couldn’t he relax now and remember this view of the street(s) of San Francisco?

“There’s the Golden Gate Bridge across the bay. You can have a last look.” Jimmy turned his head. At least his hearing was still functioning.

For the eagle-eyed among you, this isn't the Golden Gate Bridge at all, but once on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge we, no I, was happy to think it was. It's the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Can you understand my confusion?
For the eagle-eyed among you, this isn’t the Golden Gate Bridge at all, but once on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge we, no I, was happy to think it was. It’s the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Can you understand my confusion?

We’d towed the trailer over the Golden Gate on a previous trip. We’d “sailed” under it on a bay cruise. That day we’d given it a slightly wider berth than planned.

Sailing under the Golden Gate on a more relaxed day.
Sailing under the Golden Gate on a happier day.

Once ensconced on the picturesque route 101 going north I knew my map reading expertise (questionable that day, granted) wouldn’t be needed for another 100 miles or so, so traced our route back to study my booboo.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This is the right one!
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This is the right one!

Where my wits had deserted me was at the confluence of five – that’s FIVE – interstate highways in a city of nearly half million people on a holiday weekend.

I think we’re lucky to still be married. Lucky probably isn’t the word Jimmy would use.

Can you see where he’s taking me?

Can you see where he's taking me?

Click on the picture and all will become clear!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Shall We Stay or Shall We Go On?

After completing 5/8 of a life on the edge of each other’s nerves – we had towed the trailer 11,654 miles and put 20,122 miles on the odometer in the car. In a country that is 3,000 miles wide by 2,000 miles top to bottom that’s pretty good going. We’d drawn a very drunken diagonal line down across the U.S. map from Washington State to Florida and back along the southern border and west coast. A two-year-old with a crayon could have scrawled a tidier route. But in the process we perused 26 of the 48 states on our agenda of looking for the perfect place to live in the continental U.S.A.

We decided this was definitely a plastic 'gator put out for the tourists in the Everglades when her real brothers and sisters were in hiding.
We decided this was definitely a plastic ‘gator put out for the tourists in the Everglades when her live brothers and sisters were in hiding.

Some states only merited a quick drive straight through to the next state. I won’t tell you which ones as all us patriotic Americans are proud of and proprietorial about our own states and I am sure we didn’t do them justice by not stopping to poke around. Other states kept us fascinated for days, sometimes weeks. But we were just tourists. Visiting The Everglades, Monument Valley, Mount Rushmore or San Francisco for the first time is a real kick but they are not areas we would consider living due to weather, remoteness or cost of living. And we were just so enthralled with the sight-seeing sights in this diverse and stunning country, we often didn’t bother to do our homework on towns as potential homesteaders.

One our favorite campgrounds: Monument Valley UT
One our favorite campgrounds: Monument Valley UT

The next stage of the route would take us east across the top of the country, up into New England and down the east coast with a bit of the inevitable to-ing and fro-ing. Getting in the way of the search was a spacious apartment in sunny and probably-too-expensive California that was calling us.

I was longing to get our furniture out of storage and put my underwear in a drawer instead of having it stuffed in a shoe box and to hang up my clothes instead of playing lucky dip in a jam packed locker. Jewelry was tangled up in a box and fine chains and long necklaces formed a monkey’s fist of silver and gold, beads and crystals. I doubted I would ever wear them again. I wore the same jeans and hoody for days out of sheer inertia.

The same rotation of clean clothes came off the top of the stack day after day rather than create an avalanche of tee shirts to put together a new look. We dressed, hobo unchic, in cotton clothes that were washer/dryer-ready-to-wear. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Unmentionable articles of underclothing aside, we sometimes scrutinized and sniffed our outerwear for an extra day’s service before consigning it to the laundry bag. My prissy nature came out when faced with dirty laundramat machines that may have seen dog blankets, greasy overalls, muddy trousers and almost certainly much worse.

Books and files were hidden deep within a hell hole under the bed instead of being to hand on a bookshelf. Wrenching my right shoulder to lift the mattress and locker lid and hold it up, I then wrenched my left shoulder to haul out the printer, two sleeping bags and a bag of wrapping paper and ribbon (yes, of course ribbon is essential on an RV) to gaze at a cardboard box of books through a gap just big enough for my head. As I grunted and strained with the weight of the mattress and locker lid on my shoulders himself would ask, “Can I help you with that?”

“NO!” I would bellow in frustration and risked decapitating myself with the trap door of the dungeon. A feeble flashlight that doubled as the oven light barely glowed much less illuminated the book titles so reading choices were often made by feel. Sometimes I thought oh stuff it and lay on the bed listening to my iPod until whatever inkling of motivation to do something creative or productive or even vaguely educational passed.

Should we stop somewhere to live in an apartment and try to regain our sanity or continue to play happy trails?

You’re Not Gonna Believe This!

Twice in one day, I lifted the binoculars to my eyes, focused and declared to Jimmy, “You’re not gonna believe this!”

We thought we’d already seen everything that would make us gasp and exclaim – geysers and brilliantly colored steaming pools at Yellowstone; cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; the eerie moonscape of the Badlands; the towering stainless steel Gateway Arch of St. Louis; the giant Sequoias of California and their giant dead trunks thrown up like so many matchsticks on the Pacific beaches of Oregon and Washington; iconic symbols of cowboy country littered throughout the West; the huge Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center which stopped us and our fellow tourists dead in our tracks while we all said “WOW!”; an armadillo; a manatee; whales migrating north along the west coast and dolphins migrating south along the east; panhandling burros;OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA a black bear and a moose running across the road right in front of our car (but different days, different states); hundreds of alligators; the presidential carvings of Mount Rushmore where Lincoln’s nose alone measured 21 feet from top to bottom; the pastel art deco buildings of South Beach, Miami that are so beautiful as to defy description; the complete lack of inhibition of humans at South Beach; the gorgeous colonial mansions of Charleston.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So when a great egret and something orange and dog-sized caught my eye where they stood across a lake at our campsite in Ft. Lauderdale, I raised my binoculars and uttered, “You’re not gonna believe this!”


“An iguana!”


“Yes! Look!” and I reluctantly relinquished my binoculars. The iguana was a big fella, as long as the egret was tall, the size of a cocker spaniel with short, stout legs and a chunky tail. Stranger still, both animals were perched on top of willowy shrubs – a suitable setting for the slender egret, but Iggy definitely looked out of place. He was as orange as, well, an orange and doing his best punk imitation his headdress, a spiky cock’s comb, was impressive. They are called green iguanas but tend to look grey except when excited when they turn orange. Orangey Iggy appeared to be either challenging or courting the egret.

081129FtLMiami 065

We now realize that through the media our senses have become dulled. We take the wonders of the world and nature for granted because we’ve seen photographs, seen it all on TV. But the awe of seeing Grand Geyser erupt for 10 minutes with scalding water to a height of 200 feet after waiting in the blistering Wyoming summer sun for three hours is indescribable. And like coming upon the iguana in his natural setting for the first time, these images are seared on our brains unlike the fleeting images on TV.

It is surprising that we haven’t seen an iguana before, as although this iguana is native to the Caribbean and Central and South America, they happen to like the climate Florida and escaped pets have multiplied and made a nuisance of themselves. They’ve chomped their way through landscaped gardens from Palm Beach to Coral Gables to Key West and even stop traffic on Highway 1.

081208Keys2 222

Iggy put in an appearance later. Jimmy heard a little girl’s piercing scream followed by a whole chorus of little girls screaming until their Dad turned up to “rescue” them. It would seem they’d had their first sighting too. Iguanas are not dangerous unless cornered. They just look bloody scary.

In the afternoon (same day) we were sitting on the beach, gazing mindlessly out at yachts, fishing boats, water skiers, para gliders, jet skiers and people in varying and questionable states of undress, when a large ship pulled out of Fort Lauderdale harbor.

We’re used to seeing the blocky contours of loaded container ships but this one had an odd outline. For the second time that day I said, “You’re not gonna believe this!”

Lined up, as many as four abreast, on the deck of the ship were brand new luxury yachts and boats – gin palaces, sport fishing boats, launches, dinghies – of all sizes. At a conservative guess, there were $30 million (arrived at by multiplying 23 times a large number) worth of boats on the deck of the ship, and what lurked below?

081129FtLMiami 067

We’d never seen anything so gloriously over the top and ostentatious . . . . until the next day when we went to the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, but that’s another story.

081129FtLMiami 078

The Sub Sub Plan while Still Homeless

Can you see John Wayne waving at you?
Can you see John Wayne waving at you?
Route 66
Route 66 (Photo credit: eGuide Travel)

Please help us find somewhere to live. See opinion poll.

Due to Jimmy’s American wanderlust we have a Plan, a sub plan and a sub sub plan. The Plan is to find somewhere to live. It gets lost sometimes. The sub plan is to see as many national parks as possible as we ramble around. The sub sub plan is to take in every city and town and place in America that has crossed his consciousness while growing up in 50’s and 60’s England.

Song titles and lyrics, film titles and settings have led us on detours of hundreds of miles from the see-the-national-parks route by veering off to Tombstone, Cheyenne, Chattanooga, Route 66, El Paso, Houston, Deadwood, Monument Valley, St. Louis (but only if you pronounce it Sint Lewie) Laramie, Key Largo, Dodge City, Tacoma, Garryowen, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Tallahassee, San Francisco, San Antonio (abbrev. San Antone), San Jose, Seattle, New York New York, Chicago and on and on in a maddening zig-zag across the United States. Our route from west to east and then west again looks like Zorro has attacked the map with his sword.

The Plan has also been partly determined by talking to people everywhere we go. The simple statement, “We’re looking for the perfect place to live,” always elicits an enthusiastic response. We’ve added thousands more miles to our groaning car’s odometer. Back tracking and unplanned side trips have taken us to these perfect places:

  • Fresno, California
  • Murray, Kentucky
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Fernandina Beach, Florida
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Fort Bragg, California
  • Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Sarasota, Florida (A realtor told us everyone in Sarasota was happy because the sun shone all the time and all the old people were on drugs. . This cheered us immensely after our drenching
    in Washington
  • Bend, Oregon

    The Gulf coast. Lovely.
    The Gulf coast. Lovely.
  • Allardt, Tennessee
  • Beaufort, South Carolina
  • Natchez, Mississippi
  • Ukiah, California
  • La Conner,Washington State
  • Destin, Florida
  • France
Eiffel tower
Eiffel tower (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Each place has been visited and is under consideration and this haphazard list will undoubtedly be expanded, explored and rated one to ten but we’ve come to suspect that local pride in one’s own state, town, community or vacation destination may be a source of prejudice against the rest of the country. As endearing as this is, we are learning to sift through people’s comments and opinions in the same way you would read with suspicion a real estate agent’s glowing description of an aging or surprisingly underpriced house.

Our needs and tolerances seem to be so very different from just about everyone we’ve spoken to. Are we expecting year round perfection where it just doesn’t exist, just like the perfect man (or woman, before himself cries foul!) doesn’t exist?

Where is your perfect place? Please help. We’ll go and have a look and give you all the credit.

I never want to fly again. I mean it this time.

Sydney Airport
Sydney Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A jolt of anxiety was what we got when we tried to check in online for our 15 hour flight from Sydney to San Francisco followed by a connecting flight to Phoenix. Our flight to San Francisco had been cancelled. After much angst and many now-what-are-we-going-to-do’s the airline sent an email to say we were rebooked on a flight to LA and onwards. We didn’t care for the seats we’d been allocated so tried to change them. That’s when the trouble started.

Darlene greeted us with a wan smile when we arrived the next day at the check-in desk before she began processing our reservations and passports.

“I guess the flight is full,” Jimmy said conversationally.

“It’s overbooked,” she said bluntly.

Out the window went our plans of asking her to reassign us some better seats.

“Have you checked in online?” she asked.

“We’ve no idea.”

She looked up from her busyness.

“We tried to change our seats before checking in and couldn’t so checked in then phoned the airline at the airport. She unchecked us but couldn’t change our seats either. We checked in again but had so many conflicting emails, we don’t know what we’ve done.” Darlene frowned and tapped her computer keys.

My suitcase had disappeared and passport and boarding card had been returned to me. Darlene studied Jimmy’s green card and continued to frown and tap.

“I’m just phoning the service desk. I’m sorry to keep you,” she said.

Jimmy looked worried. “I’m not on the flight,” he muttered. I began wondering where I’d packed my phone so we could call his daughter to come back to the airport and pick him up. We’d already been told by someone in the queue that the last seat on the flight had gone and no more seats were available until two days hence. How big is LAX? Would I find my connecting flight? And where was that taxi rank in Phoenix? Keys! Must get J’s keys. I left mine in the apartment. I was going to have to switch out of blond mode to get myself home.

The theme restaurant and control tower at Los ...
The theme restaurant and control tower at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But what I said out loud was, “She’s looking at your passport and checking your green card. We know there’s no problem with it. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

After another 10 minutes of deliberate non eye contact from Darlene, she finally shared, “You have a seat on the flight,” she said looking at me. “I don’t have a seat booked for you,” she said to Jimmy.

Darlene put her head down again and kept tapping. Jimmy started sweating. Other passengers checked in and came and went, came and went. We stood our ground. No one said a word. Another 5 minutes went by.

“37 E and F. Are they the seats you were booked on?”


L1140523.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You’re both on the flight.”

“Don’t do that to me!” Jimmy cried.

Darlene’s facial muscles relaxed into a smile. “Can I offer you a piece of advice? Don’t phone the help desk. They’re helpless. They mess up people’s reservations and when the flight is full we can’t fix it.”

English: Qantas A380 preparing to depart LAX o...
English: Qantas A380 preparing to depart LAX on it’s first flight on the new LAX-SYD route October 24, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good to know.

We’ll fly with Qantas next time.

Yes, yes, I know. I’ve just contradicted the title. I have to fly. I don’t have to love it. Do you love air travel?