I woke up at 6am, feeling a little stiff. I got dressed, which consisted of putting on my shoes; I was going to arrive in San Francisco wrinkled and smelly, and didn’t really care. I went to the bathroom and put on my bra and contacts, shifted my hair around halfheartedly, and was on the road by 6:30. I ate a protein bar and drank a Red Bull (the poor man’s meth) and was wide awake. It was cold, in the 50s and foggy. I drove south, looking for somewhere to have breakfast by the beach. The roads were deserted until after 7am. It was still all tiny, winding highway, cattle farms, run-down houses, resorts, state beaches, and road construction. I was within 120 miles of San Francisco and might as well have been in Iowa.
The sun came out around 9am, as I arrived in Bodega Bay. I came across The Wharf, which got my business because it had the word ‘breakfast’ out front; everything else I had encountered up to that point had been closed. I had oatmeal, which I ate very slowly while I wrote postcards and in my journal. I almost peed my pants with excitement when I realized my cell signal had returned. There were a bunch of messages from home from the day before when they were considering sending out a search party. I messaged Heather, and decided to drive to the beach to hang out for a while and make some phone calls.
I went to the post office to drop off a huge bundle of postcards, then stopped at the espresso shop. The surfer dude running the place said that the beach north of town was the best in the area, but the currents were really dangerous. Even if I had wanted to swim, it was still too cold and windy. The beach was the southernmost of the Sonoma Coast state beaches, and it was incredible. I had the whole place to myself for a little over half an hour. I laid out my blanket, took off my shoes, and walked along the ocean. Then I sat down, grabbed my phone, and realized I was once again without a signal. So I wrote some more, then just sat and stared at the ocean. I looked down and noticed that I was writing with a pen from the Glacier Gateway Motel in Kalispell, Montana. It seemed so long ago.
Finally, I got up and decided to head back into town so I could call home. Before I did that, though, I felt like I had to get my life back in order. I opened the trunk and all the car doors. I dragged the entire contents of my vehicle into the parking lot, then set out to reorganize. I rolled up my sleeping bag and folded blankets. I emptied souvenirs from their bags and consolidated all of them in one large bag. I tossed out all the trash, dug wayward CDs out from under the seats, and spent a long time peering at my map to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Then I went and had the Port-A-Potty experience I never wanted; I knew I had packed antibacterial wipes for a reason. My car organized (and, therefore, my sanity restored), I was on my way.
I figured my mom would yell at me for scaring her the day before, but she was just happy to hear from me. I talked to her for about 10 minutes, and then lost the signal again on the way out of Bodega Bay.
I drove a couple miles off the highway to see Bodega, the little surfer town where they filmed The Birds. From there, Highway 1 heads inland. I drove along Tomales Bay and saw oyster ships. Point Reyes Station was really cute, and one of the last towns before crossing into the Bay Area. I decided to stop there for lunch. I had time to kill, and I was worn out. I had a really good veggie burger at a restaurant I don’t remember the name of. I walked around the main street, stopping into a few shops, then got back on the road.
I decided to drive up Mount Tamalpais to get a view of the city I’d soon be visiting. About halfway up, I remembered that I really, really hated mountain driving. I went up and saw the amphitheatre, then drove all the way up to the lookout. It required hiking, which I was even less thrilled about, but I had to do it. I climbed up to the top and sat on the rocks at the base of the fire tower. I took a million pictures and tried to get my bearings by picking out features I could see: the Golden Gate. The Bay Bridge. Alcatraz. I once again could use my phone, since I was essentially sitting right by the cell tower. I called Heather and talked for a long time. I tried to tell her everything I’d been doing, but I was so tired that it was all a blur. Then I called Jay and got directions to his apartment. I wrote down everything he said: bridge – famous – red. s 101. downtown/marina. fork – right. 45 mns. I started back down the mountain and ran into some talkative old people. We compared cell phones. They welcomed me to California. One guy said he could tell I was excited because I sounded so enthusiatic on the phone. For a minute, I actually regretted my constant casual swearing. Who wants to offend friendly old people? Not me. At least, not these particular old people.
I drove down the hill and found myself lost in the wilds of Marin County. After a while, I managed to get myself back on the 101. Within five minutes, I was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
I didn’t mind paying $5 to enter San Francisco, but I wondered what they do to you if you don’t have cash. Shouldn’t they warn you about the tolls in advance? Anyway. It was clear and sunny, 60 degrees, and incredibly windy. I hated the hills instantly. I drove around for a while looking for a parking spot. When I finally found one two blocks away, I worried that it wasn’t a real spot, because it seemed too good to be true. I finally understood the street cleaning thing, too. What city cleans its streets every single week? I think it’s just an excuse to give parking tickets. I called Jay and he was just leaving work, so he told me where to find a Starbucks nearby. The guy behind the counter (I have trouble calling guys ‘baristas’) begged me to sell him my superspecial Starbucks card. (I haven’t mentioned this before, but my Seattle Starbucks card made me a celebrity everywhere I went. The baristas always wanted to know where I got it. Apparently, quite a few of them collect the cards.) I told him no way, I drove all the way to Seattle for that card. I sat and wrote and stared at the passersby, happy to be in a city again. At 4:30, I walked back up to Jay’s. His apartment is so cute. Also, he is correct about it being a fishbowl, which is pretty cool. The building has one of those old elevators with the gate you have to pull shut. Awesome.
We sat around and talked for a long time. Or, actually, I rambled, he listened. I couldn’t believe what a relief it was to see someone I knew after so long. We went to get my stuff out of the car, and I finally showered and changed clothes. He had decided to park my car over by Michelle’s where it would be easier to find a spot we could leave it in for a while. We drove over there, and the three of us went to dinner at a Thai place with trippy artwork and weird music. I had almost forgotten what tofu was. After dinner, they dropped me off at his apartment. I got my email, took another shower, and crashed. Hard.
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random notes from my travel journal:
i wondered how long it would take me to start talking to myself in the car, and now i know: 8 days. it’s more a function of disconnect with the outside world, though – remoteness and lack of cell signal – rather than time, i think.
at 8 days, 3300 miles, that means i’ve averaged 400 miles a day. insane.
i saw an accident on hwy 1 – a timber truck had overturned on one of those hairpin curves. yesterday on the 101, i saw a camping trailer that had turned over and dumped its contents everywhere: cabinets, beds, luggage. it looked like it had been packed full. (is runawaytruck.com available? probably not.)
i have my own roadtrip inside joke: the garage magnet. it sucks having inside jokes only with yourself. sigh.
why do sf cops look like the village people?
i’m worried about my brakes here, even though they’re new. my car knows it doesn’t belong here, so it hates it.
is my butt orange from sitting on that mountain? i wonder if i look like a hick. cool.
i have a bruise on the palm of my hand from driving.
i hunch when i’m writing. i have to stop that. i don’t need a hump. not that kind of hump, at least.
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