Oh, you visitors to the Bay area who say, “Take me to Napa Valley, let me drink wine.” I indulge them of course, I’m a good host, but eventually, I take them down miles of winding roads that may get them carsick, climb over the hillocks amongst the staked out vineyards and pause there, point to a random small house on the far horizon, then I quote Norman MacLean’s epic conclusion to a River Runs Through It.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
Having said such a thing, some smart ass will always point out that there’s no water in sight, but that’s not the point, is it? My point is that as far as scientists can tell, all brontosauruses are thin at one end, much, much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end. Q.E.D.
Prepping to be off to Africa in the coming day, and then a truly grand trip begins.
We tackled Mt Diablo and three other summits in the Bay Area, starting in the early morning and finishing very late in the afternoon after 6000 feet of climbing that include brutal ascending and descending 20-30% grades, gusts to 30-40mph on the summit, expansive views that no camera can really capture well. It was a ferocious buttkicker of a hike, a marathon that ended with leggs wobbling, knees screaming, and an exhaustion that laid me down for 10 hrs of on again off again sleep, and this morning, I finally felt the sense of accomplishment that I was too exhausted to feel yesterday. Kilimanjaro, I’m as ready for you as I ever will be.
Mt Tamalpais, that stalwart guardian looking down on San Francisco, so named from the indigenous Coast Miwok people of the San Francisco area to mean merely “West Hill”. I’m rediscovering its many meandering hiking trails with forest minded friends. Typically, we start in Muir Woods under canopy of towering redwoods and make our way upwards through the forest, and all along the way there are waters that gurgle and flow and fall over rocks. I’ve no capability to meditate in the way that so many do, yet I can say that my head is plenty crowded with good and happy thoughts to the physical tune of of my legs as they churn upwards. The temperature is a crisp 46-55 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the shade of these ancient and mighty forest denizens, the mist keeps a pleasant chill on our skin.
The outer avenues of San Francisco are foggy most of the year, but in these past few drought years, they’ve been sunnier and clearer than usual. I rambled one day from my loft near the Bay out to the Sunset district, a wonderful little neighborhood with quintessential boutique shops and restaurants. I had a pork belly burrito (yum) and marched up to these 16th avenue steps to Grandview park, where the neighbors joined together over the years to create the most elaborate and colorful of San Francisco’s staircases. The closeup detail is equally as beautiful.
I got to the top of Grandview Park – looked west to the Pacific and east back to the Bay and city proper – and figured once again that I was a fortunate fellow to end up here in this place.
Living in San Francisco, wine country is the trip I make when visitors come, though I do what I can to tamp down the expectations. For some vino aficionados, Napa is a pastoral revelation, all rolling green hills, wooden stakes with no vampires, and the green green grapes of wrath. Others are suitably underwhelmed. Even us veterans make it a rule to maybe last 3-4 vineyard tastings, then the days is done, the tastebuds gone to field and ineffective.
This is Nickel and Nickel, a boutique wine cave for a vintner that more or less makes single vineyard wines that are generally lovely to smell and taste.
Alas, it’s been too long away from the blog, and I apologize dear readers, if there’s indeed anyone still left out there reading this. Things are winding up for a trip to Tanzania in February 2015, a climb to the roof of Africa on Mt Kilimanjaro, then a Serengeti immersion safari. In the meantime, the legs and the joints are getting their buffers built, with long haul walks across the San Francisco Peninsula head, and forested climbs up nearby mountains, such as this misty morning walk up Mt Tamulpais (Mt Tam) where sunbeams illuminated our path.
Ah, The bus terminal. The old American tradition of the 1950’s – 1970’s until it began it’s long slow decline to a reputation as a refuge for society’s marginalized, its homeless, its drifters and beggers and miscreants alike. Transit is always fun for people watching, but taking a Greyhound bus cross country takes it to a new level. A Scottish musician trying to make it big “I’m going to LA!”. A rotund elderly lady who forces the bus to stop in the Arizona desert because she doesn’t want to throw up around the other passengers (she sprinted to the back of the bus, and we all watched her heave). The dreamy throwback hippy millenial with her tie die and long straight hair all scarfed up. A wisecracking Asian bus driver, telling jokes that only a few of us understand, but we laugh because he’s laughing so hard at himself.
In any case, you’re looking at something temporary in this picture; By late 2016, San Francisco’s ultra modern Transbay Terminal (e.g. our first true Grand Central Station) will have opened, and the terminal before you will become a park with skyscraping views of shiny glass towers, with folks on lunch break nibbling their organic wheatberry salads as they sit awkwardly in the grass. Go West and gentrify, by gum, and don’t forget to bring your Pez dispenser!