The road trip continues from Napa to San Francisco. Sarah had to fly home for a few days, so this one was all me. I didn’t really mind, I like traveling solo and that gave me more time to catch up with my friend Alan, one of the friends that I was originally traveling in Asia with. After parking the car in a garage, I explored a bit. Alan had mentioned SF has good Vietnamese food so I went to search for some bún thịt nướng chả giò – a Vietnamese dish with cold rice noodles, hot grilled pork and cut up spring roll. I went to the Vietnamese neighborhood of SF dubbed “Little Saigon”. Here, I found a small restaurant called Mangosteen (which happens to be my favorite fruit of all time). I half chose to eat here because of the name, and half because it was mostly Vietnamese people eating there.
Their bún thịt nướng chả giò was exactly what I have been looking for. I had it for the first time in Ho Chi Minh and it blew my mind. Some friends and I had already ordered a bunch of food and then we saw a picture of it on the menu and immediately all ordered our own bowls of it, despite the fact that we were already full. I haven’t had it made the same way since. Where I lived in Vietnam it was even different – they served it with peanut sauce instead of fish sauce in Hoi An. I was happy to see that Mangosteen served theirs up with fish sauce (it’s more appetizing than it sounds, trust me).
After my noodles and cà phê sữa đá (coffee with sweetened condensed milk, soooo good), I headed to 21st Amendment for a beer in honor of Sarah – she was really excited to check out their brewpub. After two strong beers, some people watching, and quite the buzz going, I headed onward to Ferry Marketplace. I don’t have too many comments about Ferry Marketplace except that it’s right on the water, really cute, and if I lived here I would probably regularly spend money I don’t have on artisanal food items. I resisted the urge to pay $20 for half a dozen oysters and opted for an espresso instead.
Alan was almost done with work, so I headed to meet him and his friend Shira, who is also visiting. Shira doesn’t drink much, so it wound up just being me and Alan at the end of the night catching up. I didn’t realize how much I missed him until then. It was good to catch up and have someone to help me make sense of life after Asia. We shared some crazy times out there and it’s been quite the adjustment period trying to figure out what normal life is.
The following day, Shira and I checked off some tourist activities while Alan was at work. We started with the Painted Ladies – the houses you see in the intro to Full House. To be honest, I didn’t really watch Full House too much growing up so this didn’t hold too much significance for me. I just wanted to check if off the list and have a potential instagram picture. Tourist activity #1 complete.
Next, we went down to Pier 39 to see the sea lions that hang out down there. I could have hung out there all day just listening to them barking and watching the seals push each other off of the docks. But, it was already getting late and we wanted to do some biking.
Before renting bikes, we lost out In-N-Out virginity. To be honest, I don’t get what the hype is about. I don’t really eat fast food so maybe that’s the problem, I just don’t have the taste for that kind of stuff. We digested for a little and then finally rented some bikes. Shira had already walked across the Golden Gate the day before, so we opted to bike past it and go to Baker Beach. I hadn’t had a chance to ride a bike since I left Portland. It’s been my main mode of transit for 5 years so I always look forward to a good ride.
Baker Beach was beautiful. You really get the best of both worlds with the view. Behind you is the city, in front of you is the ocean, and beside you is the Golden Gate…There are a few nude old men, if you care about public nudity. I’m cool with it. I honestly prefer nude beaches.
When we returned the bikes, the whole staff cheers for you under the assumption that you biked the Golden Gate (we didn’t). Seems like a fun job.
We meet up with Alan back at his place then go out for Chinese and Mai Tais at Li Po Cocktail Lounge. They have decently priced and strong as hell Mai Tais. The bar itself is pretty dingy, just what I look for in a bar. Downstairs looked like a basement frat party. Mismatched falling apart furniture, random decor, drunken dance party. The couch me and Shira sat on literally broke right under us. We continued to sit on it anyway. The employees were not fazed.
Shira wasn’t too fond her Mai Tai, so Alan and I split it. We were really feeling it after that extra half. I decided right then that I would stay an extra night. I was supposed to head to Yosemite the following day but I wasn’t ready to leave yet – a common problem I have when traveling. That worked out well, since there was no way in hell I was going to get even a first come first serve campsite. I happened to be getting to Yosemite right in time for Memorial Day weekend. Shira was wiped from our day of activities (a continuing trend), so she went back and Alan and I went out for beers close to his place and continued to catch up.
The next day we decided to go to Muir Woods – a national forest 12 miles north of San Francisco, filled with redwoods. It being Memorial Day weekend, the main “trail” was pretty packed. I wouldn’t even call it a trail. It’s a wooden pathway built along the bottom of the forest. Seriously, it’s accessible by wheelchair. Once, we got off the tourist path and onto an actual hiking trail, we were pretty much the only people on the trail for most of the hike.
The hike was perfect. We went on for maybe 3 hours, stopping occasionally to contemplate whether we’re on the right trail, not quite being sure, and saying, “fuck it, let’s go this way anyway.” This is what happens when Alan and I go on a hike without Dylan. The hike itself was nice, not too easy but I didn’t feel like I was on the verge of death either (unlike the hike we did to the summit of a volcano in Bali). We even came across a cherry tree and some wild growing fennel. I have a habit of eating things on the trail as I hike; I’ll probably die from eating a poisonous leaf one day.
When we return from hiking Shira takes a nap while me and Alan go chill at Mission Dolores Park – home of the hippies, acroyoga addicts, dance machines, potheads, and spectators. There is a lot of harmless illegal activity going on – smoking bongs, unlicensed sale of alcohol – but the police don’t seem to mind. Everyone here is peaceful and having fun, why stir things up?
After finishing our tall boy of Tecate, purchased for $3 in the park by someone I’d call an “unlicensed vendor” at best, we settled on a dinner decision: ramen. I’ve actually never had real ramen, only instant ramen packets. It was good, particularly the pork belly, but I’ve had better noodle soups in Asia (not ramen but other noodle based soups). The ramen was so filling I couldn’t even finish it. Or maybe it was the pitcher of beer? Who’s to say?
With our stomachs full of ramen and beer, we only made it out for one more beer before returning to Alan’s apartment. The following morning I said my goodbyes and head onward to Yosemite.