Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our Day in and around San Francisco

     As I sit on my Mother's back porch, I'm watching all these quail wondering around the backyard making their calls to each other unaware that I'm here. There are quite a few of them around my Mom's house and they actually live along the property line in the blackberry bushes. What always amazes me is that the quail just walk through their little space in the bushes even though the bushes are full of thorns. But the bushes are a great home for them as they're safe from predators.

It's been a very long time since I've written a post; I guess I can blame it on laziness and the fact that I knew Doug was working on the blog. But I did promise him that I would actually work on the blog this summer so I better get going!

Tomorrow, Friday the 28th of June, is our departure day for our Alaska trip and I'm very excited. I can't even believe the day is right around the corner, but I know we've done an incredible amount of work to get ready. Doug and I went to Costco in Santa Rosa yesterday and actually filled up two shopping carts with food and supplies. When we got to the check out counter, Doug told the checker that we had the two carts as we were going to Alaska. He had a look of disbelief on his face then asked us if we really were going to Alaska. We assured him we were telling him the truth then he told us of his trip up North back in 1981.

The real fun with all the food and supplies began when we got back to my Mom's house as the realization set in that all of it needed to be put away. It was overwhelming. Doug and I very rarely argue with each other, but as we unloaded the truck and loaded the RV, we were at each other for the afternoon. Plus it was really hot so that added to our dismay. And before you even think anything-I know, we live in Florida and we're used to the heat, but it's a bit different when you're out working in it trying to get so much done. But we survived it, thankfully, and tomorrow we head up North for a trip of a lifetime.

But before we begin our trip, I want to catch you up on our trip we took this past Tuesday to Alcatraz then to an A's ballgame in Oakland.

The San Francisco Bay Area usually gets rain from sometime in November to April or May each year, referred to as the rainy season. So it's very unusual to get rain during the summer months, but I guess because we had a trip planned, it decided to rain and rain it did. But we had tickets to Alcatraz and they're not easy to get so off we went for the city of San Francisco. As we waited to board the ferry that takes you out to the island, it was really raining, but once we got to Alcatraz, it stopped just like that. We were both thrilled.

Once we landed at Alcatraz, we listened to a brief talk from a ranger about the goings-on around the island then we were off to begin the adventure. Our first stop was a building at the opposite end of the island which had some incredible photographs that were taken on the last day Alcatraz was a prison. Alcatraz shut down in March of 1963 for various reasons-not cost effective any longer, the buildings were taking a toll from the saltwater, and it just wasn't working well any more as a prison. What made these photographs so special is that they were lost for almost 40+ years.

Once we left that building, we continued up the hill to the cell house building. But along the way, I began to see lots of baby birds from the seagulls, egrets, and cormorants all over the island. Apparently Alcatraz is an important area for these birds and they had just given birth to their young a short time ago. In all the years I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and on the water, I had never seen seagull chicks so I was so excited to see nest after nest of them. The birds seem to be used to people but none the less, we were cautioned to not get too close and bother them.

Once inside the cell house, we were given headphones so that we could begin the tour at our own pace. It's just such a strange feeling that we were inside this building that housed the most dangerous criminals in the country at that time. The cells are incredibly small-just big enough for a cot, sink, toilet, and a small seat with a small table-I believe the dimensions are something like 5 feet across, 9 feet deep, and 7 feet high. It's just unreal that men lived in these cells sometimes for many years.

We toured the cell house then took a side trip to the recreation yard which was the only place some of these men were allowed to be outside. It must have been torture for them because from the yard, they could see San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge(once it was built in 1937), and the Bay Bridge. Also, if the wind was just right, they could hear the goings on from San Francisco. We wondered around the yard for a bit then enjoyed the gorgeous gardens all around the island. Even with all the harsh weather conditions, the gardens are just beautifully cared for by many local volunteers.

Once we headed back to the cell house, we ventured to the isolation area of Alcatraz. If inmates ignored the rules, they were sent to this area as a form of punishment. They were placed in a cell, a tad larger than their regular cell, where this steel door was shut and they were plunged into total darkness for a period of up to 19 days. Doug and I went into one of these cells and the ranger closed the steel door for about 30 seconds and let me tell you, it was pitch black. I couldn't even see Doug and he was right next to me! I think I would have gone crazy in there even after a day.

We continued on the tour for a little longer than we headed back down towards the dock to wait for the ferry. It was an incredible adventure to see Alcatraz and walk where only hardened criminals once walked.

As though we hadn't done enough for any day, Doug bought tickets to see the Oakland A's play the Cincinnati Reds that evening. We drove across the Bay Bridge where I got to see the new span that should be opening Labor Day weekend. It was very exciting to see this new span and it's gorgeous.

We got to the coliseum just in the time for the start of the game and the weather turned out to be just incredible. It wasn't too cold, which is fairly normal for this time of year, and there was very little wind. I couldn't believe our luck as 12 hours earlier, it was raining quite a bit. So the game was lots of fun and the Oakland A's won which made for an even better time!

Once Doug and I were in the truck, we started talking about going to the In and Out burger place in Marin after the game. We tossed the idea back and forth then we decided we shouldn't eat that late. Well, once we crossed the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, we made the split second decision to get off the highway to head south to the restaurant after all. And let me tell you, there's nothing like one of their burgers and a shake to celebrate the end of a great day.

As I mentioned way back in the beginning of the post-now where was that anyway-we leave tomorrow for our great adventure. We will try to keep you posted each day, but the further north we go, the worse the internet services become. Some places are so rural that they don't have any services. So once we get to reliable internet services then, we'll catch you up on our travels. So as I say good night, I thank you for following our blog about our travels. We enjoy having you travel with us and please feel free to leave us comments as we love to read them. North to Alaska we go!!!!

Pictures from our Alcatraz adventure can be found here.

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