Thursday, January 19, 2012

Route 66 & California - San Francisco - Angel Island

Our second day in San Francisco started with us driving back down to the piers.  We had reservations for a ferry going out to Angel Island.

We parked, picked up our tickets and, being a little early, walked over to Johnny Rockets for breakfast.  The day started off cloudy but cleared up nicely as we took the ferry out to Angel Island.  The ferry ride out was comfortable like the Alcatraz Trip had been the night before giving us views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge from Angel Island.
We arrived a little late at the dock and looked for where our tour would leave from.  Being late had raised my anxiety level a bit but it turned out to not be a problem as the Wife and I were the only ones on the tour.  This was no ordinary tour.  It was a Segway tour.

The first fifteen minutes were spent familiarizing ourselves with the Segways.  I was pleasantly surprised how easy it is to learn ride these things.  Five minutes of explanation and five minutes apiece testing our knowledge - go forward, stop, go backward, stop, turn left, turn right, park it.  The one challenge, and I use that word loosely, was to drive the Segway down a steep boat ramp, turn around, and go back up.  I kept seeing myself driving into the water but it was incredibly easy.

The guy (he looked like your typical surfer duuude) led the way around the island stopping periodically to explain the island's history.  The island has a long history as a military outpost, anti-ballistic missile site, prisoner of war camp, hospital, and immigration station.  At one point he told a story about a prior tour group.  He was explaining that over a million years ago the water was shallow enough for animal life to walk across from the main land to the island.  One of the tourist spoke up and said "That's not possible.  The Earth is only 6,000 years old."  He let the comment slide ... what else could he do.

San Francisco skyline and Alcatraz Island from Angel Island.
The tour circumnavigated the island.  We stopped a few times to get off the Segways to rest and explore old buildings.  I learned that riding a Segway is not the relaxing activity it would suggest.  Your leg muscles tend to tense up a bit as you lean forward to make it go.  This can be tiring and my legs were still recuperating from my Topa Topa ordeal.  Another thing I found out is it is possible to run yourself over.  To get off a Segway you just step off the back quickly.  The problem is you want to pull back on the handle to steady yourself when you step backward - this causes the Segway to move backward running yourself over.  This happened to the Wife.  It didn't happen to me but I managed to have my Segway get away from me (I think I pushed the handle forward as I was getting off sending the Segway forward uncontrolled).

Doors behind doors behind doors ...
We got back to the main pier.  We had some time before the ferry would leave so we ate some lunch at the snack bar before going through a small gift shop.  I saw a really nice t-shirt and magnet but, since we were planning to do some more walking, I decided to buy the stuff after I got back.

We took a path up the hillside to the main road and walked back to the immigration station buildings.  The Wife had taken a teacher's workshop at Ellis Island and, since this Angel Island facility was referred to as the west coast's Ellis Island, she was interested  in checking it out.  Unfortunately the buildings were closed (we were there during the week and they are only open on the weekends when most people come to the island).  I took some pictures and we walked back to the pier.

The little gift shop ... was closed.  The guy with the keys was already off the island for the day.  poop.  No t-shirt for me.  We waited for the ferry and headed back to the city.

That evening we walked around Chinatown stopping at the City Lights bookstore (the Wife has an interest in the Beat poets) and decided to get dinner at this bar we'd stopped at the last time we were in San Francisco.  We walked in the San Francisco Brewing Company and we hardly recognized the place.  It'd changed a bit since we were there in 2008.  It was a little hipper and the menu was definitely more esoteric and upscale.  There was only one item on the menu that seemed even a little appetizing and ... they were out of it (that should tell them something when the most conservative item on the menu is sold out).  We paid for our drinks and left.

Old military building on Angel Island.
Wondering where to go we ended up in a small hole in the wall across the street from out hotel.  Sam's was a burger/pizza place.  The grill was in the front window.  There were a couple tables but the three people eating there were sitting at the bar.  We joined them at the bar and ordered a couple cheeseburgers from whom we assumed was Sam.  Turns out, the gentleman was Mike.  He'd bought the place from Sam back in the early '70s and had run it ever since.  We talked about the history of the place.  The history of the hotel (three original owners, only one still alive ... barely ... not sure what will happen when he passes).  We talked about the earthquake a few years ago.  He kept his grill working to cook all the meat in his freezer before it all went bad and fed the rescue crews until the police told him to shut down for safety reasons.  The cheeseburgers were some of the best we'd had on the trip.

Segways.  Angel Island.  Sam's.  Highlights of a great day.  The vacation was almost over and it was ending on a high note.

These pictures and more can be found in these Google Photos albums: 2011-07-19 Route 66 - California - Angel Island, 2011-07-18 Route 66 - California - Alcatraz, and 2008-2011 San Francisco, CA.

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