13: San Fran – Mostly Civilized and Incredibly Authentic

After a handful of mostly planned and slightly civilized trips, Douandy and I decided it was about time for a sporadic bicoastal, California adventure. Much like Nola (New Orleans) we chose a destination the night prior while on a Netflix binge. En route San Fransisco. However, unlike Nola I figured we would at least need a car. Being the tech-savvy 90’s baby I am, I Googled (they should pay me) car rentals and booked the cheapest one. I hardly expected to have the same luck as I normally do by finding a suitable, chill and friendly host so at the very least we could drive to a quiet road and crash in our car; not crash our car. We’re not too prissy to rough it. Consider us civilized travel hippies.

As we arrived at the SFO airport our rental place Flight Car managed to get us swopped and checked out within 30 minutes. They were good. Flight Car, if you haven’t heard of it, is a rental car place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle (so far) that rents people’s cars who use them as a parking lot. If you leave for a vacation you can give them your car and they will rent it out to visitors until you get back. Not only is parking free, you could get paid. It’s basically Air BnB for cars, which is insanely clever.

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Our first agenda was to meet up with my college friend Eric who moved out west around the same time I did. We met in Union Square at this small, dim lit bar below his apartment. As we sat in the bar stools facing the window catching up on our lives and new jobs, we slowly saw the homeless walking by every 12 minutes trickle down to every six minutes. The later it got, the more they came out to play. After about an hour Eric, like most people on a Monday night, had to get to bed for work early in the morning. We said our goodbyes, proceeded to aim for dinner plans and Douandy and I took tips on the best bars to go to in the area.

After driving about 13 minutes we stumbled onto, what looked like, a cool and grungy gay bar. Grungy? Yes. Cool? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Let’s set the scene, shall we?
– The first thing that hits you is the smell of dirty mop water and urine.
– The place had maybe 5 people in it total.
– It was so dark you could barely see with the exception of ‘accent” red walls.
– There was an oddly shaped, shorter/larger than average man dancing on a small platform with a silver banana hammock and a belly ring
– The music sounded like, but was not limited to, off-beat German Goth techno… Is that even a thing?
– There was a porno playing on a flat screen near the dance floor and just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the only bathroom in the place contained what I think was a community, tub-like urinal.

Lesson number 10: if you ever enter a bar with even one of the six to seven features I just mentioned, don’t touch a damn thing.

We ran. Maybe not legit ran but we sped walked like Jerry Sandusky just offered us a lollipop. We funneled down the street and wandered into a trippy, hippie, biker gay bar instead with themed beverages and neon art hanging from the ceiling. Much cooler. While we sat I checked my phone and noticed a comment on my Instagram from a flight attendant friend, Valerie. Not only was she laying over in SF but she was at a bar 5 minutes away with a friend of hers. What are the odds?

We hot tailed it to Rye, which was this wood and steel architected whiskey bar with an open layout and completely my style. We met up with Val, who was taking it easy due to her early flight out, and her sweet entrepreneur friend, Noelle. After joking with the bartenders until near closing and confessing to Val that we were sleeping in our car, she was nice enough to offer up the second bed in her hotel room which we could stay in until noon regardless of her 6am flight. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

The four of us hopped in our Flight Car and went to Noelle’s to briefly hangout before we went back to the hotel. The next morning, Douandy and I woke up to see that Val left for her flight and that we had a high level, large window overlooking downtown SF. The view of the city was amazing. We showered and made plans for our jam packed day while compiling a list of explorations that would get us back to the airport by 10pm.

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The first on our list was to find a good vantage point of the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove to the other side of town, which took 13 minutes, and parked in a viewing spot. It didn’t necessarily give us the best view but my God was it beautiful.

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Lesson number 11: Everyone should see the Golden Gate Bridge in person.

After taking a couple pictures we drove to Baker’s Beach to not only go to walk around and relax to the waves. Considering it was November, we knew it wouldn’t be warm but 60° and breezy was much better than Chicago’s 21° and winds of hold-on-to-your-children-and-weaves miles per hour. Therefore, Baker’s Beach was as calming and relaxing as you’d think it’d be. From there we drove a little further up the hill to get a grand view of the Golden Gate and walk around to look at the WWII Memorial Wall.

Once we checked those off of our list we drove to Haight and Ashbury to roam the hippie hangout of the west. The stores were your perfect combination of trendy meets hippie so obviously we felt at home. After window shopping, coffee, a haircut, and being offered a college kid’s green best buddy by numerous passersby we figured it was a good time to call it an afternoon.

Douandy and I grabbed lunch, witnessed an arrest of one of those friendly passersby, and figured since we had a couple hours until our much awaited sushi dinner we would drive across the bridge rather than just view it. We drove 13 minutes (notice a trend) to the opposite side of the bridge and got an even better view of both the Golden Gate and Alcatraz. By then it was a cool early evening so we proceeded to find a secluded street to park and nap and head back toward Union Square area.

We got sushi at a place Eric recommended, Sushi Boat, which is a basement sushi bar that sends the rolls out on a conveyor belt with plates disguised as cute little boats. Adorable. Eric managed to stop by for a quick hi and bye until we left so Douandy and I could roam around before our flight.

The area was a numerous block outdoor mall decked in Christmas lights with streetcars full and active, running on nearly every road. At the center of the mall was a large ice skating rink with a (maybe) 100+ foot Christmas tree facing quite possibly the largest Macy’s I’ve ever seen. The 4-story Macy’s took up the entire block and this was just the women’s store. Ho. Lee. Shit. Thank God we only had 30 minutes to return the car otherwise there would be an embarrassingly attractive picture gone viral of me spending my entire savings while crying over 12 shopping bags sitting Indian style on an escalator. Haha just kidding, I don’t have a savings!

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All in all the trip fueled our desire to relocate to California and although we didn’t see everything in the city, I’m glad we were able to take our time to enjoy our first visit. I will definitely be renting a Flight Car in the next available city and look forward to venturing the coast of Cali in the near to immediate future.

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