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Thursday, June 8, 2000

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On to San Francisco

I was in the Greyhound lunchroom in Sacramento at 6:15. I couldn't sleep so I got up and left the hostel. We had a snorer last night and a sympathy snorer that cut in on a regular basis. I got dressed in the bathroom and walked down to the bus station. It was a lovely morning and getting up so early gave me time for a real breakfast. Well, it was an egg and ham on biscuit thing but at least I ate it while sitting in a booth instead of on the bus.

I was waiting for the 7:30 deparure when a driver called for San Francisco at 7:00. It's the cross country bus and must be running late. I get a good seat but it's broken and won't come forward. We have a little sprinkle outside and and clouds ahead of us. I-80 is raised above the fields near the river. I assume it's because of flooding. This is all farmland and where we get a lot of our produce. By Vacaville we're in rolling hills and grasslands. The clouds are heavy to the west.

The guy in front of me is snoring very loudly and does so all the way to San Francisco. We're nearly in the clouds, then near Vallejo we get our first glimpse of the bay and the sun is shining. It's 7:50 and we slow to a crawl in rush hour traffic and the sun disappears. We crawl till we hit the carpool lane and pick up a little speed. In Oakland half the bus gets off and we cross the bay into San Francisco on I-80W. The SF bus station always seems a little soulless and empty. There are people in the small waiting room but the rest of the building is always empty.

I walked down to Market and Powell to get a local bus pass so I could start off right. I only needed a two day pass but the three day pass was cheaper than two one day passes. Go figure. I then took the bus to the Green Tortoise hostel. It was still too early to check in so I put by suitcase in the luggage room and hurried out to do some looking around.

I caught a bus back downtown so I could take the cable car to Fisherman's Wharf. Hey, the shortest distance isn't necessarily the most fun. While waiting to get on the cable car we watched some prople protesting at the Gap over their overseas cheap labor. There were a couple cops watching but everything was very peaceful. I applauded their willingness to get involved. Cheap overseas labor is an issue that is very complex but I do think we can slowly pressure companies to not use what is basically slave labor, but, at the same time, this is often the only income for many families and while I don't like the fact that it is too often exploitive, it can't just be stopped without driving many people to starvation.

The cable car ride was fun, as always, and the conductor was very good at joking the tourists into the proper cable riding ettiquette so they don't kill themselves. We all funnelled into Fisherman's Wharf and the tourist kitsch. I have never been impressed with Fisherman's Wharf but I did get some good clam chowder before heading back to the hostel to check in and take my stuff to my room.

I'm on the third floor with two bunk beds in a tiny room. We have our own sink, which is nice, and lockers under the bed, which we need to use our own padlock with, which I always carry. I'm on the top but that's ok, I'm nimble enough. I lock my stuff up and head back to the Golden Gate area by bus.

The parking lot was crowded with tourists from all over the world and it is a great view and a great bridge. I look around a little then go under the bridge and south on the hiking trail. This is part of the Coast Trail and the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail, which begins in Arizona. It goes through the Presidio, which is now part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. The ominous looking concrete bunkers reminded me of how frightening this area must have been during WWII as they faced Japan and wondered what would happen.

The coast was beautiful and I walked along the edge at times and on the road at other times. There were flowers everywhere and I relaxed as I looked at the ocean, the surf and the peninsula across the strait. I've only driven through there once and would like to walk around there also as it's farther from roads and buildings.

At Baker Beach I finally pooped out. I was tired and my feet hurt. I waited for the bus and took it south through the Golden Gate Park and then east through Haight Asbury where I reconfirmed my impression from last time that it was a rather sad, pathetic place. Somehow the image that always springs to mind is of dirty little girls with dirty crying babies spare changing to buy food and drugs. Of course the guys who fathered those babies were too busy saving the world or, at least, avoiding the draft.

There are many things that are a result of the 60s counterculture that I'm glad of but somehow Haight Asbury, and the drug culture, doesn't figure in them. I think the best thing that came out of the 60s is a more open society and a society that is more accepting of people who are different. I find it interesting that the left, you know, the people that said it was ok to not follow the party line, now ostracize and criminalize anyone who doesn't follow their party line.

I ended up downtown where I picked up some milk at a Walgreens and some pastries at a bakeshop. I spend the evening reading, eating and waiting to get on the internet. The Green Tortoise Hostel has free internet, but two of the three computers weren't working so there was a bit of a wait. This is one of the stranger hostels but it's well run and I've never had a problem there.

They have moved the kitchen from a hole in the wall on the third floor to the second floor ballroom, though they do still have a problem with a lack of dishes. You come in off the street into an entrance that goes up a flight of stairs to the second floor and the front desk. After hours you need to be buzzed in or use the card your key is on. You also have a key to your room. To the left as you come up the stairs is the ballroom which is the dining room, the kitchen and the only place you can smoke or drink. They also have a free bagel breakfast in there in the morning.

To the left is the computer room and the entrance to the rooms. There are always people here waiting to use the computer. There's a large round table and some chairs that have seen much better days. Its rather comfortable in it's own way. Somewhere there's a sauna but I've never checked it out. All in all, it's a decent place to stay. A little strange, but safe. At night it can be noisy as it's in the nudie bar area, but it's not too bad. Hey, I can now tell people that I slept in the red light district. Oh, actually I did that in Mexico City when I was growing up as our headquarters, missionary headquarters, were in a red light district.


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(c) Rachel Aschmann 2000.
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