What an awesome place to camp. We slept great and got to see more turkeys on our way out after the camp host opened the gate early for us – before 6:30 am. We get $50 in gas at Valero, $200 from the ATM, and a free slice of banana bread with our coffee from Peet’s before paying the $6.00 to go south on the Golden Gate Bridge. Tolls were started in 1937 at 50 cents each way and northbound was made free in 1968. The charges change with the needs of the city’s transport systems – the bridge, trolleys, and ferries – and inflation.
We park at the Civic Center Garage for $8.50 so that we can have a chance to walk around a different part of town while we wait for the Asian Art Museum to open at 10 am. We see the trolley tracks and signs about tour buses and marshals service vehicles; benches in the shape of Z surrounding a small triangular garden; all the leftovers, with chopsticks, thrown on the ground in front of the Chinese restaurant; a deep hole in the sidewalk; and a blue gargoyle mural complete with bird silhouettes and purple lettering down the wall.
We see the city’s bag lady with her motley mix of plastic and canvas accessories on wheels; the couple coming out of the self-cleaning toilet leaving Subway trash behind; the vibrant Hartland Hotel mural; a pigeon eyeballing us as he drinks from a dog dish; a floral mattress with a hole and a smiley face; an unmanned newsstand offering the WSJ, NYT, and SF Chronicle in two languages; a man carrying a chair on his back while smoking a cigar; some beautiful architecture; and a Falun Dafa demonstration in front of city hall.
We walked in as soon as the museum doors opened only to find out that the Terracotta Warriors that I was so excited to see wasn’t to be an exhibit until next May. Saddened though I was we decided to stay since we got in free – active duty military with up to five family members. There is a room dedicated to Buddha made of different material and varying sizes that were found from multiple countries. And art from India influenced by British Rule.
There are decorated painted plates of birds and horses; sculptures in stone of humans and apes; long swords that are curvy and straight with fancy handles and sheaths; intricate artwork with metal and beads and tiny details; and scenes carved in jade of all colors on dishes for holding food and water. There are many new styles, textures, and stain mixtures that were made over 700 years ago – and plenty of it in this museum. There is wood, metal, rock, glass, paint, and fiber that has gone into expressing the zeitgeist of the ages that have built up to the making and filling of these rooms.
We could spend many more hours in here, but that’s not what we came for. We look at some art by Bae Young-whan, a painting I would love in my home, a suit of armor, an incense burner with mother-of-pearl inlay, and a golden chandelier contrasted against the octagon ceiling and arches of the room. On our way out we peek at an unfinished installation, Phantoms of Asia, by Sun Kwak using black masking tape to change the idea of how a space is viewed – complex and elegant.
From there, we drive down to the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, and find parking again, this time for $18. We walk past the balloon artist, the silver men with boomboxes, and the man sitting on a crate with a branch scaring people. Along the way are two-story tour buses, people on GoCar Tours, people selling clothes and food, tourists on the sidewalk, cyclists and skaters in the street, and old guys playing instruments and doing magic tricks.
San Francisco is a great city to spend time inside and outdoors – both full of history. After some people watching it was time to visit the SF Maritime National Historic Park. We learn about the ships, trade, history, and landscape of the harbor and the bay. We read about the sunken ships that were buried in Yerba Buena Cove as the city extended towards the sea in the 1850s. Prior to the growth of the city came six fires that destroyed downtown each time, but with the introduction of brick and iron buildings, improvements to the water system and volunteer fire department, the city is teeming with life.
Back outside we meet friendly Donavan the hotel porter for Kimpton and Michael Jackson’s doppelgänger dancing in a salon on our way to Boudin Bakery. Here we will only spend $34 on bears, crabs, and a bread bowl. With bellies full we walk to Paco’s spray-paint booth where we watch him do a painting for Youssef and ten minutes later ours is done – a plate, cup, and folded piece of paper leave us with some planets, the bridge over Alcatraz, and some colorful reflections in the water from the city and star lights.
With wet painting in hand I’m ready to leave the crowded walkway and get somewhere less populated. We head south on Hwy 1 looking for camping, but stopping as often as possible to see the waves, flowers, cliffs, rocks – to stand on and others to hold in my hand, and colorful shells that look weathered. We stop at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel – a great place by the sea, with hot tub, but we won’t be staying tonight.
We also leave a KOA after they asked for $81, though after some haggling we were able to talk them down to $65. A lot of camping sites were closed or full. We enjoyed the rest of the sunlight, green pastures, kite surfers, cliffside views, bumper stickers, an acorn mural by Bob von Elgg, and trees lining the drive leading to an old elaborate house. I pull over for a picture of the perigee moon before stopping at spot 109 at the Laguna Seca Rec Area near the Mazda Raceway. Caleb sets up for the night and it’s time for sleep.