The City by The Bay (2/2)

“All men are created equal. No matter how hard

they try they can never erase those words”

Harvey Milk

State 21: California - November 28, 2017


We woke up in a parking lot at the San Pablo Lytton Casino in San Pablo, CA having had an awful night sleep. The parking lot was very noisy, and the security drove by every 15 minutes flashing strobe lights all night long! That was all behind us now! Today we have a very exciting day in store, but first there is something I need to get off my chest.

Everyone has a comfort food! That one food item that makes you feel oh so good, when everything is going oh so bad! Potato chips, chocolate, and ice cream are common examples of people's emotional eating food of choice, but my comfort food is quite unique. When my day is going to crap, I drive to the local Chinese restaurant and order a quart of veggie lo mein! I know! I know! I am soooooo embarrassed! 8 years ago after finishing a particularly stressful shift at the nursing home, I headed directly to the Chinese restaurant to self soothe. After polishing off my quart of lo mein, I picked up my fortune cookie, opened it up and it read, “You Like Chinese Food”. I had to chuckle, because it was so very true! But this got me thinking... how are fortune cookies made? How do they get that tiny piece of paper inside without having it burn when cooked? Who writes the fortunes that go inside of the fortune cookie? I will spare you the lengthy history of the fortune cookie! Although the fortune cookie was not invented in the US, the machine that makes fortune cookies was invented in Oakland, CA thus sparing thousands of Chinese workers from developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Leave it to Americans to figure a way to mass produce even the humble fortune cookie! 5 years ago, one of the places Lori and I went on our honeymoon was San Francisco, and right over the bridge is the Fortune Cookie Factory in Oakland. We ended up running out of time, and never made there. 3 years later, we were planning a Cross Country Amtrak Train trip vacation from New York to San Francisco, and were once again going to try to visit the Fortune Cookie Factory. The day before we were supposed to leave for our train trip, Amtrak canceled the trip due to a mudslide in California, and we missed the Fortune Cookie Factory yet again! 2 years ago when we were planning our year long cross country road trip, we swore when we got to Oakland, California we would finally visit the elusive Fortune Cookie Factory! After 5 years of anticipation, today would finally be the day!

We drove 12 miles South to Oakland, CA to visit the Cross Country Couple's "Made in the USA Tour" for California; the Fortune Cookie Factory. This would make our 3rd attempt to visit to the Fortune Cookie Factory, so wish us luck! LOL! When we arrived we were greeted by a middle aged Asian woman who did not speak a word of English. For some unknown reason, it did not strike me that a language barrier might cause a problem on this tour. The Asian lady then called another woman whom spoke English, and we were handed the phone. The woman on the phone stated she would be willing to give us a tour, but she would be out of town for the next 2 days. We were only going to be in town for 1 day, so clearly this was not going to work! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I can’t believe I am going to miss the Fortune Cookie Factory Tour for the 3rd time! Now, I am off to find a quart of veggie lo mein! Please see the pictures below of the lobby of the fortune cookie factory.

After departing a Chinese restaurant across the street from the Fortune Cookie Factory, we drove 11 miles West across the Bay Bridge to the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Person" for the state of California; Harvey Milk. Harvey Milk was an American politician who served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and the first openly gay person elected to a public office in the US. After only 11 months in office, Milk and San Francisco Mayor; George Moscone were assassinated in City Hall on November 27, 1978. The perpetrator was Dan White; another city supervisor. White was convicted of manslaughter, served only 5 years, and committed suicide 2 years after his release. Milk had a feeling he may one day be murdered, and prerecorded a message to be played at his funeral. An excerpt from his recorded message was, “If a bullet should enter my brain, then let that bullet destroy every closet door”. Despite his short political career, Milk was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for San Francisco, and became a martyr in the gay community. Milk has been hailed as the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States. In 2009, President Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the highest civilian award in the United States; the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In addition, to commemorate Milk’s accomplishments for gay rights, a bronze bust was erected in the San Francisco City Hall where he was slain!

Off we went to the San Francisco City Hall to commemorate this civil rights champion, but first we had to figure out how to get there! Like any metropolis, parking in San Francisco is an absolute nightmare! We finally found a parking space right near Ghirardelli Square on the shore of the bay, and nearby was the world famous San Francisco cable cars! The San Francisco cable cars are the world's last manually operated cable car system. Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890, only three remain, and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cable cars are rarely used by local commuters, and the vast majority of 7 million annual passengers are tourists.


What better way to see San Francisco than by cable car! We would take the Powell and Hill cable car line to the Westfield Shopping Mall, which left us 8 blocks away from City Hall. The cost for round trip was $14.00 per person, and with tickets in hand, we boarded the only working cable cars in the world! Before departing, we had to pose for a few pictures. The one of Nate hanging off the cable car, had us cracking up during the entire ride. Although Nate looks stiff and extremely uncomfortable, if you look behind him you can see he was photo bombed by the most ecstatically excited Asian man I have ever seen! It's hard to describe in words the sensation of traveling on the San Francisco Cable Cars! Some points of the journey were exciting, and other points were terrifying. The journey simultaneously highlighted both the brilliant beauty and utter ugliness of San Francisco. Nonetheless, riding the last remaining cable cars in the world is a nostalgic experience from a bygone area, and a bucket list item everyone should experience once in their lives. Please see the pictures below.

After 30 minutes of being pulled up and down the steep windy hills of San Francisco, we finally reached the end of the line at the Westfield Mall. From here we would walk 8 blocks to City Hall. Please see the pictures below.

While enroute to City Hall, we unknowingly walked through the Tenderloin District, which is the worst part of the city! Homeless, drug addicts, hustlers and panhandlers accosted us for our entire walk! Fortunately, there were plenty of police on foot protocol doing an excellent job of maintaining order. Although we never felt in danger, it was quite the colorful experience, and one person in particular will be forever memorable! Nate and I were standing at an intersection waiting for the walk sign! Suddenly, my nose caught the strongest scent of pot I ever smelled in my entire life. I looked to my left, and saw a white man with dark wavy brown hair of average height and build, dressed in a business suit, carrying a bag of groceries, and he was wearing the biggest cheshire cat smile I have ever seen! The scent of marijuana radiating off this man was so pungent, I felt myself getting stoned by just standing next to him! I anxiously waited for the crosswalk to turn green for what seemed like an eternity! If it wasn’t for the policeman across the street, I would have just jaywalked! Just when I thought things could not get any more uncomfortable, what this man did next was so shocking and so unexpected, I will remember it for as long as I live! The man put his grocery bag on the ground, pulled out a box of Wheaties cereal, tore off the top of the box, tilted his head back as far as it would go, opened his mouth as wide as humanly possible, held the cereal box high over his head with arms fully extended, and dumped the entire contents of the box all over himself! I would estimate he successfully got 5% of the cereal in his mouth, and the remaining 95% was all over the side walk! I know Wheaties is the breakfast of champions, but this this guy was taking things just a tad too far!

Just when I thought things couldn't get any stranger, he reached back into his grocery bag, and pulled out a gallon of Lactaid Milk. Once again, he tilted his head back, opened his mouth, held the gallon of milk high over his head, gave himself a milk shower right next to me on the corner of the street! I give him credit for remembering he was lactose intolerant! Finally, the crosswalk sign turned green, and Nate and I ran across the intersection! When we reached the other side of the crosswalk, we turned back around, and saw the man with 6 hard boiled eggs sealed in a clear plastic container. He apparently did not notice the plastic container, because he kept trying to eat the eggs through the plastic! Never in my life have I seen one consume their breakfast with such vigor! They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so who am I to judge?

We continued our walk through the Tenderloin District, and came across a homeless outreach street festival hosted by Lava Mae! Founded by Doniece Sandoval in 2013, Lava Mae is a homeless outreach program, which converts old public transportation buses into showers and toilets on wheels. The organizations goal is to deliver radical hospitality to the streets by delivering hygiene, rekindling dignity, and bringing humanity, innovation and collaboration to the way services are delivered to people experiencing homelessness. To date, Lava Mae has served over 10,000 guests who have taken 35,000 showers on their mobile units across Los Angeles and the Bay Area. What made the Lava Mae event we attended so special was it was not just a converted old bus for showers. There was free food, live music, haircuts, flu shots, vendors and even chair massages! Since no one likes taking a hand out, Lava Mae had transformed their homeless outreach event into what looked and felt like a block party. All across the country, I have seen the homeless be ignored, disregarded, and treated like trash on the side of the street. Finally, someone was actually doing something to rectify this humanitarian travesty! This was one of the most inspirational things I had seen on my entire cross country trip, and I was moved to tears! If you are looking for a charity to support whom are making a real difference in the community, consider donating to Lava Mae. Please see the pictures below!

After finally making it though the Tenderloin, the San Francisco City Hall came into our sights! From the exterior the building was magnificent, and even better than a few of the state capitol buildings we visited. Before entering, we first had to cross the City Hall courtyard, which would prove to be an adventure in itself! The first obstacle we encountered was the biggest Zumba class I had ever seen in my entire life! There literally had to be at least 400 people! For those who may not know, Zumba is a combination of dance moves such as hip hop, mambo, and salsa combined with aerobic exercises such as squats, and lunges all performed to loud and energetic music! Just to recap, there was a lot of loud music, and a lot of erratic movements by A LOT of people! There was no way to go around them without walking in the street, so the only option we had was to walk straight through the Zumba class in progress. Nate and I bumped into over a dozen different people, caught more than a couple elbows, each had our toes stepped on twice, and one very large lady abruptly spun to the left knocking Nate right on the ground! Since we were getting our ass kicked by the Zumba class, we decided on a different approach. Nate and I decided the best way to get through the Zumba class was to dance our way through! "Kick those heels, shimmy right, kick ball chain, squat, jump, swing those hips" the instructor yelled as we tried our best to follow the beat. Nate looked like he was about to pass out! Whenever we bumped into someone as we were dancing our way out of the crowd, we would say, “I am sorry this is my first time doing Zumba”. Soon thereafter we cleared the Zumba class, and the front steps to City Hall were finally in our sight!


All we had left to do was cross the street, and walk up the front step to City Hall. However, there was one last obstacle standing in our way; A Legalize Marijuana Protest. Hundreds of people marched around the building, holding signs, and chanting, “Legalize and Regulate” and “Bongs not Bombs”. There were metal barricades erected, a heavy police presence, but thankfully it was a peaceful protest. It was quite the chaotic scene, but quite an inspirational one as well. Americans collectively, publicly and peacefully voicing their opinions to their elected officials is always a pleasure to witness! After making our way through the picket lines, we finally walked up the steps of City Hall, entered the building and waited in a very long security line. Normally I would insert my rant about being illegally searched, but after what I just walked though, I clearly see why a security checkpoint is warranted! Please see pictures below.


After passing through security, the guard informed us the Harvey Milk bust is located up the grand staircase, and down a hallway to the left on the 2nd floor. Before continuing on, we both really had to go, so off we went in search of the restrooms. You would think the bathrooms would be easy to find in a government building, but you would be sadly mistaken. After meandering around the 1st floor for 30 minutes, we located the restrooms inside of a large room where a yoga class was in session! Seriously, who does yoga inside of a City Hall! A least we would not have to worry about getting assaulted as we were still sore from going through the Zumba Class! After exiting the bathroom, we sat down and did a few yoga poses to be social and then continued on our journey to find Milk's bust.

Next, we headed to the grand stairs, but along the way passed an elevator. We entered the elevator, took it to the 2nd floor, and when the doors opened we were shocked by what we saw! There were 20 couples standing in line waiting to get married. We then heard someone say “By the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife”. We stepped out of the elevator just in time to see a flash, and accidentally photo bombed the newlyweds having their first kiss! They were a very cool couple, and actually found it hilarious! You could tell they were very happy and in love with one another! After offering them our congratulations, we took the elevator back to the 1st floor, so we wouldn’t interrupt anymore marriages!

Upon arriving back on the 1st floor of City Hall, we exited the elevator, and made our way to the grand staircase. When we arrived, we saw yet another obstacle in our way. The staircase was filled with school children! Apparently, we came across a 5th grade field trip to City Hall! There were over 200 children sitting on the stairs listening to someone speaking from the Mayor’s office. There was no other way to the 2nd floor! We had to get up those stairs! We looked for an opening between the children, and carefully and quietly made our way up the stairs. Apparently our frequent “excuse me” and asking “can you please move over”, caught the attention of the speaker. When we were halfway up the staircase, he stopped his lecture, and said, “Can everyone move over for these people to pass so, I may continue”. The room got quiet, and we instantly felt everyone’s eyes upon us! A path cleared before us, and we briskly made our way up to the top of grand staircase! Please see the pictures below.

Once at the top, we took a left down the hall to where the bust was supposed to be, but we could not find the memorial! There were over 100 senior citizens wrapping Christmas presents, and making Christmas ornaments! I have never seen so much garland, glue guns, wrapping paper and tinsel in one place in my entire life! It was quite the sight, and quite the mess! We slowly walked up and down the hall and finally found the bust of the gay rights activist and martyr; Harvey Milk! Please see the pictures below!

Just to recap, to get to the San Francisco City Hall we; rode an antique cable car, walked through a scary neighborhood, watched a man eat breakfast in the most unusual way, walked through a homeless outreach event, passed a protest to legalize pot, danced our way through the world’s biggest Zumba class before finally arriving at City Hall. Once inside City Hall, we participated in a yoga class in progress, crashed a wedding of 20 couples, walked through a 5th grade field trip, went through a Christmas gift wrapping and ornament making event, and then and only then, did we finally arrive at the bronze bust of the slain civil rights champion; Harvey Milk!! We were exhausted!!! Our trip to the San Francisco City Hall best exemplified the quote “The journey is more important the arriving at the destination”. Now, we had to do it all in reverse to get back to Rosie!


Upon arriving back to Rosie, we drove 8 blocks West to Rincon Park to visit the Cross Country Couple's “Roadside Attraction” for the State of California: Cupids Span; The World’s Largest Bow & Arrow! Standing 60 feet tall, 140 feet wide and composed of fiberglass and steel, the sculpture depicting Cupid’s Bow and Arrow will inspire you to fall in love with the city by the bay. Legend states, San Francisco was the home port of Cupid, and the drawn bow with arrow partly impaled into the ground symbolizes his love for the city. Installed in 2002, Cupid's span was created by internationally renowned artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. They also created "Spoonbridge and Cherry" in Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which we previously visited during our week in Minnesota. Please click here. Interestingly, the curves of the bow complements the curves of the Bay Bridge across the bay.

San Francisco is a living, breathing, vibrant city always bustling with activity. Although Lori and I both absolutely love the city by the bay, we would never live here. Second only to NYC, San Francisco has the highest cost of living in the US. In addition, the San Andreas Fault runs right under the city, and it is only a matter of time before the “BIG ONE” hits! However, we will most certainly return for a visit at some point in the future. Maybe next time will will get to see the Fortune Cookie Factory! We have traveled all across the US, and have yet to find another city like San Francisco!

With a heavy heart, we departed San Francisco, and we drove 78 miles South along the California shore to the town of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a cute seaside tourist town featuring, sandy shoreline, a quaint downtown, clean boardwalk, well preserved examples of Spanish American architecture, an amusement park and a pier chock full of restaurants and shopping! After checking with the parking attendant, we were given the green light to drive Rosie onto the pier!

While exploring the Santa Cruz Pier, we were tickled to find a seafood restaurant with a veggie burger on the menu, and decided to give it a go although it ended up being so so. On our walk back to Rosie after dinner, we caught a stunning sunset reminiscent of our previous visit to Key West a few years back. Please see the pictures below.

After departing the Santa Cruz Pier, we the found a nearby budget hotel with good ratings to treat ourselves for the night. We have A LOT of driving ahead of us over the next 5 days!

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