Planning for the San Francisco trip began in earnest on September 6th at the Fairfax Wine House
By late September, the plans were in place and Jim had produced "The Red Book" that contained all of our travel plans
Saturday, October 2: After parking the Buick in the green lot, we took the Dulles shuttle to the terminal where we arrived at 6:15am
After a few challenges with overweight baggage, we boarded United flight #977 and departed on time at 8:10am. We had a smooth flight with great views, then landed at SFO 40 minutes ahead of schedule.
After retrieving our checked luggage, we took the SFO AirTrain to the onsite BART terminal and purchased tickets ($8.10 each) for the 30-minute trip to downtown San Francisco
We arrived at the Embarcadero BART station at noon on a beautiful sunny day, then walked 4 blocks to the Meridien Hotel at 333 Battery Street
Upon check-in, we decided to upgrade to a Bay view room (#2315). This hotel website photo shows a similar, though not identical room.
The beautiful hotel lobby
The hotel's pomodoro circular staircase
We rested in our room for a bit, then walked down Clay Street to the recently renovated Ferry Building market plaza
After briefly exploring the plaza, we settled into the much-acclaimed Slanted Door Vietnamese restaurant for wine and a snack
The bar was crowded (perpetually for 6 years, according to one patron), so we sat in the lounge for a couple of hours, where we ordered a house special seafood spring roll with peanut sauce
We departed at 3:00pm to continue our wanderings
The main interior corridor of the Ferry Building Marketplace
Kathy inspects a few of the local treasures
We made another stop at Ferry Plaza Seafood for a salmon plate and more wine at the counter
We returned to the hotel at 5:15pm, rested for an hour, then prepared for dinner. At 7:30pm, we arrived at the Hyatt Regency to meet Rich Finkle and his wife Soria in the lounge.
Afterwards, we walked to Perbacco at 230 California Street where we’d booked an 8:45pm dinner reservation
We were seated downstairs, then ordered a bottle of excellent Italian red wine recommended by the waiter. Kathy then ordered swordfish with artichokes and Jim the house special bow-tie pasta with mushroom herb sauce.
Perbacco's wonderful dinner menu
After dinner, we walked Rich and Soria to the Embarcadero BART station for their return to Clayton. We said goodbye at 11:15pm, then returned to the hotel, too tired for the Saloon (a blues club in North Beach).
From our hotel window, a view of the fog that had settled upon the city
Sunday morning, we awaited pickup at the hotel by the Gray Line shuttle bus
We began our 3½ hour City Tour at 11:15am
The new Gray Line terminal at Fisherman's Wharf
The terminal is located next door to Sally's Famous Fishwich
Building murals in the Mission District as seen from the bus
Our first stop atop Twin Peaks
Chilly and windy as usual for the Peaks
We made a second stop at the heavily-traveled Vista Point above Fort Baker
After the bus tour, we purchased tickets ($10 each) for the 3:30pm Blue and Gold ferry to Sausalito
We then quickly walked the length of Pier 39, where we finally located a source for fresh popcorn. With sustenance in hand we boarded the ferry.
We learned on board that the first stop was to be Tiburon (after having been told twice earlier that it was bound directly for Sausalito)
The ferry parked at Tiburon for 15 minutes, then continued on to Sausalito
We arrived Sausilto at 4:30pm (one hour total crossing time)
Very good to know...
After exploring Bridgeway Avenue for a bit, we walked south to the Horizons Restaurant (Google street photo) where we setlled in at the bar
We ordered a local sauvignon blanc and shared a Dungeness crab cocktail with hearts of palm, tomato, avocado, and orange-shallot vinaigrette (most excellent)
At 6:30pm, we boarded the Golden Gate return ferry, which, after we purchased our tickets on board ($8.25 each), dropped us at the SF Ferry Building.
We then walked back to the Meridien, rested for an hour, and prepared for dinner
We departed the hotel at 8:30pm, then walked three blocks (chilly and windy) to Bix at 50 Gold Street, where we’d booked a reservation for 8:45pm
We were seated upstairs at perhaps the best table in the restaurant
We ordered a bottle of 2009 Chardonnay, Au Bon Climat, Bix, Santa Maria Valley, then started with the Bix summer tomato cart (Kathy) and tuna tartar (Jim). We followed with grilled wild Pacific salmon (Kathy) and a grilled Berkshire pork chop (Jim). We then completed Jim's birthday dinner (Kathy's treat) with Bananas Foster with dark rum and vanilla ice cream along with espresso.
After dinner, we continued up Gold Street to Montgomery, then onto Columbus Avenue for our return walk to the hotel under the Transamerica Pyramid
Monday morning photos from our hotel room prior to checkout. This view east down Clay Street shows the Alocoa Building, completed in 1967.
The Transamerica Pyramid rises into the blue morning sky
The view north along Battery Street towards the Fog City Diner
After checkout, Kathy joined old friends Bob and Mitzie, who fetched her from the Meridien, then drove to the Town Hall restaurant for lunch
Jim, meanwhile, visited his old stomping grounds in the Embarcadero Center, then had lunch at the All Season Chinese restaurant on Drumm Street
At 2:30pm, we met back at the hotel, retrieved our checked bags, then walked (another beautiful day) to the Embarcadero BART station for our return to SFO
From BART, we caught the AirTrain directly to the new SFO rental car garage
At the Avis counter, we rented a silver Chevy Impala for the driving portion of our trip
We next drove via Highways 101 and 92 from the airport to Half Moon Bay
We reached the Mill Rose Inn at 5:45pm, where we were greeted by innkeeper Terry Baldwin (and later, wife Eve)
We were then shown to the beautiful Baroque Rose room, which we'd reserved online
Having retrieved a carafe of white wine from the in-room refrigerator, we drove to the parking lot above "Jim’s Beach"
We then walked to the beach, sat on a driftwood log, and though cold and windy, enjoyed a glass of wine as we watched the sun set into the Pacific
A northward view along the coast
Jim joins the scene
This view south shows the former location of a sea cave that collapsed during the mid-1980's
The cliff-side approach to the beach has been "upgraded" with cement steps since Jim's days living near the beach
We're soon joined by another group
Wading in the Pacific as the the Ritz Carlton hangs in the background
We next drove north on Highway 1 and explored Princeton-by-the-Sea. We attempted to dine at Barbara’s Fish Trap, but after a long wait with no service, we departed and had dinner instead upstairs at the new Crab Landing restaurant.
We started with a glass of 2008 Hess Monterey chardonnay, then we each ordered a roasted whole local artichoke. We finally shared a one-pound bucket of peel and eat, beer-steamed shrimp with herbs before departing.
After dinner, we drove by the Miramar Beach Inn, then returned to the Mill Rose, where we had a glass of brandy and shared a slice of rum-nut cake. Jim then fell asleep on the parlor couch, so we retired at 11:30pm.
On Tuesday, we rose at 8:00am, then had breakfast at the Inn. We started with coffee and blueberry cobbler topped with cream sauce, then were served spinach frittatas with spicy salsa (along with plenty of coffee).
Following breakfast, we took a few photos of the grounds before checking out of the Inn
This photo was taken by the Mill Rose gardener
Pumpkins are displayed for the upcoming annual festival (October 16-17)
The flowers are spectacular, even in October
A variety of species...
The Victorian-style parlor
Fresh flowers everywhere
We left the Mill Rose at 11:15am, then drove to the San Mateo Fish Market where we met Earl for lunch at 11:45am
We sat at an outside table next to the lagoon (another beautiful day) and chatted mostly about old times
Before departing, a quick photo taken by our waiter
We departed the Fish Market at 1:15pm then drove to Edgewater Isle to inspect Jim’s old neighborhood and townhouse
After a brief detour to the San Carlos REI we drove towards Bill and Kathy’s house in Clayton. Karen’s (GPS) route took us across the San Mateo Bridge into Hayward, through Crow Canyon Road to I-680, and up Ygnacio Valley Drive in Walnut Creek.
After a drive-by look at Jim’s old house (324 Kinross Drive) in Walnut Creek, we arrived in Clayton at 4:30pm. We stopped first at a wine shop to pick up a bottle of Mumm Napa Valley brut, then arrived at Bill and Kathy’s at 4:45pm (Google Street View photo of the house).
We reminisced and enjoyed champagne until about 6:45pm, then departed, along with son Zachary, for Moresi's Chophouse in Clayton near the site of the Old Pioneer restaurant (now closed)
As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by a surprise guest, Randy Gausman, who’d been waiting at the bar. Randy joined us for a wonderful dinner that included appetizers (grilled artichokes for Kathy and Jim), entrees (halibut for Kathy, salmon for Jim) and lots of wine.
After dinner, we all walked across the street to the Clayton Club Saloon and attempted to sit inside, but the bartender had a problem seating a child in the bar area. Kathy then offered up a $5.00 tip (bribe) that allowed us access to the outdoor seating area where we had another glass of wine before Bill drove us home. We next viewed the 30 or so archived photos that Jim had brought on his netbook, along with a few pictures from Kathy’s collection. We then danced to the music of the Doobie Brothers before retiring, probably around midnight.
On Wednesday morning (October 6), we rose at 9:00am. Soon thereafter, we were greeted by Zach, who provided Kathy a happy birthday hug.
After a cup of hazelnut coffee each, we took a few photos, then said our goodbyes
Before leaving Clayton, we stopped at a local shopping center and enjoyed a hearty breakfast (with great service) at Country Waffles
At 11:15am, we departed the restaurant, made a quick stop at Walgreen’s, then drove east on Kirker Pass Road towards Yosemite National Park. We followed the recommended GPS route across the Central Valley through Stockton, Copperopolis and Chinese Camp.
Enroute, we stopped at Yosemite Junction (Highway 120) and talked with a ranger about gasoline availability, then stopped again in Big Oak Flat (near Groveland) for fuel. We encountered rain, then some snow on Hwy 120 at 5,000 to 6,000 feet elevation before arriving at Yosemite Valley.
The rain had just stopped as Kathy enjoyed her first outside (and very chilly) view of the Yosemite Valley approach
A view of Bridalveil Falls as we enter the valley
El Capitan is topped by low-hanging clouds
The recent rains have replenished Yosemite Falls
We checked into the Yosemite Lodge at 4:10pm (a notably efficient process), then decided to wait for one of the newly refurbished, prototype “green rooms”
Our luxury room (#4127) was located in the Tamarack building, a short distance from the main building
After loading our gear into the room, we took a brief hike up the Yosemite Falls connector trail, then returned to the lodge at 6:00pm
Our 4-star accommodations featured an eco-friendly Sony flat screen TV (which we never powered on)
The bathroom likewise included a large shower with dual glass doors
We rested for a bit, cleaned up, then drove to the Ahwahnee Hotel at 7:30pm
We had a glass of sauvignon blanc in the cocktail lounge as Kathy received her birthday cards and iPod Nano music player from Jim
The Ahwahnee lobby is positioned between the cocktail lounge and the dining room
We were then seated in the main dining room at 8:45pm at a table near the entrance
We started with a bottle of California sauvignon blanc, then Kathy ordered the olive oil poached Alaskan halibut (“nicoise style”) and Jim a grilled flatiron steak. Both dishes were accompanied by heirloom tomato caprese salads (all excellent).
Following the entrees, we were offered a complimentary slice of amaretto cheese cake topped with a birthday candle for Kathy. The kitchen had apparently run out of the usual birthday cupcakes, which were "unimpressive" according to our waiter. We then returned to the lodge where Jim read a National Geographic history of Yosemite Valley to Kathy before we both fell asleep, probably around 11:30pm.
On Thursday morning, we walked to the Lodge Food Court to cash in our breakfast and coffee vouchers. We assembled truly monsterous meals whose consumption we deemed justified by our upcoming hike.
After breakfast, we planted ourselves at an outdoor table near the Food Court to review brochures and maps in order to plan a suitable day hike (Oh Ranger!)
We decided on the Vernon Falls Mist Trail (which also serves as the beginning of the famed John Muir Trail) and vowed to hike only as much as we comfortably could
The walk to the top of Vernal Falls, a steep climb from 4,026 to about 5,100 feet took about 1.5 hours. Here we see Glacier Point as we begin the hike.
Useful hiker info near the trailhead
Kathy pauses at the Vernal Falls bridge
A branch of the Merced River
Approaching the base of Vernal Falls
Looking back down the river
Jim takes a breather during the steep climb
We all continue skyward...
We reach the base of Vernal Falls
Kathy contemplates the final stretch of trail along a sheer rock wall
Kathy decides to proceed
Almost at the top
The view from the rock wall into the gorge below
We reached the top of the falls as the rain began
In spite of the rain, we chose to press on with the loop trail that took us to Clark Point at 5,500 feet elevation. Here Kathy enjoys a view of Liberty Cap and the Nevada Falls.
Continuing our climb, well away from the crowds below
We (proudly) reached Clark Point at 3:45pm
His expression notwithstanding, Jim feels great to be back in the Sierras
We're now at nearly the same elevation as the top of Nevada Falls
Kathy prepares for the descent
Low clouds obscure the distant peaks
The foliage has already begun to display the colors of Fall
One of the oddly-marked squirrels that inhabit the neighborhood
Bunnell Point looms over the Merced River
Twisted tree roots near the Vernal Falls bridge
An elevation profile of our hike shows a walking distance of about 4 miles, with total elevation gains and losess of 3,800 feet
A view of our hiking route as seen within Google Earth
We returned to the trailhead at 5:30pm, then took the shuttle bus back to parking area near Curry Village
We reached the Wawona Road intersection at 6:15pm, then drove south on Highway 41. We stopped briefly for photos (along with many others) at the Tunnel Vista parking area before continuing.
The late afternoon night and low clouds help to make this view of the Yosemite Valley quite spectacular
Bridalveil Falls are seen more clearly in this telephoto view
We drove the 30 miles from Yosemite Valley to Wawona on a winding Highway 41, reaching the historic Wawona Hotel in the dark at 7:10pm
Upon arrival, we checked in, parked the car in a dark lot at the west end of the property, then transported a subset of our gear to the room
Our room (#117) was located on the first floor of the large annex adjacent to the main hotel building
This map shows the many buildings situated upon the hotel grounds
We next returned to the main building for wine in the parlor while listening to vintage tunes performed by singer / pianist Tom Bopp, who’s been playing at the hotel since 1983
After an hour of music, we were seated in the dining room, where we ordered wine and entrees (Kathy had a fish dish and Jim a buffalo burger)
On Friday morning (October 8), we rose at 8:00am and showered in the cramped antique bath tub. We then walked to the hotel dining room, observing enroute a young buck feeding on the bushes.
We enjoyed the breakfast buffet that was included with our room package at a bright window table
Afterwards, we explored the grounds for a bit, took several photos, then packed our gear for transport to the car. Jim checked out at 11:00am while Kathy investigated the onsite visitors center.
The annex building in the morning sun
Before we depart...
...Kathy says goodbye to the Wawona Hotel
Following a brief drive to Mariposa Grove, we are directed into an overflow parking lot where a shuttle bus transports us the last two miles
We arrive at the Mariposa Grove visitors center just in time to catch the 12:30pm Big Trees Tram Tour
A recorded audio program provides a wealth of information about the grove. Here we see the Fallen Monarch, a tree that toppled more than 300 years ago (Giant Sequoias are resistant to decay, so their remains can linger for hundreds of years if left undisturbed).
Among the first of the tall trees we see on the tour
A pair of radio-collared dogs roam the roads
We observe the well-known "Clothespin" tree in the distance. Countless fires throughout the decades nearly severed this tree's trunk, creating a space in its trunk large enough for a pickup truck to drive through.
The Mariposa Tree looms above us
The Wawona Tunnel Tree, renamed to "The Fallen Tunnel Tree" after it toppled over during a snow storm in 1969. In 1881, this was the first tree to have a tunnel carved through its trunk.
The California Tunnel Tree: Cut in 1895 to allow coaches to pass through it, this is the only living tree with a tunnel in it since the fall of the Wawona Tunnel Tree in 1969
Kathy provides the obligatory pose in front of the California Tunnel Tree
The same tree in 1927
The Grizzly Giant: The oldest tree in the Mariposa Grove
The top of the gnarled root system of the Grizzly Giant
Following our tram tour, we returned to the visitors center, then rode the shuttle back to the satellite parking lot, arriving at 1:45pm. We then departed the park and headed east for Monterey.
Following the route created by our GPS receiver, we descended through the Sierra foothills, then traveled across the Central Valley through Oak Hurst, Coarsegold, Raymond and Los Banos (where we stopped for gas)
We arrived at the Portola Hotel and Spa in downtown Monterey at 5:45pm, then checked into a beautiful room (#521) that included both courtyard and bay views
This stock photo shows a room that's similar to (though smaller than) our own room
We rested for a bit after the long drive, then cleaned up for dinner. Jim later joined Kathy in the hotel bar for a glass of wine as we watched the NL West playoff game between the SF Giants and the Atlanta Braves (SF lost 5-4 in the 11th inning).
Enroute, we are taken by the beautiful harbor lights
We then notice a crowd that's gathered to watch a group of a dozen young raccoons foraging for food near the pier
Upon a recommendation of the Portolal desk clerk, we opt for dinner at Domenico's Italian seafood restuarant
This stock photo shows the harbor side of the restaurant, where we were seated. We quickly noticed a group of noisy California sea lions lounging on a wooden platform floating nearby.
We first ordered a bottle of Monterey Bernardus sauvignon blanc, and then appetizers (Kathy the grilled Castroville artichoke, Jim the Monterey Bay sardines). Next, Kathy ordered the wild Alaskan halibut and Jim the mixed seafood grill (all wonderful).
After dinner, we explored the wharf for a bit before returning to the room in the now chilly night air. We retired at 11:30pm.
On Saturday (October 9), we rose at 9:00am, prepared for the day, then checked out of the hotel shortly before noon. We next walked south (beautiful day) on Alvarado Street until we located the hotel-recommended Old Monterey Cafe, where we had breakfast.
The Old Monterey Cafe was notable for us in part because it serves breakfast all day
We were seated at a table near the open window where we enjoyed an egg beater omelet (Kathy) and Huevos Rancheros (Jim)
A shot of the restaurant interior as we departed
After breakfast, we drove south down the Coastal Highway towards Big Sur
We stopped only once along the 45 mile drive at a windy vista to briefly enjoy a view of the ocean and coastline
Kathy surveys the coast to the south...
...while Jim poses for a photo before quickly retreating from the wind into the car
We arrived Nepenthe at 3:20pm, parked, then noticed nearby live music which we later discovered was connected with a large private gallery party underway across the road
We first visited the Phoenix gift shop and purchased the 18” version of “the world’s best” wind chimes for Jon and Ellie as a Tommy-care thank you gift
We then climbed upstairs to the main restaurant and were seated at the outside counter, which offered a view of the cafe below
We also had, however, a spectacular, south-facing view of the ocean and cliffs
We next ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc, then shared an artichoke appetizer
During lunch, Kathy took a call from her sister Abby
After a relaxing hour of soaking in the view, we decided the time had come to move on
We said goodbye to one of the aggressive raider crows that were known to steal customer food from the counter
Before departing, a few photos of Nepenthe
The main dining room
The outdoor "lounge"
The main patio
From Big Sur, we pointed the Impala northwards up the Coastal Highway
Enroute to the San Francisco Peninsula, we drove quickly through downtown Carmel as the sun was setting
Next visit, we hope to spend more time in Carmel
Next, we exited Highway 101 at University Avenue and stopped for dinner at Il Fornaio in downtown Palo Alto
We sat at the counter and ordered a caprese salad (Kathy) and carpaccio (Jim), then shared the rotisserie chicken entree
Afterwards, we wandered University Avenue for about an hour, exploring some of Jim’s old haunts (many changes). We finally stopped at Lamour Frozen Yogurt for a treat before returning to the car.
We then continued our drive north, arriving at the Hotel Sofitel at 10:30pm, where we checked into room #750. We soon discovered that the (power flush) toilet was not working properly, so we were relocated to room #724. After checking in for our United flight the next day, we retired (very tired) at midnight.
On Sunday morning (October 10), we rose early, then walked to the hotel dining room at 7:30am for the American breakfast that was included with our room package (excellent)
We enjoyed French pressed coffee, eggs amd croissants in the beautiful Sofitel dining room
Following breakfast, we packed, then checked out at 8:30am. Before departing, however, we reorganized our luggage near the hotel's front door in order to minimize the number of bags we’d need to check (we ended up with three).
We then drove to the rental car return garage at SFO and dropped the Impala. We next rode the AirTrain to Terminal 3, where we checked our bags. After some last-minute transfers, Jim’s main bag weighed in at 49.5 pounds and Kathy’s at 49 pounds (the limit was 50 pounds).
Kathy prepares to depart the AirTrain for the terminal
Our flight departed on time (11:56am) and we arrived IAD on schedule at 8:04pm. In flight over the Sierras, we noticed that the peaks were covered with fairly heavy snow that had apparently fallen just after our departure.