As we left Los Angeles during rush hour traffic, The Lumineers and their song “Sleep on the Floor” silenced the conversation in the car. The lyric, “Cause if we don’t leave this town, we might never make it out alive” rang truer for the moment than any other could attempt. I needed to escape, at least for a little while. The weight of LA was beginning to break me and the only thing that could redeem would be a trip up California’s historic Highway One.
The next morning, restoration began early as we watched the sunrise over the Pacific. Given the Pacific Ocean lines the west coast of the United States, it may not be your first choice for a sunrise. The sun doesn’t necessarily rise above you. Instead, you have to look behind. Still, the mixture of salt in the air, rolling hills, the vastness of the ocean, and watching the sky explode with color was all that I could hope for and more.
Settled into the moment, we continued our journey north. Winding roads hugged the coast, as we drove in and out of wooded, exposed, and beach areas. The sheer beauty of it all is hard to describe. On several occasions, we pulled off the road and tried to fit what we were seeing into a picture frame. I have since uploaded those pictures to my computer. Despite my meager talents as a photographer, nothing I captured did justice to what I was experiencing.
Hours on the open road soon led us into the heart of Monterey. After checking into our hotel, we headed for the Cannery District. Like lots of former industrial districts in towns across America, the Cannery District has been repurposed. Once home to a lively fishing, smelting, and canning community, the district is now home to shops, bars, restaurants, and residential living. This has given new life to the area and made it economically viable again. Of course, none of those thoughts were going through my mind at the time. All I could think about was food, cocktails, and taking in the scenery; which there are ample opportunities to have all three of those desires met.
Before this trip, I had not been to San Francisco since I was a few months old on a cross-country trip with my family. Needless to say, all I knew about San Francisco is gleaned from movies, television, books, and other random corners of the pop culture universe. Returning and ready to experience the city with a fresh set of eyes, filled me with an indescribable excitement. When this trip ended, and it was time to return to LA, it was easy to say that I had found a new city to love.
When you go to St. Louis, you see The Arch. When you go to Seattle, you see the Space Needle. When you go to San Francisco, you go to the Golden Gate Bridge. Our Uber driver dropped us off on the far end and we walked the expanse back toward San Francisco. As photographers, we were in love. Before and in every direction was an opportunity to challenge yourself and find a unique angle. As a human being, I marveled at man’s ingenuity and creativity. In an odd sort of way, the Golden Gate Bridge made me proud. It was proof that man can do massively impossible things when we set our minds to it.
The friend I took this trip with is big into the Tiki scene. For me, this means a lot of delicious drinks, but also means searching out Tiki Bars in every city we visit together. In San Francisco, this meant a trip to the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel. As you walk into the lobby of the hotel, it is hard to believe a kitschy tiki bar has any place in a building so exquisitely designed, yet as you take an elevator down a few floors, there it sits in all of its irony and juxtaposition. Somehow, it works. Delicious drinks, attentive servers, and a pool keep you occupied. As you walk out the door and back into the hotel lobby with the intention of writing about your experience, you realize this is an essential and quintessential experience; something that must be done rather than read.
If I have one regret for this trip, it’s that we didn’t get to spend a ton of time in The Castro. Beyond a few landmarks and a quick bite to eat, I wasn’t able to give one of America’s most iconic LGBTQ communities a lot of attention. When I return, I plan on devoting as much time as I can to the neighborhood.
Of course, no trip would be complete without a little disappointment and the Mystic Hotel royally disappointed. A friend of mine from Seattle told us about this spot featuring a speakeasy and a secret drink if ordered would grant you access to an Uber Black car which would shuttle you to another location. Overly excited, we visited Mystic Hotel with the intention of making some magic happen. After waiting 45 minutes for our order, we decided to abandon ship. If the secret drink thing still works, I have no idea. From what I read online, this one may have been retired.
As we made our way back to Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but think about the place I want to make my forever home, Seattle, and how it compares to San Francisco. Experiencing the Bay Area filled me with the same level of excitement that I felt when I visited the Emerald City for the first time. The intense focus on neighborhoods, nature, and experiences above all else felt familiar. Driving away, San Francisco made me long for Seattle. I can’t wait to call the Pacific Northwest home again.
Be good to each other,
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