It has been over 30 years since I was in the Bay Area – 10 May 1986 to be exact – when the USS MISSOURI (BB-63) was recommissioned. I was among the 10,000 invited guests, but that is another old “war story.” You may recall (from history) that on the MISSOURI the Instrument of Surrender with Japan was signed 2 September 1945. She was decommission in 1955, and years after the re-commissioning, she was struck in 1995, and is now a museum in Pearl Harbor. I explored San Francisco when here then, and now I am visiting with family (and some shunpiking too).

My daughter, Julie, and her husband and three children arrived here about a year ago. David and Mari have an annual conference in San Francisco this week, so Alex and I came along with them to visit (Alex and Mari headed home on the 30th). Saturday, after David and Mari headed downtown, we got the four kids going, and they agreed to see the “big trees.”  I love studying real maps, and do so both before an adventure, and after to solidify the map images in my mind. Do look at a Bay Area map, and you can see the circle route we took from Orinda, up over the San Rafael Bridge, to Mill Valley to the adventure, then back across the Golden Gate Bridge, through downtown on US 101, and back home. The “tall” adventure (which you can click for a taller version):


Heading down Muir Woods Road – the scariest “white knuckle” road I have ever been on. The “white” area you see on the left is the glistening water of San Francisco Bay.


you come to Muir Woods National Monument, and its Redwoods.


Twelve miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the park has over 1,000,000 visitors a year. We arrived around 3PM, and it was no bad. To preserve the ancient Redwoods, the land was purchased in 1905, and donated to the government. You may click on image below for a larger image to read.


This beauty was one of the first to greet us.


The bay area, and particularly along the water, is not forested at all, but the unique microenvironment on the ocean side with the fog and moisture has created this dense forest which may only see sunlight 5% of the day. The plants, lichen, etc. have adapted for survival. Below, very spiritual, reaching for the sky.


We took a number of trails, and the grandkids posed in this tree for us.


You may be wrinkled too at this age.


Sun was beginning to set:


Fast Redwood facts: Height to 379.1 feet, age to 2,000 years, diameter to 22 feet at breast height, bark to 12 inches thick. The tree below fell in 1930. Counting back the rings, it was a seedling in 909 AD – 1,021 years before it fell.


With more hiking than we thought we may do, it was night when we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. A bad image of this iconic structure (painted red to stand out in fog), but here it is.


I am now back to working on this post, Monday, 6 February. So much to do, but with the passing of time it is fun to go back and work on a post because it further kindles my memory of experiences. Sunday (January 29) was a “day home” in preparations for Julie’s youngest son’s fourth birthday party. What fun to see 5 little ones from his nursery school class.

Shortly after everyone left for school on Monday, Alex and I boarded BART for a 35 minute ride into San Francisco. We exited at Market and Powell Streets, and pulled our bags a few blocks up the hill to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. I was hoping to take Alex to Alcatraz, but since he wanted to met Mari at noon for lunch, the time was too tight, So, off we went to the Cable Car Museum. I have decided that the rest of this post will be mainly images – about 75 – sorry, but then you do not have to “listen” to me as much.



In this building the continuous cables are powered by electric motors for the three cable car lines.

Motive Power Source for San Francisco's Cable Cars

Motive Power Source for San Francisco’s Cable Cars

The museum is fascinating with nice exhibits and equipment.

We then went to the corner, and caught this car.


Alex and I sat on the side, and off we went.

Alex and I sat on the side, and off we went.

Great views of the city


and this “classic view” of Alcatraz


we passed


and later walked back up the hill – no small feat – to walk down the Crookedest Street in the World – Lombard Street.


We met Mari for lunch on Pier 39, and afterwards they went to pick up their bags and head to the airport. I decided to walk down to Pier 33 to see if I could get to Alcatraz. For over a week I had been checking the Alcatraz Tours website that came up on Google.  But do not be taken in by the website that says sells out early – BUY NOW. I could not narrow down the time and day I could go, and each time I checked the site that comes up on Google, the tickets were gone. Now — I have posted my revelation on Trip Advisor (I am a Senior Contributor, for whatever that is worth)  — when I walked up to the ticket window, I was on the boat 7 minutes later – AND, The TICKET WAS $10 LESS THAN ON the site that comes up – and, it is the same boat line . Seems as though that reseller buys tickets to the boat and gets top search engine billing (Alcatraz is free as a National Park) adds a hefty surcharge, and scares you into buying. I was scared, but glad I waited.

On the boat to Alcatraz Island

On the boat to Alcatraz Island

Back at the pier is this model of the island showing many of the buildings that are no longer there.


A volunteer ranger meets you as you disembark to advise what to expect. You can see remnants of the Native American occupation of the island in many spots on the buildings.


Following are some selected views of “my time in Alcatraz”. In the cell block you get a free audio tour – and it is GREAT! Remember, you can click an image in my “galleries” to see larger images.

And, the view back to San Francisco from the tip of the island. Treasure Island to the left, then the Bay Bridge — and make sure to click on the image below to fill your screen with this panorama.


The nearest cable line was “down” with a cable problem, so I took a trolley part way back and then a bus. Have I ever told you I have loved trolleys since the 7th grade? I have loved trolleys since the 7th grade (don’t ask when that was).


here is the back end of the trolley I caught


and, the inside


so I could enter back into the Sir Francis Drake Hotel where I was going to stay with David the next two nights.

Lobby and bar in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco

Lobby and bar in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco

Remember I like giving you the view out my window?


Tuesday my plan was to start touring on a “Hop on – Hop off” bus, so I headed a few blocks down Powell Street to Union Square to one of the main stops. I was attacked by the sales person for the “Deluxe Hop On – Hop Off” and soon accosted by the Big Bus representative. I had gotten on-line information about the Big Bus tours, and even downloaded their app. I put myself “up for auction” when a salesman for another came up. The tours for $45 became $35, and then the “deluxe” salesman cut to $25 – for a two-day, three tour pass. I turned over my greenbacks. You get what you pay for. The “deluxe” bus was probably a castoff from another company, the tour was delayed, but in the long run served my purposes just fine – and for less green. I headed off for the full two plus hour route, and then continued back to Pier 39. Here are some “views from the bus.”

San Francisco National Historical Park

San Francisco National Historical Park

approaching the Golden Gate Bridge


no explanation needed:


Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

and, then — not much has changed at:


If you do not know what I am referring to you are way younger than I am. Following is a gallery as we headed down Haight.


I continued back past “go” to get back to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. My plan was to have lunch at the famous Boudin Bakery, famous for their sourdough bread, and many sculptures with their bread.


I had chile in a sourdough bread bowl.


Now, in my preliminary research I found MUSEE MECHANIQUE – A Coin Operated Arcade on Pier 45. And, it was my plan to visit – WOW. I often say I was born in the wrong century, and you may know that I enjoy Victorian and early 20th century amusements and resorts. I visited, and this is probably the LARGEST COLLECTION IN THE WORLD of the old amusement park machines. Amazingly in an old pier warehouse, no attendant or admission, and all operating – mostly for 25 cents. EYE CANDY, and worth the trip to San Francisco alone.


as I said, no attendant, but many of the machines had their eyes on you, as she did:


below a gallery of what I drooled over – remember to click to enlarge:

I could have spent two days in this exhibit playing everything and making movies, but here is a short one.

Over the door to the pier it said – see our submarine USS PAMPANITO SS-383. I headed out on the pier, but, sorry, I have been on WWII submarines (I was on the USS Bushnell AS-15 – a submarine tender – in the late 60s, and tied up alongside were remaining WWII subs that I inspected and toured) so I did not have to take the tour.


BUT – to her aft was the S.S. JEREMIAH O’BRIEN, one of two remaining WWII Liberty ships of the over 2,700 built. Now – that is a must do. With the war production effort, each was built in 60 days. What has happened to American since?


As a child I remember crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River and looking down at the cove full of Liberty Ships, but they are all gone now. The Jeremiah O’Brien was one of the over 5,000 ships that was at Normandy for the D-Day Invasion, and of those almost 5,200 ships, she was the only ship that was there for the 50th anniversary.


In Hold #1 is the museum, and the vehicle on the left was at Normandy, and given to the ship by France.


France has given many items to the museum including this model of the beaches showing how material was landed after the beachheads were secured.


the close-up below shows how the S.S. JEREMIAH O’BRIEN was offloaded to barges that were then towed to the floating bridges. Ships were sunk to create break walls protecting shore operations from the tides and waves. Not having gotten to go to Normandy when I was in France in October, now I really have to go.


Well, getting late, and trolley time to head back to the hotel, get cleaned up, and meet David at his conference to visit, have wine, and then head off to dinner.



Did I tell you I like (love) trolleys? I absolutely cannot believe how well taken care of the trolleys are — the appear brand new inside and out. I joined David at the convention, then dinner.

And, then it was Wednesday. San Francisco has the largest Chinatown in the US — when in San Francisco, you have “to do” Chinatown, but I bet most tourists go through this archway, and down the couple blocks of imported gift items thinking they have “experienced” Chinatown.



WRONG — And, I was lucky. I mentioned to a fellow I have been buying books from for almost 20 years that I was heading to SF, and he said, “take Linda Lee’s tour.” And he gave me her company’s name – ALL ABOUT CHINATOWN. I was able to contact Linda for the Wednesday tour (at 10AM only), and David, who was worn out at the convention, was ready to leave and join me, including a Chinese lunch. All I can say is, buy your ticket to SF, and take Linda’s tour — not your usual tour, she really gave us history, insight, and sights in the back alleys with an understanding you would get in no other way. There were 7 of us, David, me, a young lady, and a lovely family of four.

After providing introductory history while in the community park, Linda took us into a Temple and explained everything we saw there.


HELP, I’M HELD CAPTIVE IN A FORTUNE COOKIE FACTORY – I know, old joke, but possible, since Linda lead us really “off the beaten path”. I wish I had take a video of the operation.


See where the batter is being poured out? Then the wheel goes through the oven coming out in baked disks. This woman (chains hidden) would decide if the disk was to be used for a fortune cookie, or separated to be sold as a disk (the locals prefer them this way – they know the fortunes are phony). The operator places the slip of paper (you can see the pile) on a rod, and then folds the disk over, and voila – a fortune cookie. Again, sorry I goofed, and no video.

If you were fortunate enough to walk by this shop, you would have no idea what was for sale.


But, Linda told us, and toured us through. Looks like a lot of gift items or toys – WRONG. All items for Ancestor Worship, and made of paper that when lit goes puff and disappears. The customer comes in, and wishing to provide something to a departed loved one buys something they should have, and then takes it to the cemetery where it is lit and consumed to join the deceased ancestor. Here are a few samples.

Of course we stopped at a grocery story. I maybe recognized 5% of the items, but would not buy any.

And, the herb and medicine store. Hey, these items have worked for over 3,000 years, who am I to argue.


And, that was it — lunch followed with a wonderful assortment, and then David and I got our bags and then the BART to the airport. Home to Boston at 1 AM, a few hours rest, and I drove home.

A GREAT TRIP — a good start for the year with the benefit of visiting Julie and her family.

I have a horrendous and broken up schedule of commitments from now until the end of June which will impact on me taking some serious trips. BUT, I will be taking some trip. So, “stay tuned.”  thank you for getting this far:


1- Take Linda Lee’s ALL ABOUT CHINATOWN tour
2 – Visit Alcatraz
3 – Tour the S.S. JEREMIAH O’BRIEN
4- Spend a day at MUSEE MECANIQUE


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9 Responses to SAN FRANCISCO – 28 JANUARY to 1 FEBRUARY 2017

  1. Chris Burchstead says:

    Looks like you had gorgeous weather. Those sea cucumbers look really nasty!

  2. Peggy Pschirrer says:

    HMMM, makes me want to return to San Francisco. In the 80’s I was there frequently as I was responsible for an office there. I saw some of your trip spots but you saw so many!! I knew most of the best restaurants – many off the beaten track. One of my favorite spots is “Sears” – across the street from your Hotel…….the best breakfast in all San Francisco. A wonderful city to visit. Then home to New England.


  3. Andrea Goins says:

    We were living in SF on Russian Hill before we moved to Walpole. Still miss it BUT NOT THE PARKING. A magical place to live and explore. Thanks for the memories, Ray.

  4. Bill Reed says:

    I have never been to SF, but now I have a nice received notion of it! Thanks especially for the fortune cookie tutorial – I had always wondered how they got the fortune in without breaking the cookie.

  5. Have been only once — many years ago — and now have been on the best tour of all — Yours!
    Thank you and welcome home. Kathy

  6. Maria Castellano says:

    Hi Ray…I just felt like I traveled to SF and back….loved the personal tour and your amazing photos…you must have an awesome camera! Glad you had a good time.

  7. Scott says:

    I’ve often said over the years that I’m not really a big city guy but San Francisco and Paris are absolutely my 2 favorites, now you can see why. Looks like you really maximized your stay there and hit some of the best highlights. Well done Boas. So glad you got to travel somewhere in the US other than New England for a change. It’s an AMAZING country for sure.

  8. Marian says:

    Ray, a lovely tour and you certainly covered a lot of the area. Alcatraz was really interesting. Had to laugh at the remains of the warden’s home. Been to SF twice and absolutely loved it. Sure never covered any of the area as you did. Stayed at the Sir Frances Drake for a convention. Was interesting as we were on the very top (overbooked), fire sirens came screaming to the hotel and “Inferno” was the latest and greatest movie. I was one nervous cookie. Glad you had such a wonderful time. Yah, I did not care for some of that food (?).


  9. Betty says:

    San Francisco is one of my 2 favorite cities in the US (Boston being my other). We were originally there about 20 some years ago and were able to go to Alcatraz with no reservations. When we went back a few years ago, we were shut out of the trip there. You were fortunate to be able to get there-you do seem to have the luck, quite often! I’m sure if they offered some of the items from the Musee Mecanique for sale, our next visit to your place would have one onsight…. Great trip and great post, Ray!

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