Han woke before me and tip toed down the steps. He overheard a girl telling the front desk “The raccoons got in to those motorcycles.” He slipped by and went to survey the damage. Our yellow Ortlieb saddle bags dry bags were pried open, every ounce of food was spread about, each morsel carefully picked apart. They used Han’s jacket as a feeding ground and it was covered in muddy footprints. I had the pleasure of cleaning it with a wet sock. Nothing but the best for us! So here we were, just 2 miles from downtown San Francisco and we are ransacked. I teased Han that this is what he gets for complaining about how heavy the food bag was.
An unusual start to our morning, we laugh about it over coffee and breakfast and plan our day, as much as we ever plan our day. We had already made a reservation at the Ft Mason hostel for the night so we had all day to play. And play, we would. The morning was cold and foggy, but we set out early anyway, headed for those golden gates. We drove through the one way tunnel that connects Marin Headlands to Sausalito under Highway 101. We fly through and my pig tails straight back, I feel like I’m in a Batman movie. We weave around and before I realize it we are on the Golden Gate Bridge, surrounded by fog. I try to peak down at the view between the 80 mile an hour cars passing by, but there’s nothing to see except clouds of fog. An eerie sight compared to yesterday’s sun shining glimpse of the pristine bridge. But we make it over and instantly get off the highway and meander the streets of the Presidio area, eventually wrapping us around to Haight Street. I let Han lead the way as I take it all in from stop light to stop light, itching to get off the bike and walk around this inspired city.
Han has told me about a burrito joint he remembers and describes where it’s located in his memory, and all of a sudden we park and there it is, adjacent to us. That visual memory of his is very helpful when I’m hungry. We leave the bikes on a real city street for the first time, thinking we haven’t much to lose anymore. I even forgot my keys in the ignition in all the hype. We eat burritos, drink a beer, and wander around the city I’ve read so much about. The Anarchist bookstore held us captive for an hour. We settle on two books we can’t live without. I choose Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel” and convince Han his choice is Whitman’s “Specimen Days.” The man at the desk reassures us we are supporting anarchist authors by choosing Whitman, despite Han’s doubts, and we leave happy.
After seeing a half naked man lying on Haight Street hassled by some cops, we decide to head to our new home for the night to get settled. The hostel is in a great location. We wander around Fort Mason Green before walking to Polk Street at the suggestion of the hostel desk. We aren’t moved by this area of the city so we hop the F bus to Mission Street. We heard it was “up and coming” and we remembered those words as the bus driver drops us on a seedy corner, dark and full of hushed voices. We walk a couple blocks and consider getting on another bus but then Han spots it, a vegan Mexican restaurant across the street with live music. We cozy in to our favorite table upon first sight, which just became available and sip two for one Sangria’s while enjoying delicious and nutritious grub. Full and sleepy we try to keep the night alive but we are exhausted and head back to the hostel to rest our weary heads.
After some bunk bed drama of misinformed guests taking our bed we snuggle in to one of twelve bunks and drift off. The next morning is bright and sunny and we make our way to the hostel’s own cafe for our complimentary coffee and breakfast. We write in our journals while overlooking the San Francisco Bay. We decide we are just going to stop in North Beach, where Kerouac, Ginsberg and the gang hung out, for a look see, before we continue South.
We immediately connect to this part of the city. The energy, the buildings, the streets. We park in front of a quaint Italian sidewalk restaurant and we know we’ve made it. We first find our way to City Lights Bookstore, the hub of it all. We wander around the 2nd floor and are thrilled by the largest collection of beat works I’ve ever seen. We find some City Lights published works that map out the beat hangouts of Kerouac’s time. We memorize them all and head out of the bookstore to see J Kerouac Alley and famous Vesuvio’s. We pop in to look around. This is where they used to go, to write, to talk, to drink. Pictures and news articles cling to the walls of this funky bar. We decide a beer is in order to fully feel the charm of our literary hero’s hangout. The upstairs has even more pictures of the gang and others over time. A phone hangs on the wall and we imagine Kerouac calling to say, once again, he’s on his way and I think nothing has changed since then. The place feels timeless.
Reluctantly we move on but not before debating whether we should spend another night in this enchanted part of the city. We consider the costs and the delay but decide its worth it. The Marconi Hotel was too seedy even for us and then we find the Green Tortoise Hostel and give them a call. The price is right and the girl sounds really nice. We decide to stay. We convince a parking attendant to keep the bikes over night and head to our next home.