Friday, April 16, 2010

They grow some pretty steep hills in San Francisco

I've been back almost a week, but I've finally got some time to tell y'all about my travels around San Francisco. I'll warn you in advance, this is a bit long, but there are pictures!

I went out to visit one of my good friends from college, Sheila, who lives and works in Oakland. It's been over a year since I've seen her, so it was time for a visit. And after the work week I had last week (elections and murders), I totally needed a break.

Wait a minute, I'm on vacation. Why is my alarm clock going off at 5:15 a.m.? Oh yeah, that's right. In order to get to my vacation destination I needed to catch my flight, which required I be at the airport at 6:45 a.m. Got to the airport, caught the flight. No problems. Had a short layover in Denver before touching down in San Francisco.

I took the BART out to Oakland where Sheila picked me up. Since she still had a bit of work to do, she dropped me off at Jack London Square and I occupied myself for a few hours - grabbed a sandwich from Subway and wandered around this marina area. Pretty cool.

Once she was done with work she picked me up and we hopped on the BART to go back across the bay to the wharf area. Because the first highlight of my trip? I was going to prison. Well more like Alcatraz. But it was something that I was super excited for. Remember, I write about criminals. Of course I was going to be excited to go to The Rock, where some of the country's worst criminals like Al "Scarface" Capone and "Birdman" Robert Stroud" where housed.

We had decided to take a night tour because we'd both heard good things. And if you're ever in San Francisco and want to go to The Rock, GO AT NIGHT! Super cool and kind of creepy.

The audio tour was told from the point of view of three correctional workers and four inmates, so it was really informative, touched on the well known points but also some of the "who woulda thunk?" topics. Yes, I did lock myself up in an Alcatraz cell, just to get the whole inmate experience and have photographic evidence. And outside penitentiary walls? Alcatraz is actually Spanish and means pelican. And yes, there are a ton of birds living on the island. But they're not very friendly birds - the sea gulls living in what remains of the warden's residence? Yeah, they chased us away. Maybe the sea gulls picked up on that characteristic from the island's other residents - the inmates.We spent about 3 hours at Alcatraz and it was honestly probably the highlight of my trip. But then it was time to head back to the mainland, grab the BART and head home to catch a few hours of sleep.

Once again, my alarm started buzzing at an insanely early time considering I was on vacation. But we were headed out to wine country and needed to be in downtown San Francisco at 7:45 a.m. to catch up with our tour bus and the two other girls were were going with.

The tour was super laid back. There were about 10 of us total on the tour and our tour guide didn't really have a set plan in mind as to where we were going. He asked us for input and kind of tailored our tour based on what our interests were.

We headed up to Napa Valley to start off. Honestly, I can't recall all of the wineries we stopped and did tastings at, but I think there were 6 or 7. I remember going to Grgich Hills, Peju, Silverado Winery and V. Sattui Winery in Napa Valley and Viansa Winery over in Sonoma. I admit, I'm not a huge wine drinker. In fact, red wines? Not really my thing. But I did do tastings at 4 of the places. By the time we hit winery number 5, all the wine was starting to taste the same to me and my inner cheapskate was starting to cringe at the thought of $20 for a tasting of wine that I wasn't really liking.

It would have been cool to be able to take a tour of one of the wineries to find out a bit more about the process they use to make the wine, but it wasn't possible. The landscape was gorgeous though and I bet it would be even more beautiful later in the year once the grapes have started growing.

Once we were done with wineries, we headed back to San Francisco and made a pit stop at the Marin Headlands for a scenic look at the Golden Gate Bridge. While driving up to the viewing point I was going through serious bike envy. All of the bikers riding up the hillside. Jealous. Would have been something I would have loved to do. But sadly, not able to. And we didn't go all the way to the top, but I bet the view would have been amazing at the peak. And yes, it was just a bit windy up where I was able to get pictures taken with the bridge in the background.

For once! My vacation includes sleeping in! Well, if you call 8 a.m. sleeping in. But I wasn't going to argue. It was dreary out. No sun and sprinkles. But my running shoes weren't going to miss out on the California fun. Nope. Sheila is actually running The Relay with 11 other team members on May 1-2 so she needed to get in some kind of training run. My half marathon plan was calling for a long run of 8 miles, but I'd be happy to get in 5.

Yeah. That's what I thought before I landed in California.

We went over to Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland to get our run in. By this time it was a fairly steady rain, but not too bad. And other than the rain, with temps in the mid-50s it was actually pretty good running weather. So the weather wasn't bad. But the terrain? Oh boy.

As a Wisconsin girl, I'm used to flat. We don't have many hills. At least not in the part of the state I live in. But Oakland, California? It seems like it's nothing BUT hills. So this run? It was tough for me. And in the rain which was starting to fall a little harder and at times this run was a bit miserable. OK, maybe not the entire run, because really it was a beautiful, scenic route to run (there's something about running and walking in cemeteries that I enjoy). The only really, really miserable part?

That would be The Hill.

The run started out fairly fast, passed a mausoleum before we got into the heart of the cemetery. The first hills were kind of minor. Nothing too steep or long. More like gradual hills. Definitely hills that this Wisconsin Badger, who is very used to running on flat land, could handle. The we got to the bottom of The Hill.

I didn't want to, but I admit, I stopped at the bottom and just looked. I didn't look in awe. Or in amazement. Nope. I looked at that steep, long hill (the kind that you can't actually see the top from the bottom) and that look was pure fright.

We don't grow hills like that in my part of Wisconsin.


But I started to run - actually I don't even know if I can call it run, more like a shuffle - up that hill. I didn't even feel like I was moving. And at the midway point I needed to take a breather. I finally got to the top and I felt like I was dying. I glanced down at Garmin Gus, thinking I had to have run at least a mile and a half by this point.

1.2 miles.

Man. That was a tough 1.2 miles. All uphill. In the rain.

But you know what they say, what goes up must come down. And go down is exactly what we did. It was a much more gradual downhill than the uphill was, but it was still a very scenic route, passed really pretty crypts and through some great landscaping. We got to the bottom of the hill near where we started and had covered 2.5 miles.

Now, we could have tackled the hill a second time for a 5-mile run, but my legs were starting to scream at me. So we opted for a shorter, less hilly route and finished up 4 miles. I totally deserved those delicious pancakes we had at this quaint little diner down the road once we finished.

The rest of my vacation included an epic game of Scrabble during the next downpour and a trip out to Fisherman's Wharf. And no vacation could be complete without a 2:30 a.m. wake up call to get to the airport in time for my flight that boarded at 5:30 a.m.

All in all it was a good vacation. It took me a few days to recover, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.


Nat said...

Very fun! Good for you for running on vacation! I ran when I was in the Florida Keys in January and it was so fun to run somewhere new!

Libby said...

Sounds like you had an awesome time! I've always wanted to go to SF but haven't made it there yet. I totally feel you on the hills, FL has even less hills than WI does! Its crazy flat...

Black Knight said...

It sounds like a nice vacation and it was better because you could run. Very nice pics.

Jess said...

Sounds like you had a fun vacation. I've only ever been to Alcatraz during the day time. I can't imagine what it would be like at night!

AM-GoalsfortheWeek! said...

You were in SF?? And in SONOMA?! I live in Sonoma, AND my hubby is a winemaker!;-) i could've shown ya the town!;-)

looks like you had a great time, and I've lived in the Bay for virtually my entire life and have yet to tour alcatraz. need to put that on my list.

Runner Leana said...

Sounds like a fantastic weekend! I would love to do a night tour at Alcatraz, although the daytime tour was pretty neat too. Congrats on conquering a hilly run out there!

Marlene said...

Looks like a wonderful time in San Fran. I hope to see it for myself one day!