Road Trip 2009: Day Four

San Francisco is full of wonders.

We started the day a little late, enjoying a Sunday morning for sleeping in–something we don’t usually get around our family, due to my job at church.  I did wake up early enough to think of the gang at New Life Church and pray for a great day for them, but after that the rest of the family woke up and it was time to get started.

We decided to be typical tourists on the first day and spent most of the day in the Marina District.  Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Cannery, and more.  After a quick trip down the 101 back into town, and a red light being run right through–sadly enough, by me, who just had one of my “doh!” moments–we hit the weirdly named road “The Embarcadero” and drove past the droves of people arriving from a cruise.  The road was jammed for a cloudy Sunday morning and I had to work at keeping my temper.

Finally finding a place to park, we walked across the sky bridge to Pier 39.  I remember when there used to be a Disney Store here, and find it just as “touristy” as I remembered it.  Shops selling cheesey souvenirs, lots of people with strange European accents, and crowds.  Lots of crowds.

But there was a beautiful Venetian carousel in the middle of the pier and we all road it together.   The kids had a blast and it was actually quite fun.  The curmudgeon in me sank back into his happiness-induced stupor even further when we happened upon a street performer named “Captain Jack Spareribs” who performed juggling and magic while doing a very good Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow impersonation.  The show was funny, well-done, and actually quite professional, ending in the “Flaming Basket of Voodoo” trick, was involved daggers, swords, a girl, a basket, and a flaming torch.  Nobody was too badly hurt, so it all ended well.

We went through a side door and ended up encountering 150 California Sea Lions, sitting on their own little jetties.  They were anything but beautiful.  There were a lot of them.  Autumn thought they were just really stinky, and we laughed at the big fat ones sitting around sunning themselves.  Another watcher pointed out that “That guy just vomited on that other guy!” and sure enough, several sea lions were covered in chum.  I wish I’d caught it on video.

We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, beneath a large assortment of Beatles memorabilia, including a guitar and hat owned by George Harrison and Ringo Starr, respectively.  The kids thought it was cool to see a guitar belonging to the guy who sang that song from Cars (James Taylor), and they also thought that The Byrds should have spelled their name better.

It was a long walk down the rest of the Marina Road, but we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf and were promptly disgusted by the people eating fish and chips and the like comepletely surrounded by sea gulls and pigeons, and not minding.  Gross.  A really bad singer (his favorite word was something like “Meahgghhhh-eh”) entertained the crowds under the iconic “Fisherman’s Wharf” sign.

Crowded and yucky and bad art.  Yahoo!

But then we happened upon an oasis of wonder and imagination and cultural/historical significance: The San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park.  A living and working musuem honoring the city’s sea-faring old days, it featured real “national landmark” boats to walk on and explore.  Everything from an old schooner to a tug and a ferryboat.  And the kids loved it, earning Junior Ranger badges for their hard work in exploring the park.  (They also loved the actual beachfront in the park, being some of the only beachfront in the entire wharf area.)

A great family story occurred aboard one of the ships, but you’ll have to ask us to get us to share it. On the whole, it was an amazing National Park, and highly recommended, especially if you have children.  🙂

We went back to the hotel, changed clothes after a long and eventful day, and headed across the Bay Bridge, a 3 mile terror trip for Robyn.  (Who hates bridges and heights and really really likes it when they combine.)  We drove into Emeryville and an area that looked like “not a nice place.”

And ended up in front of Pixar Animation Studios.  It was a great great day.

(More to come.  Getting a little sleepy now.)

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