Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

January 28, 2008

Holy Crap, We're Here

On our last day of travel, to say that I was apprehensive, nervous & nauseous would be an understatement. We were about 4 hours away from San Francisco now. We were out of country, the highway ends at the Pacific Ocean, the road trip vacation was coming to an end and PLEASE can't we go back in time to, say, Illinois and do it again? I was trying to do whatever I could to stall our arrival because I was really, truly scared shitless. Sort of that "Oh my god what did I just do? We have no jobs, no contacts, no place to live and everything we own is in this truck" pit of your stomach feeling. So, when I saw that we were near Donner Memorial State Park, I begged Brian to pull off so that we could see it. We'd been making some pretty sick jokes about the Donner Party, whilst coming across the country. We joked that we should set up a souvenir stand in one of the rest areas and sell bumperstickers that said, "I ate my wife in Donner Pass". Oh boy we had quite a few yuks over that, lemme tell ya.

However, once we got there, and realized just exactly what those poor pioneers endured that winter, suddenly those bumperstickers didn't seem so amusing. If you can find the book called "Ordeal By Hunger", I highly recommend it. Did the Donner Party turn to cannabalism? Yes. But extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. They were dying. It became all about the basic human instinct of survival. That's Donner Lake, where some of the party camped.

This is a massive memorial; as you can see 6'4" Brian is dwarfed by it. The winter that the Donner Party was trapped, I think 1847 or 1848, the snow was as high as the platform on which the statues are placed. They'd stripped all the trees that were sticking up through the snow, so some of the tree tops still look a bit odd.

We left Donner State Park mid-morning, and the closer we got to Sacramento, the quieter I got. I was afraid if I opened my mouth, I'd vomit. Soon we were traveling through Vallejo and things were starting to look very familiar to me, from my 3 years of vacations in the Bay Area. Next thing I know, we were bombing down I-80 in Emeryville heading towards Oakland, and I could see San Francisco across the water. I put the window of the truck down and was hit by a blast of chilly air. After traveling through the USA in high summer, this cool air was quite a surprise.

We went through the toll plaza at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and began to cross. When we came out of the tunnel at Yerba Buena Island, and up on the suspension part of the bridge, my heart was pounding in my throat. My stomach was doing flip eyes filled with tears of joy....

....there is is. My beautiful City by the Bay. I was finally home. After 24 years of feeling like a duck out of water on the east coast, I was finally in the west. See the fog bank behind downtown?
We stayed at a really great hotel in Millbrae, which is in the South SF area, near the airport. It was afternoon, and we wanted to get a newspaper so that we could start looking for apartments. I'd done over a year's worth of research and fact finding, so I knew exactly what areas in which to live. However, I couldn't wait to get into the City and start showing Brian around, so I offloaded the car and we went up into town.

I took him to Twin Peaks so that I could give him the lay of the land. That wide strip of green in the middle which tapers to a thinner strip of green is the eastern end of Golden Gate Park and the tree lined Panhandle. The neighborhood between Golden Gate Park and that other patch of hilly green is the Richmond District, which is where we ended up living.

View of SF & Angel Island from Twin Peaks.

I also took him to 710 Ashbury, where the Dead lived for a few short months in 1967 but which has become part of Deadhead lore, and every Deadhead has to make a pilgrimmage to 710. The owners of this gorgeous Victorian home were always so gracious and patient. But if you buy a house in Haight Ashbury where the Dead once lived, you kind of have to expect Deadheads to be showing up all the time. The sign says, "Hi Jef, wish you were here, Love Jo & Brian".

And another legendary hippie home is located at 2400 Fulton Street, aka The Jefferson Airplane House, although in their day the building was painted black. The apartment we finally found, was not too far from the Airplane House.

It took us less than 2 days to find a place to live. The first full day in town, we started calling and visiting places. By 5 pm we both had splitting headaches and were exhausted and frustrated. We'd copied down another phone number on a "for rent" sign we saw in the Sunset District and Brian called, and found out that the apartment was in the Richmond District, so we went over.

We wanted this place, BAD. The rent was reasonable for a 2 bedroom - $800, including water, off street parking and washer/dryer in the building. We didn't have jobs yet and that was a huge stumbling block. However, Brian schmoozed the landlord, Bruce, who was a really nice guy. He took a chance that Bruce was into the 49ers, and since the Niners had just won the Superbowl, Brian said, "How about those Niners?!" After about a half hour of chit chatting, we left and went back to the hotel. Brian stayed in the room and I went to get some take out. When I pulled into the parking lot, Brian was waiting for me outside. Bruce called, the apartment was ours. To this day we still exchange holiday cards with our former landlords!!
Next day we stormed up to SF to sign the lease. We showed them our certified bank check which we would be using to open our bank accounts, and it was at least 4-5 months' worth of rent, so they handed us the keys and we unloaded the car. The following day we unloaded the truck and returned it to the UHaul downtown.
When you opened the door to our apartment on 20th Avenue, there was this long hallway with a skylight.
Which hall opened up into this light and airy apartment. The fireplace didn't work but that was fine. We had 2 bedrooms, one bathroom w/ a skylight, and the kitchen had a skylight too. It was in the back of the building, so it was extremely quiet.

And that's how we ended up in San Francisco. We were both working within 2 months and we were well on our way to our new lives on the west coast. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roule!!

Thanks for indulging me with my trip down memory lane, of that fantastic odyssey nearly 19 years ago. Someday, we will take another cross country trip, but this time it will be on old Route 66.


  1. Great-looking apartment. What great memories to have.

    But Donner Party? Who he? What dat?

  2. Anonymous3:22 PM

    I've enjoyed every mile I've travelled with you ;0)

  3. Did you know that human flesh is metabolized by humans the best of all proteins?But if too much is consumed,then a disease like mad cow affects said human.

    I watched a show on necessary cannibalism this weekend.I admit it is fascinating to me,the whole thing,Donner party incident included.

  4. i'd be willing to be that your apt. is now 2,000 or more a month. don't get me started! you are great about chronicling your life, for sure. oh, and i recognize your "he's struttin'-she's posin'" poster. ;)

  5. more, please!!!

    great trip; great pix-you're so lucky that you were able to make such a dream come true!

  6. cool place, fireplace is gorgeous! but i CANNOT imagine that jefferson house painted BLACK!! that would be ghastly..

  7. Kris - There's a photo of it on one of the Airplane's albums,
    "2400 Fulton Street", where it's still black. It looks like it had been in a fire. I like the white better too.

  8. it was awesome black!
    you need to remember, we are talking about san francisco in the 1960's, people. not to mention the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE ! (it wasn't exactly mainstream america.) ...sigh

  9. jojo,apologies for not commenting for ages...I've been so in awe of the move you made that I've been struggling to think of anything to say.

    I can't imagine moving across country like that..I still live in the same village I've lived in since I was 13,before that I lived in Oxford,which is only 5 miles away.Not exactly an epic move :-)