Our journey down continued thankfully uneventfully. We arrived in downtown San Francisco at about 1.30am, having been on the road since 2pm. Our driver Shawn kept himself awake by playing strange rap music, and going for a jog complete with stretches at each rest stop. He also did some handstands.... I only got worried when he pulled over in the middle of nowhere onto the hard shoulder, but it was so we could get out and look at the stars before the light pollution got too much. They were amazing actually, I never knew there were so many! He even drove past his house (and the other guys) to drop us off right at the hotel because it was so late! The receptionist at the hotel was (in hindsight) hilarious, she kept telling us how much she loved England and how she got 'Monarchy' magazine every month, she kept asking where she should visit.
Resident Sea Lions
We were EXHAUSTED and mumbled something about the Tower of London before going to find our room up 4 flights of stairs. Joy. The hotel was grotty, but luckily we were only there for the one night.
After finding our hostel the next day we headed off to Fisherman's Wharf by Pier 39, a fantastical tourist mecca filled with more tack than you can shake a stick at. Fabulous, I love
tack! I've heard stories of people who travel being 'too good' for the tourist traps, probably thinking them cheap and uncultured. Well you know, sometimes you just need uncultured, you need to giggle at the Alcatraz babygro and eat the enormous ice cream! On one of the docks attached to the pier a colony of sealions decided to take up residence in 1989 and have been there ever since.
Stroking a shark!
It was incredible to see so many, and quite close up too! Watching them turned into quite a spectator sport as one teritorial male decided he didn't like the other sealions on his raft and proceed to push them all overboard amid lots of loud barking! The pier had yet another aquarium which of course we had to go to, this one much smaller but with long underwater walkways amongst the sharks. The most exciting part was the touch pool area where you got to stroke a baby leopard shark!!! It was very cute and well behaved.
When we were in the tourist information centre we picked up a leaflet about the Guide Dogs for the Blind Centre, a little way North of the city, which did guided tours. It was an absolute mission to get to but really interesting and we got to see puppies! The centre started during WW2 as soldiers would come back wounded and require assistance, initially just with training but later they became a breeding programme too.
Guide dogs in training
Some of the dogs they have are used as breeding dogs, others 'mentors' to the trainees, with literally hundreds 'on the way' to being trained. They even have a cat to get the dogs used to it! When the breeder dog (who lives with a family) is about to give birth, she goes into the centre to do so, the puppies are looked after here until 3 months when they are fostered out to specific families until they are 1 year. While at the family, they must go everywhere as if they are a fully fledged guide dog, school with the children, public transport etc. Then they go back to the centre to begin 3 months intensive training before meeting their owner and undergoing training together. In some ways it seemed a bit like a factory, but these dogs are so skilled that it takes that dedication to get it right.
Am I balancing it on my head?
One dog didn't graduate simply because it was nervous of zimmer frames! It was quite a random day out, but certainly worthwhile.
Today we summoned up all our energy and rented bikes to cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. The rental company showed us the route over to the bridge which is not in the centre of the city, and where to go on the other side, down to a town called Sausalito where we could get a ferry back, 8 miles in total. Yes that's right 8 miles. On the San Francisco side the bike path was mainly next to the water which was lovely, we stopped many times to sit on little beaches and take photos. It was quite a hill up to the bridge, which we quickly established we could not ride so pushed it to the top! Once on the bridge we joined the hundreds of other people walking and cycling across.
Yes that IS how far we cycled, that is the harbour in the distance!
After our first near miss ending up with ripped trousers we decided that it was far too busy to cycle the whole way across, so made do with walking it through the narrow sections. The bridge is 1.2 miles, and a team of painters continuously reapplies the red paint, beginning at the other side as soon as they have finished! All the way across were emergency crisis telephones telling people that things weren't that bad, and too call if they felt like they might want to jump. The warning they gave was that jumping was actually 'fatal and tragic'. Call me facetious but I would imagine that to be a plus point if you are trying to top yourself... Anyway, we made it across without the ride being so desperate we felt like hopping over, and continued down the road to Sausalito.
Just off the ferry, exhausted.
Literally down the road. I didn't do my cycling proficiency, and wasn't all that well balanced on the thing anyway so I was a bit nervous of driving into the path of a car but we made it in one piece!
Once in the town we treated ourselves to an ice cream (well deserved) and sat soaking up the 70F sun, watching a strange man balance rocks on top of each other. It's a hard life, really it is! We caught the ferry back with about 100 other bike renters, imagine the chaos as we all tried to get off, up a flight of stairs, then cycled the back to the rental place in time for closing. So now we are back and fed, with the ripped pair of trousers patched up. We've savlonned scrapes, poked bruises and are sitting down gingerly. I think we might rest tomorrow....!