This is the first of a four-part series.
If, as I silently yearned to do at the height of the 60s hippie movement, I had been able to escape (as I saw it) the confines of small-town southern Utah and make it to join all those other free spirits in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, life would be decidedly different. Not being into the sex and drugs that many were, however, would have been rather limiting on my own assimilation into that 60’s culture and I find that life has been just fine as I have lived it. I grew up and moved on, all those gentle people grew up and are now busily building their stock portfolios in preparation for retirement, and Haight-Ashbury traded its tie-dye and sandals for a suit of urban respectability, complete with groomed flower boxes and manicured and sweatered dogs. It’s amazing what can happen in fifty years!
Moving on to the “wander” to San Francisco. ‘Twas a quick trip, a day driving there, two days in the city, a day’s drive back. Lovely– IF you like driving across northern Nevada via I-80, through the flatlands made of accumulated salt, where mysterious people stop on the edge of the freeway and leave messages and art with rocks and bottles in the salt beds (who ARE these people and who are they talking to?), then up and down through the endlessly stretching basin and range topography, crossing grasslands, desert, passing towns such as Wendover (destination of the “fun bus” and icon of wasted space), Wells, Elko (home of the Cowboy Poetry Festival and the most amazing Basque food at the historic Star Hotel), the Golconda Summit (this would be a beast in the winter!), Winnemucca (don’t you love saying that word?), Battle Mountain (not sure I want to know the origins of the name), Lovelock (get your love’s locket here — no really, that’s what they advertise!), and finally to Reno, on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas. The drive is as long as that last sentence but for desert lovers it must be delightful. For the rest of us, well, we just need to learn to appreciate the desert.
The climb to Donner’s Summit was beautiful and the mountains are stunning — geologically a granite batholith, there is much exposed rock with spruce and other hardy conifers that put the garden variety to shame as they hang on and dig in, doing their part to break down that massive rock. These trees are the tough guys, and I have tremendous admiration for their endurance and raw beauty. Driving down the western slope of the mountains is an ear-popping good time. Truckee is a skiing destination but since we were there in late June, ski season was over, thecrowds were gone and the main thing running was the river. Snowmelt cascading down everywhere — beautiful, especially after crossing the desert! Once you get to Auburn it is all California– rolling hills, wetlands, agriculture, palm trees and cities. We finally made it to the toll booth at the Bay Bridge, about eleven hours after leaving Salt Lake City even with stopping for the Basque food (that deserves its own blogpost!) and then it was into the City by the Bay.
Part Two: If You’re Going to San Francisco – The Embassy Hotel, The Tenderloin and people
Part Three: If You’re Going to San Francisco – Day One in the City
Part Four: If You’re Going to San Francisco – Second and Final Day (ah sadness)