I left my heart (and a psycho dude) in San Francisco

When I heard BlogHer was in San Jose, my first thought was I’d slip away one evening and pop over to San Francisco, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. When I was 16 years old, my mom and her business partner Lin owned a gift/shop tea room. They thought it would be fun to bring Lin’s daughter and me along on one of their buying conventions. While they worked, Janelle and I played in San Francisco before we all explored the Napa Valley and Carmel. I fell in love love love with Northern California!

But here’s the deal: I was delusional thinking I could “pop over to San Francisco” and getting there is half the battle from San Jose. Fortunately, I had an entire day before the conference to explore.

I had a few options: 1) Take a cab, which would have cost a minor fortune for the 50-mile commute. 2) Rent a vehicle. Another pricy option and driving in a foreign-to-me city by myself is never a good thing. Plus, have you seen those hills?  3) Take the Caltrain. Though it had a lot of stops and took an hour and a half, it was by far the least expensive of my options.

The Caltrain station was about a mile from our hotel, which I figured was no problem. It was a lovely day and a chance to explore San Jose.

As it turns out there really wasn’t much in San Jose’s conference district. There were a couple of cool shopping/restaurant areas but the parks and bike trails I’d hoped to explore later were dirty, rundown and inner city. The day after I flew back to Utah, someone was murdered outside of the Tech Museum of Innovation and the Fairmont Hotel, right near my hotel.

Note to self: do not wander San Jose after dark.

I found the Caltrain fairly easily but it took me a while to figure out what train and stop I should take (heaven forbid they should actually have people working at the kiosks). I eventually figured it out and settled in for the 1.5-hour ride. I had forgotten how entertaining it is to people-watch in California. A loud woman sat across from me and proceeded to do her morning make-up routine. That was just swell until she whipped out her deodorant and other personal hygiene items.

It only got better. When I disembarked at the Caltrain’s final stop, I still had a 4-mile walk to Pier 39. No problem again! I would stroll along the Embarcadero, the eastern waterfront and roadway of the Port of San Francisco.

I was minding my own business basking in the views of the San Francisco Bay when a crazy black dude started following me. I tried to brush him off but he was persistent. He was about my size (read: short) and walking his bike with a broken chain. Though he babbled incoherently (I wasn’t sure if he was drunk or mentally ill), I figured I was in a public place and he seemed harmless enough so I let him walk with me, brushing off his advances.

Crazaaay dude behind the sculpture

He’d been trailing me for a good two miles when something triggered within him. He stopped and I kept walking. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw him walk over to the water’s edge, pick up his bike and fling it into the water.

You’d better believe I got outta there like a bat out of hell. No way I’d be his next chucking-into-the-bay victim.

I finally arrived at Pier 39 after about an hour. My knee was starting to feel sore after walking 5 miles but my gosh if that place wasn’t hopping. I know it’s blatantly touristy but I love exploring Fisherman’s Wharf!

Lunch on the Wharf

Token selfie

Sunbathing sea lions

I had planned to hop on a cable car to Union Square and then take a cab back to catch the Caltrain but there were lines everywhere and I knew I’d be waiting at least an hour. My knee was throbbing so I knew walking another 5 miles would render me incapacitated for the conference. I’d just talked to Jamie who told me to watch our $$ because he was waiting on some clients to pay so I didn’t want to spring for a cab.

Then, I had a stroke of genius: the Bay Area Bike Share! There are rental stations all over the city for a nominal charge so I hopped on one of these baby blues and cruised back to the Caltrain station. Why hadn’t I thought of this in the first place?

P.S. Don’t tell my mom I was biking San Francisco’s gnarly streets without a helmet.

Once back in San Jose, I grabbed another bike (my rental fee was good for 24 hours) and rode it back near my hotel. It was an exhausting, exhilarating day and though it made me miss traveling solo, I resolved I couldn’t wait to take my family back to San Francisco and experience it all.

Minus mentally-unstable-stalker types.

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