San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Reno (April 2008 Vacation Review)
Brad, Angela, and I flew out of Houston to San Francisco on April 4th. The flight was supposed to leave Houston at 7:00 pm, but bad weather earlier in the day slowed our departure, finally we took off just before 9 pm central. Just a note to airline pilots, phrases such as “This is one of the worst delays in Houston, I’ve ever seen in my ten years of flying.” are not words of comfort to your passengers. While yes we do respect your candor, it just makes your passengers keep a running stopwatch. It was all OK though, safe flight and we made it to San Francisco just after 11 pm Pacific. Yes friends, we were on the plane for seven hours (this includes boarding time which began at 6pm). I love to fly, though don’t really have the opportunity much, but that was a long seven hours. Better than any seven hours at work though!
We arrived at the hotel room just before midnight. Saturday morning (April 5th), Brad and I were wide awake at 5 am. The hotel was just a couple blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf.
View from our hotel room:
Brad has been to San Francisco a few times, so he had a good idea of where everything is. Fisherman’s wharf consists of several blocks and piers of shops, restaurants, bike rentals, and my favorite the sea lions at pier 39.
At 5 in the morning, there wasn’t a lot going on yet and this is one of the best times to sit and watch the sea lions, and the city the bay start to come alive.
After walking around and scoping everything out, Angela called Brad and was ready for breakfast. We walked up to the hotel met Angela, then walked back down to the Eagle Cafe, a restaurant with a great view of the bay, and San Francisco. After breakfast, we rented bikes from Blazing Saddles.
We rode the bikes to the hotel and geared up for a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. I had rigged up a handlebar mount for my video camera. Tested it out back in February, but wouldn’t you know it would break while installing it on the rental bike. I secured it with rubber bands and cable ties.
Off we went to the Golden Gate Bridge. At first I thought it was going to be a cake walk ride. Brad and I ride 12.5 miles a day on the flat trails in Texas.
This eight mile ride would be nothing for us, right? Wrong! The first big hill kicked my butt! I think I could have done a little better on my bike, but am willing to admit. I am not Lance Armstrong and have a long way to go in the fitness area.
None the less after making a few wrong turns, we made it onto the Golden Gate Bridge.
The eight mile ride is advertised as a two mile coast into Sausalito once you cross the bridge. Wrong again, another big climb waits after the bridge, then the coast begins. One thing I love about California is how bike friendly they are. Well except for the two girls in the red mustang who honked at me. Brad said his GPS was showing him and Angela doing 31 mph on the tandem bike they were on. I was going a lot faster since I was by myself. So we think I probably hit about 40, on a bike! Credit goes to the hill, not me. We made it to beautiful Sausalito, and had lunch there. Sausalito is known as the Tuscany of the west. Everywhere you look, was a post card view. Actually the same can really be said for most of San Francisco too.
After lunch, we witnessed a couple of street performers while waiting for the ferry ride back to SF. One owas a dude playing a guitar with a dog in his lap; another was a girl playing air guitar while chanting, very interesting to say the least.
The ferry ride gave us a great view of the bay, Angel Island, Alcatraz, and San Francisco.
We turned the bikes in, and spent the rest of the day exploring everything within walking distance of the hotel, including Ghirardelli Square. Though the bike ride wore me out, it was great and I would not hesitate to do it again.
Sunday April 6th, we took a motorized trolley car tour of SF. The tour guide had been an extra in several movies filmed in SF, and had a great knowledge of the city. He took us by Union Square, Chinatown, Lombard Street, Coit Tower, and downtown San Francisco.
In the afternoon, we took a ferry to Alcatraz, and toured the former prison. It was very neat, but almost loses mystique once you visit it. Hey, it was Alcatraz though, you have to do it!!
After Alcatraz, we were going to have dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, but gave up after a thirty minute wait. The hostess was telling everyone it was a 15-20 minute wait. Since she was still telling everyone that 30 minutes after telling us that, and since we didn’t see anyone leaving. We went to the Wipeout Bar and Grill instead.
After recharging a little while at the hotel, I went back out and walked around about 9pm.
My mind wanted to keep going, but my legs were telling me “hey dude, I’ve taken you a lot of places this weekend. You have to give me a break.”
After watching some cable cars come in for the night, I went back to the hotel.
We didn’t get to ride the trolley cars; the time just seemed to fly by. I definitely will do it on my next trip there. Hopefully there will be a next trip, San Francisco was just awesome!
Monday April 7th, we checked out, rented a car and drove to Lombard Street. Brad let Angela and me out since he had walked down it before. Angela and I walked down, and he drove down.
Then we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and headed for Muir woods.
Muir Woods has redwood trees that were around long before the US was even in existence.
We wanted to do some hiking, but had sore legs from all the walking in SF. You cannot pass seeing Muir Woods if you’re ever in the area. Well I guess you can, but you shouldn’t.
After leaving Muir Woods, we headed for South Lake Tahoe, CA. On the way we stopped at the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield and took the tour. We loaded up with Jelly Beans and headed for Lake Tahoe.
The drive through snow capped mountains was beautiful. Actually beautiful and awesome seem so redundant, but you could use it constantly. After checking in at the Motel 6 in South Lake Tahoe, we ate dinner at Murphy’s Pub.
Great sign, mediocre food, and bad service considering we were the only ones there besides a couple of guys at the bar. We didn’t even tell them we were visiting because of the name. Anyway…
Tuesday April 8th, we took the Heavenly Gondola 2.4 miles up a mountain. The view of Lake Tahoe was once again awesome! After getting our share of being cold, we left the Gondola and drove around Lake Tahoe towards Reno, NV.
You just have to see Lake Tahoe, I can show you the pictures and tell you about it, but you won’t know until you see it for yourself.
Tuesday evening through Saturday April 12th:
Then there was Reno, NV. We arrived there Tuesday afternoon.
Reno sits in a valley surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The mountains are beautiful. Reno on the other hand is forgettable. Let’s see they have casinos, strip clubs, tattoo shops, casinos, strip clubs, tattoo shops, and several cabs boasting advertisements for the nearby brothels outside of the city. The reason for us to be in Reno was for Angela’s NAPO convention. Angela is a professional organizer and NAPO stands for National Association of Professional Organizers. They chose John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino and Hotel for the convention. Let’s just say that the “golden nugget” is a bit dated and movies from the 80’s could be filmed there. Making it even better, at times I think we were the youngest people in the hotel by a good 20 years.
Since there wasn’t a lot to do in Reno, well I guess there was stuff to do, just depended on whether or not you wanted to visit those establishments, and whether or not you had the cash to drop in those establishments. I chose to spend my time at the pool as it was pretty nice.
Though we knew Reno is not as big as Vegas, we expected there to be somewhat of a strip. Virginia Street is their version of that, and it wasn’t enough to make us stop and pay to park. We did check out the Peppermill Casino on Saturday and it was more what we expected a casino to be. Hold up, I had expectations for a place to lose money at? The casinos of Reno left me $10.00 poorer.
The movie theaters were nice; we saw Leatherheads and Drillbit Taylor. Both good flicks, of course we were pretty hard up for entertainment.
After checking out of the hotel on Saturday, Angela still had sessions to attend. Brad and I went to as many stores as we could stand, then drove around, went to a Starbucks outside the casino, drove around some more, walked a little bit, and waited at Starbucks inside the casino.
When Angela finished at 5pm, we cruised out of Reno west on I-80.
The scenic drive out was the highlight of the day.
We capped off the day with dinner in Sacramento, and then drove a little more to Fairfield for the night. Sunday morning we drove back to San Francisco and crossed the bay bridge on the way to the airport.
We flew back, now we’re back working for the man.
Thanks to Brad and Angela for letting me tag along. It was a great trip and it definitely made me want to visit San Francisco and Lake Tahoe again. I’ll pass on Reno.
The picture albums:
Brad and Angela’s Pictures