I started my day by taking the F streetcar towards the Embarcadero. My initial plan was to get off there, but while I was riding, I noticed what looked like freeway on or off-ramps right in the middle of the city. I always imagine highways to be located far away from a city so it was weird to see highway-like structured going right between buildings. I got off at the stop before the Embarcadero and began some random wandering.
Rather than use my phone, I decided to just use my eyes to find where I wanted to go. This lead to a couple hours stumbling around the SOMA, Financial district, and area under the Bay Bridge. This area intrigued to me for another reason as well. A couple years ago, DC shoes and Ken Block posted a video called Gymkhana 5. This 5th installment in the Gymkhana series features Block taking over San Francisco with his stunt driving skills.
I had re-watched this video before coming out to SF and there was one location (1:33 to 1:54 into the video) that particularly interested me. This off-ramp from the Bay Bridge seemed to go right into the heart of the financial district. After a long while of roaming around, I finally found the off-ramp in question.
Site of Ken Block’s first big drift into the city in Gymkhana 5… I think.
These are the sort of things that most other tourists probably don’t care about but area exactly the types of things I like doing. I’ve found more often than not that my “random wanderings” have been fruitful. Sometimes not having a plan is the best plan you can have.
Sidenote: I had noticed this since day one, but every so often you’ll be walking down the street and there will be these small cluster of swarms of flies. At first I thought it was an isolated incident, like I was near trash or something, but then it happened several other times scattered around the city. Not really a big deal per se, it was just weird.
After getting my fill of the financial district I made my way out to the Embarcadero (and passed Mozilla Firefox HQ along the way) where I walked South to get a few pictures of AT&T Park. I didn’t look too far away, and it really wasn’t that bad of a walk, but when you’ve been on you’re feet all day every day for the past three days, and had just started your morning with a two hour (fairly useless in the conventional sense) around the financial district, this walk was a killer. I shold have just been “that guy” and hopped on the MUNI light rail at Embarcadero and gotten off one or two stops later at AT&T Park… but I didn’t.
Shitty picture of AT&T Park.
After getting a few pics of the park, I contined Westward deeper into the area South of Market street. It is seemingly nowhere a tourist would go as it is mostly just businesses, but I had a mission. I took the #10 bus from 3rd and Townsend to 7th and Townsend. There I walked up one block to Brannan where I knew a particular nerdy home base to be. I began to wander around the intersection of 7th and Brannon. I looked up and down for 790 Brannan, but it didn’t seem to be in the area marked on Google maps. Then, I did things the analogue way and used my eyes. Within seconds I spotted 790, across the street.
The thing that was messing with me was that the building said Oscar’s Photo Lab. I walked over anyway and saw that there was a main door and a second door. I did remember Google telling me that this company was located on the second floor. The second door had a sticker with the logo of the company I was searching for. I was there, but what should I do? I checked the handle and to my surprise, it was unlocked. I opened the door and stepped inside. I realized just walking up the stairs and into the office might not make a good impression, so I stepped back out. Then, I did the most obvious thing possible, the thing I should have done from the beginning and rang the doorbell. Low and behold, moments later I was being greeted at the door by none other than Will Smith. Not that one, but this one…
Me with Will at the Tested studio.
I had made it to the office/studio of Tested dot com, the beloved YouTube channel and website that I follow. Will asked who I was and when I told him I was just a fan of the show he graciously told me to come right up. He gave me a tour of the studio. Not hard, as it is basically only two rooms, but still it was super cool. He also introduce me to the camera guy (sorry I don’t know your name) and Norm.
Me with Norm at the Tested studio.
Being that I had come all that way, I couldn’t leave without asking if there were any assistant positions open at Tested. I was basically given a “maybe.” Apparently they’ve been wanted to hire someone to help out but the higher ups have not let them. However, Will told me to periodically check the site as they would post any jobs on there.
After my very successful visit I was in a super good mood. I began wandering the surrounding area aimless as I didn’t have a plan as to where to go next. I decided I needed to head North, towards the more city part of the city, and that I needed to get food. I don’t really remember how this happened but eventually I found a cool looking burger joint and stopped in.
The place looked really hip with subway tiles on the walls and really cool tables and seats. I ordered a pork belly burger -delicious- and took my time to figure out where and what I wanted to do next. My plan brought me to the Van Ness MUNI light rail station where I took the N train to the Haight Ashbury district.
I had only glanced at the Google map walking directions from the station to the intersection of Haight and Ashbury, so naturally I got lost. However, I soon busted out my phone and re-routed myself in the right direction. As it so happened Grateful Dead house
The Greatful Dead house.
After getting a few pictures of the Dead House, it was only a short walk to the intersection of Haight/Ashbury. Of the two, Haight street is really where it’s at. It reminded me of Newbury St in Boston or SOHO in New York. There were tons of cool stores like: Kid Robot, Diamond, Burton, Loved to Death, Super 7, and Amoeba Music.
Haight/Ashbury; obligatory shot of the street signs.
In this area of the city, the hippie movement is still very much alive. It was hard to tell if the kids there were legitimately in to the “movement” and down with “the cause” or if they were just dressed that way because they felt that the should be hippies because they live in the hippie capitol of the world. Either way it was cool to see and helped me feel like I had walked into a different moment in time.
“San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of.“ -Hunter S. Thompson
As I made my way down Haight street I found a Burton store. Being a snowboarder, naturally I walked in. There had been a big crowd of people out front and when I entered, I asked the employees what the commotion was all about. Apparently the place next door, FTC, was holding a skate competition on the mini-ramp behind their building. I walked to the back of the Burton store and could see it going on out their window.
FTC mini-ramp as seen from the back window of the Burton store.
I then continued to make my way down Haight. There was a lot of cool graffiti/street art in the area and overall it was just a really nice and vibe-ey place to be. Then, just as had happened after I was done with Alcatraz, I got a feeling that I should find another iconic SF location, this time from a show. After a quick Googling I was on my way to Alamo Park for a view of the Painted Ladies. The Painted Ladies are a series of house on Steiner street that are featured at the end of the intro to Full House.
Painted Ladies from the opening scene of Full House.
After spending a bit of time at the park I took the #24 bus Northbound from Hayes and Divisadero to Divisadero and Bush, to the Full House house. This was the house they used to get the exterior shots for the show. Upon my arrival it was instantly apparent that I was not the only TV nerd, as there were two other groups of people taking pictures. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live there. If they ever have to fight through people just to get to their house. If the property is more expensive because it’s “famous” or if it costs just as much as the other houses in Pacific Heights.
The “house” from Full House.
After a few quick pics I walked to the #22 bus and rode it North from Bush and Fillmore all the way to Marina blvd. I started making my way towards the Golden Gate Bridge but soon gave up. It was one of those things where though it looked close, it was still fairly far away. A recent Googling told me that it was 2.1 miles from where I stopped to take a break. This may not sound that bad, but on super tired feet and legs, you might as well have been asking me to walk back to Boston. Plus, it’s actually more like 4.2 miles because you gotta figure you have to walk all the way back. I was not in the mood for an 80 minute excursion to a place I was merely going to look at and have at least been to before. I then climbed a small tree before walking back to the #22 bus and taking all the way South to Market street.
Sidenote: everywhere you went there were these 3-wheeled Go Cars. They were, I guess a cheap quirky alternative to renting a real car, but still, it was weird.
I then took the N MUNI light rail to the Montgomery station and began to walk down Market street. It was dinner time and I was hungry. To my pleasant surprise I found a place called Bun Mee that looked cool and stopped in. I had seen another one at a different location earlier in the trip but had already eaten at that time and so I just kept walking. However, I was really glad that I did go because the food was great.
Bun Mee is a Vietnamese sandwich shop and the selection is really different from most typical sandwich shops. They also had this milky/creamy tea that came in an orange can that was delicious. On top of having great food, the shop itself is really well designed. Everything from their scooter logo, to the raw wood and metal industrial decor, to the Shepard Fairey* art on the wall helped it to feel hip and comfortable inside. While eating there, I came to the realization that I can take my time and relax; I don’t have to be going all the time. It may be obvious to most people, but it wasn’t to me.
As I was leaving I got a text from my sister that said, “Go anywhere cool today?” Rather than just text her back, I decided to call and we ended up talking for about an hour as I walked through downtown SF, eventually making my way to Union Square where I spent most of the conversation sitting on a bench.
After we were done I took the F streetcar to Haight where I walked to Smuggler’s Cove Tiki bar. SC was another one of the bars featured on the SF episode of Best Bars in America. After looking at the menu, talking with the bartender and explaining my distaste for hard alcohol, I settled on a Hawaiian Sunrise cocktail.
The drink was fruity and decilious and just as was the case with the Chi Chi at The Tonga Room, I could not taste the booze. Again, either he put very little in there OR he is just very good at what he does. After that I had a speciality chocolatey-ish beer which is apparently brewed only for them. It too was very good.
After my drinks I made my way back to the hostel where I had two new roommates. One was from Australia and the other was from New Zealand. I got along with them right away. Apparently they work for some camp and spend part of their time in Australia and part of their time in the Berkshires. I wish I had gotten their contact info because I would love to work/live in Australia. I gave them my card but they have yet to send me an email, and I don’t really expect them to. I should have been more adamant. Guys, if you read this, please send me an e-mail. I’d love to work at that summer camp with you in Australia.
*I wasn’t sure if it was really his stuff, like if he was actually involved with the store, or if the art was done by someone who was ripping him off. Either way it looked cool.