As west coast cities go, I’ll readily admit that I was most excited to visit Seattle and San Francisco. Having visited both cities before, I knew what to expect. That said, I spent very little time in either city as a conscientious, autonomous adult. That changes things. In fact, the last time that I visited either city had been with almost a dozen teenagers in tow. That definitely changes things.
To me, both San Francisco and Seattle represent progressive, influential communities with a commanding population of millennials, including more than a few friends of mine. As I ambled south down the coast, aimlessly wandering from rocky cove to sandy beach, San Francisco is what beckoned me onwards. Without its motivation, I might have never left Mendocino or might still be hiking on the Lost Coast… Instead, I pressed onwards, arriving into the open arms of San Francisco late on the night of the eleventh.
Almost instantly, I was swept into the fast-paced life of the Bay Area. My friend Kate introduced me to her November Project cohort, who welcomed me into their fitness-loving community with open arms (literally… there were lots of hugs). If you have never heard of November Project, it is worth checking out. Based in many large cities, November Project programs outdoor workouts for its members. Running is a big part of the programing, but circuit-style, bodyweight movements also feature heavily. Most importantly, November Project cultivates a positive, fun-loving, accepting community of people who want to laugh, grow, and sweat together. Similarly to my experience with CrossFit, every workout can be made accessible to individual athletes of any fitness level. To me, it felt the people were paramount and the workout simply acted as a manifestation of that community’s values and desire to be together. It goes without saying that I was a fan.
After my workout, I joined some November Project members for breakfast before heading off on my own adventure. Just as I have always done, my goal was to walk as much of San Francisco as I could. This endeavor began with an exploration of the northwestern section of the city. Beginning at the Palace of Fine Arts, I wandered towards the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Presidio, along the Battery to Bluffs trail, down to Baker Beach, then south to Golden Gate Park. San Francisco is a remarkably compact city. Its limits are often described as seven miles by seven miles. For me, that compactness didn’t feel overcrowded. As I stood in the shade of a decommissioned bunker looking out at the Marin Headlands, I forgot the millions of people behind me. The air tasted clean, the wind ushered away the constant din of traffic and city life behind me. It was utterly peaceful.
After strolling through the gardens and open fields of Golden Gate Park, I turned onto Haight Street. Strikingly different than the Presidio where my journey had begun, head shops, tie-dye, and bars filled the streets, marking this neighborhoods epic history of bohemian revolution and counterculture music. As I headed east, the grunge of Haight-Ashbury dissipated and I found myself climbing the peaceful hills in Buena Vista Park. A few blocks away I reunited with a few more Batesies and spent the day hypothesizing and designing a pedicab.
Day two began with a different workout in a different part of town: Shocking. A friend from Bates, Sam, has been offering free, bodyweight training for the masses at a playground in Alamo Park for almost three years now. Paired with a sunrise ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, this workout is well worth the effort. It also comes with a communal, homemade breakfast! Hard to beat… After our morning exertion and ingestion, we returned to the predicament of the pedicab temporarily. In the end, we struggled to surmount the problems presented by weight differentials and adequate braking systems. Although theoretical work on the pedicab continued, I began the next phase of my wanderings: the northeast section of San Francisco. Jogging downtown, I headed down Market Street until I hit the Ferry Building Marketplace. There, I found Jessica, another Bates bestie. We grabbed a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee (apparently a San Fran necessity) and strolled the waterfront, catching up after nearly two and a half years apart. Eventually, her professional obligations beckoned, so I headed off to visit Kate at GitHub.
One of the unforeseen benefits of this trip is that my friends have exposed me to different job sectors that I had never considered or even thought about. From C&S Grocers in Keene, NH to my crash course in the tech industry in Telluride, CO, I have learned so much about parts of the American economy. My time in GitHub was no different. GitHub is a repository for all things code-related. It hosts a databank for a community of people sharing, tweaking, and utilizing code. Or at least that is my cursory understanding. To say I am an expert of coding would be preposterous. My tour of GitHub clearly didn’t necessarily make me any more of an expert, but it did provide an example of a progressive, highly successful workplace. Housed in an old warehouse propped up by wide timbers and exposed I-beams, GitHub’s three floors feature an employee bar, a rooftop terrace, multiple full kitchens, coding caves, a Zen-like gym, countless comfy couches, game tables, parking spots for bicycles, and endless snacks. My mouth hung open like a fool for the entirety of our visit. GitHub’s model focuses on enriching its employee’s office experience, hoping that will translate directly into the quality of their work. Despite my own inexperience with coding, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to work at a place like this…
That night, I headed south to San Jose to spend the next day with Andrea, one of my favorite AESOPers from my sophomore year at Bates. Her quick wit and dry sarcasm made for a hilarious night as we caught up on all of the conversations that we had stockpiled over the past few years. Like all my favorite hosts and hostesses thus far, she also let me loose in her kitchen… Such a gift! After this whirlwind trip, I headed back to San Fran for what would be a wild weekend. To combat our growing reliance on autocorrect and “Spell Check”, Sam and his Waller Street crew (Kellen, Andy, Pope, and Meg) threw a Spelling Bee party. Costumes, of course, were encouraged. After a delicious potluck, we embarked on an evening of spelling with words chosen from former Scripps’ Spelling Bee lists with a brief foray into the world of Pokemon. The night proved a grand success. I think everyone left having learned something about a bizarre word in the English language or having reevaluated how they saw a particularly mundane word. I certainly ended the night glad that English is my first language. My night ended on the word “cacophony”. If only I had studied my Greek roots a little more extensively…
Post-spelling bee, the Waller crew bounced between the city’s many parks, playing Spikeball, messing around with acroyoga, precariously tossing Frisbees across busy streets, gallivanting around playgrounds, etc. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect day of innocent debauchery on a grand scale. By the end of the day, I moved back towards the Presidio to stay with family friends living near the Presidio. The next day, I spent the day wandering Fisherman’s Wharf with more Batesies: Caroline, Katie, and Andrea. I ended up adopting the role of tour guide as we walked along the promenade, checking out Ghiradelli Square, Pier 39, Fort Mason, and Boudin Bakery. So happy they decided to let me crash their day in San Francisco!
The next week passed by in a bit of a blur. I spent hours updating my list of books on tape, processing photos, writing, tweaking the code of the blog, and backing up my entire electronic existence. The San Fran crew of 2013 Batesies (Jess, Bud, Nick, and Kate) cooked up pizzas one night. I got to check out Outward Bound’s San Francisco office with Kellen. I watched Muppet Treasure Island projected on the wall of a garage while curled up on couch in a chilly San Fran night. I got hopelessly sucked into writing riddles for a citywide scavenger hunt based in San Francisco. Anyone living in or visiting San Francisco on May 21st should totally check out The SF Hunt. Having spent hours working with the crew (Sam, Josh, Gil, Kellen, etc.) putting on the event, I can honestly say that this will be a day/night to remember. You will learn so much about your city, explore parts of San Fran that you may never have seen before, and meet all kinds of amazing people. Trust me, it will be worth your while.
To close out my time in San Francisco, Bud, Nick, Kate, and I headed down to Monterrey for a night of camping and beachcombing. Driving down later than Nick and Bud, Kate and I stopped countless times to check out the coast, indulge in free jam samples, and catch the setting sun. That night, we stayed up late cooking and reminiscing under the blindingly bright moon. The next day we headed into Carmel-on-the-Sea for a relaxing day on the beach. It was a quick trip, but reminded me of the spontaneous escapades that had filled our years at Bates. On the way back, Kate and I reversed our route, catching the sunset as the waves crashed on the shore and seals popped in and out of the surf. That night, I said goodbye to the Bates San Fran crew at a November Project party. I feel so lucky that I consistently got to see so many amazing people from Bates while in San Francisco!
All good things, however, must come to an end. Eleven days after I arrived in San Francisco, I packed Sam back up and headed for the East Bay. Despite all of the marvelously wonderful times that marked my time in San Fran, I had always been worried about Sam. Almost every person I had spoken to had urged me to empty my car every night… Not so easy when your entire life is in your car! It would appear, however, that luck was once again on my side. No one had wanted to break into that blue Honda Element with its sparking new windshield. Thank goodness.
In Oakland, I met up with Tim, an Apogee leader who led another Pacific Coast cycling trip opposite mine in 2013. For posterities sake, we hoped on bicycles and headed out for what we thought was a 30-40 miles ride around the East Bay. We rode the Three Bears, climbed Wildcat Canyon, and zoomed down countless switchbacks, chatting consistently about gear and all things related to our outdoor endeavors. By Wildcat Canyon, however, we both realized that this was a longer, hillier ride than we had anticipated. Moreover, neither of us had packed any snacks. Shaky and weak, we headed down into Berkeley to grab burritos before heading home for the day. Later that night, we mapped the ride, discovering that we had biked 52 miles with over a mile of elevation change. The ride definitely should have included snacks.
With Tim as my last goodbye, I headed east to Yosemite, ready to check out the valley that played such an integral role in the idea of America’s National Parks! Thank you to everyone (from best friends to total strangers) who made my time in San Francisco so special!