Sunday, August 11, 2013

Peace Out, West Coasters...

After a wildly successful and deeply satisfying California expedition, our time on the Pacific Coast wound down with one last San Francisco day. It afforded an opportunity to accomplish the sightseeing-musts we hadn't yet managed to check off the first time through...although who could've foreseen that on the whole entire trip, our only touristy failures would occur in the otherwise lovely City by the Bay? You see, we didn't realize that one must apparently book a ferry ride to Alcatraz several WEEKS in advance (oops--Vacation Planning, who needs a creepy old prison anyway, right? Okay, next time...) Then the cable car experience eluded us as well, since by the time we actually figured out where to catch it and how to pay for a ride...we'd used up all of our on-hand-cash and couldn't fund the venture. (That is, without first locating an out-of-network-ATM, and getting slapped with exorbitant fees, and who needs that nonsense?)

Instead, we ambled partway across the Golden Gate Bridge (with the rest of the visiting population, on foot and on bikes--it was a bob-and-weave kind of activity) to admire the landscape views of the harbor and the city stretched out before us. We didn't linger too long, as the whipping wind prohibited much standing around. In between shivers, though, we did catch sight of a few seals frolicking in the water near the shoreline, and several majestic sailboats--participants in the Louis Vuitton Cup, taking place in San Francisco as we speak--skimming over the tops of the waves. Not exactly tranquil, what with the teeming masses…but quite picturesque nonetheless.

Next we continued on into town, and set out on foot to discover...a very overdue lunch. (Or early dinner, whatever, we were famished) We ended up at a little cafe called: Toast. (Thankfully, there was much more than that on the menu.) Having filled up the tanks, as it were, we were ready to take on the next big thing: AT&T Park for a Giants vs. Orioles baseball game. Since we had so much time (it being only about 5:00 by now), we chose to drive toward the stadium and search for reasonable parking. Now, I realize I'm totally spoiled by Camden Yards, and our secret, off-site, cheap lot...but the Giants wanted (ready for this?) $35! What. The. HECK? Well, I'm faaaarrrr too cheap to accept that as a viable option, so we proceeded to navigate away from the field...further...and further....where, as it happens, absolutely nothing exists. In the end, we had to resign ourselves to finding...yes, you guessed it, a bank-machine (dang it!) we could subsidize the price-gouging entrepreneurs to watch our car for a few hours. At least we compromised by choosing a less-expensive ($30...hey, it counts...for some popcorn at the game, maybe…) garage a few blocks away since we didn't mind walking a bit. (Who, us? Ha! "Walking" should be our—collective--middle name!)

Even with those unexpected deviations from the agenda, we still had time to wander around the outside of the park, taking in the sights from the famous McCovey Cove and Willie Mays Plaza before heading inside. And let me just say, as far as location, the Giants' field cannot be beat. Bay, bridge, boats...beautiful. I have to admit, though, at this point something that had been weighing on my mind all week, ever since we arrived in this breezy, chilly town, made itself a priority. It was a potentially painful personal problem...namely: I didn't bring any PANTS on this trip. How was I going to survive several hours sitting in the stands on a 60-degree, windy evening? And what the heck was I thinking when I packed? (Actually, I know the answer to that one: I was hampered by the fact that it's always hot and muggy at home in who could even imagine wearing fleece jackets and jeans? Or maybe my brain had just melted by that time in the Summer...or something...) Let me just tell you that the four of us were among the only (crazy) fans with bare knees showing. But somehow we toughed it out--albeit with some goosebumps and huddling together for warmth. (With Ghirardelli hot chocolate, which is sold everywhere you turn, but without purchasing extra apparel--W-I-N...W-I-N!)

The park itself has an old-timey feel, with lots of brick facade construction, and decoration consisting of sepia-toned photos and inspirational baseball quotes scattered throughout. Even the concessions are designed to blend into the antique look (while selling a dizzying array of cuisine, from your standard hotdog, pizza, and pretzel, to the gourmet bacon-wrapped-dog, ravioli (Huh? Don't ask me, I'm just the reporter...), and the famous (evidently) Gilroy's garlic fries. As we strolled around, we spotted lots of fellow Os supporters, although you have to look closely to differentiate, as the hometown team wears the same colors! And I’ve gotta hand it to the loyal locals—they cheer like it’s Game 7 of the World Series…for every routine fly ball, strike called, or grounder to first base. As for the action between the foul lines, it went the way of a classic pitcher’s duel, with the Os leading 2-1 on a J.J. Hardy homerun (one moment: yaaayyyyyyy!) going into the bottom of the 9th inning.

There was entertainment unique to AT&T Park, of course, to liven things up along the way. My favorite diversions were the paddleboard race, in which the Orange Man (literally a man adorned head-to-toe in a neon tangerine jumpsuit…apparently those who live there “get it”, ‘cuz it made no sense whatsoever to me), someone dressed in a shark costume, and a…panda-suit-clad-person…competed to be the first around a buoy in McCovey Cove. Inspired silliness, and good for a chuckle, to be sure. Then, during the 8th, there was (wait for it) Journey. Karoaoke. Oh yeah, baby, 40,000 people singing along at the top of their lungs to Don’t Stop Believin’ (embarrassing the bejeebers out of their beloved children in the meantime: BONUS), it was a hoot! Finally, when the organ plays the rhythmic tune that’s supposed to get everyone clapping in an encouraging rah-rah sort of way, and at the end you yell (typically), “Let’s go, Giants” (or whomever)….the fans instead cry out “Dodgers Suck!” (Not very sporting, but amusing, regardless…)

When the game had almost concluded, when there was nothing left but for the Orioles’ closer to record 3 measly outs and preserve the victory…he instead allowed the tying run to score and forced extra innings. Unacceptable! We were freezing! And D-O-N-E!  And utterly disgusted with his performance! However, we grudgingly committed ourselves to remaining for One. More. Inning. And in that time, fortunately, the Os at last put some more runs on the board (3, to be exact) and sewed up the win. So we were still very, very frigid…but content.

And that, folks, wrapped our California R&R (Research and Recreation) Vacation. We return to the East Coast with copious notes to provide fodder for some upcoming Major Family Discussions…that is, once we re-acclimate to our own Time Zone. Stay tuned…we’d be more than happy to share stories, show pictures, and answer questions…just give us a couple of nice, long sleeps before you ask anything too demanding, please!

*Here are the totals for August 1st-10th, according to my pedometer: Steps 177,590 (!); Miles 77.98 (!!) No. Wonder. We're. Exhausted!

No comments: