Sunday, April 6, 2014

A hot and muddy last day.

Part 5 of a 5 part travelogue.
Almost 5000 words and only now am I to the part where I am actually vacationing. I have gotten to be a wordy mother fucker in my old age. To be honest, as stressful and weird as all the low fuel and wrong turns were, it was also somehow exhilarating. Somehow all part of blowing out the pipes and kicking off the new chapter of my life. 

Once I was settled in my room I thought; the gluten free pizza was ok but perhaps something more to hold me over till the free breakfast they serve at the El Bonita Motel would be a good thing.
[As you can tell I have little respect for the details of english language usage. Even famous english guys agree with me that “Whatever works, works”. But what the hell? “El” is masculine and “Bonita” is feminine in Spanish. “The pretty motel” would be “El motel bonito”. Doesn't matter but it gave me OCD every time I thought about it.]

Like I was saying, the desk clerk pointed me to the nearest market. I got back in the car and went forth into the night. This little local market had more cool specialty food than Trader Joes ever thought about. I brought GF bread from home but wanted something to put on it. There was ham & cheese in the cooler but I’m on vacation damnit. The deli case had the exotic Italian salami and prosciutto you’d expect. Except the cheapest one was $17 a pound. Up to $65 a pound. It looked expensive too. I didn't go crazy but I did get half a pound of this one that was the color of pepperoni but instead of round it was rectangular. The slices were the shape of dollar bills ironically enough. It was very spicy and delicious. I combined it with the ham & cheese to make 3 or 4 sandwiches. One delightful thing was the counter lady. Middle aged blond with kindly blue eyes. She was so friendly. Lots of eye contact and lots of “is there anything else I can do for you”s. At first I thought “nice people here in the northern countryside”. And it’s true, but then I remembered, I’m a regular looking guy here. The prices tell me they have lots of high rollers but most everyone else are old hippies like me. Ladies over 40 don’t look at me with suspicion like back home. Here I’m catnip. Crap. I was never good at picking up women at 26, Thirty years later. Most of that time out of the loop. sigh. Something else to work on. Still, very cool to be admired.

Before going to sleep I updated my facebook and checked my email. One email was from my pal that I hear from every few months from the band of misfit partiers. My old friend sent me a couple of youtube links as people do. The last time I heard, my old friend was living in the mountains of North Dakota, Or was it Maine? I eMailed back mentioning that I had stopped by the S.F. place and was going to Calistoga in the morning. I got this back “Where are you?  Call me now goof.  I can meet you...I'm not far!!! Call me...”

I called back and we talked. Turns out my old friend was living well . . within driving distance. Specific location not divulged. We planned to meet the next day.

Ahh morning, fresh air and free breakfast. 4 kinds of cereal. Milk and sweet rolls. All gluten and lactose full. I had coffee, OJ and a banana. I had saved the Gf croissant from the day before and had it heated with my ham and cheese in the room’s microwave. Good enough. I went on to Calistoga for the main event. 

If you looked at the slide show in the post above you saw the road to Calistoga. I got so involved having the experience I forgot to take more pictures till the next day. A nice drive. A bit of drizzle. The trees got thicker. Calistoga, like many places in Northern California, preserves the look of the gold rush era. Old timey things like rail cars are made into shops and restaurants. I had set the Maps App to find the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. It was 9 miles from El Bonita and one right turn so that part was easy. I got there so early that there was a line of other pilgrims outside waiting for the place to open. It was a standard motel with 2 floors. Looked to be 30 or 40 years old. 
Behind was an array of pools. Behind that a new building with the mud baths and other spa facilities.   After it opened and I got checked in I realized that I had left my swim suit at the motel. The mud bath and massage also includes use of the mineral pools for the rest of the day. Dang it. Like I said I was way early so went back to fetch it. Once I got back, stowed my gear in the locker provided it was time for my mud bath. 
My attendant Leo was a stocky Hispanic guy about 25 or so. He showed me to the room with the baths. As you can see in the photos each bath is a tiled box about 3 feet wide and 7 feet long. I'm not sure how deep. Leo gestured to get in. I swung my feet over the mud, sat and sank in. The geothermal heat is uniform and the mud smooth. As I sank in he indicated to pull the mud up over myself. When I had gone before, the attendants were more helpful, pushing the mud around and offering a hand. No big deal. I was covered and never did feel the bottom. I was suspended by the water and volcanic ash. It is difficult to describe the sensation. The heat penetrates right to the bone. Your muscles and nerves have no choice but to let it all go. You start to sweat. Just then Leo came offering a cool wet cloth for my forehead. I settled even further into the mud. The warmth softening my bones. I quickly lost track of time. I don’t know how long this part was supposed to last. In my alternative health and spiritual practices we talk about “Grounding”. Not unlike grounding an electrical circuit or lightning rod by making an unbroken attachment to the earth. In those practices it can be symbolic or a process facilitating the grounding. The is the real thing at it’s most elemental. Every bit of you is in physical contact with mother earth in an unbroken circuit. All of your residual energy psychic or otherwise is drained away. You, or at least I, could feel myself getting in sync with the natural hum of the earth. As good all of this is, the heat starts to get annoying. Once again Leo reappears, this time to say it’s time to get out. I sit up and start to scrape the mud off. Then stand. Huh, guess it was only a couple of feet deep. 

The room is kind of big. There are 5 other mud baths and 6 personal sized jacuzzis all permanent fixtures in the room. The center of the room has a divider wall with showers on one side and a steam room in one corner. First I shower off the mud then slowly I move over to the jacuzzi and get in. When I was a teen my friends and I used to go to a natural hot springs in the Kern Canyon called dahlonega. The story I was told was that It had been built by the Chinese workers that built the railroad through the canyon. the problem with that story was that there was no railroad tracks. There was a toll road to the county seat in Havilah and a couple of early power plants so there were probably Chinese workers. The place we went to was probably the remnants of the "Dahlonega Health Resort" there were 2 others in the canyon as well. It was so sulpher that it promoted miraculous healings. One time my buddy sliced his hand badly on a beer bottle. Being drunk and stoned as we generally were when we were there he didn't bother dressing the wound. Just stumbled back into the concrete tub for more soaking. It had completely scabbed over by the time we left. I could smell the sulphur in the mineral water in Calistoga but is was not nearly as strong. Just like in the mud bath in the jacuzzi I got a cool cloth on my forehead. When I was ready it was time to get out.

From there I went into the steam room. Guess I didn't mention this. I was the only guest taking the mud at that time. The other people I had lined up with were women and had their own mudroom. There were a few families but they appeared to be there just for the mineral pools. When I go to the gym the steamroom is my favorite thing. This time I had had enough heat treatments and threw in the towel, as it were, before Leo came to get me. 

Next comes the nap. The best nap you ever had. Along with all of my stress and pain went my energy in a most relaxing way. I was lead to a curtained off little cubby with a soft bunk lined with warm blankets. The lights were low, I was bundled up like a baby and there was that soft new age music. I guess I drifted off. I don’t remember. It was a most blissful meditative state. After about half an hour or so it was time to get a massage.

My monday appointment was with a man therapist. My reschedule to today was with a woman. I kept telling them that it didn't matter to me. I was there for a massage not the therapist. They must get people with a real definite preference. The first 6 or 8 of the 10 years I made my living doing massage I was pretty much the only game in town. The only people I dealt with who had a preference were the lonely truck drivers who would call me from a phone booth. At that time we were at the tail end of the sexual revolution that started with the introduction of “The Pill” in the 60s. After AIDS and the reign of Ronald Reagan in the 80s society took a turn towards the uptight. I started seeing this preference thing shift around 1990. 

Typical massage room, Just big enough. This one had a skylight I seem to recall. Details get fuzzy here. I was so relaxed already. I can’t remember her name but she had many years of experiance and was good at her task, I was quiet at first but was so relaxed and hadn’t had a conversation with anyone except Stacey in a week so started talking. I/we talked all about the massage industry. I talked about my involvement with the California Coalition on Somatic Practices. CCSP had many round tables and did statewide surveys to determine the future of the massage industry. I was already out of the biz at that time and served as a kind of representative of the client side. After I left, CCSP morphed into the group that got the state massage licensing law through Sacramento. 

I went to the locker room and put on my swim suit. I went out to the hot spring pool area. They have an olympic size with warmish water, a mid sized one that was 3 or 4 feet deep that was a little hotter. One that was kind of an octagon with a shade over it that was warmer still. I tried this one first. Then the big one to do a couple of easy laps. There was a shallow one for kids with a couple of family groups. There were people from all over but 2 or 3 family groups were from Ukraine. I thought this was interesting because Ukraine has been in the news and most months over half the visitors to this page come from there. Web-bots I assume. Then a regular spa sized one that I figured was the real hot one. I didn't bother with those 2. I went for the middle sized one. It was just right. On a different day I would have stayed there longer but I had my fill already. The wrist band would let me back in all day if I needed more hot spring water time.  

The angst and frazzled feeling I had before I left Bakersfield was silenced. The drizzle was kind of neato when I was in the hot pools. Cool rain drops on my warm face. By the time I got dressed the clouds had parted and there was some sunshine. It was turning into a beautiful day. Time to forage for food. This was what I posted on my facebook page: That is just what I needed.
Baked in mud then soaked in mineral water and steamed. Followed by a quiet nap wrapped in blankets. Then a massage that went on and on.
After that I was free to use the hot mineral pools. And did. The town has many delightful restaurants. The rain and mist had cleared and it was a beautiful day so I decided it get deli food and eat outside.  

I sat in my new car with the windows rolled down and ate. Even food tastes better when you shake off the excess blah. Man I felt good. 

Didn’t want to leave. I had wanted to go a fair time. Napa County holds their fair in Calistoga. I drove around a little to find the fair grounds. It is also an RV park with not too bad rates. That done I drove back to St Helena and El Bonito. As soon as I got there I fell asleep. 

The meeting with my pal from the band of misfit partiers was at 7. I didn't want to eat much because I figured we’d end up at a restaurant. I did have a snack and watched local TV. I cut my cable 4-5 years ago and have a very low tolerance for commercials. Since I did bring my laptop along and there was free WiFi I watched a show on Hulu with the laptop sitting on my chest. I’m on vacation damnit why can’t I lie down?

We had agreed to meet at a grocery store in a nearby town. I programmed it into the Map App and it lead me there easily. A pleasant drive really. I got there first and waited outside. It happened again. I was standing outside the place minding my own business and twice middle aged women greeted me with more than the usual friendliness and eye contact. Alright my imagination. Country folk are just open and friendly that way. Sure. 

My old friend drove up. I got in and was warmly greeted. Bear hugs all around. So much to say. So much missing time to fill in. My description of this person is vague on purpose. His/her life and specific details, what little I know even after this meeting, have been withheld by request. Guess they didn't get the memo that personal details don’t have any real significance in the age of social networking. I should be flattered that someone thinks anyone actually sees this blog.  

While my old friend is probably more intelligent than I am (don’t say I said that) one reason we have always gotten along is that we share a similar cognitive uniqueness. ADD is a narrow and often inaccurate description for an array of cognitive characteristics. Cognitive Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) is one description. While a difficulty at times I have never liked the word disorder in either title. Open minded investigations indicate these characteristics are rooted in successful hunter gatherer behaviour. A combination of pattern recognition and a predilection to scanning the environment. Great for hunting and gathering. Not so good, at least in my case, for focusing on tasks like scientific experiments and reading books. One difference between us is old friend is one of the most remarkable guitarists I have ever met. That takes hours of concentration everyday. 

First my old friend just drove us around. We investigated the area till we spotted a place in the woods where we could park and talk. My old friend had developed a taste for cigars and we stepped out to smoke one. Old friend must have thought I was a maniac with all the talking. I never stopped. Relaxed from the spa and glad to see my old friend the nicotine buzz let the dogs out. I went on and on. Old friend is such an interesting person and withheld. We tried to piece together news of the others we knew back then.

This lead to a recollection of the time we organized a big party where the band at the time could play. We went to the store and got a variety of colorful vitamins, mixed them up with hard candies and put them into a pinata. Besides the band, this was a high point of the party. When the pinata broke some people were mad that we would give out “Drugs”. Others were mad that they were fake. We on the other hand were delighted. 

We finished smoking the cigars. I am a hypnotist and understand the power of the stories we tell ourselves, or believe in, to curate our perceptions. Early humans had no clothing. There are the accounts of feral children walking barefoot in the snow unaware that they are supposed to be cold. I long ago let go of having a set temperature for being cold or hot. At the change of seasons it takes a while to readjust but in general I have a wide comfort zone when it comes to temperature. That said, it was getting freaking cold. Time to look for food. It was already 9 and 

I didn't hold out much hope that anything was open. We did find one. We talked there for another hour or two till the staff had finished cleaning and wanted to go home. I am truly jazzed about my new plans for focusing on the development of imagination as key to making hypnosis work and the changes and improvements people want. I talked about that quite allot. Hope my old friend didn't get bored. It’s all so grown up and potentially useful. Not like our hedonistic days of long ago. 
Dropped me at my car and I went back to the motel all happy with life. 

 Time to go back home. For about 6 months I have been taking an improv workshop on wednesday nights at 6:30. Offered to me for free in the hopes that I can get good enough to be on a team of players that can perform at a new venue that is opening in Bakersfield. For a number of reasons this has been the high point of my week. The effects of no days off and my other types of dysphoria have limited my progress but with those things going away, and/or being managed, I am getting up to speed. This is no time to lose momentum. Besides it is just really really fun to do. 

The trip home was going to be one big jump. According to Map App it was going to take about 6 hours. I had filled up with fuel on Monday but wanted to avoid repeating the stress of that day. I have an app on my phone called Gasbuddy that is usually good at finding the cheapest gas. It was not co operating so I looked for a Costco with gas on the homeward side of San Francisco. A little drizzly but otherwise another great day. It occurred to me that I was so enamored with my iPad that I didn't even think of the phone’s Google Maps App. I had used it once before with great results. I used it to set my course and told Scotty to engage. (is it a mixed metaphone to have an original Star Trek and Next generation reference together?). 
Not to scale
Anyway even in the country it I was just in time for the commuter traffic. The App on the phone also has a voice that told me when a turn was coming up. This took the stress out of the traffic and I put myself into ‘follow the car ahead, but not too close’ mode. With only a couple of exceptions it even knew which way my car was going and gave me correct right/left directions. My guess is that since cell phones have GPS built in and the connection is more direct than my iPad has, it was able to keep up with me. I can’t complain, the Freedompop 3G data puck (MiFi) only costs $20 a month. Built in AT&T would have made the iPad cost more to buy and the monthly would have been over $50.

The drizzle turned into sometimes heavy but mostly that rain that has you adjusting the wipers all the time. As soon as I got to Kern County skies were clear. Finding the Costco with gas took me off the interstate into the wilds of Livermore for a time. I took the time to grab a few things not sold at the Costco where I live. At Santa Nella I stopped in for a quart of Pea Soup Andersen's pea soup to take home. 

One thing that I have complained about on earlier posts is this thing where my gluteus muscles are wasting away. Exercise pisses them off but helps a little, sometimes. Not driving the Wasco route and the spa treatment gave some relief. About 3 hours in; the pain was all I could think about. Shifting from one cheek to the other and stopping to walk around the car made it tolerable. This was the other reason for taking the trip up in 2 parts. 

Once back home my 2 small dogs were joyous beyond understanding to have me back. We layed down and took a nap together. My fellow improvisers; a nice bunch of people. All younger than me, most have known each other for many years. I don’t play video games, card games or other games except improv games. Darts is kind of a sport or game but they don't play. I admire comic books and graphic novels but only really engage in the movie versions. Not in a geeky way. They can go for hours with the most arcane (geeky) details. I heard a few of them talking about drinking maybe even smoking pot. I have kind of lost interest in that stuff the last decade or so. Guess I need to take up poker. 

So I sat quietly through class with flashes of my big out of town adventure distracting me in a delightful way. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Calistoga Vacation 2014

Part 4 of a 5 part travelogue.
This should be fun
I made special Google map of the trip so far. On it you can click the icons to zoom in and look at street view. Some places have lots of extra photos too.

Story is, that if you click on these words
you will be whisked off to a cool interactive map.

Below pictures I took on the trip. 
If you click one you will get a bigger version as a slide show. 
But not my occasionally clever captions.
The post below this one has the actual vacation part of the vacation.
For some reason the 5th part of this travelogue is on the next page.
At the bottom of this page click where it says Older Posts.
How I'll always remember ye Modesto
The tunnel to the Bay Bridge
On the bay Bridge. No line for the toll booth.
Suspension bridge but not the Golden Gate
This bridge is dbl decker. The deck below goes east
There it is San Francisco
Looking back from whence I came.
Now time to cross 6 lanes in the middle 2 are light rail.
Where did this come from? in the embarcadero?
Inside the Ferry Building - Shrooms!
It's like a mall but with stalls kind of like in the 3rd world except everyone smells nice.
Grow your own mushroom kit
Big display too.
Wait what's this next door? Baked goods?
Gluten free bakery?! neato!
In search of my friend's old digs - wrong end.
Here is the way in.
It this where the 103 year old lady's house was?
Or was it here.?
Wait now the other place was . . here?
Not here. 
The Golden Gate being eaten by fog.
I can see the other tower.
Damn those things are big.
My old sleeping place.
Looking back at San Fran from Sausalito side.
This was the view I woke up to.
And Horseshoe Bay also
Alcatraz - You can tell it isn't Alka-Seltzer because it isn't fizzing. 

Also the vista point
The unknown seaman.
San Fran has lots of unknown seamen.

Looking back the other way GG bridge.
Road from St Helena to Calistoga
Almost there. I can smell the sulphur now.
I would never have thought to do this.
Put a painting behind the headboard.
My room & new car.
Nice pool & spa at El Bonita Motel
Even a fountain. Loved this place.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's all about the journey on day 2.

Part 3 of a 5 part travelogue.
Finally the weekend came and it was Sunday. My appointment for the mud bath was at 3 P.M. on Monday. I had packed on Saturday but somehow with this and that I didn't get on the road till 7 P.M. Or so.

First stop; Fresno to visit my sister Stacey. She usually visits me but hadn't the time for a trip in months so it was my turn. In the past I had traveled the state quite allot. Not so much in the last 20 years and not at all the last 10. Back then I used paper maps. The folding kind. I went traveling so often then that I bought a Thomas guide. It was a spiral bound book that had an awkwardness of it’s own but was better than the big folding map when you were in the car. The new car has a few extra bells and whistles, even a touch screen in the dash but no pussy GPS thingy. I bought myself an iPad for christmas and have enjoyed it very much. It has the Apple Map App and the Google Maps App so I’m good to go. Part of this adventure will include navigation by tech gadget & App.

Stacey’s house was the first target on my Apple map app. I set it to beep at me when I was 20 miles away. It did and I called her at around 9:30 P.M.. Luckily she was still up and said it was okay to visit late. I pulled off the freeway and down the road to her house. She lives on a farm in the countryside about 10 miles west and a little south of the main part of Fresno. That is the way I remember it being arranged 15 years ago when I was there last. This is where the fun "Map App" subplot really begins. When I had been there before it was day time. All the new buildings threw me at first so I pulled into a parking lot to take a closer look at the map. There was a little arrow tracking where I was on the map. 

I pulled back on the road. New construction faded and I saw a little country store and other landmarks I kind of recalled. The little arrow on the map hadn't gotten to the turn but I didn't remember her street being this far out. I started looking for street signs but on a dark country road you are usually past them before you see them. I had noticed this earlier but my lovely new car has those fucking blue LED headlights. Until that very moment I thought the worst thing about blue headlights was the way they are way too bright when they come at you at night. I have no idea who thinks these things are a good idea. As I found out, they show an intense clear blue light on the roadway in from of you for 100 feet. No where else. No peripheral visibility at all. It’s like you are driving through the night in a tunnel. 
This is kind of the problem
Forget about road signs........ Anyway, I had passed her street so turned around and passed it again...... I got there after 10 PM. It should have taken 5 minutes. Whatever,...... I was glad to be away for Col. Baker’s fields. That’s what mattered. We talked non stop for an hour and a half or two. It was great to see her. She and Mike have made a cozy home for themselves with many cool extras only they would have.

Back on CA-99. Next stop Modesto. I figured that in the morning a stop over in San Francisco for lunch would be just a hop and a skip away. It occurred to me that I had never gone all the way up CA-99 past Fresno before. For those long trips I always took I-5. Not that I was enjoying any new scenery what with the blue headlights and all. After a couple of hours the little arrow thing had moved but I didn't trust it. I got off the freeway to look for food and all I found was a Circle K where got a couple of hot dogs and a drink. Ironically the only 2 places open in Wasco after midnight were the 2 Circle K stores. This was about the time I would have been at one of them. Huh.
Funny the people you run into in Bumbfuck California
I asked the clerk where I was and where Modesto was. He and the customer that was there were quite warm and friendly. Turns out I was past Madera but south of Merced. Atwater wherever that is. Modesto was north. Still over hour to go. Once at the edge of Modesto I set the app to plot a course to the cheap motel I had booked for the night. This turned into another fiasco of wrong turns, missed exits and missing street signs. I blamed being sleepy and 6 hours on the road. I’m better than this with technology. Usually.
Cheapo motel was clean and all I needed it for was 6 or 7 hours of sleep and I was off again.

There ought to be a law. A ‘not everybody is from around here’ law. As soon as I got into the car and the little MiFi puck got logged on I plotted my course to San Francisco. This time I zoomed the screen in and out and got the lay of the land the best I could. It wanted me to go south which didn't sound right but I didn't see any easier way to get to the main highways going west towards the bay. I had all but given up on the little arrow on the map keeping up with me. I headed south out of town toward an intersection that I was to turn west on. I thought I was there but there were no street signs telling what street. I turned around and went back to see if I could see any street signs but had to go miles since I was again in the countryside where streets are miles apart. This went on for a while and I was at last on a road I assumed would lead me to I-580 and to the bay. I brought food and beverages in a cooler to save time and money. My morning didn't really get going till I spotted a drive thru coffee hut and got a hot mocha.
This business of no street indicating signs was to be a recurring theme. What are they thinking? “The people that live here know what street is what, fuck those strangers and their tourist dollars”.  There ought to be a law. Sorry I already said that.
Ah Ha! So someone is hoarding them all.
The trip to the Bay Bridge took longer than I would have hoped but it was a nice day, cool with just enough overcast to cut the glare and let the colors saturate. One thing I remembered learning from my earlier journeys to the north was to have a task, Even a small one, something to find, a quest as it were. Just walking around as a tourist is boring and you don’t learn anything. Besides wandering herds of tourists look too much like schools of feeder fish. Walking chum.

Once in San Francisco my mission was to find places that sell gluten free food items. I miss french bread and other things I used to eat. I’m not really obsessed with it. I treat it like a hobby. But remember what I said about having a quest. In advance I did a little research and pre loaded the location of several places into the map app from my desktop computer. My first pilgrimage was to a gluten free grocery. Once I was able to stop and give the map a good look I saw that the desktop version of the app left out the note indicating that the place was temporarily closed. The others were mostly restaurants and I wasn’t hungry. It’s a tourist place but a nice one so I went to the old ferry building in the embarcadero district. This is the location of a gluten free bakery. One thing about San Fran that I remembered but block from my mind is the parking. Every parking space in the city is filled at all times. There are not even places to stop and survey the terrain or look at a map. Glancing at the iPad at stop lights I made my way to the embarcadero area. After what seems like an hour of driving around 4 spaces in front of the post office that were “No Stopping” from 6AM till 10AM opened up. It was 10AM. I think this was the 2nd time I had used a parking meter that takes debit cards. Space age.
It was a short walk and not only did I find gluten free baked goods but one stall had shelves and shelves of exotic mushrooms. Once upon a time I belonged to the LA Mycological society. This was a glorious find. I got a cinnamon roll and a croissant. And a bag of dried Lion's Mane Mushroom. I haven’t tried it yet but the story is that it tastes like lobster and is easy to grow. (money making opportunity?)

During most of the 80s my best friend was a person known by one name that I called them by anyway. My old friend was called another name in one band. In a different band my old friend was something else. For a time in our band of misfit partiers the special name was an homage to Maceo Parker, James Brown’s Saxophonist and side man. Hey I said we were partiers. We were usually very drunk and/or stoned in those days) Sad story short my old friend drank till my old friend could drink no more. Sober my old friend moved with remarkable guitar skills to the bay area to seek destiny. 
They had the hardest time finding a drummer.
After a year or two in San Jose my old friend moved to San Francisco and got a roommate. Many of my visits to northern California were to visit my pal from the band of misfit partiers and look for what sober adventures we could find in the city. There are lots as it turns out. On one visit my old friend and one other took me for a tour of the underground nightlife. I remember one place in a basement. Packed in with a couple hundred (it seemed) screaming sweating lesbiens and a punk band. Not altogether unpleasant but I was glad to be out of there. 
There are many distinct neighborhoods in the small area that San Francisco takes up. Was I looking for SOMA (south of market area) ? or The Tenderloin? Or?

Anyway the old San Francisco of the 60s is gone forever. No low or even middle income housing remains. Tech industry hipsters and other kinds of people with money are the only ones who can afford to live there. The place is rife with gentrification. A few years back the house they lived in was sold for big bucks. So that was that for San Francisco. The house and I guess the apartments next door were torn down and replaced with stacks of million dollar plus condos. I had hours till my appointment in Calistoga so I went on a mini quest to find the old place. This turned into a jumble of half remembered streets, missing street signs and the map app always telling me to turn the wrong way. I finally found the street. Just like when you pick up a plastic bag and inevitably try to open the closed end first, I found the out end of the one way street first. Pictures are in the next blog post down. 

Time to beat it out of town and on north. I switched from the Apple map app to the Google maps app but that was little help. Neither app seemed to ever know which way my car was pointed and the tracking me thing was always off. It would be helpful if the map stayed true to north no matter which way you held the iPad but it doesn't do that. Maybe it does but like I said there was no place to park and figure out how to make it do that.  It took longer than I wanted to get to the GG bridge. This map navigation thing was stressing me out. I did finally make it to the Golden Gate Bridge. No toll leaving the city. Yay! See photos below.

At the Sausalito end of the bridge there is a vista point. In 1990-1-2 or there abouts I had a minivan set up as a cargo van (no side windows). After a Saturday night of partying in the city. Comedy clubs were still a very big thing at the time. I would back into one of the spaces there to sleep. I woke up to a remarkable view of the bay and the city. One that the high rollers in the fancy hotels didn’t even get. I did this a number of times with only one strange incident. One morning I awoke to noises outside the minivan. When I opened my eyes operating a rake or some similar instrument was a giant dyke in an orange jump suit right outside my window. Crews of prisoners clean the place up on Sunday mornings I came to know. The back window and the one in the side door were tinted so I laid quietly in my sleeping bag till she left. Then I drove on, in search of breakfast at a big farmers market I knew of .
Huge farmers market at the Marin Center (Frank Lloyd Wright)
In theory the new car would go 440 miles on a tank of gas. That is if you are going 55 on a slight downhill grade the whole way. As you have read, my driving was varied. The fancy schmancy readout on the dash tracks all of this and gives a constant update of how many miles you can still go on the gas you have left. I had 36 miles I could go. The first gas station that I spotted displayed $4.25 a gallon. Yikes! I had a vague memory of discount gas on up the road but didn’t remember just how far. This part of the world is not like back home where there are gas stations every few blocks. Back that up, even back home doesn't have that any more. Time slip. 20 miles of range left. I’m screwed no gas stations in sight. One of the happy functions of the maps apps is that they know where to get gas. No help there. Then I was out of cell range so no data. If you look at the area on a map there is allot going on. Out the window is open space. Ok intuition if you are such hot stuff, do your thing. North was not working out so I turned off and went east-ish. There must be civilization over that hill. Okay the next hill. Okay I’ll turn right again. Now I am on a kind of low bridge or thin strip of land with a marsh on both sides. No end in sight and I have 5 miles of range left. Now zero miles of range left. Land ho! The sign says Mare Island. The first set of buildings look like the set of a post apocalyptic movie. Huge industrial buildings with hundreds of windows. Many broken out. A different sign said it was a naval base so I went that way. After some twists and turns I saw houses and a town. Finally gas. On my receipt it said I was in Vallejo.
The maps app said it was 43 miles or 57 minutes to Calistoga. My appointment was in an hour. Crap! I called and begged them to move my appointment to the next morning. Yes! they had an opening at 10:15 AM.
This must have been taken while it still had a few windows.
Suddenly I am free to move about the state. I’m remembering now. I had several trips like that; where I just set out and drove. Most times alone but with one of more members of the band of misfit partiers I spoke of earlier too. The muse almost a tangible presence. One such journey landed me in Petaluma having the most surreal and delightful dinner of my life. I want to go there. One of the gluten free restaurants on the list with very good reviews was in Petaluma. More digital misdirection and missing signs but I finally found the place. The tech wasn’t all to blame. It was inside some other kind of building that had been made into shop spaces of different kinds. So now I know what they meant by “Nestled in the historic Great Petaluma Mill”.  It was kind of small but efficiently designed I sat at the bar with a view of the kitchen. I told the proprietress that I had grown up in a restaurant and admired the way her staff worked in the small space. I had a margherita pizza and iced tea. I was complimentary but it was no better than I make. Except that I didn't have to make it.
The trip to my lovely little El Bonita Motel was easy and smooth. The desk clerk was very helpful and pointed me to a local market. This is when my trip really began to have the northern California feel.