Tag Archive | San Francisco

4 Chicks and a Little Bitch: San Francisco Japanese Garden

Day 4, Thursday, March 29, 2018

On Thursday morning, we split up in the morning because Laura and Brenna wanted to try to get Alcatraz walkup tickets.  Lelani dropped them off at the Pier and came back to grab me; lucky for them they did manage to get walkup tickets and had a great time at Alcatraz!

Lelani and I went to Golden Gate Park, and while Lelani took Shaka on a walk, I went to the Japanese Garden.  I had been wanting to go to there for years, and I finally got the chance!  The San Francisco Japanese Garden is the oldest public Japanese Garden in the United States; it was originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition.  The original garden was about an acre but has been expanded over time to about 5 acres.

It really is a beautiful garden.  I wandered around and looked at all the little ponds and water features, the pagodas, and the manicured shrubs.  They have a zen garden too.

There were cherry blossoms on the ornamental cherry trees that were beautiful, and the Koi in the ponds were relaxing to watch, as they swam over to see if you would feed them.  If you have a chance to go, it is absolutely worth the time.  It is a gorgeous garden!

After the Japanese Garden, we headed over to the waterfront to pick up Laura and Brenna, and then went to The Hook for fish and chips.  It was delicious – and the sun was getting hot!

Lelani wanted to try on some of the clothes we had seen the day before in Haight-Ashbury so we went back over there and found the shop again – Ambiance.  I ended up finding two cute cold-shouldered tops and was so happy with my purchases!

My new Ambiance top

What a fun day and it was only half over!

4 Chicks and a Little Bitch: The Presidio & Coit Tower

Day 3, Wednesday, March 28, 2018

After we went to the Sutro Baths, we still had plenty left on the agenda.  We saw the Legion of Honor Museum when we drove by it, and one day I want to visit – but that will have to be a different trip.

We were ready for lunch, so we went over to the Magnolia Gastropub in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.  Oh wow, this place was good.  I had the Bombay Bubbles IPA (YUM!) and the Fried Chicken sandwich with a salad. It was soooo delicious!

My beer at Magnolia

 

My fried chicken sandwich

We did some window shopping and Lelani tried on some clothes at a cute little boutique.

I found a dinosaur!

After that we went to the Presidio at Fort Point. Fort Point was built between 1853 and 1861 to protect the San Francisco Bay at the height of the gold rush.  It was designed in the Army’s Third System style, a style adopted in the 1820s, and was the only Fort west of the Mississippi River to be built in this style.  It was in use as an active fort up through World War II, although it never fired a shot at an enemy.

When the Golden Gate Bridge was being constructed in the 1930s, there was discussion of tearing down the now obsolete fort, but fortunately the bridge’s Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss saw the historical significance of the fort and designed an arch that would allow the bridge to be built over the existing fort structure.  I am so glad it could be saved.  Unfortunately the fort is currently only open Fridays through Sundays, so we weren’t able to go inside.  The interior is certainly on my list of places to see!

We walked along the water and climbed the steps down and up from the parking area – that was quite a workout!  We considered walking across the bridge, and I definitely want to do it sometime, but we were worried that all the traffic and the people might be too much and too dangerous for a puppy.  Next time – another thing for my bucket list!

We headed to another area of the Presidio for a late afternoon glass of wine at Sessions restaurant.  I had their happy hour white (twice…); the Ressó 2017 Garnacha Blanc – it was delicious!  I also had two oysters on the half shell, because at happy hour prices of $1.50 each, who wouldn’t?!!  Well, someone who doesn’t like raw oysters, but…  They were amazing!

My wine at Sessions

We sat at their outdoor seating, and it was so nice to just sit outside on a glorious, sunny, hot, March San Francisco day.  Those adjectives don’t normally go with San Francisco, and certainly not in March, so we really soaked it in!  And the folks at Sessions allow dogs in their outdoor seating, you just have to take the dog in through the side door on the patio, so we could linger for a while.  Our server even brought Shaka dog biscuits and a bowl of water!

Our last sightseeing stop of the day was up at Coit Tower.  I had been twice before and loved it each time, and so had Lelani, but the girls had never been.  It was too late in the day to go up to the top (if you get the chance to you should), but we had enough time to do a circuit of the bottom part of the tower.  That’s where (most of) the murals are.

Coit Tower

The murals…  Coit Tower’s murals were painted in 1934 as a part of a Public Works of Art Project, the first of the New Deal employment projects for artists during the Great Depression.  They were painted in the Social Realism style, and depict commerce and industry subjects.  Interestingly, I learned while fact-checking for this blog post, that there are more murals on the second floor that are largely closed to the public.  However, you can see these murals, which depict recreation, if you take a tour (there are some free and some paid tours available).  How did I never know this?!  Yet another reason to visit Coit Tower!

A mural wine shop!

 

Coit Tower Industry

We headed back to our AirBnB for a bit of relaxing before we walked up the street to Zen Sushi for dinner.  This tiny, cramped restaurant had some excellent sushi!  It was a great end to a really good day.

 

4 Chicks and a Little Bitch: Sutro Baths

Day 3, Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Despite being up so late the night before, we got up at about 8 am the next day, and were all ready and out about 9 am.  I guess that’s the thing about getting old – there is no sleeping in!

We headed down to the Presidio, and although it took a bit of wandering, we found the Sutro Baths, within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  I got my passport stamps at the Visitor’s Center and we headed down to check out the site.

Sutro Baths below

The Sutro Baths were built in the late 1800s along the cliffs of the Land’s End area of San Francisco, intended to be a European style bath house for the residents of San Francisco.  They were huge, 500 by 255 feet, with 6 saltwater pools and one freshwater pool, 7 slides, 30 swinging rings and a spring diving board.

At high tide, water would flow directly into the pool from the ocean, and at low tide, pumps would fill the water into the baths.

The complex also had a 2700 seat amphitheater and 517 private dressing rooms.  Ultimately, the high cost of operation drove the baths out of business, and it was converted into an ice skating rink, which closed in 1964.  In 1966, as it was being demolished for make way for a high rise apartment complex, it was destroyed by an arson fire.  It is unclear why the apartments weren’t built after that, but it has been a ruin ever since.

Rocks at the Sutro Baths

The cave near the baths

The site also has a path that goes above the ruins, leading to an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was so sunny and warm for March – the view was spectacular!

The Sutro Baths are ruins are free and open to the public.  It was so pretty there, being right on the ocean wandering among the ruins!

San Francisco 2018: 4 Chicks and a Little Bitch

March 26 – April 1, 2018

So, I went out to dinner with my girlfriend Lelani and her daughter Laura sometime in February, and the topic of a spring break road trip came up (Laura was in college).  Lelani, Laura and Laura’s friend Brenna were already committed, so they had room for one more adventurous soul-searcher.  It seemed intriguing, but I had so much going on in March, and I had just booked my trip to London for late June, so doing another week long vacation seemed like a bit much.  Plus, one of my employees was going to be out of the office that same week, so it seemed like a lot of burden for my other two employees.

But the idea kept coming up, and I wouldn’t even have to plan anything – I could just show up and go along for the ride!  So, a few weeks later I talked to my two employees and they assured me that they would be happy to have me skedaddle for spring break so they could have a quiet week.  A road trip was born!

Lelani and Laura had planned a route that included heading down I-5 to Eugene, then cutting over to the Oregon Coast and taking the coastal route through Santa Rosa into San Francisco.  We would spend 3 nights in San Francisco, and then take the same coastal route back up through Oregon and Washington.  The trip would commence on Monday (Lelani couldn’t leave until then), and return home on Sunday.  Accommodations would be camping on the Oregon coast the first night, 3 nights in an AirBnB in San Francisco, another night camping on the Oregon Coast, and one night spent in Portland, Oregon before heading home.

Camping on the coast in late March seemed risky, but hey, if worse came to worst we could always find lodging with a solid roof over our heads to shelter from the rain – surely everything wouldn’t be booked on the coast in March.  And if things were really bad, there were four of us, and we could always drive in shifts until we got to somewhere we thought we wanted to be – right!  This is sounding ominous, and I assure you, it never turned out like that – we never even stumbled upon the Bates Motel, or the Hotel California…

My next posts will be telling you about the 4 Chicks and a Little Bitch Road Trip 2018 – yes, we named our road trip – and in case you were wondering, the little bitch was Lelani’s 5 month old puppy Shaka, who came along for the ride.  What an adventure this would turn out to be!

 

 

Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 10

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

SF-Japanese-Garden

San Francisco Japanese Garden, March 2018

Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 2

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

Me with the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, March 2018

California Road Trip: A Day in San Francisco

In my last two posts, I described our morning at Alcatraz Island.  Once we got back on the ferry to the mainland after our trip to Alcatraz, it wasn’t even noon yet.  The day was still young!  We walked over to Ghiradelli Square so I could get some chocolates for my co-workers, and we took a couple of photos there.  To be honest, I’m not quite sure why Ghiradelli Square always tops the tourist lists of things to do.  I had trouble finding chocolate there that I couldn’t find at the grocery store back home…  Neither Jon nor I were feeling in the mood for a sundae, so that was a brief stop and then we were on our way again.

Ghiradelli Square - Why is this a Tourist Attraction?

Ghiradelli Square – Why is this a Tourist Attraction?

We hiked up the hill to our next destination – Lombard Street, aka “the Crookedest Street.”  We were there four years ago, on our first-ever vacation as a couple.  This section of the street has 8 switchbacks in one block, in order to make the 51% grade manageable for vehicles!  I’m not sure who ever thought that would be a good idea!  Apparently there is some dispute about whether it really is the crookedest street – it seems insane that some other city planner somewhere created something similar!  It was fun to get pictures at the same place at the base of the street.  Strangely, I was even wearing the same jacket!

Me at Lombard Street - the Crookedest Street

Me at Lombard Street – the Crookedest Street

Jon and Me at the Crookedest Street in February 2009 - 4 Years Younger!

Jon and Me at the Crookedest Street in February 2009 – 4 Years Younger!

After Lombard Street we walked over to Coit Tower – another place that we visited on our 2009 trip.  Coit Tower was built to honor the memory of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who was a wealthy socialite who lived from 1843 to 1929.  She often pitched in to help firefighters of the day get their engines up the steep hills of the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, and was well known for wearing trousers and gambling when it was not appropriate for women to do so.  When she died in 1929, she left about a third of her wealth (about $118,000) to the City of San Francisco, with instructions to use it for civic beautification.  Coit Tower was the selected design from a contest that was held for ideas for a memorial on Telegraph Hill.

Me at the Base of Coit Tower

Me at the Base of Coit Tower

Coit Tower From Below

Coit Tower From Below

When you go inside Coit Tower, you find that the entire base is decorated with a series of murals, painted as a part of a New Deal employment project by the Public Works Administration during the Great Depression.  The murals are amazing – very detailed and well done, and they provide a thought-provoking social commentary that is still relevant today.  We spent quite a while going all around the base looking at the murals, but decided not to take the elevator up to the top of the tower on this trip.

Coit Tower Mural - Notice the Robbery at Front Right and the Car Accident at Rear Center

Coit Tower Mural – Notice the Robbery at Front Right and the Car Accident at Rear Center

Mural of a Horse at Coit Tower - And a Cow, But It's Awesome Because of the Horse!

Mural of a Horse at Coit Tower – And a Cow, But It’s Awesome Because of the Horse!

After Coit Tower, we walked back to the hotel, through Chinatown, and rested our legs and feet for a little while.  Then we navigated the bus system so Jon could make the trip over to the Haight-Ashbury district for a stop at his favorite record store – Amoeba.  The bus driver was really patient with us as we fumbled around trying to figure out which bus to get on, and she even gave us free fares!  It is nice to find people who are so helpful in big cities.  And Jon loved his record store visit as well (as if you had any doubts!).

After our Haight-Ashbury excursion, we had intended to head to North Beach to find a nice little Italian restaurant that we had been to before.  But there wasn’t a bus that would take us directly from Haight-Ashbury to North Beach, and we would end up in the vicinity of our hotel again and then have to transfer.  As we had been walking all day, and had probably been at least 8 miles at that point, we decided to find something near our hotel.  I had seen an Asian fusion restaurant around the corner from the hotel and we decided to check it out.  We were not disappointed!

We walked into E&O Asian Kitchen about 7, and it was just getting busy.  Even though we didn’t have a reservation, they were able to seat us right away at a small pub-style table near the bar.  We checked out the wine list and made our selections.  I ordered a French Rosé called Triennes, from Provence, which is made primarily from Cinsault with small amounts of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blended in.  It was very tart and citrusy, and I enjoyed it immensely.  Jon ordered a 2010 Cristom Pinot Gris, an Oregon winemaker – his was good too, with more pear flavor, but I liked mine better.

For food, E&O does a lot of small plates, like tapas that are meant for sharing.  We ordered the Satay Platter, which came with four different types of kebabs, and you got two of each.  They were:

  • Hangar Steak – marinated with ginger, garlic and soy
  • Chicken – free-range chicken marinated with lemongrass, tumeric and peanut sauce
  • Shrimp – marinated in Thai basil and mango
  • Portobello mushroom – with a soy glaze

The dish came with pickled vegetables – carrots and cucumbers, which were a nice accompaniment to the rich meats and sauces.  We also ordered the local asparagus, which was seasoned with sesame, ginger, miso and egg and grilled.  And we had the wood roasted edamame with shiso fumi furikake and maldon salt.  To be honest, I don’t even know what that means, but they were amazing edamame!  This meal was one of the best of our trip!

E&O Asian Kitchen - Satay Platter and Local Asparagus - YUM!

E&O Asian Kitchen – Satay Platter and Local Asparagus – YUM!

If you think you might want to check it out, here’s their website: http://www.eosanfrancisco.com/.  My only word of caution would be that the dress code is a bit dressy/stylish/yuppie (as might be expected in San Francisco).  Jon was wearing a college hoodie sweatshirt and felt underdressed.  But don’t worry, nobody looked at him funny or said anything either…

And with the glow from that amazing meal, we wrapped up another day in San Francisco.  I took a bath in the clawfoot tub of the hotel to pamper my overused feet, and reflected on a fantastic day!

And you if you are interested in checking out what I wrote about our 2009 San Francisco trip, back when I first started this blog:

California Road Trip: Alcatraz Island Federal Penitentiary

In my last post, I explored the history of Alcatraz Island prior to its time as a federal maximum security prison.  But no visit to The Rock would be complete without seeing the prison building.  The cell block that visitors see today was constructed between 1909 and 1912, and became home to federal prisoners in 1933 when the Army Fortress was deactivated and transferred to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Alcatraz Island Penitentiary Sign

Alcatraz Island Penitentiary Sign

When you visit, you receive an audio tour (available in several languages) with headphones to wander around the prison and hear about the various areas of the prison. The audio tour also gives you information about some of the prisoners that were housed at Alcatraz, their daily lives in captivity, and details about the building itself.  The tour is narrated by several of the former guards and inmates, and informational posters give you some details on these men.

A Few of the General Population Cells

A Few of the General Population Cells

Me During My Incarceration

Me During My Incarceration

The prison had over 600 cells during its military prison days, but during its time as a federal prison there were 336 regular cells, 36 segregation cells and 6 solitary confinement cells in use. The rest were used as storage. The regular cells were 9 ft. by 5 ft.; smaller than the segregation cells which were 9 ft. by 7 ft.  The general population lived in cells along two main corridors, and there were 3 stories of cells looking out onto each corridor.  At one end was a gun gallery where guards had a clear view of the corridors and the fronts of the cells.

One of the General Population Cells at Alcatraz - 5 Feet by 9 Feet

One of the General Population Cells at Alcatraz – 5 Feet by 9 Feet

We got to see “The Hole” – the solitary confinement cells where prisoners were housed when they got unruly. In the hole, you were alone and confined in the dark for 24 hours each day – no exercise, no entertainment, no nothing.  You didn’t even get a toilet or a sink – just a hole in the floor – YUCK…  It was different than I expected though – I thought those cells would be in a basement or dungeon. Instead, they were right on the main floor with all the other cells – it only got dreary once they put you in that room and closed the window in the door.

The tour doesn’t talk about this, but legend has it that a malevolent presence with glowing red eyes terrorized prisoners in “The Hole” – supposedly one man screamed throughout the night about this entity, but when guards checked to see if he was alone they found nothing with him. However, in the morning the man had stopped screaming and was found dead, with hand marks around his neck. Guards are said to have counted an extra inmate that morning at role call; the dead man was seen in the lineup and then disappeared.

"The Hole" Cells in Cell Block D - the Treatment Unit.  No Inmate Could Be Assigned to The Hole for More Than 19 Days

“The Hole” Cells in Cell Block D – the Treatment Unit. No Inmate Could Be Assigned to The Hole for More Than 19 Days

And of course, the tour details the escape attempts. During the life of the federal prison, there were 14 escape attempts involving 36 prisoners. Of these prisoners; 23 were recaptured, 6 were shot and killed, 2 drowned and 5 are missing and presumed dead.  Three of these men dug out of their cells using homemade tools and spoons, climbed up the pipes through the utility corridors to the roof, made it down to the ground, and set out in homemade rafts and were never seen nor heard from again.

The Cell that John Anglin Dug Out of in 1962.  He Made it Off the Island, But Was Never Heard From Again, and Presumed Drowned.

The Cell that John Anglin Dug Out of in 1962. He Made it Off the Island, But Was Never Heard From Again, and Presumed Drowned.

The most famous of the escape attempts is called the Battle of Alcatraz, and it occurred in 1946.  A group of 6 prisoners (there were 3 ringleaders), managed to overpower a guard while he was searching an inmate who was returning to his cell.  They then used a homemade bar spreader to spread the bars that protected the gun gallery (the thinnest inmate starved himself so he could fit between the bars).  At this point, they were armed and thought they had the keys to let themselves out.  However, a brave guard had handed over all the keys, except the one they needed.  He had hidden that one key in the toilet of the cell where he was being held hostage.  They were trapped.

The Actual Bars and Bar Spreader From the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946

The Actual Bars and Bar Spreader From the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946

Meanwhile, other guards were returning to the cell block from duties guarding the prisoners working during the day, and they were captured one by one as they returned.  When they didn’t check in, another guard was sent to check… and another… and another…  After some time, the inmates had nine guards held hostage.  The inmates were frustrated at this point because without the key to the door, there was no escape, so they decided to kill the guards who could testify against them.  They fired into the cells were the guards were being held.  Five were wounded, three seriously, and one guard, Bill Miller, later died of his wounds.  At that point, 3 of the inmates figured they should distance themselves from the situation and returned to their cells; the other three decided they wouldn’t surrender.  They got up on top of the cell block to fight it out.

The other guards had figured out what was going on by this point, and entered the gun gallery – a massive firefight occurred – one guard was killed and four others were wounded.  Prison officials then cut the electricity and waited for night to fall.  Guards went back into the gun gallery to provide cover for several other guards who entered the cell block unarmed in order to free the captive guards.  The guards in the gun gallery couldn’t get a clean shot at the inmates perched on top of the cell block though, so after the captive guards were freed and evacuated, they called in some heavier firepower – The Marines.  The Marines shelled the prison, and drilled holes in the roof and dropped grenades in to corner the inmates.  They were eventually trapped in a utility corridor.

The Gun Gallery at the End of the Cell Block - Where Armed Guards Kept an Eye on Inmates

The Gun Gallery at the End of the Cell Block – Where Armed Guards Kept an Eye on Inmates

The Marines entered the building and fired into the utility corridor at intervals throughout the day – the three inmates were killed in the corridor.  The three other inmates who had returned to their cells had been identified by the guards, and were tried for their roles in the escape attempt and the murder of the two guards – two were executed and the third received an additional life sentence.  As a result of the Battle of Alcatraz, security was increased and there was not another escape attempt until 1956.

The prison was closed in 1963, because operating costs on Alcatraz were more than three times what it cost at other federal prisons in the country (more than $10 per prisoner per day vs. $3 elsewhere).  Additionally, residents of San Francisco were becoming increasingly frustrated with the sewage being discharged in the bay from the prisoners and the guards and families that lived there. The last prisoners were moved to other correctional facilities around the country.

All in all, Alcatraz is a very lonely place.  Inmates in the early years were not allowed to talk, and throughout the prison years, inmates could have one visit from family once a month.  Inmates typically worked during the day, but outside of work, inmates were only allowed one hour each day of recreation.  The day we were there, it was very cold, and that was on an unseasonably warm, sunny March day in San Francisco.  It must have been brutally cold there in winter.  During the history of the federal prison, 15 prisoners died of natural causes, 5 committed suicide and 8 were murdered. 3 guards were also murdered during escape attempts.

Even though there are tons of people everywhere inside the prison, the tour is pretty good at moving you through efficiently, so it isn’t as claustrophobic as you might imagine. Jon is frequently annoyed around crowds, and Alcatraz didn’t bother him at all. And of course the other areas of the island are not crowded at all, because people really just want to see the prison.  We really enjoyed our visit and it was well worth getting up so early in the morning.  If you have the opportunity – GO!  But do buy your tickets online, well before your visit!

California Road Trip: The History of Alcatraz Island

On our full day in San Francisco, we started out by getting up really early to go to Alcatraz Island.  I was really looking forward to this part of the trip, and it almost didn’t happen.  You see, I looked at the website, and it told me that during the peak season, tickets could sell out a week in advance.  No worries, I thought – we were going in March.  On a weekday.  But I didn’t know quite which days we would be in San Francisco and what else we would be doing there.

So, when I went to book the tickets, they were sold out…  For the next nine days…  I was really bummed!  But I did some sleuthing and found some internet rumors that you could purchase same day tickets on a walk-up basis for the first boat each day.  You had to get in line early, because they were first-come, first-served.  Once the 40 or 50 tickets were sold, the rest of the people in line were out of luck.

Luckily, Jon loves me, and agreed to get up super-early to get in line for the Black Friday of Alcatraz Island tickets.  Since we were walking, we had to head out from the hotel for the 1.7 mile walk to the pier – at 6:00 am!  How’s that for nerdly dedication!  The ticket booth opened at 7:30, and we got there at 6:40 – we were the second couple in line, behind a dental student from Los Angeles and his wife (they were friendly and we had a lot of time to chat).  The internet rumors were true, and they did have the promised holy grail of walk-up tickets.  So, we had tickets on the first ferry to go out to the island at 8:45 am, but you have to get ready to board the boat at 8:20 am.

We got on the boat with about 150 of our closest friends and headed out.  The trip over to the island was nice; we got some good views of the city and I was able to get some good photos. It was pretty cold though – San Francisco was warm that day – about 65 in the afternoon, but I had to wear my winter coat, gloves and hat during the trip (granted it didn’t help that we had been standing around in the cold for a couple of hours at that point).  Alcatraz is about 1.5 miles out from the mainland, so it didn’t take long and the ride was pretty smooth.

San Francisco from the Alcatraz Ferry

San Francisco from the Alcatraz Ferry

I’m sure that you all know that Alcatraz was a federal prison for thirty years, from 1933 to 1963. But you may not know that Alcatraz has a history that extends much further back. Alcatraz was first formed when it pushed up into the Bay about 10,000 years ago.  The local Indians believed that the island was cursed, but there is some evidence that they traveled out to the island to collect bird eggs. Spanish explorers first “discovered” it in 1775 and named it La Isla de los Alcatraces (the island of the pelicans). The Spanish built a few buildings on the island but didn’t do much else with it. The Americans purchased the island in 1850 and set about creating a military garrison post there; in order to shore up the coastal defenses protecting San Francisco.

The U.S. Government also decided that it would be a good place for a lighthouse to guide ships into San Francisco Bay. So Alcatraz Island became home to the first lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States in 1854.  The original lighthouse was built with a third order Fresnel Lens.  The first keeper was paid $750 a year – barely enough to cover his food.  Unsurprisingly, he was dismissed because he was absent for long periods from the lighthouse – probably because he had a second job…

The lighthouse currently on the island replaced the original lighthouse in 1909, because when the Army decided to build the current cell house structure, it became apparent that the original lighthouse would not be tall enough to be seen over the structure and the buildings and sheds were considered unsightly.  The current lighthouse is 84 feet tall and constructed from cement.  It was automated in 1963, and is still in use today, operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Warden's House Ruin and the Lighthouse on Alcatraz Island

The Warden’s House Ruin and the Lighthouse on Alcatraz Island

While the first lighthouse was being constructed, building was also going on for the military garrison. Eventually the garrison would house about 200 men.  During the Civil War, Alcatraz was used to house war prisoners, which was its first use as a prison. During this period, building continued, and by the end of the Civil War, they realized that the defensive technology being utilized at Alcatraz was largely being rendered obsolete by new advances. It was at that point that officials decided to change the focus of Alcatraz from a defensive structure to a detention site. A brick jailhouse was built in 1867, and the island began being used as a long-term detention center for military prisoners in 1868 (confederates caught on the west coast were among the first military prisoners housed there). It just grew from there.

Alcatraz Island - Buildings (L to R): Lighthouse, Warden's House Ruin, Cell Block Building, Barracks/Apartments

Alcatraz Island – Buildings (L to R): Lighthouse, Warden’s House Ruin, Cell Block Building, Barracks/Apartments

The Spanish-American War gave the island a whole new crop of military prisoners, expanding the population to about 450. The 1906 earthquake generated the first batch of civilian prisoners, when prisoners from the mainland were transferred there after the earthquake to ensure that they would not escape. During World War I, conscientious objectors were imprisoned at Alcatraz.

Alcatraz Island  - The Cell Block Building is in the Upper Left

Alcatraz Island – The Cell Block Building is in the Upper Left

The Island contains several buildings from before the federal prison era  – some are still intact and some are in ruins.  The original brick barracks, built in the 1860s, were added onto in 1905, resulting in the structure that is seen today right next to the dock.  During the prison era, the soldiers’ barracks were remodeled into apartments for the guards and their families.    The Chapel was built in the 1920s, but despite its name, it wasn’t used as a chapel.  Instead, it was living space for single officers and workshops.  The Post Exchange/Officers Club was built in 1910, and was a general store where soldiers could buy goods.  During the prison era, it functioned as a recreation hall with a dance hall and bowling alley.

Military Chapel Building - Built 1910 - Mission Revival Architectural Style

Military Chapel Building – Built 1910 – Mission Revival Architectural Style

Sadly, the Post Exchange, Warden’s House and the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters were burned in a 1970 fire during the Indian Occupation of the Island.  The light tower was also damaged by the fire.  There is still some dispute about the cause of the fire; the official story is that it was accidental.  I do find it curious though, because the Post Exchange isn’t near the Warden’s House and Lighthouse; and the Military Chapel is in between and it didn’t burn.

I really enjoyed wandering around the island and checking out the ruined structures; and we hadn’t even been inside the prison yet!  I’ll post about that next!

California Road Trip: Getting to San Francisco in One Piece

After visiting Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, we got on the road to head into San Francisco.  It was a bit of a rough and tumble (literally!) drive!  We were driving along on the freeway and Jon had moved out of the left lane to allow an SUV to pass us.  It had two bikes on a bike rack in the back.  And then it didn’t!  One of the bikes fell off the rack right into the middle of the freeway lane!  Fortunately, there was nobody (especially us!) in the lane behind them, and the bike bounced a couple of times and landed mostly over on the shoulder of the fast lane.  Ouch – that’s a pricey mistake!  I’m not sure how you would get your bike back.

We were feeling especially lucky that we hadn’t gotten into a wreck with a large bicycle, so the rest of the heavy traffic heading into San Francisco seemed like a breeze.  It was slow going on the Golden Gate Bridge, which allowed me to get some nice shots of the bridge supports from the sunroof as we passed underneath it.

Pirate Ships on San Francisco Bay

Pirate Ships on San Francisco Bay

Golden Gate Bridge from the Sunroof of the Car

Golden Gate Bridge from the Sunroof of the Car

We got into San Francisco at about 4 and got checked into the hotel – we stayed at the Baldwin Hotel, a historic hotel in Union Square.  It is no frills, but close to everything and a great value for the big city.  After checking in, Jon’s first order of business was a visit to the Rasputin music store.  He could spend days in there, but I finally had to pull him away so we could have some dinner – I really can’t complain though, because I found a couple of classic movies that I have never seen for a good price.  Then we got a quick bite to eat at a floating conveyor belt sushi place in Chinatown.  The sushi was average, but it was quick and hit the spot.

The Lion at the Gate to China Town - San Francisco

The Lion at the Gate to China Town – San Francisco

After dinner, we went to the Rouge et Blanc Wine Bar on Grant Avenue across the street from the hotel.  This wine bar has an EXTENSIVE wine list.  There are A LOT (maybe 50?) wines you can get by the glass, and hundreds more available by the bottle.  Interestingly, there website says that they have 60 selections, but I’m not sure if they are just talking about wines by the glass.  There seemed to be many more than 60 bottle offerings.  They have wine from every part of the world represented.  Per glass prices range from $7 to $17, and they had some happy hour specials too.  They also have beer, hard liquor, and the wine bar does double duty as a coffee shop during the day.

My Beaucanon Estate Sauvignon Blanc at Rouge & Blanc Wine Bar

My Beaucanon Estate Sauvignon Blanc at Rouge et Blanc Wine Bar

After perusing the menu for awhile and getting some fantastic suggestions from the server, I settled on a 2010 Beaucanon Estate Sauvignon Blanc from Napa, and Jon had a 2011 À Côté Chardonnay from Santa Barbara.  We were both very pleased with our choices, and the comfortable couches and bold artwork were a great way to relax away the rest of the evening.

Jon and Me at the Rouge & Blanc Wine Bar - San Francisco

Jon and Me at the Rouge et Blanc Wine Bar – San Francisco