Here I am sitting in the exact same room in the exact same hotel in San Francisco where I stayed last year, the Lombard Motor Inn on Lombard Street one block west of Van Ness--a perfect location and a great deal, price-wise (within walking distance of the San Francisco Bay, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf, plus public transportation (busses, cable cars, and street cars) to any destination imaginable. I'm here for three days, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and then Saturday will drive to the house of one of my sisters for Thanksgiving dinner with her family. (We expect this to be at her house in Clear Lake like last year if some construction she is having done is complete on time. Otherwise, it will be in her apartment. Either one will be great.) Sunday, I am driving back home.
The drive up here had a different "feel" than normal due to the fact that three weeks ago I had had my car's engine rebuilt by my expert mechanic (and wow, does it ever run beautifully!). I asked him if he recommended a certain "break-in" (I've had rebuilt engines before) and he said, "It's probably not essential, but it might be a good idea if you don't drive over 60 for the first month." I figured if I wasn't going to drive over 60 on this trip, it would be better to take 101 instead of I-5. On I-5 you can go 70 from the bottom of the Grapevine to where I get off at the Tracy turn-off for the Bay Area (all of the trip that is in the Central Valley). It would just be too miserable to be traveling that slowly while all but trucks were speeding by at 70, which would also mean that I would be stuck with all the trucks the whole time. US 101 is a longer but prettier route, but keeping it below 60 wouldn't be so intolerable. And I was right. I basically set my cruise control for 58 and then sat back and "watched a movie of beautiful hills, forests, and vineyards" as I smoothy headed north. There were LOTS of cops everywhere, standing by the side of the road pointing radar guns as if they were hunting rabid dogs or else actually giving tickets, their cars all flashing red and blue, but I just sailed on by them, not the least bit concerned. No tickets for me, going under 60 everywhere!
Oddly enough, the slower speed seemed better matched to the rhythms of the music I was playing on my iPod. Never before had that music sounded like such a beautiful soundtrack. Though I don't know from experience, I felt that a drug trip could hardly be better. (I ought to confess right here, though, that I have reached a peculiar stage in my life where I feel that I ought to take an acid trip. That was something I missed out on even though I was a college student in the 60s, but perhaps that was just as well as people really didn't know what they were doing, then. I've read enough stuff about it recently, though, to make me think that I would benefit from it. I would have no idea how to seek it out, though, so probably never will actually do it.)
While California is frustratingly expensive, when I go on a trip like this, I am certainly reminded of why people like it so much. There's just nowhere else quite like it.
It took me 10 and a half hours to go from my apartment to the lobby of this hotel. Of course, I had stopped for gas twice, had breakfast and lunch on the way, and had three bathroom breaks. I never did take a nap at a rest stop, though, something from time to time I felt that I desperately needed, but there was only one rest stop on the way, a tiny one twenty miles north of Santa Barbara, but it was so crowded with people waiting in line just to park so that they could go to the bathroom that I thought I ought to not hog a parking space by taking a nap. But doing other things (such as simply going to the bathroom, or getting a McDonald's "McCafe") gave me second and third winds, so it was all okay.
When you make reservations for this hotel on-line, they have a section where you can select certain options. The options I chose were (a) to be on the Lombard Street side (that has the balconies and the view, whereas the other side is quiet), (b), to be on the third floor, (c) to have a king-size bed instead of two double beds, and (d) a refrigerator. But when I got here, the desk clerk was all concerned because she said that the only king bed room left on the Lombard side on the third floor was the smallest room in the hotel. If being in a small room bothered me, I could choose the second floor where there is no view, or the third floor but have two double beds. In attempting to make this decision, I asked the desk clerk why the room happened to be so small, and she explained that it was right next to the elevator. I said, "I think that was the room I had last year; I had no idea that it was small." It ends up that that WAS the exact room I had last year and I thought the experience was great enough to return this year, so there certainly was nothing about it that bothered me. Now that I am in it, I see that the room is shaped in an "L" around the elevator shaft, but all that does is make the room feel cozy, like the bed is in an alcove. It's really very nice and instead of being something to complain about, I think it is a plus.
Once I got settled in, I went out onto the street to get some dinner. I figured I would go to Cafe Lombard just up the street, which, even though is owned by a Chinese woman who is also the cook, serves delicious Italian dinners and I was eager to eat there again this time. However, they were closed. That left as the only other restaurant anywhere that I could see Bobo's Steak House ("Bobo's" is its nickname; it is officially called "Boboquivari's The Steak and The Crab"), but going there is a big deal (dress up, spend lots of money) and I am already going to eat there tomorrow and have reservations for it. So I walked around the block and spied a little neighborhood market and deli just around the corner from the hotel. The young man working there made me a delicious meatball sandwich on an amazing roll (about half the size of a full-on loaf of French bread) and I added some potato salad and some orange juice. I took these items upstairs and ate it at my hotel room's table while I watched the valet parking attendant across the street at Bobo's. I've got to say it, this guy is really very, very good-looking. I'm enough of a good looks worshipper to think that a guy that good-looking shouldn't be parking cars. However, if I could tell him (which I could not), I would tell him that he does serve as a great "advertisement" for Bobo's. He stands there in front of the restaurant looking all beautiful and I imagine that a certain kind of person just has to stop, and, well, "Let's go eat there!" He's one of those perfectly lean muscular guys, sharp and strong and thin as a nail (not bulky and all bull-like, a look that I despise), looks like if you pounded him on the head you could drive him right down into the sidewalk. Unlike the valet parkers in Los Angeles who all seem to work for the exact same company and wear the identical uniform of red valet's jackets that make them look somewhat like hotel bellhops (plus they're all Mexican, which the one here is not), he's dressed as only someone made like him can dress, with a skin-tight white pecs-and-abs-form-fitting dress shirt, sleeves rolled up to below the elbow, black dress pants that look as though his bottom half were dipped in a vat of black latex. And he's got on a black tie, somewhat narrow that is perfectly proportioned to his half-percent of body fat torso.
I'm thinking that isn't fair that a person be that good-looking (despite the fact that I am so thankful that some people are) and just as I was wondering how he happened to be as fit as he is, a car filled with diners arrived and at the exact same time, another party of diners had finished eating and now arrived with ticket in hand, wanting their car back. In order to accommodate the demands of two parties, he RAN up the hilly street to quickly retrieve the leaving diners' car and I got my answer; he couldn't get more aerobic exercise if he were at a gym taking a spin class.
But between cars coming and going, he's got nothing to do but stand there out in the evening chill looking beautiful. Why on earth don't they give him a chair to sit on, at least? I see that in an effort to relieve the boredom and his aching bones and muscles, he leaves his post from time to time to go lean against the wall of the Travelodge that happens to be next door, as if he were a hustler who comes already with a room to have sex in. All I can say is that I hope he receives generous tips, because I think he earns his money. If I had some way of providing him with a chair, I would do so.
I hope to write more as this trip progresses, but I failed to do so last year, so I'm not counting on much...but we'll see what happens!