From my travel journal: Friday 1 April 2011 (again!), 4.45 pm

Fort Mason Youth Hostel, San Francisco.

This has been a really long day! I managed to get a couple of hours’ sleep on the plane, but I never sleep well in vehicles at the best of times, and it was a pretty bumpy trip. It seemed like every time I started to drift off we’d hit turbulence again and I’d wake up (you’d think I’d be used to sleeping through shaking by now!).

Arrived in San Francisco finally, and after waiting for ages in an interminable queue for customs (at least the customs guys were friendly, and were offering me suggestions on good places to stay along Route 66), I was at last in America, with a broadly smiling Skyring waiting for me at the gate. I was introduced to Son of Skyring (henceforth SOS), Daughter of Skyring (DOS) and their friend (FOS, of course). After a short bathroom break to brush my teeth and feel a bit more human (after which I reintroduced myself :-)) we spent another interminable time in a queue to get the rental car, then were at last on the road, with many squeals of delight (from me and FOS, at least – the others are obviously much too seasoned travellers) over things like police cars, houses that look just like San Francisco houses, mail boxes and fire hydrants. I got over-excited to see California poppies growing on the side of the road (they grow wild round Alexandra, thanks to goldminers bringing them over from here, presumably, so it was very odd to see them in their native home), and the Australians got overexcited about gum trees.

California poppies in California

First stop in our sightseeing was a lookout for the Golden Gate bridge (which is just as impressive in person as it is in the postcards – sorry Sydney, but I think it outdoes your wee bridge) with a quick trip to the gift shop to get some change (parking meters and things like that all seem to need quarters), and many photos taken (mostly while wearing flowers in our hair…)

(I think we might be in America or something)

Skyring being adorned with flowers by DOS and FOS.

Weirdly, the garden at the lookout had all sorts of NZ native plants in it (or if not, plants that are very similar looking!) – I spotted several hebes, a broadleaf, and what looked very much like a pohutakawa (though it wasn’t in flower, so I couldn’t be sure), plus a few others I don’t know the names of. I couldn’t find any explanatory plaque or anything to tell me why they had a NZ garden, though.

Having seen our fill of the bridge, we drove over it, to Sausalito, where we had lunch (pastrami on rye!), listened to a mad person ranting about Catholics and comets (apparently one causes the other), decorated the car, and figured out how to get the GPS thingy to talk to us (and discovered that she doesn’t like it when we ignore her).

Pastrami on rye (note: this turned out to the beginning of my food tour of America – every time I saw something on a menu that I’d only heard of in books or on TV, I ordered it :-))

He was singing “Sitting on the dock of the bay”!

Sausalito elephants

After lunch, we drove up to the Marin Headlands (which look surprisingly like the Otago Peninsula, apart from the big city in the background (and the bridge!)) to look at the view (which GPS lady wasn’t impressed by, insisting we turn around at our earliest opportunity). Wolverine joined Ballycumber and Ringbear in the rapidly expanding collection of dashboard toys, but soon fell to pieces after spending some time perched on top of one of the warning-sign plastered domes we found on top of the headlands (either nuclear bunkers or sewerage tanks, we decided), necessitating surgery with blutak.

Ballycumber ignores the signs

Proudly flying the NZ flag over a car full of Australians

That bridge again

We were all fading fast by the time we got to the hostel to check in. Skyring and I headed down to the nearby supermarket to buy phones (which he’s currently trying to get working, with little success) and other useful things, while the others took a quick nap (I’m resisting the temptation, trying to stay awake until dark to kickstart my body clock into its new time zone, but I’m definitely starting to run out of went).

We were supposed to meet Shendoah and k-j-h for dinner tonight, but we’ve just had a message from Shen that she can’t make it. If we can get these %$#@ phones working, we might be able to contact k-j-h and see what he’s doing…

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