Wednesday, September 27, 2006

North Coast Travelogue 9/24-9/26

Drove down to the Bay Area, yet again, last Sunday. Next time you go by Confusion Hill, take a look out towards the Eel River. You can see the outline of the bridge bypass they're putting up. Seems like they're moving right along with that project. Why does this seem to be going quicker than the freeway widening down in Santa Rosa?
Anyone ever use those highway rest stops Caltrans maintains? I haven't used them much in the past but found they can be quite nice to have available when you're spending a lot of time on the road.

When we first started shuttling back and forth to the Bay Area, the ones on 101 were closed, for whatever reason. I think it was a couple months ago we noticed they opened one, the Moss Cove Rest Stop, along the southbound lane between Laytonville and Willits, so we began stopping there when in need.

Not a bad stop, but not much shade in the summer when you need the shade the most. One thing I found interesting was people, who looked like locals, driving up and dumping their trash in the trash cans. I bumped into a guy yesterday who's in charge of maintenance for three of the local rest stops. He said that it was an an ongoing problem with the trash cans and, during deer season, they'd often find deer entrails and such in the trash.

Nice to have the Moss Cove option, but I prefer the Irvine Lodge Rest Stop.

I hadn't stopped at the Irvine Lodge Rest Stop in years. It's in the northbound lane between Willits and Ukiah a few miles north of the Moss Cove stop. We stopped there for the first time a couple weeks ago and what a pleasure that was.

Plenty of shade. Clean restrooms and they just put in new turf. Real peaceful stop. Probably not as many people using it as you can't see it easily from the road, unlike Moss Cove which you can't miss.

This is where I met the maintenance supervisor yesterday. He pointed out the fence along side the creek. I was surprised to learn it was made of concrete. One of those phony wood things. Fooled me. He also told me the rest stop up at Legget was supposed to be opening up for business today (Wednesday).

Friendly guy, that maintenance guy. He's in charge of all three of those stops. I'll have to say though, as a libertarian, some of this rubs me the wrong way: He was telling me he asked for more trash cans, the old ones needing replacement. Instead of just getting the old 55 gallon drums, like they're using now, his boss told him they were going to be getting "bear proof" cans that weigh 300 pounds. Never mind there hasn't been any bear problems there.

And as nice as the lawns they put in look, this is just a rest stop, not a golf course. Why go to all that expense and effort just for a place for people to take a leak? That's just the way the State works. And we wonder why government costs so much.
Going through Mendocino I pointed out the Vroman For D.A. campaign signs along the road to the wife. She commented that they should be taken down since he'd died. I suggested that maybe his supporters might still want him to win. That way they could take their chances with whoever the Board of Supes appoints to the job as opposed to Vroman's opponent winning.

Not sure if that's what they're thinking. I'm just assuming there's as much vitriol against opponents in this race as we've seen in the Gallegos/ Dikeman race up here. I realized later I hadn't noticed any of Vroman's opponent's signs on the way down. I made a point to look for his(?) signs on the way back north. Only saw one, on the west side of the freeway while going through Ukiah. Vroman seems to at least won the sign war.
We were actually given the heads up by a fellow UCSF Oncology Clinic regular about a place we might stay for free while in San Francisco. Turns out a hospital owns a local hotel and often provides rooms to its own, and I guess other hospital's, cancer patients. Shame on me for forgetting the name of the hospital, but it was something like Pacific Medical Foundation.....something.

We had to give that a try. You have to set it up through the American Cancer Society, I believe. Connie made the phone calls and after a few days we got confirmation for our room.

I was a bit apprehensive about this. The Cathedral Hilll Hotel is on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. First, I don't like staying in San Francisco. Second, what if it's some dump? After reading the Yahoo Reviews ( mine's the latest up there.) I still felt apprehensive, since I tended to focus on the negative reviews, which were actually in the minority.

It got even worse when I realized I forgot to make reservations for our second night at Days Inn, Novato. I figured we'd try one night at Cathedral Hill. If it worked out ok, we could stay there for two days the next time. If not, at least we weren't stuck there for two nights.

When I mentioned I forgot to make reservations at Days Inn, the wife wondered why I'd do that, as she made reservations for two nights at Cathedral. That pissed me off, but what was I to do? I thought I'd told her just to make reservations for Sunday night there. Oh well. Cathedral Hill turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Pretty easy to get to: Just go left after the Golden Gate Bridge, instead of going right to 19th. Take a left at Lombard and then a right on Van Ness. Only took 15 to 20 minutes after getting over the bridge.

We get there and I was pleasantly surprised to find all kinds of room in their parking garage. A bit confusing to getting around in there as the signage wasn't really clear as to where you needed to go. Turned out we ended up parking right near to the entrance to the hotel lobby just by accident. Later, we managed to move our truck even closer. Beats the UCSF parking garage any day.

I was surprised at the amount of activity when we entered the hotel lobby. I'd kinda expected this to be some old has- been that had seen it's better days and now just served as a low class hotel. Not so. There were all kinds of people coming and going and some just hanging out in the lobby, reading or talking on the phone.

The people at the front desk were friendly enough. Along with the keys to our room we got vouchers for two days of breakfasts at their breakfast room, which actually isn't a breakfast room in the sense we've been used to. This was actually a restaurant. They just offered a buffett breakfast along with everything else.

I asked about internet access and the guy told us they had WiFi, but it was AT&T, not provided by the hotel. Whatever plan you decided to use was between you and them. That done, we went to our room.

We were on the sixth floor- sixth out of eight. Despite complaints I'd read about slow elevators here, I found them to be just as fast as any others in town. Sure, if you try during certain time frames when people are coming or going a lot, it may slow down because of all the stops. Otherwise, I didn't find any problems with it.

Our room was just fine, despite some of the reviews I read. In fact, we had two double sized beds instead of one there. There was a TV, coffee pot and a desk. That was about it. A refrigerator would have been nice, but that's one thing they don't provide.

First thing I tried to do was go online and was immediately a bit put off by the AT&T interface. You turn your computer wireless connection on and select the ATT connection. You connect to their web site and try to register. I finally figured out I needed to click on the Connect Now link.

The guy at the front desk told me it cost $9.99 for 24 hours. A bit pricey, but since we got the room, breakfast and parking free, who was I to do the complaining? So, I figure $20 for two days. I can handle that. Problem was, I couldn't find that in the plans they presented on their web page. They only had three options and the cheapest was $25 for three days. I ended up choosing that one.

After entering the credit card info, it told me it couldn't accept my debit card. So, I tried my credit card. Wouldn't accept that, either. Then I realized one thing my form filler program didn't fill out was the state of residence. I manually entered that and the card went through.

It said something about successfully opening my account so I figured I was good to go. I go to check my e- mail and I get the Firefox window saying page couldn't be located, or whatever it says. I tried a couple other pages and get the same thing. It looks like I'm not connected, but my wireless program says I am.

I go back to AT&T and start looking around. After about ten or fifteen minutes I realized I wasn't logged in to them. I go back and forth for about ten minutes and finally figured what I needed to do and finally got logged in. If I had to do it over again right now I'm not sure I'd still be able to just log right in. Not a real user friendly interface on that web page, at least for me.

But, it worked. Next thing I noticed was the room seemed to only have the old style two pronged electrical outlets. I needed the three prong to run the laptop off external power. I looked around and couldn't find a three prong until I went into the bathroom which had one. So, I'd use the laptop for a couple hours, then go into the bathroom and plug it in and let it charge.

That was kind of a hassle, for sure, but it was doable. It wasn't until the next day I happened to look behind me and notice a three prong outlet on the wall next to my bed. How in the world did I miss that? Too far to use with my computer on the desk, but the sill of the window was wide enough for the laptop so I moved operations over there. Everything worked fine then.

One thing that sucks just about anywhere is being a smoker. I'd thought about this earlier: It's not gonna be easy to take a smoke break in an eight story hotel. One thing I noticed about this place, though, was a noteable absence of No Smoking signs. We were in a No Smoking room but there was just a small note on the back of the room door about not smoking.

First I just went down to the parking garage, as it was almost open air. That wasn't as bad as it might seem as the longest part of walking down there was the walk from the room to the elevator of probably 80 feet. On the way back up one time, I decided to check out the so- called Patio.

The Patio was an atrium type place on the fourth floor. They have some kind of meeting room in the middle, a bunch of plants and even a small pool. Not bad. I didn't see any No Smoking signs and the presence of a few ashtrays let me know smoking was allowed there. That became my new smoke break spot.

Getting to the UCSF Oncology Clinic took a little bit of figuring out, if only because of all the one way streets in S.F. But, we made it there in fifteen or twenty minutes despite making a few wrong turns. That's a good thing because we had to be there at 9:30 for blood work and then at 3:30 to see the doctor. Five or six hours is a long time to twiddle your thumbs at UCSF.

So, we were able to drive right back after the first stop at UCSF and hang out at the hotel. I played on the computer and the wifey tried to catch up on the sleep she lost the night before. She didn't sleep well, nor did I, but I can handle it a little better.

As far as food went, we ate at the restaurant in the lobby the first night, pricey though it was. I forget what the place was called. Their web page says "Hilltop Restaurant". I think the picture is the same place but the name was Jack's...something. Good food but not really affordable for us. I ended up buying two separate orders: Steak Fries and some Chicken Strips. The wife ordered a quesadilla.

I also broke with tradition and ordered a beer with my meal. $4.50 for one beer. Is it that much everywhere? Actually, we came out ok at around $25 after all was said and done. I felt that wasn't bad. The waitress told us later they didn't charge us for the Steak Fries. I have no idea why but that was awfully nice of them.

Breakfast there was pretty nice. I'll admit to prefering the normal motel breakfast room where you just show up, sit down and eat, but this was ok. As I mentioned before, this is actually a restaurant dining room. Some people are actually buying regular breakfasts, including the buffett. Others, like us, have vouchers for the free buffett.

The first morning it was fairly busy there. The second it was almost standing room only as there was at least one foreign tourist group in there having breakfast. The food was good, though, with more than just your standard motel breakfast room fare. They had scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and a wider assortment of cereals available than I've seen in other breakfast rooms.

And we got it all for free.

We left around 8:30ish Tuesday morning. The wife always talks about not wanting to deal with the evening rush hour when leaving UCSF. I figured what's the difference? A rush hour is a rush hour. We got to 101 quick enough, scary that it was. Once we got over the bridge and around Marin, the southbound 101 traffic heading towards S.F. looked like it was at a standstill. We were flying right along.

In fact, we made pretty darn good time coming back. Not quite the four hour and forty five minute record I made earlier in the year, but not bad. Even after being held up south of Confusion Hill from this wreck, we still made it back here in around five and a half hours, and that's with maybe four pit stops along the way.

I'll be happy to go back to Cathedral Hill in the future but probably only when we have to stay two nights. If we have morning appointments and thus just have to stay one night, we'll likely just stay at Days Inn, Novato, at least while we can afford it. Then again, there's always the Native Daughters of the Golden West house to stay at, as well. It's nice to have lots of options.


At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Becoming a regular San Franciscan heh Fred. Don't start turning too far to the left now on us.

At 6:16 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Don't worry. I won't go too far to the left. I only go down there because I have to.

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



At 5:19 PM, Blogger Eric V. Kirk said...

Next time you stay on Van Ness, try Tommy's Joint for dinner. It's inexpensive, and one of the older restaraunts in the city with a lot of old SF character. You walk in and it's a bar on one side usually with 3 or 4 screens of a game of some sort. On the right hand side is a buffet bar where they'll cut the meat off a big roast on a spit. They have daily specials worth considering. Then you can either enjoy the game or go into one of the back rooms, which make up a labrynth of sorts where enter one of several empty rooms with classic decor that makes you expect to run into the Godfather slurping on spagetti as people line up to ask him for favors.

And if you want to order a pizza for delivery, I strongly recommend Amici's - which is good enough that my wife and all of her NY born and raised relatives eat it without whining about how much they miss the pizza from back home.

And you may be in walking distance from Grace Cathedral, which is something else to be inside. My father worked on the construction back when he was in good graces with the union. One of the construction workers died on site, but it was years before the Archdiocese would approve a plaque in memorial because the dead worker wasn't Catholic.

At 5:54 AM, Blogger Fred said...

I'll have to remember to check it out. Thanks, Eric.

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the Tommy's Joynt recommendation. They have 100+ different beers, buffalo stew, meats cut from the roast, great sandwiches and good prices. The atmosphere and decor is amusing, too. It's directly across the street from the Cathedral Hill Hotel.

Chris Crawford

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Uncle Enore said...

Yo, Fred.

Personally, when I'm doing a stint in San Fran, I usually just cruise the Castro and see who scrapes me up.

They usually have a pretty nice place to stay...and...the enemas can be fun...


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