San Francisco 49-Mile Drive – Day 83

San Francisco 49-Mile Drive

Day 83 – June 22, 2003 – Sunday

San Francisco is an incredible city with extraordinary natural beauty. It is UNBELIEVABLE how many sights there are to see. There is no other area like this anywhere in the country in terms of opportunities for sightseeing, fun, and adventure. You could probably spend a year sightseeing and enjoying all that the Bay Area has to offer. Bozzie Jane and I both commented today that we saw far more of San Francisco in the last week than we saw in the year that we lived here. We understand better now why Ryan loves it so much here.

We passed through The Presidio and took a closer look at the massive construction project for George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic headquarters. We drove by the Monte Cristo Bed & Breakfast, an antique-themed B&B near The Presidio. We also saw a lovely residential area, Presidio Terrace.

We spent much of the day on the 49-Mile Drive, a scenic drive that traces the outline of the 49 square mile city and reaches some of the City’s most spectacular sights and viewing spots. We began at the Golden Gate Bridge, drove along the Pacific Ocean to the Cliff House and Seal Beach, on to the San Francisco Zoo, through south central San Francisco, Twin Peaks, and Telegraph Hill, on to Fisherman’s Wharf and Marina Green. We did not do the downtown portion of the drive, so we planned to go see and photograph those sites in the next few days.

Our first stop was the Seacliff area. Ryan took us by some beautiful homes, and we saw where Robin Williams lives. Baker Beach was next — a pretty beach on the Pacific Ocean with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge. China Beach was next, followed by Lincoln Park and the Lincoln Park Municipal Golf Course. We stopped at the Palace of the Legion of Honor and saw the Holocaust Memorial there. Next was Land’s End. We understand there is a primarily gay nude beach down a hiking trail at Land’s End, but the vote was 2-to-1 in the car against the hike. Three guesses which one of us was willing to hike a mile for your not everyday photo opp. The area of Land’s End that we visited has beautiful coastline views and is popular for outdoor weddings.

The drive passed through wooded Lincoln Park to the Sutro Baths, Seal Rocks, and the Cliff House. We met some very nice photographers, Colleen and Steve, near the Sutro Baths.

In 1881, Adolph Sutro bought most of the western headlands of San Francisco and made his home there. Fifteen years later, Sutro Baths opened at a cost of over $1,000,000. A classic Greek portal opened to a massive glass enclosure containing seven swimming pools at various temperatures. There were slides, trapezes, springboards, and a high dive. The pools held 1.7 million gallons of water and could be filled in one hour by high tides. There were 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels to rent. The baths could accommodate 10,000 people at a time. It was a real showplace. San Franciscans streamed to the Baths on one of three railroad lines. There were three restaurants that could seat 1,000 people, and an amphitheater seating up to 3,700 people provided a variety of stage shows. There were natural history exhibits, galleries of sculptures, paintings, tapestries, and artifacts from Mexico, China, Asia, and the Middle East. The photos from the 1900’s are incredible; it was a huge, most impressive place. I guess the Sutro Baths might qualify as America’s first waterpark. But for all their glamour and excitement, the Baths were not commercially successful. Sutro’s grandson converted part of the baths into an ice-skating rink in 1937, and a new owner expanded the ice-skating facility in the early 1950’s. The revenue from ice skating was not sufficient to cover the costs of the enormous building, and the property was sold to apartment developers in 1964. A fire in 1966 reduced the Sutro Baths to concrete ruins. Fortunately, apartments were never built, and the property is now owned by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is managed by the National Park Service.

Next to the Sutro Baths is the Cliff House. The Cliff House has been a restaurant built on the rocky cliffs of the Pacific Ocean at the western edge of San Francisco. The first Cliff House was built in 1863 and enlarged in 1868. It was a very popular restaurant with prominent San Francisco families. Adolph Sutro bought it in 1881 along with the rest of the land in that area. On Christmas Day 1894, the Cliff House was destroyed by fire. (You have to wonder what San Francisco would look like today if the city’s buildings hadn’t been repeatedly destroyed by fires and earthquakes over the last 150 years!) Sutro rebuilt the Cliff House in grand style. It opened in 1896 and stood eight stories tall with spires and an observation deck 200 feet above the sea. It was elegant. Fortunately, the Cliff House survived the earthquake of 1906?but sadly succumbed to fire again just a year later. Sutro’s daughter, Emma, built a third Cliff House in 1909. It was a neoclassical design. The Sutro family sold the Cliff House in 1937, and it was remodeled several times. The National Park Service acquired it in 1977, and the building was undergoing renovations to return to its neoclassical design. We stopped in for a lunchtime snack.

From the Cliff House, we got some good photos of Seal Rocks and Ocean Beach. We drove along the edge of the Richmond District on the Great Highway along Ocean Beach, and we detoured to take a photo of the memorial to Playland at the Beach, a wonderful Coney Island-style amusement park that was the victim of a developer’s wrecking ball in recent years. Back on the Great Highway, we passed by the Dutch Windmill and Murphy Windmill (currently being restored). We saw some fabulous kite flying on Ocean Beach — four kiters with identical red-white-and-blue kites flying in formation right next to each other.

Across from the San Francisco Zoo, we spotted something that our research indicated had disappeared from San Francisco — the Doggie Diner statues. We spotted one of the heads mounted on a pole outside a small restaurant. We drove around Lake Merced and down Brotherhood Way where we spotted a Peace statue. We saw Harding Park and San Francisco State University, and then we drove through the Sunset District.

We drove from one end of Golden Gate Park to the other. The park is heavily wooded with a variety of areas. Golden Gate Park includes Dutch Windmill, Beach Chalet Visitor Center, Murphy Windmill, Golf Course, Buffalo Paddock, Riding Stables, Fly Casting Pools, Spreckels Lake, Lindley Meadow, Marz Meadow, Portals of the Past, Stow Lake, Japanese Tea Garden, Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, DeYoung Museum, California Academy of Sciences, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Conservatory of Flowers, Sharon Meadow, McLaren Lodge, and Kezar Stadium. From Golden Gate Park, we drove around, up, and over Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is THE place to go to see great panoramic views of the Bay Area. San Francisco has such a stunning skyline, and it is amazing how much is packed into such a relatively small area. It looks like a sea of concrete from Twin Peaks, yet almost every area is beautiful as you drive all around town.

The 49-Mile Drive then passes through the Castro District and then the Mission District. We stopped for a look at the Mission Dolores.

In the South Beach area, we saw where the San Francisco Giants play, the Bay Bridge, and the Embarcadero. At the Embarcadero, we saw the pier where the San Francisco Fire Department docks its fire ferries. We also saw the Ferry Building and a giant arrow in the ground sculpture.

At this point, we ended the 49-Mile Drive at the point where we would have wound through the downtown streets. We planned to do that part of the drive in the next few days. We went back to Pier 39 to visit the California Tourism Office.

We had dinner at Boudin’s Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf. Boudin invented sourdough bread in San Francisco back in 1849. Ryan and I both had clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. We ate the soup and then the bowl.

As we were finishing our meal, we saw something very upsetting. We saw a father poking his two small sons in the chest and hitting one of them in the face. Ryan and I wanted to go over and stop him, but Bozzie Jane asked us to stay out of it. We did take a photo of the child abuser. Based on the lettering on the back of his wife’s jacket, the man may be involved with the “AYSO” soccer program in North Irvine, California. We all decided that if we ever see anything like this happen again, we will do something; we’ll call 911 for sure. It really took the edge off a very relaxing day of sightseeing.

We headed for Ryan’s house and back to work on the tour business.

I broke my sunglasses today. Big problem. I planned to get them repaired or get some clip-on sunglasses tomorrow as there is no way to drive in the sun 12 hours a day seven days a week without tinted lenses.

There should be a special place for child abusers.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
San Francisco California — 49-Mile Drive — Sutro Baths — Cliff House — Ocean Beach — Golden Gate Park — Boudin’s Bakery