Sunday, November 25, 2012

San Francisco Part 4 - Sports

It's been a long held goal of mine to see a home game for every single NHL, NFL, and MLB team in their home stadium (screw the stupid NBA). Originally when Chrissy and I planned our trip to the States I had narrowed down the cities that I wanted to goto by whether or not they were hosting an NFL game while we were there. Then  work happened and our calendar shifted so it was not to be. Later the San Fran Giants were pushing through the playoffs and I was running the math that if the World Series went to 7 games and there was multiple rain delays we may be in the City for the final game. Of Course the Giants swept in 4. Once again my dreams were foiled.  Undaunted we went on stubhub and arranged for tickets to see the University of California Berkeley Bears play on our last full day of our trip. Success!

However, I still felt like I was missing out. So, regardless of any scheduled games I hijacked the end of Chrissy's boutique shopping excursion one day to scope out AT&T Park where the Giants play.

And then I saw this posted on a wall...

"What is Red Bull Flugtag you ask? Red Bull Flugtag challenges teams of everyday people to build homemade, human-powered flying machines and pilot them off a 30-foot high deck in hopes of achieving flight! Flugtag may mean "flying day" in German, but all these crafts ultimately splash into the waters below. They are judged not only on their flight's distance, but creativity and showmanship as well"

Just watch the video...

We arrived just after 12PM and the area around the ramp was packed. As we wandered around looking for a place to watch we noticed people heading into the ball park. Like sheep we followed them and found that the field  and seats were open for the event. So, of course we headed down to the infield.

I got to 1st base on 1st base.

My horrible pitching motion

Calling the squeeze play...classic baseball.

Eventually we settled in center field to watch the event on the big screen.

It was a bit surreal watching a live event on a screen while it was happening right beside you. Plus, from our spot on the grass we could see through an arena exit to the Redbull Ramp to witness in very small scale what was happening on the big screen.

 Unfortunately due to our spot we couldn't get any pictures of the event as it occurred but this article by the San Francisco Chronicle has a good slideshow including Chrissy's and my favorite plane - The Ark Kelly.

We could only stay for a couple of hours as we needed to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) it to Berkeley to check out the campus and prepare for the Oregon Ducks vs. Cal Bears game. By the time we left AT&T Park it was packed with more and more people streaming in.

Apparently it broke on social media that people could get on the field and many came down just for that.

We arrived at the Berkeley campus about 4 hours before game time and it was relatively quiet still. The campus was quite nice with some stately old buildings. A lot of the campus and the buildings are connected back to the Hearst family and carry the name. I was previously unaware of the connection before our trip as I mostly associate the Hearst name with supreme opulence and yellow journalism not post secondary education. I may have to break one of my long standing traditions of not reading non-fiction biographies to get a better understanding of the prominent family.

We wandered by the dozens of fraternities who were filling up their frontyards with babyfaced kids and old alumni mixing over BBQ's and brews on our way to grab some pre-game pizza. Chrissy thought the fanaticism was surreal and seemingly straight out of a movie. All I could think about was how much Canadians suck at celebrating sport and how lousy our collegian experience was/is in comparison.

We eventually got some pizza and some beer with the revelers and then headed out to the game at Memorial Stadium. The stadium itself is a National Historic Place and had just gone through a massive renovation. I really, really liked the stadium. While seating 61,000 people (and 71,700 before the renovation, less seats now as people are now fatter - no really!)  it seemed very intimate with not a bad seat in the house. 

Our tickets that we got on stubhub were great. Along the goal line 13 rows back. 

As lame as it may sound, I was really excited to see and experience the game with the college band in the house. Christina appreciated the half time tribute to Beyonce songs and I really liked them pumping up the crowd when Cal made a big play.

I love skipping tubas. They are all in the air!

For the Bears who were having an off year and suffering from injuries this was their big "Bowl Game" for the year and they came out jacked up. They hung around with Oregon Ducks (The #2 ranked team in the Nation) for about 2 and 1/2 quarters before the floodgates opened. The high powered Ducks and their extremely fast playcalling and no huddle offense was just way to powerful...and frankly just awesome to watch live. Final Score 59-17 Oregon.
Cal on Offense trying to make a game of it.

My first college football game was absolutely memorable and will now be a staple of any further trips south of the border.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

San Francisco Part 3 - Muir Woods and Marin/Sonoma County

For me there is nothing more relaxing than a walk in the woods. Something about being encompassed by nature just soothes me and makes me completely zone out and forget all the worries of the civilized world.  From the moment that we started talking about going to San Francisco we decided that if we went - we would go see the Redwoods. 

After arriving in San Fran we examined a couple of options for travelling across the Golden Gate bridge and getting to the forests. After some deliberations we decided that we would take freedom of time over ease and we rented a car. Our hotel had a car rental place attached to it and for the day we rented a Crown Victoria which was the last car in the lot. The rental dealer was almost apologetic about the options but for me it was the perfect car. A big cruiser like we had in my youth when Dad would buy de-commissioned cop cars.
My West Coast Whip.

White knuckling it on the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County.

Arrived at Muir Woods with some Latin.

Big owl in the tree.

I love how these branches on the downed limb across the path are basically tress shooting straight up.

The giant dense trees filter out a lot of light. But when the light actually does find its way through it makes things really pop. This spiderweb was remarkably bright and glistening.

I love this sunny girl.

After leaving the Woods and their multiple switchback roads we traveled North for awhile along the Old Number One Highway that follows the coastline.

We eventually came across Stinson Beach and decided to investigate the town and the mile long sandy beach.

The water was freezing and this dude was a bit of a hero as he stood against the breakers.

Chrissy enjoying a 'real sugar' cream soda on the spongiest grass of all time.

We jumped back in the Crown Vic and continued North along Highway One until it shifted inland at Tomales. We stopped at the General Store for another soda and then the deli for some Ice Cream. 

Note the concerned citizen on the corner with the VOTE sign. This was the same day as the 2012 General Election.

From Tomales we headed to Petaluma and the Interstate and then North again towards Santa Rosa. Arriving in the City late in the Afternoon and now entrenched in Sonoma County we went to the State Visitor Centre to find a vineyard or a winery. Unfortunately we learned that Santa Rosa is the home of the Charles Schultz (Peanuts) Museum and that the day we were visiting was the only day of the week it wasn't open.  

However, the Visitor Centre pointed us towards a great boutique winery:  D'Argenzio Winery. We arrived near the end of the afternoon and the staff were busy setting up for a 'victory party' for the incumbent mayor. Although busy, they really laid out the red carpet for us.

Chrissy settled in for a guided tasting.

The winery is what I would call a mercantile winemaker. They do not actually own any of the land where their grapes are harvested, instead they work with producers and select the best grapes in Sonoma County and develop their annual production lines from those grapes. Because of this the options they laid out for us were pretty varied from a traditional Pinot Noir to a Sangiovese. 

Included in the tasting was a tour of the pristine production area and their cask room. The cask room was very intimate and fantastically adorned to invoke a comfortable Italian villa.

The winery also won big points from me as they produced a limited edition Cabernet Sauvignon in honor of Randy Rhoads.  "Crafted by Kathryn Rhoads D’Argenzio, dedicated with love and affection to honor the memory of her brother, legendary rock guitarist and rock and roll hall-of-famer Randy Rhoads." 
If you ever find yourself in Santa Rosa or looking to daytrip through wineries in Sonoma County I would definitely put D'Argenzio Winery on your list. Phone ahead and see if they happen to be having one of their BBQ and Supper nights. We'll see you there.

The whole daytrip allowed us to knock off a bunch of to-do's from our vacation list...Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, Walk among the Redwoods, Play in the surf, Get a slice of life in the rural areas, Have some fantastic wine from a local winery....Check!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

San Francisco Part 2 - Alcatraz

On our second day in San Francisco we took a cruise over to Alcatraz Island for our scheduled tour. This post will mostly be pictures as there isn't too much to say. Just a real cool place.

The main cell block.

The prison from out in the 'yard'.

Walking around the island you can really get a sense of just how run down the buildings are and how rugged the landscape is. 

Remnants of past experiences on the Rock. 
The propaganda from the Native Occupation can be seen.

New 'native' occupiers.

The Golden Gate Bridge and views of the City from the island.

The cruise back to the city.

Our welcome pier back to to the city.

Alcatraz was a great tourism location. Tons of information, great self guided tour, and plenty of open space to get away from other folks and soak up the view. I really want to go back and do the night time tour the next time I end up in San Fran.