As a birthday present, my parents bought me a plane ticket to San Francisco for a friend reunion. My friend Irene from junior high/high school lives out there, and another one of our friends, Samantha, flew out for the long weekend as well! Unfortunately, our friend Danielle couldn’t make it, but we thought of her a lot <3. Another plus is that my friend Dena, who I rode a bike across the country with in 2012 lives there, too! In fact, I haven’t been to the Pacific since we reached the ocean in August 2012. Getting there was much simpler this time around– I flew out on Wednesday evening and arrived pretty late!
Irene had to work this day, so Samantha and I spent the day exploring! Before exploring, we had to cuddle with Irene’s roommate’s dog, Lily, who surprised us in the morning! We went to the Botanical Gardens, which were beautiful. Samantha has been doing a P90X challenge, and she had to do a yoga workout that day. We found a secluded spot at the gardens and did it there. It was a little uncomfortable in my dress (thankfully I had leggings on), but it was fun. We also did a Headspace meditation afterwards.
After the gardens, we walked to a Russian restaurant. I did A LOT of walking on this trip, which was excellent! I always feel good about myself when my body is sore. At the restaurant, we tried beef tongue. It was pretty good, but I had to avoid thinking about what it was. Afterwards, we went to see a psychic (which is on my 40-before-40 goal list). It was pretty neat. She had a little chihuahua named Mister who, of course, loved me and sat on my lap the entire time. The psychic seemed pretty legit. She knew I was moving! She said some accurate stuff for Samantha as well.
We eventually made our way over to the California Academy of Science. On Thursdays they open in the evening for adults. It was a neat museum! Irene and Samantha are engineers. I’m interested in science, but the subject/content has always been difficult for me. I’m all for female scientists, though!
Afterwards, I headed to my friend Dena’s place. Dena does something called the November Project in San Francisco. Basically, it is a community of people who meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 6:30 AM to do free workouts in various locations across the city. I’ve been interested in trying NP for a long time, but it has never been available in a city I’ve lived in. 6:30 AM is early for vacation, but I was too excited to care!
Bright and early Friday morning, we made our way to the “Ghost Hill” in the Presidio. Dena and I ran up and down the hill 3 times (I think). It was really difficult. Run is a loose term here… I mostly walked up the hill, ha. San Francisco’s NP crew is one fit bunch! After the workout, I headed back to Irene’s place and did my miracle morning since Samantha and Irene were still asleep. Choosing not to take a nap ended up making me super tired later in the day, but oh well! That’s what caffeine is for.
Once they woke up, we started Friday off by going to the Exploratorium. Irene took the day off to hang out with us, which was super nice! The Exploratorium is a science museum, but it is very interactive. I particularly liked that they had an exhibit all about psychology/human behavior. I could have spent the entire time in that section! After the museum, we went to the famous pier to see the sea lions and eat some yummy clam chowder. Like the mature adults we are, we also decided to ride the carousel. I rode a dolphin. 🙂 That evening, we stayed in and embarked on an epic hair dye adventure. Irene dyed my hair pretty blue/green colors and Samantha’s with some shades of pink/orange. I’m pretty sure Irene didn’t enjoy the experience (it took forever), but Samantha and I are definitely appreciative! It was my first time adding color to my hair. It’s pretty subtle, but I love it.
The next day we had a well-deserved sleep in and then went to my new favorite place: Japan Town. Japan Town is my new favorite place for one reason… the store Maido. This store is a bullet journaler/planner addict/student’s dream come true. It had all my favorite brands, plus other supplies I had never seen before. I could have easily spent $500+ here, ha (but I obviously didn’t). In addition to Maido, there were a bunch of other super cute stores! Samantha got me a Harry Potter postcard coloring book from a neat bookstore as a graduation school gift, making me promise not to color in class. I will do my best, ha.
After Japan Town, we went to the Castro, which is the LGBTQ+ district in San Francisco. I enjoyed the area, and I would definitely recommend that future travelers check it out! We also stopped at a bakery called Tartine, which was amazing. The line went all the way down the sidewalk. Someone walked by and said “are they giving away free money in there or something!?” No, just delicious, delicious desserts. Once we got our desserts, we headed to a friend of Irene’s place for what has potentially been the most hipster evening of my life so far. Some of Irene’s friends get together every once in awhile and make art. This night, the theme was “butts.” There were some creative projects going on here. I made a picture of animal butts with the quote “I like big butts and I cannot lie.” It was pretty cute. I’m thinking of redoing it to make it cleaner and then getting prints of it to sell in my soon-to-be-opened Etsy store. Irene and Samantha used this sequin art kit we got at a store in the Castro to make their own art. Samantha made the peach emoji– it was pretty cute!
On Sunday we continued our exploration of Japanese culture at the J-Pop Summit, which is basically a convention for Japanese pop culture. We had tickets to an event called Noble Robo’s Invitation to Adventure, which advertises itself as a “real escape game.” Basically, we got these little books that gave us prompts in a choose-your-own-adventure style. Based on what we chose, we either accomplished our task or failed. We were able to go through three story lines, and they were all fun! It was nice to be active as well– it involved a lot of walking. One highlight is that we were supposed to find a suspicious person at the end of the dock. All of the characters we had to find before were obviously dressed up, so we were confused when we reached the spot on the map and didn’t see anyone out of the ordinary. We did, however, notice a girl sitting in a chair looking at a tablet. This girl seemed to be normal, but the more we looked at her, the more suspicious she became. Finally we worked up the courage to approach her and say whatever ridiculous line the book prompted us (it was something about aliens). And… she was not affiliated with the game at all. Poor girl. I think there is some sort of statement to be made here regarding how if you’re looking for something suspicious, you will make completely innocent situations into something they’re not. But that conversation is for a different time.
After J-Pop, I indulged Irene and Samantha by accompanying them to a prime Pokemon Go spot at the beach. In the midst of at least 100 Pokemon Go players, I sat down and wrote a card to my sister. It was nice. We then made our way back to the Mission for an evening Yoga to the People class. I went to a YTTP class the last time I was in SF, and I was excited to go again! YTTP is an organization that provides donation-based yoga classes basically all day, every day. Dena met us there, and we got in a good workout. Yoga is great, but yoga with friends is even better.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end! On Sunday I started feeling sick, but on Monday I started to really feel it. Yet I still got up at the crack of dawn to make my way back over to the Fort Mason area (where J-Pop was the day before) to meet Dena for another November Project workout! This one involved having a partner. While one ran to a certain location and back, the other did a series of burpees, lunges, mountain climbers, and then held a plank until the other returned. It was challenging, but it made me feel good! Afterwards we took a quick dip in the chilly Pacific with some NPers and made our way to breakfast. The highlight of this was informing them that “bae” stands for “before anyone else.” Apparently a lot of people don’t know that! Teachers gotta be in the know, though. After a nap, Samantha and I had a mission: to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge! I was still feeling sick, but I wasn’t about to let my immune system take the ride away from me. We rented some bikes, had a leisurely ride, climbed some hills which brought back memories of riding the YOLO Bus (a cruiser) up the Santa Cruz mountains on Bike & Build, and made our way across the bridge! Sadly there wasn’t much of a view most of the way because of the fog, but we were able to see some awesome cliffs at a stop! Thankfully we didn’t blow off the bridge. After we crossed, we made our way to Sausalito. And of course we managed to get lost. It wouldn’t be an Alyssa-Samantha adventure if we didn’t get lost. We found ourself having to take some single track, which we recognized was strange. At the end of that we were at a fork where one of our options was to take a staircase. We didn’t think the bike path would really have people taking their bikes up a staircase (and we didn’t yet realize we were off route), so we went the other way. That way led us to a small clearing in the woods, which was clearly not correct. So, we took our bikes up the stairs and thankfully found our way back to the route! It may have been better to just stay in the woods though because Sausalito was not the best. We had to pay to have our bikes locked up and the information about the ferry was pretty misleading. It ended up being quite the wait– we should have just biked back. But, we made it back to SF, had a farewell dinner with Irene, and then were off to the airport. My flight was delayed and my sickness had really hit me by then, so once I got on the plane I slept all the way back to the Atlantic Coast.
Overall, I had a really great trip. A lot of people say that jr. high/high school friendships won’t last– it’s those you make in college that do. Interestingly, I’ve had the opposite experience. I rarely keep in touch with most of my college friends, but I have a bond with Irene and Samantha (and Danielle– we missed you!) that I know will never go away. The same goes for my Bike & Build friends. Nothing quite bonds people together like riding bikes across the country together! No matter how long we go without seeing each other, it is just like normal when we are reunited. I feel truly lucky to have such great friends and lucky to have great family who gifted me with this trip! Until we meet again <3.