After seeing it, I forget what I had previously imagined San Francisco would be like. Everyone eating Rice-A-Roni while riding cable cars…? Halfway true. Only tourists ride cable cars, and the Rice-A-Roni boxes were gathering dust in Julie’s kitchen cabinet.

San Francisco is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever encountered. Ocean and bay on three sides, gorgeous parks and green space, hardly a scrap of trash to be found. Eclectic architecture and vibrant culture. The diverse mix of restaurants let you sample every worldly cuisine from Spanish paella to Japanese sushi in a single block. And these aren’t your Taco Bells or your Fazoli’s. These are independently owned establishments with unique style and individual appeal.

One morning on the prowl for wi-fi, we found Alamo Square Cafe. Tasty bagels with cream cheese, smoothies and lattes. The walls were hung with funky artwork and the whole place exuded a hip neighborhood-y feel. After finishing our drinks, we walked to the nearby Alamo Square where we found the Victorian houses of Postcard Row used in the opening montage of Full House.

And, the hills! In our Hyundai Accent rental, Kirk, Kelly and I drove up, up, up to what seemed like the top of the city. Stopped on a hill at an intersection, the nose of the car pointed up. We saw sky. Leaning back in our seats, it felt like an amusement park ride. If you tripped while walking down the sidewalk, you’d fall and wouldn’t stop rolling until you fell right into the bay. “Good thing this isn’t stick shift,” said Kirk.

The light turned green. Kirk accelerated up the hill and the car leveled out through the intersection. Slowly we approached the other side. No pavement could be seen; just the hood of the car and treetops descending below. How steep was this hill? The car started pointing downward. Where was the pavement? Freefall…?!

“AHH!” All six hands up — roller coaster-style. Even Kirk, for a second, let go of the wheel. All the way to the bottom we giggled with excitement.

San Francisco was full of delights. On Fisherman’s Wharf, a kind of carnival strip in the downtown area, we ate a lunch of fresh cod and scallops. At the Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, we indulged in a nine dollar sundae with two types of ice cream, caramel and hot fudge.

Periodically the sun managed to send a few rays our way. More often the rain forced us to run inside for cover. The Academy of Sciences offers free admission every third Wednesday of the month. Guess what day it was? Score. The aquarium and rainforest exhibit kept us occupied (and dry) for a few hours. Consensus on favorite animal? Albino alligator.

One last thing thing to do: Cross the Golden Gate Bridge — on foot. Walking a quarter of the way would have suited me just fine. Kelly insisted we walk the entire length. I protested. She commanded.

It was night. It was eerie. It was a long fall to the water.

Kelly and I set out. Kirk didn’t have a jacket and said he’d rather not freeze to death. Fair enough. The 7D hung around my neck, the tripod over my shoulder. The view was luminescent. The city across the water glowed a soft gold through the moisture that hung in the air.

The wind picked up as we moved farther and farther from solid ground. We reached the first giant tower. Kelly got a kick out of the “If you jump, consequences could be tragic” plaques. Yeah, no kidding. The dark clouds moved fast overhead. “You sure we really need to walk all the way across?” I yelled to my sister through the howl. “We can’t turn back now!” she yelled back, ecstatic.

We reached the middle. The bridge shook, and we had to hang onto our clothes. All of a sudden… splat! right on my forehead. I looked up. Raindrops. “I think we need to start moving…” We walked faster. Splat. Splat. The wind picked up more. Splat splat SPLASH. “RUN!” I yelled, shoving the camera into my jacket to hide it from the whipping rain. Hurricane gusts lashed across the bridge. The second tower was near… we could take cover…

We skirted round the backside of the tower and flattened ourselves against it. Sheets and sheets poured from the sky.

“I suppose that could have been worse.”

“We could have fallen off!”

We laughed, happy with our good fortune.

Kirk, worrying what happened to us, waited on the north side with the car. He had driven across and actually saw us walking somewhere near the middle when the rain started. Besides being a bit wet, we were no worse for the wear. Even the camera survived.

~ ~ ~

I would like to send hearty thanks to Julie Ann Blumreiter. Contrary to what she thinks, she was a most courteous and thoughtful host! Thank you Julie, so very much for being our “gentle guide” and of course, for the box of Rice-a-Roni. ☼