On the Road With the Bearded Bikers (Part 5)
Part 5 of an autobiographical, collaborative 10-speed odyssey from Seattle to Frisco undertaken by my dad and his friend in their late teens.
“We’ll Have to Visit Seattle Someday” (San Francisco)
Day Eighteen, Sunday, July 9th
Score one for the establishment! Sleeping downstairs in the basement afforded us the fine luck of being able to easily hear the buses that went by on the street front. Now we knew where San Francisco’s money was going. Buses went by every ten minutes for the entire night! In the crackerbox-styled houses of S.F., the upstairs area is soundproofed but the basements aren’t. So not only did we have the regularly scheduled buses roaring past six times an hour, but we also had some barking dogs next door to keep us awake!
At one time during the night, I had been awakened by one of the buses. As I lay there cursing silently, old Steve let out a big sigh and rolled over. Much to my surprise, he began mumbling out loud. All I caught was, “Yeah, and his old man kicked off, too.” That morning I asked him if he had any recollection of the incident, but to my frustration, he wasn’t able to shed additional light on the subject.
We dragged ourselves upstairs to breakfast. When we had finished eating, the phone book was located, so we could locate the Amtrack office when we went downtown. We wanted to obtain the price of a ticket to Portland, and when we could leave. After finding the address, I memorized it — or so I thought — and we were on our way, north up 47th Avenue to Golden Gate Park. We found the beginning of a bike path that eventually carried us through the entire length of the park. Exiting the Panhandle, a tiny extension of the main park, running for about half-mile between two one-way streets, we headed downtown on Oak Street.
The blocks sped by as we built up speed to match that of the traffic’s. We soon became adept at timing the stop lights; and in doing so, we noticed a very peculiar habit of the San Francisco driver; Stopped at one of the few lights we failed to negotiate, we watched the traffic control turn green. Much to our surprise, none of the cars pulled out. After waiting for about three or four seconds, though, they finally continued on their way. Why? It seems that the drivers are expected to run red lights for a few seconds after they change. This knowledge was put to use in our later adventures with the S.F. traffic.
Passing beneath one of the many freeways, we entered the downtown section of San Francisco. Moving with traffic, we made a left turn onto Van Ness and then a right onto Fell Street. Another block brought us to Market Street, which was being torn up for an underground subway system that is a part of the Bay Area Rapid Transit: BART.
To avoid being delayed in construction, we rode another block to Mission Street. It was my belief that the Transbay Terminal — where Amtrak has its offices — was located on Market, near the Embarcadero. This belief was the beginning of our problems. By going animal down Mission, we quickly covered the 12 blocks to First Avenue. Having reached the correctly numbered block, we cut over to Market Street. We were on the sidewalk and I heard Steve call to me: “Let’s get out into the street!”
“Right,” I called back; and noticing a hole in traffic, flashed across the street. Looking back, Steve was gone — simply disappeared! I waited a few minutes and then continued to Market Street, expecting to find him waiting there. He wasn’t. I looked for the Transbay Terminal. To my obvious distress, there was no such office on Market. After ten minutes of searching I called it quits and headed to Alice’s, figuring Steve to also head there.
I took the roundabout route past Chinatown, up Nob Hill, and finally back to Golden Gate Park. Declining an offer to participate in a softball game, I finished the return trip. Much to my chagrin, Steve had not yet arrived. I explained the situation to Alice as I had some lunch, and we came to the conclusion that Steve had either continued after he had left me and went sightseeing or else he had gotten lost. Since there wasn’t a thing I could do for the moment, I sat down to read.
Several hours later, he had still not returned. My aunt, a born worrier, was just beginning to make passing references to calling the police, when Steven showed. As I had expected all along, he had gone sightseeing. Better still, he had been able to find Amtrack.
“We were right in front of it, you turkey!” Steve chided. “Remember where we saw the buses pulling in and out, there on Mission Street? That was it!”
He had gotten the cost to Portland, and it was $27. There was a train leaving Friday, the 14th, so we decided to take it.
After checking these things, he had gone on a picture-taking tour to Coit Tower, Lombard Street, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
When Steve had finished wolfing down his lunch, we went downstairs to do a little planning. About an hour later, my aunt came down to ask of we’d run over to the grocery store. Armed with a list extending to our knees, we left.
The errand didn’t turn out to be all that bad, though. We had fun running through the store in search of the needed items. The store itself was very similar to the one Steve’s mother works in. (As a matter-of-fact, several months later I was in that store with Steve. I went off to pick up something or other, but I thought I was in the S.F. store and kept going to the wrong department.) It took great effort to keep my thought from placing me in the wrong store.
Next we went across the street to the deli, for some chopped boiled ham. It was over this culinary treat that we entered into a conversation with the deli owner’s daughter. She was mickle impressed at our feat of biking from Seattle. Two hams left with the ham and returned to their home away from home. We read and drank chocolate milk until dinner.
Dinner was excellent, as it was always to be; and since there was nothing of interest on the boob-tube (Democratic Convention), we retired to the basement. Steve and I now had a transistor radio for entertainment purposes, and we had the food we had bought earlier. I broke out the cards and, as usual, whipped Steve in eight straight games of Crazy Eights. He secured revenge by winning a few hands of War.
A little later I went upstairs to call home. I had not talked to the family since Steve and I had been in Coos Bay. They were all happy that I had made it — even my father, who had offered to retrieve me outside of Tacoma. I told them that Rut and I would probably be going to Portland at the end of the week.
“I’ll give you a call just before we leave, okay?”
“Okay,” my mom said. “But don’t hurry, though: We still have the boarder renting the room until the end of the month.”
I told her that I hoped the family was growing fat and comfortable on the extra income; and then I hung up, rejoining Steve in the basement.
He was preparing to take a bath, a noble undertaking, considering the situation. Later, after we had both soaked our tired limbs, we again picked up our card game. This was soon abandoned in favor of some letter-writing.
I said, “We’ve got to write a letter to Mike. I promised him one, when I talked to him back in Fortuna.”
“Okay,” agreed Steve, “let’s get to work.
We rounded up all the paper we could find; and yours truly, playing the part of the secretary, started writing down what was to become the basis for the first 15 pages of the opus you’re reading.
The going was slow, since I didn’t know shorthand. Steve and I agreed, though, that it would be a great trick to send Mike the whole story of our journey — in shorthand, that is! We finally tired of our storytelling and called it quits for the night. As we lay in the darkness, yet another bus roared past. Together, and completely unrehearsed, we raised our arms with crooks in them, and yelled, “Bacala!”
This was to become standard operating procedure. No matter what we were doing, every time a bus went by we would raise our arms and cry our oath at the offending vehicle.
This job seeming to entirely deplete our low supply of enthusiasm, we dropped off to sleep.
Day Nineteen, Monday, July 10th
Again awakened by the howling hounds next door, Steve and I rose for breakfast. Afterwards, armed with a San Francisco street map, we set off on our second trouble-seeking jaunt to Amtrak. We really didn’t mind making the six- or seven-mile run downtown; we rather enjoyed the hassle we were able to give the traffic, when they tried outmaneuvering us in close quarters.
Again we headed through Golden Gate Park. The weather was beautiful; unusually beautiful, my aunt had remarked.
“We usually have fog until around noon, during this time of year. You boys must have brought all the good weather with you!”
Not really — we just used up all the bad too early in the trip!
Once again we exited near the Panhandle and blasted down Oak Street: Knowing where we were going for once, there were no problems getting onto Mission Street. This was where the fun began! When we were out in traffic, Rut and I acted as if we were cars. This may sound dangerous, but you’d be surprised at the amount of respect drivers would show when they realized we were going somewhere just as they were, and that we were able to do so just as fast — or faster — than they in the cars could.
Oddly enough, though, there is always one person who feels he is being put down…
It was just our luck to have this person driving a city bus. He didn’t seem to like our doing what we pleased. As the battle began, each side had their advantages and disadvantages; The bus was larger and had more horsepower, but we were more maneuverable and didn’t have to stop for passengers. So the stage was set…
Steve and I scored the first points by passing the bus as it was pulling away from a stop light. Having timed the light correctly, we had both speed and momentum over the cumbersome city vehicle.
Not to be outdone, the bus driver blasted past us and then cut us off by going into a bus stop. Even so, we still went ahead when he had to stop.
So it went, back and forth, throughout the 11 blocks leading to the Transbay Terminal. Only on block remained to traverse. The bus was just ahead and coming to a stop light. Remembering our previous experiences with lights, we roared through without slowing. Sure enough, everyone was waiting the customary four seconds, so we got by scot-free!
Trying vainly to cut our lead, the bus was foiled by another knot of paying passengers. With a half-block lead, we pulled into the terminal. We gave each other five and entered.
Walking our speeders through the concourse, we spotted the Amtrak office. Up to the window we went. We reserved two seats on the Friday train to Portland and told the agent that we would have the money the next day, Tuesday. Back into the blinding brightness of the outside world we went.
“Now what?” asked Steve.
“Beats me,” I said. “Let’s go check out what else there is in Golden Gate Park.”
Off we traveled uptown: bugging traffic, riding on the sidewalks and against one-way streets. Winding through the Hayes Valley, the Western Addition, and Richmond, we had a look at a good cross-section of San Francisco. Like any large metropolitan city, it has its beauty and its scars.
We entered Golden Gate Park by way of a much-used bike path. With all the pedestrians using it, it was like driving a car on the sidewalk.
We rode around the Academy of Science, the DeYoung Museum, and the Music Temple. Quite by accident, we had entered a path reading: No Bicycles. Before we could get off, we had already pedaled to the softball stadium, where a game was in progress. I stopped to watch a play at second base, and when I turned around to Steve — he was gone.
We had managed to lose each other again!
I headed back to Alice’s. Again I was quicker than Steve, but not by much. Upon his return, Steve was informed that a telephone message had come through while he was out. It turned out that his girlfriend, Debi, was in town with her family, and they wanted to visit us. When she called later, we gave her our address and some indecipherable directions on how to reach the Sunset District. We sat down to await their arrival.
During the wait, I hopped onboard by trusty speeded and cruised to the S.F. Zoo. Debi and family had found Alice’s, as I noticed upon my return. There was much to converse on, and we did.
Someone remarked how nice it would be to give Mike a surprise as well. He wasn’t in when we phoned, but he was expected back soon. We gave Mike’s mother Alice’s phone number and asked to have Mike give us a ring.
He called about ten minutes later. I answered.
“Howdy, what’s going on?” Mike asked.
“The big S.F. is ours!”
“Great! When did you get in?”
“Saturday evening — 8:20,” I told him. “Say, Deb’s here, too. She and her family are visiting. You want to talk to her?”
The phone was passed to everyone. Before we ran the bill too astronomically high, we told Mike our plans and then rang off.
When we had, Debi’s father asked if they could take Steve and I to dinner. My aunt was all too happy to let us go, because that sprung her from the chore of cooking for two extra people. After all, she’s only human!
Our group cruised San Francisco, looking for a nice restaurant. At last, we settled for a buffet: Z’s Bountiful Buffet, Home of the Bottomless Plate.
It had better be!
We went in, myself wearing a shirt for the first time since school had expired. The food prices were very reasonable — better than those at West Seattle’s own Royal Fork — and the food itself was excellent. It was a truly enjoyable meal!
We drove back to Alice’s house and talked a few minutes more, before Debi and family departed. Steve and I refused my aunt’s offer of a second meal.
Oh yes, we even surprised ourselves sometimes!
But not really. When we had eaten dinner that first evening in S.F., Alice had been shocked at how little we consumed. Our stomachs had really shrunk during the days on the road. However, when our stomachs did expand, did we ever eat!
We finished out the day playing cards and continuing work on our epic journal. At last, exhausted from our earlier gorging, we hit the sack.
Day Twenty, Tuesday, July 11th
I was up far before Steve. I sat skimming an old magazine and finally went upstairs. I had almost finished the newspaper by the time Steve dragged himself out of the dungeon.
We discussed our plans over breakfast. We had to make our third trip to Amtrak, but then the entire day was open. As we were taking our usual route through the park, I hit upon a freaky idea.
“Do you want to see Haight-Ashbury?” I asked.
“Yeah, why don’t we!” hollered Steve, as we headed down Oak Street.
“Follow me, then!”
I led us to where Ashbury Street meets Oak. A right turn and three more blocks brought us to that famous intersection.
“Oh hell!” I cried. It’s gone!”
“What” asked Steve.
“The street sign!”
Sure enough, someone had ripped-off the landmark. What some people won’t do! What’s even worse, they had beaten us to it. We played tourist for a time and then continued downtown.
The mad rush down Mission Street was still fun, but even that was beginning to become dated. Pulling into the Transbay Terminal, we again went up to the Amtrak counter. We received our tickets after paying the required $27.
As we returned to the bright light of the outside world, Steve asked, “Do you want to take the same sight-seeing tour I took?”
I said yes, so off we went: through downtown S.F., across Market and then over to Montgomery Street. Passing through the financial district, we skirted the east side of Telegraph Hill and arrived at the docks. Looking back, we saw Coit tower standing high above us.
“Way up there?” I said incredulously.
“Yep,” Steve said, “way up there. Here we go!”
On cobblestoned roads we climbed upward. Stopped about halfway up, we were approached by a stranger.
“Hey you guys,” he called; “Do you know of any places around here that I could get some fake I.D.?”
“Sorry,” I told him, “we’re not from around here. We live over in Sunset.”
“Oh, ok; thanks anyway,” he said, and returned to his car. When he left, Steve threw a questioning glance in my direction.
“What did you tell him that for?” he asked.
I said, “We can’t let him think that we’re tourists, can we?”
Steve laughed and replied, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
We started climbing again. Corkscrewing our way up Telegraph Hill, we arrived at the Coit Memorial Tower. And what a view there was! Behind us was the San Francisco skyline; ahead of us was the world-famous Fisherman’s Wharf; off to the right was the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; and far to our left was the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of the fog my aunt had mentioned earlier was beginning to float in, making the Golden Gate span appear to have a fluffy crown.
We admired the sights, careful not to act like out-of-town visitors. Glancing to our immediate left, we saw Lombard Street; it was a colorful display about a mile off. We started riding in that direction, so as to more closely scrutinize the beautiful scene. Both Coit Tower and Lombard Street are on hills, so we blazed down one knoll and then labored up the other. We were standing at the bottom of Lombard’s curvy section, when we were approached by two tourists.
“Say there, could you be so kind as to point out where the Gap is?”
We really didn’t have the faintest notion what they were talking about, but I made a vague sweep to the northeast with my hand, and, mollified, the two wandered aimlessly away.
“You know something, Steve?” I said, after the out-of-towners had departed. “We’ll have to visit Seattle someday, I hear that it’s very nice. There are the mountains, Puget Sound, and of course the Space Needle. Yes sir, we’ll really have to visit Seattle someday!”
“Yeah,” Steve returned sarcastically. “Why don’t we take the Friday train?”
Laughing, we picked up our speeders and lugged them up the stairs paralleling the flower-lined street. Up on Hyde Street, we watched a cable car clang its way to the summit of Russian Hill.
“We’ll go down to Fisherman’s Wharf tomorrow,” said Steve. “That way, we won’t have to watch the bikes.”
“Right,” I agreed. “We’ll catch a cable car. The ones running past here will take us right to the wharf.”
“Great. But what do we do in the meantime?”
I said, “I’m hungry. Why don’t we head back to Alice’s for a bite to eat. If there’s something going on, then we can take off afterwards.”
Steve agreed (he always agrees with his stomach!), and we headed home. We rode down Hyde Street ahead of the cable car until we came to Hayes Valley. There we took leave of the trolleys and partook our usual homeward route.
Near Alamo Square, Steve called back to me, “You know what I’d like to do?”
“Get a car?” I wheezed, as we climbed yet another hill.
“Well, that too; but what I’d really like to do is find Z’s Bountiful Buffet.”
“Really,” I agreed. “The food was great!”
Ok then, let’s look for it on the way home. First off, what to do about its location…”
“It’s near a Bank of America!” I told him.
“Fine,” Steve said, “just fine! Here we are in San Francisco — world headquarters for Bank of America — and you tell me that Z’s is near a Bank of America!”
(Was he being sarcastic?)
“I seem to remember something about the Godfather, too,” I said; “but I can’t remember why.”
Steve said, “Well, we’re in the right area. All we need do is find something familiar.”
For an hour, we patrolled one block after another to no avail. Finally, stomachs reigning supreme, we went back to my aunt’s for lunch.
We made a quick trip to the store after eating, and then flopped in the back yard for an attempted tanning job. In this way we wasted the reminder of the afternoon.
Again we had an excellent dinner (at which our now-stretched stomachs were rejoicing). Returning to the basement with a goodly amount of food, we started another marathon game of Crazy Eights. I had taught Steven the game during the weeks of the trip. He was becoming quite adept at playing, but still wasn’t proficient enough to outmatch his teacher. We were sitting across from each other, deeply into a game. I raised my eyeballs and leered across the table. Steve glanced up at me.
“Poker face,” I told him. His expression didn’t change. I’d get him: “Caught it in the face with a poker!” That did it. He collapsed laughing and I easily took the game. Interest soon died out, though. The game broke up and Steve went over to sit on our bed (which just happened to be on the floor). “Now what?” he asked, as if expecting a miracle from me.
I just sat there and gave him a squinty-eyed stare.
“Ah hell, Rutledge!”
There was a snort of laughter from Steve. “Ah hell, Young. That doesn’t answer my question!”
To our deranged minds, this was funny. We wrote more on our epic novel, between fits of giggling, and then spent the remainder of the evening reading.
Day Twenty-one, Wednesday, July 12th
We were in for a pleasant surprise when we came upstairs for breakfast. Aunt Alice had to see her doctor downtown, and she said she’d give us a lift if we needed one. That fitted our plans to a tee, so we accepted gratefully.
Alice dropped us off smack in the middle of town. We wandered from shop to shop, checking the scene.
Steve said, “Well, we wanted to visit Fisherman’s Wharf, right?”
“Any time you’re ready,” I said.
“You’re the navigator, find the right cable car.”
I looked around. “Let’s see, we’re on Powell Street, so the cable car that goes by here will do the trick.”
No sooner had I spoken than one came clanging up the hill — filled to critical mass!
“Let’s go closer to the beginning of the line,” suggested Steve. We went down Powell. Being only a couple of line stops from the beginning of the line, we quickly realized that the cable cars were going to be just as crowded wherever we caught one. We boarded the nearest trolley and found ourselves a spot to stand.
With a lurch, we were off: back up Powell the way we had come just moments before. With every block, the number of people squeezing themselves onboard increased. I tried acting as if I were used to it all. Somehow, I wondered if true San Franciscans ever used the cable cars at all.
After a crunching left turn onto Jackson Street and a bruising right turn onto Hyde, we came to Lombard Street. We then came to an unexpected stop. There were a few moments of confusion before the situation became known. Apparently there was some kind of mechanical problem and everyone was being delayed.
Most of the passengers either disembarked in order to walk or tried cramming into the car ahead. We found ourselves a place to sit on the less-crowded car; We were in no hurry. Evidently, neither was anyone else; none of the cars were moving. Being stuck on Russian Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf could be seen far below. Many of the people who had earlier tried cramming onto the closer cable cars were now walking down the hill. We thought of doing the same, but elected to remain instead.
Steve fished out his camera and took a shot of the Wharf, looking down Hyde Street. He refused, however, to take a photo of a cable car.
“I’ve seen too many Rice-A-Roni commercials,” He told me.
At last we began to move. There were a few people left on our trolley. With delays hindering us every block, it took yet another fifteen minutes to make Fisherman’s Wharf. We walked off to find what was happening. Most importantly, we felt certain that we would find our prey: the Handee-Dandee Bullshit Grinder.
We wandered through stall after stall of seafood stands until we were standing in front of Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not establishment. This whole experience was like a touch of déjà vu. Several months before, I had stood before the same shop and wondered if I’d ever make it to S.F. on a speeder.
The admission prices to Ripley’s and a nearby Wax Museum were, of course, too expensive for our Depression Era pocketbooks. We browsed through several art galleries before we found the Cannery.
The Cannery is just what it implies: it’s an old cannery that has been rebuilt into a shopping mall. There are scores of little shops, a square with a fountain and live entertainment, and places to eat; the Cannery has a glass-enclosed elevator, and an all-around touch of casualness that makes it a pleasant place to spend an idle afternoon.
We spent the near part of two hours looking through the multitude of shops. Clothing shops, tanneries, wood and metal workings, restaurants, novelty shops, and book stores — all having hundreds of items for sale, none having the Handee-Dandee Bullshit Grinder.
Disappointed, we walked along the pier, watching the various fishing boats bringing in their catches. Several old sailing ships were docked nearby, becoming the latest victim of Steve’s roving camera. We walked past the Ghiradelli Chocolate factory, but they weren’t giving free samples.
Finding ourselves on a dead-end street, we entered Aquatic Park. There were about twenty old men who were lawn bowling. Most of the gentlemen sounded as if they were speaking Italian, and Steve and I watched their comical antics with great amusement. Exiting the park, we found ourselves facing the high cement walls of Fort Mason. With no way out except a single street, we kept walking.
“You know,” said Steve, “I really didn’t want to take a smelly old bus anyway. Let’s walk home, huh?”
The sun must have affected my rationing abilities, because I said that Steve’s idea was fine with me. We must have known that it was six or seven miles to my aunt’s house.
Several quick blocks brought us to Lombard Street once again. Now, however, Lombard was a main street and part of U.S. 101, carrying traffic to and from the Golden Gate Bridge. We continued westward on Lombard until we came to a stop light. It was red, so we crossed the boulevard and headed south. That was what we did for the next forty-five minutes. Every time we came to a corner with a light, we went whichever direction the signal allowed. Our roundabout traversing soon brought us to the Presidio.
The Presidio, once a military installation during WWII, is now one of San Francisco’s many parks. The solitude was complete: the tree-lined streets took on a more personal, earthy feel, and we met only four or five people as we strolled, allowing the opportunity to again play the S.F. citizen. The tourists, who were from Colorado, asked directions which, by chance we were able to answer like a couple of pros.
The road we were on forked, one way being the entrance of a private golf course and the other leading out of the park. We took the outbound street, which was Arguello, a main thoroughfare we knew led right into Golden Gate Park.
Down off the hill we came. We were both hungry, so we stopped at a handy drive-in. Finding a drive-in in San Francisco, by the way, can really be a hassle sometimes. Because of the space restrictions the city has, there have not been many drive-in’s built; and on an empty stomach, the few there are can seem far and few between!
As we neared the park, I could feel several painful blisters beginning to rise. The fact that I had pedaled one thousand miles meant nothing, I still had tender feet. Just inside the park, I sat down and removed my tennis shoes. The skin on the balls of my feet was starting to swell but had not yet broken. I tied the shoes tighter and we continued.
Near the Conservatory, Steve and I took to the wilds instead of using the same roads we had traveled time and again. Pushing forth blindly through the flora, we soon found ourselves at the Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. This development was hailed with much dismay, though; for it meant we had been traveling southward, and not in the westerly direction we had hoped for. To top things off, we got lost.
We were trying to find an escape from the gardens, but all paths seemed to lead either to a fence or a locked gate. Many minutes were lost before an exit was found. In the meantime, my feet were slowly passing away. I could tell the skin had broken but I didn’t have the guts to take a look.
The exit had led through the Hall of Flowers, and the path then ran to Lincoln Way — the main boulevard paralleling the park. We walked along Lincoln until we could re-enter Golden Gate Park without having to climb over a fence. The next mile was through a grassy area between the South Drive and Lincoln Way. Steve also had several blisters appearing, and for each of us, every step was becoming an effort.
Our street finally came, and we morbidly rejoiced in the fact that we had only six more blocks to walk — or about a mile. About twenty minutes later, we hobbled into my aunt’s house. Collapsing in the kitchen, an explanation was made to all interested parties. Alice was mickle impressed. We retired to the basement to dress our gaping wounds.
My blisters were pretty bad. There was one spot, about three inches across, where I had completely worn away the skin. Later, after soaking my tired feet, they began the slow road to recovery. Steve’s blisters, though not as large as mine, were just as painful, and we both hobbled like old men for many days thereafter.
After dinner, we spent a relaxing evening reading and discussing what it was like to be insane.
Day Twenty-two, Thursday, July 13th
Today was our last day to do much sightseeing in San Francisco. Even though the bus to Oakland wasn’t due to leave until 8:20 Friday evening, Steve and I wanted all of that day to repack our speeders, have an early-afternoon dinner with the clan, buy food for the trip, and then just plain relax.
The one thing we did want to do this day was have dinner at Z’s Bountiful Buffet. Of course, this meant we had to find it first. With this goal in mind, we cruised, systematically searching the Richmond District.
After nearly ninety minutes, with stomachs pleading for lunch, I shouted, “Hey, wait a minute! This looks familiar!”
“I think you’re right,” replied Steve. “This does look familiar.”
“And there’s a Bank of America!” I yelled. It wasn’t the one we wanted, but things were beginning to crystallize. “Say hey” Steve called: “There’s the Doggie Diner Drive-in that we saw!”
“And there’s Z’s!” I said triumphantly. And, miracle of miracles, across from Z’s was a movie theater showing the Godfather.
“We’re really becoming like San Franciscans,” I told Steven, as we parked our ten-speeders inside the doors of the restaurant. “I read that people here even take their speeders right into elevators!”
Picking up plates, we started down the food line. We both had salad and jello: Steve settled for a plateful of assorted chicken parts and I chose the cheese enchiladas. Our plates overflowing with greasy gobs of grub, we staggered to a nearby table.
Steve took the philosophy of eating slowly and allowing his stomach time to take care of the influx of food. Between mouthfuls, I spieled off the scientific finding that told, the faster one eats, the more one can eat. The reason, I said, was that once the digestion process began, the stomach would no longer want to take in food. We then challenged each other to an eating contest, to see whose scarfing method worked best.
As the stuffing proceeded, we returned to the fodder bins thrice. Steve realized a good thing and remained with chicken and I was still shoving in the enchiladas. In order to eat more, though, we were going back more often for foodstuffs such as jello. Jello, we found, went down real fine!
To make a long story short (and I know anyone reading this hound would like it that way), Steve won. This is going to sound like sour grapes, but I was really the underdog all the way anyhow. Why? Well, for one thing, Steve had proven many times before that he had the larger stomach. Secondly, he had eaten mostly chicken, while I had had enchiladas. The rich Mexican food was a little harder to wrestle down, especially after six or seven servings. Lastly, I feel Rutledge had a psychological advantage, insomuch as a scarfed chicken leaves tell-tale bones all over the place. But with cheese enchiladas, if one is lucky, there are no unconcealed skeletons to freak a person. And in the end, Steve’s plate held enough bones to make one think he had shot and ate a moose!
No matter who one, though, the end result was the same: a great meal for an amazingly low price — $1.59. We paid our bills and fetched our bikes. Standing outside, we pondered our next escapade.
“I’m still kind of thirsty,” I said. “Why don’t we get a milkshake at the Doggie Diner.” Steve agreed and we rode over.
I ordered a chocolate shake and Steve chose strawberry. The guy behind the counter took our orders, saying, “Right: one choc, one straw!”
We talked and downed our shakes. I had just finished mine and Steve offered me his. I took it and killed it also.
Then it hit me! The cold shake hitting the stockpile of still-warm food, my stomach cramped. Steve doubled-up a second later. It was terrible, as if someone had thrust a flaming brand into my gut.
“Steve,” I rasped, “I’m going to throw up! I’ve got to get to that gas station across the street…”
We grabbed the bikes and started across the avenue. About halfway over, though, the light changed and we were forced to run to avoid being hit. Just what we needed: to jiggle our stomachs anymore!
I rushed into the bathroom and Steve curled up outside the door, so he could watch the speeders. Inside, I was being tortured. (Take that any way you wish.) The only way I could get any relief was when I was kneeling, which was just fine, considering that’s the position I prefer to be in when I’m throwing up. First on the agenda was Steve’s left-over strawberry shake, and then my chocolate shake made its appearance. Fortunately, I was spared the cheese enchiladas!
Thirty minutes later, I came out again. Steve was up and walking, his gastric fortitude being on a higher plane than mine. Good thing, too, because only one of us could have used the toilet at any one time. And I hadn’t been about to cancel my reservation! We allowed a few more minutes for recovery purposes and then headed home.
Pedaling was quite difficult at first, but soon we were back to normal strength. Laughing and making jokes about the whole incident, we cruised through Golden Gate Park. We went down 47th Street to Noriega — we were back! By sneaking into the basement, we avoided another meal. When it was over, we made our way upstairs to make our presence known. Flopping ourselves on the sofa, Steve and I discussed the future of the afternoon.
At an earlier date, I had discussed family history with my aunt. At that time, she had told me I had a cousin attending San Francisco State College. Today, my aunt told us, she had classes until 3:30, if Steve and I wished to see her.
It was something to do, so we nabbed our speeders and headed for S.F. State. Our route took us past the A.P. Giannini Junior High School, and we were laughing so hard that we could barely stay on our bikes. In case the reader doesn’t understand (and if, you’ve proven yourself insane), A.P. Giannini was the founder of the Bank of America and the person who first introduced travelers’ checks to the public.
Reaching Sunset Boulevard, we headed south. Rounding Lake Merced, we passed Lowell High School (what, no joke there?), cruised alongside a local golf course, hassled several suspicious-looking characters, and pulled into the college. After a bit of searching, we found the right building. I went inside to find my cousin’s classroom. I found it, but the ten or so people inside seemed hard at work, and none matched the description I had of my cousin.
Back with Steve again, we decided to visit the zoo. We doubted that we’d enjoy ourselves, loathing the keeping animals in cages, but it was something to do to pass the time until dinner.
We found, upon our arrival, that there was an admission charge, along with the fact that bikes were not allowed inside. We started back to Alice’s house. That didn’t take long, with residence being only a small step away, so there still remained forty-five minutes until meal time.
“Let’s take a walk to the beach,” I suggested to Steve. “You haven’t been there yet.”
The walk was almost too rough: around the corner and then two blocks west. Crossing the Great Highway, we stood before the Pacific Ocean. It was difficult to realize that the body of water Steve and I were now looking out over was the same one that had been our companion for all those days before. We sat down on a sand dune and watched the seagulls making their strafing runs on an unsuspecting populous.
Emptying the sand from our shoes, we started back. Our tennis shoes, by the way, were quite easy traps for sand and the like. The toe clips on our speeders’ pedals had worn our shoes almost in half, and the only things holding them together were parts of the soles and the shoe laces.
We arrived at Alice’s just as the food was being placed on the table. Afterwards, Rut and I moved downstairs where we read, played cards, listened to the radio, and just plain bullshitted. Buses excepted, we had a quiet final night in San Francisco.