We woke up at the Rodeway Inn on the outskirts of San Francisco. It was the worst hotel of our trip (not as clean, no wi-fi) even though it cost $189 for the night. I’m sure this is a deal for San Francisco.
Thankfully, the night before I was able to do a load of laundry in an oversized washer and dryer at local laundromat.
Emma Grace got an education in laundromats – it was fun to work together.
LaunderLand looked like it was built in the 70s and never updated.
But hey, our clothes are clean and we’re ready to hit the big city.
The first stop of the day – an Amazon locker to pick up a replacement camera charger. Yes, I left my charger at the hotel in Hurricane, Utah. I guess I’m not immume from our “Leave Stuff All Over America” tour.
I’ve never used an Amazon locker before. It was something out of a sci-fi movie. The locker has a name – Seymour. I put in my code and all of a sudden, I hear the sound of a safe automatically open and my package magically appeared. Super cool!
From there, we made our way across the Golden Gate Bridge and north up the mountains to Muir Woods National Monument. This quiet forest is so popular that you have to make a parking reservation for it. It cost $8 for me to reserve a spot for the 9 to 9:30 p.m. timeslot. We actually got there right at 9 a.m.
We’d had a very tough morning with one of our sons so Jimmy was considering staying back with him in the parking lot. Eventually, he came along with us.
Muir Woods National Monument is a tribute to the Redwood trees of California.
Our 4th grade pass got us in for free. We walked only a mile or so along the quiet path gazing at the beautiful flora and fauna – Redwoods, ferns, lichen, and so much more lush greenery.
It’s unbelievable that so many lovely plants can grow with so little sunlight. This one plant actually turns its leaves downward when sun hits it – almost shielding itself from the sun.
There is only one spot along the path where you’re asked to be quiet but visitors remain quiet most of the time – I think in stunned silence over the beauty before them. A stream flows through the park that only adds to the scene.
Along the way, all I could think of was an enchanted forest. I was waiting for fairies or the Seven Dwarfs to come out from behind a large Redwood.
This park would be in stark opposition to our afternoon stop – Alcatraz.
But first, we had to get lunch and take it to our Golden Gate Bridge viewing area. The only thing that we could find on the way was a natural foods store.
Jimmy got us some lunch supplies there and we followed the signs for Marin Headlands – the recommended spot for good views of the Golden Gate Bridge. We made sandwiches in the car as we drove up the winding mountain road to the very end.
We got some great pictures of the bridge. You can’t go to San Francisco (in my opinion) without getting a good picture of the bridge.
Next, we took a small detour to Ghiradelli Square and shared two sundaes. $25 for two sundaes! They were very, very delicious and of course, the Stoppers dove in like vultures and destroyed them.
For the afternoon, we had a 1:30 p.m. tour scheduled with Alcatraz Cruises. Alcatraz is actually a National Park but they offer tours through their officially sanctioned cruised company. This was another splurge – around $200 for all of us to get the ferry to the island and listen to the famous audio tour of the cell house on Alcatraz.
Alcatraz was surprising to me in many ways. First, the ferry offers beautiful views of Alcatraz and San Francisco. I couldn’t help but take a ton of pictures.
Also, they have beautiful flowers on the island.
Can you see the sailboats in the background?
They even have a spectacular garden that was called The Officer’s Garden.
One of the prettiest gardens I’ve seen on our trip – at Alcatraz!!
The kids loved the audio tour. When we put on the headphones, it was like we were whisked back in time to the 1930’s and 40’s. The narrators of the audio tour are former Alcatraz guards and inmates. In the background of the narration, you hear the sounds of the jail just like you were there.
We got to see the cells up close.
Alcatraz was open from 1934 to 1963. Most often, it was a prison for men who had broken the rules at other prisons. They only housed a few notorious inmates – the most well known being Al Capone. In the May of 1946, an unsuccessful escape attempt resulted in the death of two inmates and three guards. The Marines drilled holes in the prison roof in order to drop grenades on the jail to stop the coup. They named the escape attempt “The Battle of Alcatraz.”
Also, in 1962, three inmates escaped through the jail pipes onto the roof and were never seen again. It is believed that they drowned in the San Francisco Bay.
Overall, our Alcatraz tour was very intriguing. We got back to our car at 4 p.m. – just in time for San Francisco rush hour.
We sat in very slow-moving traffic in San Francisco and through Alameda. When we finally got out of traffic, we stopped in Tracey, CA at an In-N-Out Burger for dinner. We noticed the temperature difference right away – 72 to 95 degrees. We weren’t in San Francisco anymore. We were in the San Joaquin Valley. I love to say that – San Joaquin (Wackeen).
At the restaurant, Jimmy, Luke, and Seth brought a burger to a man looking for food outside. Jimmy was able to ask Scotty his story and share the gospel with him. Scotty said that he is saved but he’s not walking with the Lord. Jimmy and the boys prayed for him to start seeking after the Lord. It was a great discipleship opportunity for the boys.
As I waited for the boys to return, I noticed a Scripture verse on the fry bag from In-N-Out Burger:
That verse wasn’t familiar to me so I looked it up:
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him…”
An apt verse for Scotty and a great reminder for us all.
Our two-hour trip to Merced, CA turned into a four trip with traffic. Around 9 p.m., we drove into the Motel 6 in Merced, CA. We quickly got our stuff together and checked in. The kids went ahead of us while Jimmy and I cleaned out the car. We noticed that a young couple was starting at us the whole time we were working on the car. It was kind of creepy. We kept thinking that maybe they were looking past us to the gas station. But when we headed their direction, the woman stopped me and warned me, “I wouldn’t leave anything on the back of your car. People around here will snatch it up real quick.” I thanked her and headed to the room. This place is making me nervous.
In the room, the kids were killing flies. There were a lot of dead flies on the floor and a whole family buzzing around the room. Although, the rest of the room was clean, the flies were getting to me. After Jimmy saw the state of the room, he asked me to join him in the hallway. He thought we should find another hotel. I agreed. I was glad to get out of there. Thankfully, the hotel gave us our money back and we were off to find another hotel.
We drove to the Hampton Inn down the street. They were fully booked but the lady at the desk was so helpful. She called a few other local hotels and asked about availability. She found us a room at America’s Best Inn and Suites. It was adequate for the night – we wouldn’t be there long. How kind of this Hampton Inn employee to not only recommend hotels for us but also to find something for us?
At one point in all the craziness of three brothers and the hotel fiasco, Emma Grace said, “Sometimes I just want to go live in the wild.”
I just thought to myself – you’ll have that opportunity tomorrow night when we camp.
Thank you, Lord, for directing our steps again today!