Day 1 of the tour: San Francisco 101
Last night, I arrived at about midnight to a fairly bleak SF airport... I mean the flight was awesome, great lift-off and landing, only one well-behaved baby on board, and great staff... but SFO airport sort of goes into low-gear overnight, so it was quiet.
DIY TRAVEL TIP:
There are some great alternative taxi services out there. I am an avid Zipcar member (for affordable short-term car rental), and have used Hailo in NYC to summon a taxi with my iPhone. To change things up, I tried Uber for the first time. This service hails a ride from your choice of cars with a single click. I was picked up by a driver named Vladmir, who kindly worked with the tricky multi-level airport arrivals location. The car was clean, and he was very friendly. Uber, however, is not necessarily budget friendly... It's convenient and cashless, which is nice, but the price was about $5 more than a regular cab fare from the airport. An advantage of Uber is how available a car is in most major cities. If you cab regularly, and favor convenience, this could be a great app for you!
NOTES FROM THE PLANE:
1. When I travel, I feel most like myself–clean, organized, prepared, clear headed, in control of myself, aware of the environment (which is out of my control), curious, a better listener, alert, more observant, on best behavior, self-contained, free, detached, ...oddly at home in strange places. The ritual of preparing for travel, and the airport is very satisfying to me. At taxiing on the runway, I become calm. When I notice this, I can't suppress a grin, even if only to myself. It's satisfying.
2. There are some sections of lit terrain in the Midwest, which, from above in the night sky, make a Ms. Pac-man board.
3. Making long East-West trips, I like to pretend I've time traveled, because it gives meaning to the jet lag. Traveling backward in time and forward through space justifies being a little tuckered!
I got a crazy cold just before leaving. Fie on that dude that sneezed six inches away from my face on the A train to Brooklyn... Now I'm that "guy"... ugh. But I won't let it get to me! I'm trying not to infect the world, while seeing the world... The first full day was Dayquil-fueled... but perhaps that added to the fun, LOL!
OPEN SESSIONS + FLEXIBILITY:
The plan was to have the first panel today, but some really cool stuff is happening for the panelists that's worth working around, so we have all mutually agreed to be flexible... HUGE rule of DIY: Be adaptable. I will be doing the SF talks in smaller clusters or as interviews over the next 3 days, and I expect they will be really fun!
MAGICAL IMPROMPTU TOUR GUIDE:
Today, I was recovering from this beast of a cold. It turns out that it was quite serendipitous. I have been kindly hosted by some wonderful creative/innovative types at a loft space here in SOMA (stands for South of Market St., I was told). There is an amazing view of the city from the roof, and the folks are extremely civilized and cooperative.
When I woke up, I had a moment to say goodbye to Jake, who kindly introduced me to the place, and had to leave for work. Another resident, Zach offered to lead me to coffee. First order of business! Excellent.
My agenda included coordinating the panel, and clapping an eye on the city. Lucky me, Zach offered to usher me to many of the cool areas, and I saw some treasures. It could not have been a nicer day to walk around... not a cloud in the sky! Turns out he's a wealth of knowledge about the subject of collaboration as well...the walk n' talk was delightful.
We started with Philz. This is a cool coffee shop in SOMA where every coffee is blended. Then with beverages in hand... (at one point I had a coffee, a water AND an orange juice), we walked over to AT&T Park which flanks the water with epic views of the boats, and bridge as you follow the pathway. You can see the reclamation project across the way...new buildings going up.
I was taken with the counterweights which look like giant dogs to me... and the little red command station, which looks like a place I would have obsessed over as a young child. Zach found this funny.
We continued on to an indoor/outdoor market full of crafts, food and eateries at the Ferry Building. There was a sweet bookstore, which I'll check out later on this trip.
Next up was hunting for an ATM with no fees. Thankfully, my bank is friends with SF. Boom. Easy. Most useful navigation tool? 1. Sun, 2. iPhone.
The original plan was to cross the water on the ferry to Sausalito and see that... but in the window of time before the next ferry came, we got a better idea.... see the city from waaaaay up high in this super tall building with a glass walkway. From there I saw Alcatraz, which I mistook for a castle, and the Transamerica Pyramid. Past that we saw a hole being dug. I said the hole reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "hellmouth". I blame the Dayquil.
We pushed on toward food, and boarded the Muni bus. There's the BART (under and overground) and the Muni trains and buses overground. The system is pretty efficient and clean. It's 2 bucks a ride. Zach had a detour he promised would be cool... in Marina District there is this gorgeous park and in it is the Palace of Fine Arts. Zach told me a pretty good second hand account (borrowed from a lady he met on the street) about the history of the park. To keep things simple, I'll just link the Wikipedia page here, and move on to how I saw a weird small black duck bird that seemed really smart, and for whatever reason they glued all the gravel together on the walkways... And I know you're thinking I mean pavement... no... I mean they intentionally put loose gravel in some areas and then...glued it together?
Pizza was next, except we didn't get any. We were served by some very nice folks at the bar at Delarosa on Chestnut Street. Simple and tasty pasta dishes, and a yummy polenta. This was the first real food I'd eaten besides cold medicine for a whole day. Satisfying!
After a wonderful conversation with intermittent panel planning, we were ready to head back. Because I'm experimenting with travel on a budget, we stopped a the grocery store near the loft. I chose a number of non-perishables–Clif bars, instant miso soup, instant oatmeal, Starbucks Via instant coffee, and some tortillas. Then only the essentials needing refrigeration: half & half and juice. I chose these things because they all come single serving packed, and can be taken with me as I adventure around. If I don't use all the packets while in SF, I can easily stash these basics in the dry pockets of my pack, for the rest of the trip.
And this brings me to now! We walked safely back to the loft, and it's lights out. A round of applause to my impromptu tour guide and wonderful new friend, Zach. It was an awesome day, and I feel quite a bit more comfortable with where I am! Tomorrow... talks, bookstores, Kidrobot (if possible), and more SF!