From Sea to Sea

When we planned the itinerary for our May trip, it seemed logical.  Nothing really amazing, just a practical way to attend two family events in a limited amount of time. Our initial flight took us to Charleston, South Carolina and to a rented house set up on a hill the second row in from the ocean in Folly Beach.  From our porch each morning and night we saw, heard, and smelled the awesome salty breezes of the Atlantic.   It was our first visit to Charleston, a city of refined southern charm and beauty.

We took a harbor cruise to see Fort Sumter where, 150 years ago, the shots were fired that started the Civil War.  The War, as true southerners still call it, was to be over in a few months time.  It lasted four bloody years.  Back in Charleston we rode on a guided tour in a mule drawn carriage through the city’s historic district and passed by stately old homes.  As we rode near Battery Park, we observed a solemn celebration of Confederate Memorial Day celebrated each year on May 10th, the day Stonewall Jackson died.

In an awesome marketplace, we watched artisans weave Sweetgrass Baskets and string stone beads for necklaces.  A pretty young student (thanks, Abby!) guided us through the grounds of the beautiful College of Charleston.  We toured Middleton Place, a rice plantation on the banks of the Ashley River.  Everywhere, we ate fresh seafood – at a rural dive, at a crab shack near the ocean, and at our beach house.

At the Public Library and the old Court House, I scrolled through spools of old microfilm to copy family history.  We shot pictures of the house where my husband’s great-grandfather once lived, and then said a prayer at the church he attended. At Magnolia Cemetery we found his grave, and said another prayer.  Nearby lay the dead of the sunken Hunley, yet another reminder of The War.   Back at Folly Beach the ocean called.  We strolled barefoot over smooth sand letting the warm waters of the Atlantic wash over our feet.  Reluctantly, we said goodbye.

From Charleston we flew across green mid-western farm fields to Chicago’s O’Hare Field then on to the brown desert sands surrounding Las Vegas. A myriad of languages and accents sang out at airports.  The final leg of our journey took us to the wonder of San Francisco, a vibrant diverse city as beautiful as Charleston but different.  So different.

On Saturday we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael to attend a joyful college graduation on the peaceful grounds of Dominican University.  On our trip back to the city, at the top of a winding hilltop we gazed on the magnificent Bay that leads to the Pacific Ocean.  Early Sunday morning we strolled a few blocks to watch the fun of the Bay to Breakers race.   Serious runners, walkers, and costumed party-goers run 12 kilometers from the San Francisco Bay to the waters of the Pacific Ocean. This year is the 100th anniversary.   And everywhere, we enjoyed gloriously fresh food – fruits, veggies, crepes, seafood.

I’m on overload  now.  In ten short days we traveled from sea to sea.  Soon comes the return to the reality of daily life.  The best part of course, has been visiting with loved ones.  Aside from that has come a deeper appreciation for this land. Travel does that.  America is vast and her stories are boundless.  So much still to discover, and record.

San Francisco – July 27

From now until the RWA National Conference ends August 3, I’m posting daily about events here in San Francisco. If the mood strikes, please take a minute to comment. To other writers attending, please share a link to your own blog posts about RWA National.

Years from now, long after senility sets in, I will still recall Sunday in San Francisco and the feel of the whipping wind as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.

It started peacefully. Early afternoon, after a savory brunch at The Crepe House, we boarded an open-top double-decker bus for a sightseeing tour of the city. Sunday’s weather was cloudy and in the low 50s. Sitting in seats atop the red bus, cool air brushed our faces. Up and down the hilly streets we rode, passing the Seven Sisters at Alamo Square, skirting Golden Gate Park. We traveled through the Presidio, listening to a recorded guide tell us of its history. And on we rode, to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The driver pulled into a parking lot and offered us the opportunity to walk the 1.2 miles across the bridge. I declined. My husband offered me the opportunity to go to the seats below. “It will be windy up here,” he said. Remembering our breathtaking sail the night before, again I declined. Walking might be out, but I could surely ride in the open air. We pulled out of the parking lot and into a settling mist.

We were only a few hundred feet onto the bridge before I felt the rushing cold. The bridge pillars and supports stood shrouded in fog. Down on the Bay, daring sailboats skimmed over the water. We watched wide-eyed as one boat tilted, and tilted. With sails nearly touching the water, the valiant on board, ant-like from our height, scrambled to keep her upright. On we went.

On the walkways, brave walkers, bundled in hoods and jackets, moved quickly. The bridge is no place for a leisurely stroll. I tucked my hands into my pockets, and fervently wished for gloves.

Suddenly we reached Vista Point North. We sat for a while, passing around cameras, taking pictures of the view and each other, watching waves of fog roll down the mountainside, talking about our lives. (One of the other tourists on board, a Suzanne Brockman groupie, is coming to RWA’s Literacy signing on Wednesday!) Finally we turned and headed south, on the west side of the bridge, the ocean side where the cold wind originates.

We stepped off at Fisherman’s Wharf and dined at Alioto’s, where we had an upstairs window seat with a perfect view of moored fishing boats (see photo). Rockfish and salmon, scalloped potatoes, wine, all delicious. Prolonging our meal, we ordered coffee and dessert, and sat some more.

We hopped back on the bus and rode by the Wells Fargo Museum, the Cafe Zoetrope, Chinatown, around Union Square, the hotel district, the Asian Art Museum, and on.

The entire bus loop takes 90 minutes but most of the varying lines are hop on, hop off so it can easily become an all day adventure. The bus we rode runs from 9 am to 5 pm, but we saw mention evening tours. The trips are not cheap, but they offer a great way to view the city as a whole.

Check back tomorrow for more!

San Francisco – July 26

From now until the RWA National Conference ends August 3, I plan to post daily about events here in San Francisco. If the mood strikes, please take a minute or two to comment. To other writers attending, please share a link to your own blog posts about RWA National.

I had mentioned to my son that we wanted to walk along the Pacific.On Saturday the four of us drove to Santa Cruz.An hour and a half drive down Highway 280 took us along the San Andreas fault line, a pretty drive through winding mountain roads.

We arrived at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk around 10 am. The ocean called and our feet sunk into the soft sand.We dipped our toes into the frigid water.Waves rolled in and we breathed in the gentle salt air.Not many people actually swim in the Pacific; it’s too cold.But as the day progressed, the beach filled and some brave souls waded in. (Photo by Urso Chappell.)

We took a long walk out on the pier to visit shops and the sea lions.The large animals rest on the supports beneath the pier and their barking echoed through the air.We left the pier and the Boardwalk and drove into downtown Santa Cruz for lunch at the Saturn Café, a delightfully funky vegetarian restaurant, then visited a few shops before driving back to San Francisco.

We made it to the City in time to change into warmer clothing then race for the trolley.It took us down Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39.There we boarded a catamaran for our sunset cruise of the San Francisco Bay.

The Captain took us out into Bay, around Alcatraz Island, then on toward the Golden Gate Bridge.Despite the cold, our jackets, cups of hot chocolate, and the sheer exhilaration of the cruise kept us feeling warm.

If you are attending this year’s RWA Conference, try to work in a Bay Cruise on the Adventure Cat. Truly memorable. You will need to make advance reservations at their site.

Hot soup in sourdough bread bowls at Boudin’s and a stroll through Pier 39’s shops wound up our day.

Weather remains in the 60’s and sunny. Here’s the updated ten-day forecast.

Oh, just received a link from Blogging National. In it, Jude lists other posts discussing RWA’s Conference. Looks like LOTS of helpful info for conference attendees!

Please check back here tomorrow.