Motels and hotels I remember

First in a series.

Hilton in San Francisco

My friend Rodney and I, in… summer ’90? ’92? must have been ’91… decided to take a road trip one weekend to San Francisco. I had my Porsche 924 at the time, in Nutmeg Braun, which made a great road-trip car for two single guys. Rod was legally blind – he could see up close but beyond a couple of feet it was fuzzy. Had some degnerative retina disease. I’d known him since high school, and his sight was always getting worse and worse. But he was still a fun guy to hang out with.

We only had a couple of days before we both had to be back to work (he was working in construction, and I had a retail sales job) so we tried to maximize our time. I picked him up right after he got off work on Friday and was already packed and ready to go.

We drove down via I5 – just a nice straight shot. At least, that was my plan. Rod, however, kept talking about seeing all the “California beach bunnies”. I don’t think he realized that there’s a huge difference between Northern California and Southern California. I tried to explain it to him, but he was pretty insistent. So, once we crossed the Oregon/Califorina border, I turned towards the coast. I figured showing him would be better than telling him.

We found some beach access… somewhere. I don’t remember exactly where. I’d have to look it up on the map. But I remember what we saw when we came into view of the Pacific Ocean.

Rocky cliffs battered by waves, forest growing almost right up to the beach, lots of driftwood… a beautiful coast, but not exactly Muscle Beach in L.A. There were a few people out there in windbreakers but not a single bikini in sight.

Rod, needless to say, was disappointed but he chalked it up to the luck of the draw. “Maybe another beach…?”

I told him we’d try again in San Francisco.

I made my way back to I-5 and we continued south. That’s a long way to drive by myself. It’s 640 miles via I-5 and I’d added another 100 with our detour. When we got to SF it was late and dark. I suggested we find a motel somewhere cheap but Rod wanted to splurge and suggested the Hilton. He said he’d pay and I could pay him back, since money was my main objection. We crashed that night. Or, rather, I did, since I was beat. Rod went down to the hotel bar to do some drinking. He returned later, supposedly having flirted with an older woman but chickened out of going back to her room with her. I’m not sure if he was putting me on or not.

It was pretty nice in the Hilton, I have to admit. I remember it being quiet and comfortable. I remember it being pretty expensive at the time but don’t recall a specific dollar figure. We stayed two nights.

The next day, I wanted to see Alcatraz but Rod didn’t want to spend the whole time on one activity (every time I’m in SF I want to see Alcatraz and every time I’m there I never get to see it for one reason or another).

My second suggestion was seeing a game in (then-)Candlestick Park. Rod wasn’t a baseball fan but I was, and I talked him into it. The Giants were playing the Chicago Cubs.

We drove out to the ‘Stick to see about getting tickets, and right away we were approached by a scruffy-looking gentleman who offered us seats “behind home plate” for the amazingly cheap price of $25.00 a seat. It seemed too good a deal to be true… but it was true. As far as it goes. We were behind home plate… but way up near the top of the stadium. Still, it was a decent vantage point to view the entirety of the game.

I remember it being a decent game, close and low-scoring but at least one Giant got a home run. I found the box score for the game online – Sandberg was pitching for the Giants, and the Giants won, 3-6. The day was warm and sunny and both Rod and I got a bit burned, although it was breezy (duh!) up near the top of the stadium.

We stayed until the end of the game, and then faced a huge obstacle getting back downtown: traffic. It took us over an hour just to get out of the parking lot. To add pressure, I was nearly out of gas and, two hours later, and dealing with stop-and-go traffic downtown while driving a stick and having the fuel light on steady brought out the cranky in me. We finally found a gas station in Chinatown and I felt relieved but, again, beat. Rod, however, wanted to go out some more and I did, too, I suppose so we walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf. We stayed out pretty late.

I don’t actually remember getting back to the hotel that night but next thing I knew it was nearly check-out time and we had to get moving. After breakfast, we started the long drive back. I had the bright idea of driving up along the coast, since I had a vague idea of trying to find Skywalker Ranch, which was a fool’s errand since all I knew was that it was in Marin County north of SF.

The Pacific Coast Highway along Marin County’s shore is a twisty, windy, narrow two-lane. After nearly 6 hours of driving, with one or two stops for lunch and another snack, we were only 80 miles north of San Francisco as the crow flies. Driving a sporty car on twisty roads is fun… but not five hours worth of fun. And, of course, Rod couldn’t take a shift. When I suggested we head back to I-5 the next chance we get, Rod was surprised.

“Why didn’t you suggest that earlier?” he asked.