Dallas and I decided to go to Durango, CO to visit with our friends and pet-sit for them and their friends over the holidays. In the month that we were living in the bay area, we were able to get by working random jobs found on craigslist. We also could not have stayed as long as we did without the hospitality of Dallas’s sister, Sherilyn, and step-mom, Sandra. We also were warmly welcomed by Dallas’s friend Linus and his family, his cousin Tommy and his girlfriend, and his Aunt Lisa (who makes excellent banana bread) and her husband John. I am very grateful for Dallas’s friends and family and so glad I could meet them!
Dallas was lucky to find a part-time job as an assistant for a man who had just had foot surgery and needed help running errands, picking the kids up from school, and general help around the house. He was just able to start driving again the week we left California, so the timing worked out pretty well. I found gigs as a foot model for ankle jewelry being sold on Amazon, and spent another three days as a background runner for a Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial. Sandra also gave me some work, as she needed help tagging assets for one of the biotech companies that employs her as their facilities manager. For the amount of time we had in the area, we did pretty well. Living as a temporary resident of the bay area, I was able to observe and take note of a few unique characteristics.
Biking around downtown San Francisco, everyone is in a hurry. There are also lots of traffic lights (and tons of traffic). I got to practice my track stand and acceleration from a stop countless times on each commute, while other bike commuters rolled on through most of the lights. This never happened in Portland. I wonder if the difference is that there is more enforcement of traffic laws applied to cyclists in Portland, or if they are just better educated since there is a higher percentage of bike commuters there. San Francisco has more tourists, and many more people riding around on rental bikes, but it is clearly the commuters who were riding on city streets and disobeying traffic signals. I also noticed that the bike share program, which was recently initiated in the bay area and is expected to be one of the largest in the country after its planned expansions, is getting plenty of use in the city. In Redwood City, however, where there is a hub of bike share bikes, I didn’t notice anyone using them. It is definitely promising to see so many people commuting by bicycle, and so many bike lanes in the area, but it has a ways to go to catch up to Portland (which, doesn’t even have a bike share program, yet). Most of the bay area is accessible by bike, but (especially as you get further from the city) there are plenty of inconveniences and obstacles for cyclists to endure in order to avoid autocentric areas and unsafe roads, heavy with multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic.
Another noticeable thing about the bay area is the smog. We actually lucked out with pretty sunny weather every day that we were there, but some days you could see a tan haze hovering over the city. This is apparently normal, especially in the summertime. Every time I went outside, there were numerous planes in the air. Sometimes you could see ten or more planes in the sky around the airport, which wasn’t too far from where we stayed with Sandra. This, plus all of the traffic on the roads, probably leads to some pretty unhealthy air quality.
While I really enjoyed my time in the bay area, I’m glad that we didn’t stay long enough to get caught up in whatever the big hurry is around San Francisco. Everywhere we turned, everyone seemed so rushed and stressed out, and most drivers seemed angry. I’m sure it’s because the cost of living is so high, people have to work so much just to pay for their home, food and gym membership – they probably don’t have any time to spend at home, eat good food, or work out.
On a positive note, San Francisco is one of the greatest cities in North America. There is literally anything you can imagine available at your fingertips. There are numerous selections of restaurants and markets for any kind of food you could want – plus, there are courier services that will deliver the food to you if you don’t want to leave your condo. Pretty much anywhere is accessible via public transit, and there are transportation options for everyone – trains, subways, buses, streetcars, electric trams, ferries, cars, and bikes. As for entertainment and recreation, there are museums and theaters that attracts all of the big names in art, music or acting and there are parks and gyms for any kind of activity you would ever want to do. For water sports, you can go swimming, sailing, kiteboarding, kayaking, rowing or windsurfing on the bay, along the Pacific coast or on one of the lagoons (we witnessed part of a rowing regatta in the lagoon behind Sandra’s house two days before we left). There is excellent road cycling and mountain biking just outside of the city. AND it seems there are job opportunities everywhere – San Francisco seems like the place to be if you want to start up a company or are involved with any kind of technology.
Dallas and I took a one way flight to Durango, but we left our bicycles behind so we do expect to be back in the bay area to pick up where we left off on our cycling adventures. Until then, we will definitely be borrowing mountain bikes and skis, and doing a lot of trail running with other people’s dogs!