Category Archives: Experiences

Camping in Morro Bay State Park

IMG_8973On the weekend before Thanksgiving Katie and I headed up north to Morro Bay State Park with Punky and Frankie for a short weekend of camping fun. We arrived late at night and the campground was completely full. We quickly lit a fire and the proceeded to set up our tent and sleeping spot as the girls patiently waited in the car, or not patiently as pinky wouldn’t stop whining.

Once we were set up the girls came out for bathroom break and then we all huddled by the small fire to try to warm up. Within 30 minutes I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and Frankie started growling towards another campsite. That was our first encounter with the coyotes. We decided the girls would be safer in the car and within another 10 minutes the ranger drove through the park following another coyote through the campground. We decided to call it a night soon afterwards and all climbed into the tent. It was very cold so we huddled together for warmth with Frankie under the covers in the middle and Punky under them on the side.

When we awoke we clambered out into the crisp air to a whole new world around us. Everyone was up making breakfast so we slowly started our day. I made the fire while Katie walked the girls. Once again our wood was not the best, but we managed to heat up our burritos and some hot chocolate. The girls settled in their crate as the morning slowly wasted away.

Once most of the other campers had left we took Punky and tethered her to our table and then I played a little with Frankie as she at her breakfast. Eventually we decided to go on a hike within the campground called Black Hill Trail which took a couple hours and then we were back at our campsite relaxing again.

With the time change and the shorter days it got pretty late without us even noticing it. By 5pm we were already starting dinner and dessert, chicken sausages and banana boats. We started dinner so early we even had time for second dessert, s’mores with real graham crackers from Trader Joe’s.

As we sat by the fire and the night air grew colder Katie put Punky in the crate again and wrapped her up like a little burrito in her favorite fluffy blanket. Another two coyotes came around, but this time Punky was the only one to let us know as Frankie was huddled under my sweatshirt sleeping. We burned as much wood as we could, our fire hot with white flames and so large it encompassed the entire pit. Staying warm was the only thing we thought of.

We headed to sleep and this night the girls were a little less cuddly. Katie and I thought it was colder the second night than the first, but the girls must have adapted to the cold quickly since they chose not to sleep under the covers that night.

The following morning we were up earlier. We made breakfast, packed up our supplies, and said goodbye to Morro Bay State Park. It’s definitely a nice place to stay. You are within walking distance from a dock where you can rent kayaks, a little cafe called Bayside Cafe, a nice hike, and a golf course. Put it on your bucket list if you are into just relaxing camping trips.

Advertisements

17-Mile Drive Around Pebble Beach

IMG_8973Before Katie and I headed home from Big Sur we drove farther north past Carmel to Pebble Beach to check out gorgeous the 17-mile drive. It costs $10 do drive the secluded coast of Pebble Beach, but I thought it was well worth it. It was an extremely relaxing drive and very quiet due to their no motorcycle policy and calm roads. The ocean views were amazing with a tremendous amount of variety and a ton to see.

We started out inland where we made our way through thick trees all around us down the road. We passed under and over bridges and twisted our way to the first overlooks. We reached points one and two, Shepherds Knoll and Huckleberry Hill, where we could just barely make out the ocean due to the clouds that morning. I can only imagine what the ocean would look like on a clear day, beautiful.

Then stopped at the Poppy Hills NCGA Golf Course and made our way to the Spanish Bay. Don Gaspar de Portela, the Spanish explorer, and his crew camped there in 1769 while searching for Monterey Bay. We stood at the boardwalk and watched the surfers catch a few waves. With multiple spots to catch the waves, there were waves  of all sizes that day ranging from shoulder high to overhead. A short rain shower started and we headed back to the car to grab a snack as we watched a little longer.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

Once at Spanish Bay the rest of the drive was right along the shoreline and coast. We stopped at almost every point along the way including the Restless Sea, Point Joe, China Rock, Bird Rock, Seal Rock, Fanshell Overlook, and Cypress Point Lookout. At each spot we learned something interesting. Point Joe was where mariners often crashed upon the rocks after mistakenly setting their course for this point believing that it was the entrance to Monterey Bay. Bird Rock was where we saw hundreds of birds with a long row of binoculars set up to give visitors a better view and a list of animals that can be seen through Pebble Beach. Fanshell Overlook was gorgeous. As we pulled up we saw otters playing in the water as the waves wash over them. I excitedly jumped out to check it out trying to get a picture before they vanished into the vast ocean.

We continued and came across The Crocker Grove, Lone Cypress Tree, The Ghost Trees, and Pescadero Point. Crocker Grove was vastly different than everything else we saw on the drive. The trees stood tall and on the way there we saw a huge buck standing nearby. The Lone Cypress Tree was one of my favorite points to see. It is one of California’s most everlasting landmarks. It has existed on its rocky perch for over 250 years and no one knows how it has thrived there for so long. It has inspired many and is revered as a symbol of Pebble Beach Company.

The drive concluded at the Lodge of Pebble Beach. Inside the courtyard were stores for shopping and dinning. We walked through the lodge and came to the 18th hole of the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links which overlooks the Stillwater Cove. The golf course was so green and lush. The cove was just amazing to see. The water in the cove was completely calm while  just a few miles before the waves crashed roughly onto the shore.

The 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach was absolutely inspiring. From Stillwater Cove to Spanish Bay the coastal views were breathtaking and unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else. With the green golf courses, tall cypress trees, and crystal blue waters it’s a great activity for people of all ages. Everyone would enjoy this drive.

Camping at Big Sur State Park

IMG_8973Last weekend Katie and I headed to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for a weekend of camping. We had heard early in the week there was a chance of rain on Monday, the  final day we planned to be there. As the weekend drew near and it got closer for us to pack up and leave the report had showed more and more possibilities of it being a sun filled weekend. We were excited and ready to explore Big Sur as much as we could in the short time we would be there.

We headed up to Big Sur late Saturday afternoon with our camping gear knowing there was still a chance of rain but hoping the weather would hold out for us. We drove down the 101, the sunsetting just as we reached Avila Beach. Then we crossed over to route 1 which we winded our way up the coast. It had gotten dark and with a cliff and ocean to one side and a mountain to the other we slowly drove until we finally reached where the GPS said the campground would be. Not seeing it, but knowing it was nearby we continued on stopping at the Big Sur Station to call Katie’s parents and ask if they knew where it was. Another 1/2 mile down the road we pulled into the campground glad we found it and feeling that it was still early enough in the night to get everything ready and have a massive campfire.

We drove slowly through the now pitch black campground with only our truck headlights leading the way. We headed over the bridge and then down a one way street stopping at each sign we saw, inching our way closer to our site #180.  We finally got there and Katie backed the truck into its spot. We scanned the site for a perfect tent location and moved the small rocks away. We set down our tarp and I put up our tent while Katie pulled out our gear and firewood.

Then, while Katie set up the air mattress I started the fire. With in a few minutes it was lit and I was just coaxing it to catch onto the bigger, denser, and still somewhat wet wood. Once it was a decent size we ate our sausages and then made banana boats before calling it a night to sleep on our what we realized now was a partially deflated air mattress. Somewhere along the way our mattress got a hole in it. First thing on our last for the next day, get a new one.

We woke up the next morning on the hard Big Sur dirt floor. I got up and started a fire without using any matches, just the hot smoldering dense log we had left to die the night before and what I now realize are the best things ever, a few pieces of Starbuck’s coffee cup holders. My fire lit faster than it had the previous night and we heated up our breakfast burritos while we ate oat bars and apples.

We let the fire die down and got ready for the day. We headed to REI and the Target about an hour away and then went for a hike at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We came back to the campsite after dark again, this time due to the time change. I started our fire back up again without using any matches, it was still warm from earlier that morning a few hour ago.

We cooked our sausages and then had s’mores that night. Afterward we sat by the campfire talking for a while until we felt like having a second round of sausages and s’mores. We continued talking as we looked at the stars above us. It was crazy how bright the stars are when there is no other light washing them away. We sat watching the fire burn late into the night until we finally decided it was time for bed.

Early in the morning I awoke to rain drops on the tent. Too early for me to want to get up I reached outside to make sure our shoes were under the flap and tried to fall back asleep. A few minutes later I was awoken by an even more intense rain and I knew that it would be too difficult for me to sleep in any longer. I laid there wondering if the tent really was waterproof, so far so good, but it had just started to get heavy. When I couldn’t stand laying there doing nothing any longer I made my way out to the car to get my rain gear and then headed to the bathroom. I got back to the tent and tried to sleep some more. It was too noisy for me though and that’s when I realized that I forgot to bring my book into the tent from the car.

I laid there looking up and noticed a bug that looked like some kind of beetle. Compelled to move it off our tent I flicked at it and it grew to double it’s size with 8 creepy legs catching back onto the tent as it fell. From that moment on I was the defender of the front of the tent. I told the spider it could coexist with us as long as it stayed on the back half of the tent and didn’t attempt to block my exit. I thought we had an agreement until I made it’s move toward the front. I flicked at it and it scurried back. I laid there watching it’s every move. Allowing it to climb all over the back of the tent but not allowing it to adventure onto the front. Katie got up to use the restroom and eventually I could take it no longer. I told the spider that it was time to go and gave it one flick sending it to the floor below.  It tried to scurry it’s way back up the tent once more but by now I had made up my mind. It had broken the rules and it was time for it to go. One last flick and it was gone.

We climbed out of the tent and started to pack up our things. Even though it was raining we wanted to heat up our breakfast burritos so I tried to make a fire. It took us about an hour or so to get it started, but eventually with a little help from some dry cardboard, lighter fluid, wet wood, matches, an umbrella, and some charcoal the neighbors left the other day we did it. It lasted just long enough to heat our food up and then we let it die as the rain fell upon it. Any wood we had left was too wet to continue it, so wet that the few pieces we put on it hardly were able to dry enough to burn with any vibrance.

We packed up our gear within an hour, finishing at 12:05pm just after our set check-out time and just as the rain stopped. We ran to the bathroom, threw out our trash and stopped at the Big Sur Lodge to get myself a magnet and some postcards before heading north toward Carmel to start our day.

Camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was so much fun and definitely somewhere everyone should camp at least once. Next time I go I hope to be able to check out some of their trails, many of which were closed while we were there. Maybe we can even try some fishing.

Camping at Avila Hot Springs

IMG_8973Katie and I went to the Avila Hot Springs in San Luis Obispo, CA for a weekend of fun, exploration, and relaxation. Discovered in 1907 by oil drillers, the Budan family established these springs as a popular natural artesian mineral hot spring oasis. Today they offer RV campsites, cabins for rent, and what Katie and I chose, tent campsites.

We arrived at Avila Hot Springs as the sun was setting on a Saturday evening and pulled up to the admissions office. Katie headed inside to find out where our campsite was and soon we were unloading the truck and setting up our tent in nothing but flashlight, nearby campfire, and moon light. After our tent was set up and the firewood we would need for that night unloaded we moved the truck down to the parking area below.

We set the wood into the pit and made our first attempt at our fire. It was turning out to be a big flop. Our free wood was too dense to catch fire once we had a spark or small flame growing on the newspaper. We struggled time and time again with no success. Luckily our neighbors saw that we were having problems and offered us some lighter fluid. It was enough to get our fire and dense wood finally lit long and hot enough to continue for the rest of the night. We spent the rest of the evening by the fire making a few S’mores and staying warm until we figured it was time to go to sleep.

The next morning we made breakfast over a new fire made with more lighter fluid, egg and cheese burritos and hot chocolate. Most people were heading out that day and someone offered us some firewood since we were staying for another evening. Then we got to explore the campground. They have a massage room, hot mineral soaking pool, freshwater pool with two watersides, bikes for rent and even a small cafe. Katie was excited for their 20’x20′ therapeutic hot mineral soaking pool. At 104 degrees it is constantly being replenished with water from the natural artesian well beneath Avila Hot Springs. She could barely wait to get in, but held out until evening when the temperatures dropped and the water would feel the warmest.

We headed out to the town and explored a few areas. As it got later we headed back the the campground for dinner. We were determined to try to start the fire this time without lighter fluid this time, or at least I was. We lit the fire with our new wood and it was so much easier. We made our dinner, chicken apple sausages and banana boats for dessert and they were delicious. There’s no better way to cook a meal than over a campfire.

With our fire slowly dying we decided to go for a soak in the mineral pool and a swim in the freshwater pool. The mineral pool was so hot we quickly needed to cool down in the freshwater pool, but both pools were so nice and refreshing. One to relax your muscles and the other to cool you down. We stayed until the pools closed and then headed back to our campsite. A little poking and prodding and our fire reignited, ready to warm us up and cook a few more s’mores. The night was much colder than the previous one so we retired to our tent pretty late using it as long as possible to keep warm.

The following morning we made one last fire, cooked and ate our breakfast, and packed up our belongings. As we pulled away from the campground I couldn’t wait to come back. It’s definitely a place for people of all ages to enjoy.

Ghost Walk in San Francisco

IMG_8971One night while Katie and I were in San Francisco we were wondering what we could do to have an entertaining night. We had seen a flyer in a hotel earlier that day for a San Francisco Ghost Hunt walking tour and decided that it could be fun, exciting and scary and that we would give it a try.

It was 6pm and with only an hour of free time to spare we had to quickly figure out how to get there. We read the bus schedule and jumped on the first MUNI bus headed in the direction of the tour’s starting point. There was so much traffic in San Francisco that evening that our bus came to a dead stop about 4 blocks away from where we needed to get off.  We asked the driver to let us off and walked the remaining blocks over to the Queen Anne Hotel at 1590 Sutter Street.

When we arrived at the hotel and people were already waiting outside for the tour to start. As the time got closer a few more people joined us from inside the hotel. Our group ended up with about 10 people in it. As soon as the clock struck 7pm our guide, Jim Fassbinder, came out of the hotel to join us. He escorted us inside into a banquet room where we waited a few more moments for any last stragglers.

He started with what only could be considered a magic trick where he picked three members of the group to pick out a card each. The first was Joy, the second Curiosity, and the last which was mine was Enchantment. He chose Fear and the remaining 4th card. Then he showed us all the cards and we had each matched the correct word with the correct card. It was a cute trick to start the night with goofy pictures on them.

He sat us down and told us a little bit about himself and how he came to be doing tours and what we were going to be doing that the night. Then we headed upstairs to start the tour in Mary Lake’s room, 410. He told us the story of the hotel and how it used to be a school for girls. Miss Mary Lake was the head of the school and she can now be felt in the rooms and halls of the hotel caring for individuals as she chooses. There are multitudes of stories where she has tucked gentlemen in at night and children have felt her presence.

We took a few minutes to explore the room and the rest of the hotel looking for Mary, but none of us found her anywhere. I thought we might get a picture with an orb in it, but no one’s pictures had any orbs either. Seems as though Mary was taking the night off the night we went. Maybe it would have helped if we had some female children with us or if some of the ladies were pregnant. We had heard she often is around when the group has a few of those people in it.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

We then headed outside for our walking tour to begin. We walked the streets of San Francisco stopping at different houses along the way. Some used to be schools, others used to be churches. They all had some story to go along with them. We learned a little about the architecture of the buildings and how the houses on the streets today used to be all very muted colors. In the 1970’s the residents started to paint them bright colors and that is why they look the way they do today. Also, the houses used to have little farms with animals where the garages are now.

We finally stopped at a large mansion that used to be owned by a woman, I can’t quite remember her name. Her sister lived right next door and they did not get along at all. They often fought. It is said that someone might have pushed her down the front steps instead of the accident that was reported back then. Our tour guide, Jim, had the original key to that mansion’s doors. While the locks have been changed since new residents currently live, this key was unique. Standing there on the other side of the street and directly across from the house Jim placed the key in his hand. The key slowly turned in his hand on its own as if someone had put it into the lock and was trying to unlock a door. Because he knew we wouldn’t believe that he wasn’t trying to trick us he then had one of the group put out her hand where the key did the same thing in her hand too. It was spooky and eery and incredibly intriguing.

We continued our tour and Jim told us about Flora, the ghost that haunts California Street, Gertrude who possibly killed her husband and put him in a barrel of rum, and last put not least, the meanest ghost of them all, Mary Ellen. She was the richest and most powerful woman in San Francisco in her day. She was thought to know magical spells or voodoo and it was believed that she possibly killed her husband for his money, even though she didn’t need it. The trees along the street were planted by her and whenever there is a person who doesn’t believe in the story nuts are thrown down on them from above. Luckily, everyone believed the night I was there so no one got hurt.

Our tour ended not far from the starting point and while we didn’t see any ghosts that night or any orbs in our pictures when checking them the next day, learning the history of San Francisco and where some ghosts still reside was quite fun. Jim was extremely entertaining with his jokes, tricks, and stories of past experiences. So, if you’re in San Francisco and looking for something to do other than spend a night drinking at the local clubs and bars this is definitely something you should check out. It’s $20 well spent.

Behind-the-Scenes at Aquarium of the Bay

IMG_8973Early one morning while in San Francisco Katie and I headed to the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39. We purchased two tickets and to make our experience even better we decided to take a behind the scenes tour for an extra $9.00. It was worth every penny.

Aquarium of the Bay has been around for over 15 years. It works to protect, restore and inspire the conservation of San Francisco Bay and its watershed. It is a nonprofit marine nature center affiliated with The Bay Institute. With it’s “Conservation Impact Programs” it reaches out to the local community working with partners to provide research on local shark populations, bring back native salmon, assist chefs, restaurants and consumers in selecting “Sustainable Seafood,” remove invasive species from marine and estuary environments, support endangered species, combat climate-induced sea level rise, enact policies that will create healthy fresh water flows back to San Francisco Bay, and create a series of original and ready-made temporary exhibitions that explore local and global environmental challenges.

Excitement filled my body as we walked into the aquarium and explored the first part of the top level looking at fish in small tanks and learning a little bit about those fish and the water in the bay. The bay is part salt and part fresh water and all kinds of fish can be found there including sharks. We took a moment to stop for a picture and then headed down under the ground to their aquarium tunnels, the real draw of the aquarium.

Arriving at the lower level it was very dark. Immediately after stepping out of the elevator we could see jellyfish in front of us. We took a right into the room and saw even more including the most popular, moon jellies. They flowed with the currents sent through their private tanks and gently glided around and around. We then headed to the huge tank with two long tunnels where 300 feet of crystal clear acrylic allow you to watch the fish swim around the tunnels above and to the sides. This tank holds 700,000 gallons of carefully maintained bay water. Light from above the tanks peers down through the water and on you in the tunnels allowing you to see where you are going and view all different kinds of fish. Approximately 30,000 animals live here including bass, white sturgeon, sevengill sharks, and California sheephead.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

At the end between the two tunnels there was even an octopus in its own tank. Suctioned toward the top it sat waiting or resting. I took a moment to peek my head inside the dome cut out to get a better look. Then we headed through the second tunnel.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

We got back to the elevator and went up to the “Splash Pools” also known as the touch pools. We took a few minutes to pet the starfish, sea cucumbers, anemones, and baby bat rays and baby skates as they swam around the pool. Then there was a short feeding where the employee asked everyone to keep their hands out of the pool for the next 30 minutes. She told us about the sharks in the pool which were resting on the far edge toward the center of the pool because they are nocturnal and were sleeping the afternoon away. She also spoke a little about the different animal’s feeding techniques. She eventually tossed food in so the bat rays and skates could eat. The bat rays vacuumed the food up while the skates swam over it and ground it up with their teeth. It was fun to watch. The school of fish in the center of the pool often reached the pieces first being attracted to the splash while the skates and rays took a little longer to find the pieces as they were attracted by the smells and waited for the food to settle on the ground.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

It was finally time for our Behind-the-Scenes tour and this is where things started to get even more interesting. We headed to the front desk to meet up with our tour guide. It was just us, a family of three and about 4 people about to become employees. We walked through some doors that read “Employees Only” and made our way to our first stop, the main water filtration machines.

Our guide told us about how most of the water in the aquarium is from the Bay. She showed us a sample of the water before it’s sent through the filtration center. The murky water is actually very healthy. They really only filter it because if they didn’t no one that visits the aquarium would be able to see the animals. The water is filtered through their system constantly for some of their tanks while others it’s filtered less frequently.

Next on our stop was the kitchen where they prepare all the food for the animals. They have two big refrigerators and a walk in freezer containing fish, mice, squid, shrimp and more. Everything they need to feed the animals that live there. On a wall above the sinks is a big feeding chart that divides the animals by sections as to when they should be fed and how much. Some animals have special needs, such as Lenny one of their five white sturgeon who is missing his whiskers. Since whiskers are vital in food finding for a sturgeon they have taught him to target a big stick. Using that stick they are able to help him locate his food through a hole in the target. Later we were able to see the tank and stick that they use during his feeding process. Too bad we weren’t there on the day Lenny gets fed. I would have loved to see that.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

We went upstairs to the holding pools where they hold animals before they put them into the big tank. Sometimes baby shark or skates live there until they are big enough to join the rest of the animals. The day we went there were some wolf eels which rarely come out of their hiding places so it was lucky that we were able to seem their full body in the holding tank. Also some herring were in another tank that one employee was doing some studies on. He was trying to find out if fish can smell plastic in the water. He told us that this would be very helpful to know because there is so much plastic in the water and often the fish have bits in their stomachs that it makes its way up the food chain to us.

We moved onto the huge 700,000 gallon tank, but just before getting to see it we stopped at a smaller holding tank attached to it near the front of the room. This is where they would place fish in to acclimate them to the water before releasing them into the bigger tanks. This is also the same tank that they taught Lenny and the sharks to swim into to be fed. There was a school of herring in there the day we went.

We finally got a full look at the main pool from above. It was huge and quite breath-taking. The water was bright blue and crystal clear. You could see all the way to the bottom without a problem. The fish looked even bigger than they did from down below as we could see them occasionally cut through the surface of the water in the pool. Water was constantly being fed into the pool in what looked like mini waterfalls all along the edges. There was even a section I would like to call starfish island where multiple starfish had made their home just at the water’s edge. We walked over the metal track that ran through the center of the tank taking it all in, careful not to drop anything in. With the slits in the ground under our feet and the open railings, our tour guide told us that if we drop anything in we won’t be getting it back until the scuba divers went in the following day. I held my camera tight every time I pulled it out of my pocket.

As we reached the other side our tour guide showed us some more holding tanks. These were filled with baby sharks and bat rays. She also showed us the pods that the sharks and rays lay to make more babies. These can often be found empty along the beaches. As we held them up to the light we could see that there was definitely something in there. We headed back across the huge tank again and back to the holding tank attached to it.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

As our tour ended we made our way to our last stop, the medical room. There wasn’t much to see here as there was no vet on site that day because all the animals were doing well. Our tour guide told us a little about the lice and other parasites that live on the animals in the bay and how they try to make sure none of their animals catch them by isolating the new animals before they introduce them to the full population. She brought us back up the stairs and out to the main entrance of the aquarium, reminding us that in about 10 minutes the otters would have having their two year Anniversary Celebration.

We waited patiently for the event to start as the three otters rested in a high perch at the back of the exhibit. As the commotion around them grew it peeked two of their interest. They started to move around the exhibit in anticipation of the big occasion. The employees and volunteers finally made their way over to the otter exhibit with a ton of interactive toys from kongs and buckets of dirt to frozen fruit and fish layered cakes. The trainer stepped inside and kept the otters focused on her as the volunteers moved the toys into their exhibit. While one of the otters loves food and was completely focused on the trainer, the other two were very interested in what was going on behind her. They were able to get the stuff in and them out without incidents or loose otters. The trainer spoke about what they were doing and each of their personalities as we all watched them explore, play and eat their new way through a huge cake and all their new toys.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

Aquarium of the Bay is a great place to spend a few hours or a whole day. It’s great for all ages and for anyone that wants to learn about marine wildlife. There’s a ton to experience and explore throughout the whole place. And if you’re lucky and you go on just the right day you can have an entire experience full of surprise anniversaries too!

Memories Ignited on San Francisco Carousel

IMG_8971While in San Francisco Katie and I stopped by Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. After our lunch and visit to the Musee Mechanique at the Fisherman’s Wharf we walked down a few piers to Pier 39. As we got closer we could hear classic music coming from the center of all the shops. We turned a corner and there it was, the San Francisco Carousel. It’s not everyday you see a two tier carousel, so we decided to give it a try.

The San Francisco Carousel is absolutely beautiful consisting of 1,800 twinkling LED lights that are on both during the day and in the evenings. It was hand-crafted in Italy and arrived at the pier only several years ago in December of 2008. With it’s delightful hand painted pictures of all different attractions around the city including Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, and sea lions at Pier 39 and it’s 32 different animals to ride, it draws a big crowd. Children are constantly standing in line at the front entrance eager to ride an array of horses, dragons, sea lions, dolphins, and even mythological hybrid horses with mermaid tails and those more adventurous will enjoy the spinning tubs.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

Katie and I made our way to the ticket booth to purchase a $5 ticket for each of us. Suddenly, a kid walked up and asked us if we were going to ride the carousel. Of course, I exclaimed. He handed me two tickets and ran away before I could even get out a thank you. It was super nice of him and I couldn’t have been happier. What a nice surprise.

We quickly made our way through the line and were let in as the last two to ride. We made our way around and around, but we couldn’t find any open animals. We came back to the front and the ride operator had us wait for the next one. She stated that maybe she miscounted. A couple of the animals were broken so she was probably right.

The ride stopped and everyone exited, then she opened the door and we were the first to get on. We ran up the curved stairs and picked our animals. I rode a dolphin and Katie rode a sea lion. We enthusiastically and impatiently waited for the carousel to start. On the top level we got a closer look at the paintings and a higher vantage point to view the rest of the pier from.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

The ride started and we went around and around and up and down faster and faster until the carousel reached its full velocity. It was so much fun, just like being a kid again, smiling and laughing the whole way. It reminded me of when I used operate a Merry-Go-Round at an amusement park and how children would try to jump from horse to horse without the me seeing. None of that was happening on this Carousel, mainly because it was too packed.

We tried to take a few moving pictures as the carousel eventually came to a slow stop. We got off our animals, walked back down the stairs, and exited the ride area. We decided that once was enough for us, but I could see that some of the children wanted a second or third go at it. This carousel is definitely fun for all ages. Whether it’s your first time or hundredth time on a carousel, riding with a friend will be sure to give you new memories and bring back childhood memories for you to share.

Step into the Past at Musée Mécanique

IMG_8973I’m don’t really go to arcades all that much anymore, but when I do think they are a blast. Recently I have been finding myself at Dave & Buster’s with a group of friends ready to play more and more. I stick to games such as Jurassic Park or Transformers. Basically any two player game with a seat, two guns, and 3D glasses for the huge screen. I love the stories, always wonder what’s next on the adventure or what’s creeping around the next corner. So when I saw Musée Mécanique while in San Francisco from across the street I couldn’t pass up a chance to see where arcades and video games all started.

Musée Mécanique is located at Pier 45 at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, right by the water’s edge. Outside it looks like a big warehouse, but inside it’s nothing but fun and a good time. There are hundreds of old arcade and mechanical games that you won’t find anywhere else. Most of them are still playable and when Katie and I went admissions was free!

The collection is owned by Edward Galland Zelinsky. He started his collections when he was only 11 years old and now the Musée Mécanique contains more than 300 items. These items include coin operated pianos, antique slot machines and animations, ping pong machines, and even fair games.

We walked inside and were immediately greeted by “Laffing Sal“, also known as “Fat Lady”, an old favorite in San Francisco. She was previously located at Playland at the Beach, an old seaside amusement park located next to Ocean Beach in the Richmond District, from 1940 until it closed in 1972. Now she can be see making people laugh or possibly terrifying children at the Musée Mécanique. As we stopped to admire her, a girl walked over and slipped two quarters into her slot. She suddenly came to life cheerfully laughing and laughing away, her whole body swaying as she chuckled.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

“Laffing Sal” finally stopped laughing after what seemed like a lifetime and we moved onto check out the rest of the museum. We walked past an old steam motorcycle, possibly the only one in the world. It was built by Mr. Gillingwater in 1912 and Edward Galland Zelinsky  won it in a drunk late night bet with George Whitney for a 1904 Franklin. A few weeks later George asked Edward who he got the better deal. Edward said he did and knew it was true when George asked if he wanted to trade back. Recently someone offered Edward $250,000 for it.  I think we all agree that Edward definitely got the best deal that night.

We continued and found some information on the 1850 Flying Horses Carousel in Watch Hill, RI which I remembered riding when I was a kid. Around and around we went the one to get the golden ring wins another ride. We also found an original version of Rock ’em Sock ’em game called 1928 National Novelty  Knock Out Fighters. We gave it a try. The game is completely mechanical, but due to the constant wear there needs to be constant tinkering to make sure the fight is fair otherwise the game is a little one sided.

The last thing we saw was a coin operated Toothpick Fantasy carnival town by Woody Burke. He made it using over 150,000 toothpicks and liquid cement. Eighteen electric motors provide the energy for all of the moving parts, including the rides and train. The entire Fantasy is portable and can be taken apart and put back together in 30 minutes, a very unique feature that is not seen in many other coin operated displays.

The Musée Mécanique was a lot of fun. I would have never expected to find something like that at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s fun for all ages, weather you’re an adult and want to remember your childhood or a child and want to have fun playing some games. If you’re in the area you should stop by and check it out.