We drive through San Francisco’s waterfront, noting the interesting architecture and impressed by the artsy feel of the place. Like most big cities, San Francisco has its share of homelessness, and many officers on foot patrol can be seen talking to people in make shift tents, or others sleeping in cement flower boxes. It is a reminder that all is not glitter, and I know from a friend whose daughter lives in San Francisco that the cost of living is extravagant.
We head further west to meet up with Pacifica highway along the coast, passing the iconic steep streets lined with tall, colourful houses.
The ocean comes into view and I am snapping pictures with both the Sony and the iPhone. (Ric has put me in charge of capturing our trip as he is driving). This is such a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world.
“Do you just want to keep going until we can’t anymore?”
I do, but I am also waning. I’ve been experiencing jaw pain for the past few days, and it is becoming unbearable. I need to get home to some heat and an ibuprofen.
“Let’s just stick to the plan.”
“How about if we find a place at Half Moon Bay to have tea and coffee overlooking the ocean. Then we’ll head back.”
It’s a plan. We pass this darling little tea shop, but it doesn’t look open, so we keep going. The highway weaves along, alternating between views of the Pacific and long curving passages through tall trees. Half Moon Bay pops up faster than we had expected, and the first beach road we travel down offers nothing in terms of restaurants.
Just past the turn off to Half Moon Bay – and the road home – Ric pulls down a road that appears to lead to a golf course. Signs indicate that there is also food and lodging. The road opens to an ocean view with large stately homes overlooking the water. At the end is what looks like some sort of inn or fancy hotel, with a guard post at the entrance.
“We’re just looking for a place to have a cup of tea overlooking the water,” Ric tells the big, burly attendant.
“You’ll find that here,” the man responds. “You’ll need this pass-key for the parking lot, and we ask that you refrain from taking photographs of any of the buildings,” he adds eyeing my camera.
We’re at the Ritz Carlton. Since I can’t show you the building, nor the lounge where we had our $10 tea and coffee, we’ll have to settle for the view. The pristine lawns are actually part of a golf course.
I am so tired by now that my feet will not obey my brain, and as I stagger back to the parking lot, two large crows mock me as I go.
“I know!” I caw back at them. “It’s not a pretty sight.”
Seat heaters go back on and I recline my seat, telling Ric that I will now sleep.
“No more photos,” I warn.
We pull back out onto the highway and stop at the next set of lights.
“We’ll call today the San Francisco marathon,” I announce. It’s the furthest I’ve gone in one day. “And to think that at the beginning of all this, I doubted I’d be able to do anything.”
“You’re doing very well. I think the turning point for you was the birds.”
He’s talking about Texas, and how we joined a birding group there. It’s where I got my first camera, and learned to paint.
“For sure,” I agree. “It was definitely the birds.” And just as the words leave my lips, I catch sight of something lunging towards me in my peripheral vision. It’s a large, golden bird with a muscular neck and strong, fierce beak.
“Oh, oh, oh!” I exclaim as the bird swoops down across the front of our car. My awe is so great that I cannot find words.
“Wow!” Ric, who has just started to drive forward, slams on the brakes.
Our close encounter with a golden eagle follows us all the way home.
Oh, and I do manage to capture a few more photos – of the San Mateo bridge and a farewell glimpse of San Francisco across the bay.