In a Town This Size, There is No Place to Hide

by Nancy Bestor

bridgeOur town of Ashland, Oregon has a population of about 21,000 people. Coming from the Bay Area 22 years ago, Ashland felt like a really small town. After living here as long as we have, I’m certainly used to small town living now. There are so many things that I love about it – running into my daughter’s pediatrician in the park and having her ask me if she is feeling better and does she need more medicine; having the UPS man deliver a package to me even though it was incorrectly addressed; and the lack of any traffic whatsoever. There are certainly times, however, when I long for the Big City. Thus on city visits for business or family time, I try and soak up as much atmosphere as I possibly can.

Last month I was in the San Francisco Bay Area for business and family combined, and enjoyed two great big city experiences. Every Friday night, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) sponsors Friday Nights @ OMCA. From 5-9pm gallery admission is half price, there are about a dozen Off the Grid food trucks parked outside, a cash bar set up (outside-ish), and live music and dancing near the museum steps. This is every Friday night, all year round. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice now, and have loved it both times. It is so fun to watch the wide array of people—young and old—dancing salsa or swing or tango. I’ve seen folks dancing interpretatively all by themselves, grandparents cutting a rug with their grand-babies, teens boogie-ing in groups, and fabulous couples who move effortlessly as one, obviously after years of experience dancing together.

IMG_3208

On my most recent visit, my sister, brother-in-law and I even took in a few exhibits inside the museum. This included a short term Day of the Dead exhibit and a permanent exhibit on the history of California and its settlers. Both were fascinating. I highly recommend a visit to Friday Nights @ OMCA, and a half-price ticket to the Oakland Museum is well worth it if you have the time.

IMG_3217

Another fun Bay Area experience was a walk I took one Saturday morning along the “new” span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The east span of the Bridge was replaced in 2013, with an entirely new look. It is now the world’s longest Self-Anchored Suspension Span and includes a pedestrian/bicyclist pathway (approximately three miles one way). This pathway offers a fabulous view of the Bay, the 525 foot Bridge tower, and the old bridge, which is currently being dismantled/demolished. On the day of my visit, a portion of the old bridge was dynamited at 7am, and when we walked across the Bridge at 11, cleanup was till taking place on the water below us. It’s a noisy walk, as cars and motorcycles are whizzing by you across the Bridge while you’re walking, but you really can’t beat the views back to the city of Oakland and its ports, and forward towards San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Area really is a beautiful place, and a walk across the Bay Bridge just amplifies that allure.

IMG_3227

So yes, I’m happy to live in my small town, and to enjoy its truly special advantages. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my forays into the big, anonymous City, where I can pretend to be a great dancer who just happens to stop by Friday Nights @OMCA to show off my salsa dancing skills. Until, that is, I actually start dancing.

Open Your Golden Gates

by Nancy Bestor

DSC02734

Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 years, I’d like to think I know just about all of its scenic locations. I’ve walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, stood atop Coit Tower, seen the parrots of Telegraph Hill and ridden the Ferry across the Bay. But I recently discovered a few new beautiful and picturesque spots, once again reminding me that I don’t actually know everything. Bob and I drove with my parents over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County in April and found a stunning lookout – Battery Spencer – a former military installation that protected the bridge and the Bay from invasion from 1897 to 1942. It offers a bird’s-eye view directly down to the bridge, and with downtown San Francisco in the background there might not be a better view of the Golden Gate.

SONY DSC

From there we drove into the Marin Headlands, where we stopped for a tour of the Marine Mammal Center. More than 200 rescued sea lions and otters were in residence when we visited, being rehabilitated for a future release back into the Pacific Ocean. The Center is free for visitors, and offers a great look at the excellent care volunteers are giving these rescued animals. You can even see “fish shakes” being made for their nourishment (and it’s just as yucky as you might imagine it to be).

DSC02745

After seeing the fish shakes, we decided we were all a little hungry, so we took our picnic lunch down to Rodeo Beach and watched surfers braving the chilly waves while we ate. Then we drove to one of my favorite spots in Marin, Point Bonita Lighthouse. What I love about Point Bonita is not so much the lighthouse itself, but its stunning location. You’ve got to hike down a steep, half-mile trail, then walk through an unlighted tunnel carved out of solid rock, then across a 132-foot long suspension bridge to get to the lighthouse. The narrow bridge sways in the strong wind as you cross over the raging Pacific Ocean more than one hundred feet below. It is stunning. The lighthouse is only open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 12:30-3:30 pm.

Well Dark Clouds Are Rollin’ In

by Nancy Bestor

Last month, when returning from a week long vacation in the Caribbean, my family’s final flight home from San Francisco to Medford, Oregon was canceled. This was after we had already been traveling for nearly 24 hours. The weather in San Francisco was rainy, and there was a light fog outside of the airport, but I’ve seen much worse weather, so it came as quite a surprise to me when United first delayed and then canceled our 10am flight.
IMG_1416
Once we realized what had happened, Bob and I quickly went to the United customer service counter to see what could be done for us. The United agent informed us that due to the weather, our plane (one of the small jet-propelled types that flies in and out of Medford) could not land in San Francisco, which was the reason our flight was cancelled. There were two more flights for Medford scheduled that day, so she put us on the stand-by list. We were numbers 4-7 on the list however, and knowing that the small planes only seat 25ish, we figured our chances of getting on the flight were slim. The agent said those flights also had a high likelihood of being canceled, and she could not confirm seats out for us to Medford until Monday, two days later, on another airline. Finally, she told us since the delay was weather related, United would not offer us any hotel or meal compensation.

We really needed to get home on Saturday, as our oldest daughter had a ride scheduled from Medford back to college in Corvallis (go Beavers!) on Sunday morning. We could take a chance on getting four stand-by seats later in the day, on a plane that may or may not have been able to arrive in San Francisco, or we could cut our losses and rent a one-way car. We cut our losses.
IMG_1428
We booked the car from our iPad while we were walking to the car rental agency in the airport. I had learned this lesson after friends of ours were stuck in a similar situation in Seattle, and the people in line in front of them booked the last one-way rental car available at the airport. Ours wasn’t cheap. The one-way rental cost $225. And we had to drive five plus hours, AND return the rental car to the airport. But our options were pretty limited at that point. By the time we drove our rental car out of the airport parking lot, several other United passengers who had been milling about our gate were in line to pick up cars too.

I can’t fault United Airlines in this situation (I know, shocking, right?). United really was doing all it could to get us home, there just weren’t any planes to do it. I can’t even fault them for not offering us hotel or meal compensation. San Francisco is an iffy city for weather. If they offered compensation every time a plane was delayed or canceled due to weather, they would likely not be in business.

The bottom line is this was an unfortunate situation that was out of every human’s control. We spent an additional $225 on our trip, and five hours in the car, but we made it home on Saturday, only several hours later than we would have made it home had our 10:00 am flight left on time. Travel doesn’t always work out the way you plan it. But then again, neither does life.