Of course what was round the corner was Hooters. The guy on my right was from Oakland and watching the baseball on the TV on my left. The guy on my left was from Eritrea, and now San Fran, and was watching the soccer on the TV on my right!
We were then joined at the bar by Curtis from SF who gave me some tips on gambling in Vegas, and a card telling me how to win at blackjack. (Or at least lose slowly!) His friends arrived for a birthday party so he left and was replaced by a guy from Carson City.
I took a wander round the neighbourhood but there aren’t many bars around the wharf and it was a Tuesday night. However there was some good music blaring out of “Lou’s” so I wandered in and enjoyed Jojo Diamond and his amazing 15 year old son playing some great blues rock, with a lot of fantastic guitar solos.
In the morning I wondered whether to stay on the bay. I like the place, but I’ve done the touristy stuff before.
My decision was made when Chris from BBC World confirmed I could visit their downlink site in Napa.
So I drove up Telegraph Hill (singing Dire Straits’ Telegraph Road of course) and admired the view from Coit Tower, then hit the road.
The lucky guys at Intelsat have a picturesque location in the sun-drenched Napa valley for their collection of huge satellite dishes, including the 16.4 metre dish for BBC World. Mike and Sammy happily gave me a tour round. They definitely know what they’re doing and I was pleased my brain still functioned in “work mode”!
Mike then recommended an Italian restaurant nearby so I had more than my usual lunch butty and contemplated what to do next.
From SF I’d imagined myself continuing south along the coast. But this would mean back-tracking (Gulp!) this morning’s drive. Alternatively I could head inland to Lake Tahoe. I decided I’d been on the coast for a while, and a break at the lake might be a nice change.
I was tired by the time I reached the lake, but overjoyed to see it was even more beautiful than I remembered. I was even happier to find an ABVI across the road from a small lakeside beach (ABVI? “America’s Best Value Inn” - keep up!). They even had a hot tub on the balcony so you could sit in it and gaze at the lake – and the people walking past on the street!
The lake was beautiful, the weather was beautiful and the girls were beautiful, so I decided to stay an incredible two nights! I found a sports bar in the Lakeside Pizza joint, advertising Sports, Dancing and Pool Tables. However it was pretty empty on a Wednesday night. I spoke to a guy called Jim who gave me a long list of recommendations for San Diego, so I gave him the blog url so he can see how they pan out.
Walking back to the ABVI I discovered they’d set up an inflatable screen on the lakeshore. I watched “Scott Pilgrim vs the world” for free, in possibly the most picturesque cinema ever!
The next day was a blessed relief not needing to drive anywhere. So I got in the car and went for a drive around the lake. It’s 74 miles, but with incredible views from every angle it took all afternoon. I’d hoped to enjoy running by the lake but there wasn’t a good stretch between private land. The bike track just follows the road, not the lakeside. I ended up jogging down a lot of dead ends.
They’d promised me a busier night at Lakeside so I returned for “Beat the Clock”. 50 cent drinks from 8pm, rising by 50 cents every half hour. Although ironically they didn’t have a clock! It was a lot busier so I joined forces with James and Paul in chatting up the locals, only to find that the most flirtatious was the girlfriend of Tyler, who we’d also been talking with.
Things quietened quickly after the drinks prices went up and J and P went home so I joined a group of lads and we walked up to Fat Cats. It was karaoke night with a bar full of white kids singing/rapping/ruining Snoop Dogg songs. I sampled the local beer then called it a night. Actually I called it a good night, and considered sticking around for an unprecedented third.
However Tahoe City had limited options – did I mention I was in Tahoe City? No? Well, I was in Tahoe city, and it had limited options for nightlife. I’d driven through South Tahoe and passed the casinos in the Nevada border town of Stateline and thought they looked like fun.
With eight minutes to go until checkout I managed to book a room for Friday and Saturday nights. (Yes I know, but not booking in a tourist town at the weekend would have been asking to be extorted on arrival!) I then had another leisurely drive round the lake, stopped at the beach at Sand Harbour, before reaching the Big Pines Motel.
I instantly regretted booking 2 nights. Typical, the first time I commit in advance and the place has thin walls, noisy plumbing and even noisier neighbours. I’m between two rooms with Japanese families in, who make a racket to-ing and fro-ing for a couple of hours. I ask for a room swap but the place is full. (Of course my hangover from cheap booze isn’t helping!) I leave the noisy kids and go for some peace and quiet in the casino.
There’s 4 casinos here so I scope them all out and find the Mont Bleu is having a Corvette show which is worth a quick look. The Horizon looks like a dive, the Harrah’s looks OK but I can’t figure out how to pronounce it. Finally Harvey’s (What’s with all the H’s?) has a decent Sports Bar so I’m watching baseball and chatting to guys again. Maybe I could invent a bar that shows stuff girls want to watch, hmm, I could call it “The Bar of Soap”.
Er, oh yeah, Harvey’s… and I’m talking to Sean, who sells vacuum cleaners for 3 grand each!! Apparently they’re really good.
Levi and Lindsay are behind the bar so I get some tips on where to go later. Sean really likes Lindsay, and I can’t blame him, but he’s also trying to be nice to his colleagues. So he’s distraught when they give him a free ticket to the comedy show, just before Lindsay agrees to stick around for a drink with us after her shift. Poor Sean has to leave just as Lindsay returns looking stunning in her “going out” clothes.
Opal is the club to go to on Friday night, not least because the girls are getting free drinks. There’s go-go dancers and body painting and all kinds of craziness unsuitable for a family friendly blog. It was another good night.
In the morning I finally get to lounge by a pool in the sunshine, then wander down to the hotel’s “private beach” which it shares with half the places in town.
Back to the sports bar, and I find Americans watching “soccer” and getting excited! It’s the Concacaf final. They lose to Mexico, but don’t start a riot or smash up the bar. It’s only soccer after all.
Opal is not as good tonight and they won’t let me into “Vex” because they don’t recognise a UK driving licence and think I should be carrying my passport around with me! However the “Cabo Wabo” manager has enough sense to realise I’m over 21 and let me in. I’m glad how this works out because I was growing weary of the “grind” music in the clubs, and the Cabo has a band playing Rock covers. Everyone jumps around like lunatics and I stagger back to the hotel in the wee hours, glad I’ve booked an unprecedented third night (the noisy neighbours had checked out)
Sunday and it’s decision time. Return to the headlong dash down the coast, to make Vegas for July 2nd, or trundle to Vegas, then have another couple of weeks to do San Diego and the coast.
Obviously more time is better, but I’m wary the cost is mounting. However, I’m beginning to feel like I’ve learned a lot from this trip, and one thing is not to go to places without a goal. I’ve seen Australia before and it’s mid winter in New Zealand. I’m also weary of the new – (though still loving the experience!) So I’m thinking a couple of weeks in California, a couple of weeks in Hawaii, then head home over a couple of weeks.
With this detailed plan decided, I book a silly flash car for 2 weeks from Vegas and try to book a flight. I have another Crisis in Paradise when Hawaiian air don’t accept UK credit cards so have to find a way around, then I have to fix the hotel PC to use their printer, but I’m finally sorted. Just enough time to write this blog, before packing up, ready to mosey on.
Best have a quiet night tonight then…
…though a couple of beers watching the baseball couldn’t hurt?