PCT 2022: July 12-13, 2022

Our departure was a mix of excitement and little bit of nervousness. Excited to be travelling again but nervous because we were not sure of the effects of everything that’s happened over the past two and half years.

It was a relief that the a week before our departure US lifted the need for a 24hour Covid test. One less thing to stress about.
In the end our flight to San Francisco was so easy. I sat next to a PhD student from Vermont who was studying in Perth. I was curious but I could tell that he didn’t want to sit next to a woman that was going to talk for 13 hours. In a brief conversation we learnt that he was a geologist studying the link between Australian and North American rock formation found somewhere in Idaho. I would have like to know more but I think I will have to read his thesis.  He was looking forward to seeing his family and meeting a niece and nephew for the first time. He asked nothing about us so the conversation ended.

In no time we were through US customs and on the Bart train heading to downtown San Francisco.  Always surprises me to arrive here earlier than the time we left Sydney. Almost like being some kind of time traveller. It was so nice to see blue sky and feel the warmth of summertime.

We booked accommodation in the Mission District, an area we’ve not stayed in before. To make our resupply shopping easier  I chose a hotel that was close to a Safeways supermarket, a Post Office and FedEx.  Early checkin allowed us to get the grocery shopping done by lunchtime.

Entering Safeways was our first inkling that things have changed. Approaching the store we thought it might have closed. Doors that would normally be open to entry/exit were locked and covered up. We walked around till we found only one entry door open. Inside the store was an even bigger change, security guards were everywhere. And to shop was an event, certain items or whole isles were behind securing doors.  You had to call for isle help to get the doors opened. We waited for assistance for 15 minutes – to buy coffee!  It all started to feel a little bit dystopian.  Later in the day I read an article about why these measures were implemented. During Covid there had been a significant increase in shoplifting, particularly at this store  People were leaving the store with trolleys of items without paying. We just had fights over toilet paper in our supermarkets.

Grocery shopping  completed, parcels repacked and posted, we were a little jetlagged and totally exhausted – our day was done. My knee was really bothering me today. It was painful to walk, feeling like it would buckle out and give way.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

The next day our only task was to get a SIM card and do a little bit of sightseeing. Getting a card for our phones turned into an unexpected  ordeal. I had forgotten about plans to switch off the 3G network. I did not think it would affect us as our phones were relatively new. But it turns out that if your phone had an inbuilt capacity to receive a 3G signal, despite being 5G enabled, it was no longer compatible once the 3G networks were switched off.  This did not make sense, but can’t argue.  A little bit of research we found that  Verizon had delayed switching off their 3G network till December. So we were saved. Surprising how hard it has become to get by without our phones.

This little hurdle sorted we spent the rest of Wednesday walking around town. My knee felt great today, I could almost have gone for a run. Hammer was still feeling a bit tired despite more then 11 hours sleep.

Walking towards the waterfront, our first impression was that there appeared to be significant changes with the cities homeless population. While people sleeping in tents on the street have not gone away, there appeared to be significant efforts at better management. It was also good to see neighbourhoods where streets have been closed in order to create outdoor meeting and recreation spaces.  Empty corner blocks given over to pleasant community meeting places, community gardens and outdoor gyms.

Urban Achemy in action

The downtown area around Union Square felt strangely quite.   It was a beautiful summers day but it felt like we were here out of peak season. There were so few people about. I always thought of San Francisco, with its mild climate,  as having peak tourist season year around.   The few tourists we saw were mainly European. 
Overall the city felt cleaner, safer and calmer then we’ve experienced before.

We finished the day sharing the most delicious pizza from Little Star Pizza in Valencia Street. And tomorrow we hit the trail.