DAY 81 - LEAVING SAN FRANCISCO
Day 81 - San Francisco, California - 2794 km
So she came back, an hour after we made up via text messages, twelve hours after we had a huge argument in a bar, after which I walked home all the way from Haight to Bernal Heights. I was angry, disappointed and a bit too drunk. I couldn’t put a finger on what went so radically wrong between us. We had met about a week ago and I fell for her from the first minute we saw each other in Club Deluxe, a historic jazz cafe in the Haight. Right after that night we planned a little adventure together to Yosemite. Everything was perfect and beautiful and now I was standing here alone on the porch of an old Victorian house, on the hill of Bernal Heights. Bewildered, with a hangover and a bad taste in my mouth. Watching over the city, a white sun-kissed view on the Mission and downtown area. I heard the doorbel and opened the fence down the stairway. I let her in. We made love on the carpet in the living room.
“I think I won’t see you anymore” she said. She had to leave the city for two weeks, taking medical care of a retired songwriter of the Grateful Dead. They were going on a road trip to Idaho with a few people to watch the solar eclipse while being high on acid. Her job as a nurse was to make sure the old rock star wouldn’t die of high blood pressure and drug abuse. Sounds like a fun and demanding job. I felt the coming of saying goodbye and it made me melancholic and quiet. We hang out on the couch and watch the sunlight reflect on the high ceilings. My friends, who were out of town, let me stay in their beautiful house dating from 1850. It was a typical Sunday morning after a night out. A moment between moments. Flashes of the past days went through my head. Dancing on live jazz in Club Deluxe, sleeping under the stars in Yosemite and swimming in the Merced river at sunset after we came back from our hike. I remember her golden skin while she was sitting on rock wringing the water out of her deep black hair. Memories that made me feel euphoric and sad at the same time. Some say you shouldn’t get attached to people who you meet on your travels. Attract, embrace and let go. Participate but stay detached. It makes sense, but I can’t do it. If I meet someone special I want I want to show myself and be honest and open. Having feelings for someone is valuable to me. I don’t want to stay on the surface, I want to immerse in it.
We went out for a walk on Bernal Heights hill. A hidden trail led up to the top of the hill. The colourful wooden houses of San Francisco twinkled in the white light. We walked together, holding each other, through a cool breeze watching people walking their dogs. Then down to Cortland St on the south side via a steep stairway passing quaint little houses. We had lunch at a crepe place. I ordered a strawberry ricotta crepe. It was not so good. The place was not so nice too. I tried to explain how I felt but it was difficult. We knew each other a week, how do you express yourself? We said goodbye and I continued my days.
I cycled to Wework downtown where I rented desk space for a few weeks. A place with a good working vibe. Fast wifi, free coffee and IPA on tap. The main reason I stayed in the city was because I needed to spend time on a few design project I was doing for clients in the Netherlands. Most of the days I am in the office to work on beer branding designs. I really enjoy the balance of work and travel like this. It makes me feel more a part of the city than just being a tourist. I stayed in different neighbourhoods switching places every 4 days. Some days I rented an Airbnb, other times I got invited by locals following me on Instagram. There were also some Warmshower hosts that welcomed me. Through this I met a lot of people, because renting a full apartment in San Francisco is just too expensive. My favourite neigbourhood is probably the Mission, originally a latino neighbourhood with lots of Mexican eateries and colourful wall art. Better than to stay downtown, which is pretty rough with the high amount of homeless people, sleeping and camping on the streets, yelling at themselves each other. It’s a big problem in a majority of the American cities I’ve cycled through. I loved spending time on Haight St, where the Summer of Love has it’s origin on Haight and Ashbury. I stayed in a commune there called the Red Victorian. A number of intellectual liberals lived here as a family. People were friendly and open but I felt an uncomfortable vibe among them. I sensed an overall unhappiness over how things are in the United States. The gentrification of the city, the insane increase of property prices and the conservative political course the country is going. A lot of people are stuck with dept of student loans, health care bills and the high rent they have to pay to live in a small room. Americans are always very open to share their personal stories and emotions. It made me feel the weight of life in American cities.
I stayed a bit longer in town and Rachel had returned earlier than expected. We met again and spend more time with each other in my little studio in the Mission. I made her eggs and coffee in the morning and made her happy in other ways. We found deeper connections. After a chilly August month it got warm again in the city and the palm trees on Mission Street looked greener. I cycled up to Twin Peaks, the highest hills of San Francisco and it was cold and windy like a day in fall. The fog, which is always there, cools down the city. We planned another little overnight adventure to say goodbye to each other. I hope I will see her again. She is pretty amazing.
When you’re travelling, falling in love can be a trip with a bad hangover. Because eventually you are back on the road on your own again. The people you meet have there own lives, in their own places far from yours. You’re just a sailor, the new kid in town with the stories from far away. Someone who’s just passing by. Having been in that position a few times I still don’t know how to deal with it. It mixes things up and makes me question this trip and how I live my life. Sometimes I’m afraid that I’m leaving something behind which I will regret in the future. Now and then I fantasise about building my own farm in the forest, having a family and the opportunity and space to create things. Through the cycling I get a lot of inspiration studying remote settlements along the road. There are so many great ways how people establish a living. I wonder if I could do it. Live in one place and built a new home. Or am I addicted to freedom, to being unbound to anything than myself and the road ahead of me, always in charge of changing my course to what I desire to do with my time? I will have a lot of time to think about it heading to Nevada and Utah. The next weeks will be times of solitude and isolation. I’m preparing for the longest desert ride I’ve ever done. It will be harsh and I’m probably underestimating it, but I believe it will do me good.