"Art is a kind of illness." — Giacomo Puccini

Around the Bay in a day…

Sam's Chowder House, Half Moon Bay, California

Sam’s Chowder House, Half Moon Bay, California

Today started off much like any other lazy weekend day does; and then it got even better!!! After a good night’s rest, my partner and I woke up early (for us) and decided to go for a little drive. Heading out, we decided to go to the Vacaville Outlets, near Sacramento, not so much to shop as to take a long drive with a destination in mind.

I decided to take a little detour. Instead of taking the most direct, predictable route over the Bay Bridge and through the teeth-gnashing East Bay traffic, I decided to head north over the Golden Gate Bridge around the northern end of San Pablo Bay south of Sonoma and Napa Valleys. It was a beautiful day for a drive, so I decided we may as well enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Along the way, we decided to stop in Tiburon for breakfast. I’d been there a few weeks ago with another friend and made a mental note to return again soon with Jim because I knew he’d love it. We both agreed the village around the ferry landing had a New England quaintness to it that is unexpected on the West Coast—like Provincetown without so many tourists. We walked around the village for a while, then stopped at Dave & Mike’s for breakfast. The portions were large, the food was delicious, the price was good enough, and the service was excellent.

Tummies full, we headed back to US-101 North to California-37 East. This road passes along the northern edge of San Pablo Bay, the large inland body of water just north of the more-famous San Francisco Bay. The North Bay, as locals call it, is a rural escape from the more urban East Bay, South Bay, Peninsula, and San Francisco. Along the way we passed vineyards, certified-organic farms, pastures full of happily grazing animals, and wide-open wetlands. As we approached Vallejo, we passed Six Flags—Marine World before finally heading north toward Sacramento on Interstate 80. Our detour was now complete, though we continued to enjoy the scenic drive through the East Bay hills and Sacramento River delta.

When we arrived in Vacaville, which roughly translates to “Cow Town”, we enjoyed sunny warm weather. It was about 80 degrees with a light refreshing breeze. Summers in San Francisco can be on the cold side, so we were delighted to walk around comfortably in shorts and t-shirts. We got a couple things for starters…a t-shirt here, a belt there, but nothing really struck our fancy. Jim’s not big on outlets, but we were content to just enjoy the heat and do some window shopping. Having finished surveying one side of the street that divides the Vacaville Premium Outlets, we drove across to the parking lot on the other side of the street to check out the rest. That’s when we discovered our favorite stores: Cole Haan, Restoration Hardware, Calvin Klein and Burberry.

Wow, did we make out like bandits! Actually, I just picked up a wallet and a pair of pajama bottoms. Jim really did make out like a bandit, though. He has needed a nice briefcase or attache for the past year. We’ve looked and looked, but not found anything that didn’t cost at least $1000 that we liked. Today we found the perfect Cole Haan $1000 leather bag for less than half price. Say no more: SOLD! We agreed that alone made the trip worth the drive. Then we stumbled into the Calvin Klein store where he picked up a brand new suit for less than $300. We’ve been looking at similar suits for him in the $700 – $1000 range, so this was another deal too good to pass up. Ecstatic by now, we stumbled into Restoration Hardware, followed by Burberry. We surveyed all the loot, making mental notes to return again soon for more amazing deals.

Satisfied and retail-therapy-satiated to the max, we got in the car and headed back toward San Francisco. We passed a bunch of chain restaurants, but nothing looked very good. We decided to head through the East Bay traffic juggernaut toward Hayward to cross the San Mateo Bridge heading toward Half Moon Bay. It was the most unlikely decision of the day, but it was such a nice day we decided to go for it. Coming through Berkeley, traffic was bad-as-usual, but manageable. Once we passed the Bay Bridge turn-off, we headed down Interstate 880 at full speed.

Soon we were crossing the 8-mile-wide San Mateo Bridge over San Francisco Bay, then heading over the Peninsula hills to the San Mateo County coast. We turned north on California’s famous Highway 1 toward San Francisco, stopping at Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay. We have passed by here hundreds of times, but it’s always crowded with a full parking lot. Today was no different, except we pulled into a space right out front, got seated right away, ordered the best seafood chowder we’ve ever tasted, then finished off our appetites with lobster rolls and swordfish. Tummies replenished again, we continued north on Highway 1 back to San Francisco.

Before we got home, we had virtually circled the entire Bay Area, passing through eight of its nine counties: Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo and San Francisco. The only area we missed was Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley and the city of San Jose. All along the way, we passed through California’s rolling hills, over its faults, through its cities, across its rural stretches, past its rivers, along its coasts, over its bays, and through its valleys taking in one breathtaking scenic view after another. I always feel so lucky to live here in the Bay Area. It is simply the most amazing metropolitan area I have ever seen. Where else can you have all the experiences we had in one day?

  • Kevin on

    I just love your writing. You always paint a complete picture, be it school or for fun. Thanks for taking me on your trip, too.
    Awesome deal on the briefcase.

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