Day 34: Burritos, Giants, & Gentrification

Day 34 (2016-09-30): The Mission & Giants Game

This morning I am taking it easy, researching some info and and fonally cooking a nice breakfast, something I truly miss about rhe stationary life. I can eat fairly well on the road if I try, but it’s not the same as a home-cooked meal with love & care. Plus, I cannot make an overstuffed omelette on the road…

I plan to tackle the Mission today, one of San Francisco’s more iconic neighborhoods known for it’s Latin population, stellar taqueria’s, and more recently overt gentrification. Rather than blindly follow Google’s directions I choose to take a peek at the route and some key roads but let the ride unfold as it will. So far, San Francisco’s bike route signs have proven moderately helpful. When I am on a route it’s usually easy to follow, but once I veer off the expected path it’s hard to rediscover the route. This is partly because SF has a ton of bike lanes, which is a good thing. But routes signs display a large route number with a tiny destination name – a questionable decision in my mind. A local will learn their favorite routes by heart but visitors (and locals outside their outside their usual realm) probably will know general neighborhoods a lot better than route numbers. If a sign says “Mission” or “Downtown” I can understand that. But “75” – What does that mean?

This morning’a ride took me from my stay in the Ingleside area through a bunch of neighborhoods including Bayview and Portero Hill, which in my short pass-through reminded me a lot of SODO in Seattle. Despite the industrial setup and fast-moving traffic filled with trucks, I felt pretty safe. Way safer than in SODO, that’s for sure. Arriving in the Mission I was interested in another take on this famous neighborhood. I know it is a huge Latin neighborhood but white hipsters on Valencia St. are claiming territory from the west while Mission St is fighting back hard. While here in February I only passed through quickly, so this time I am spending more time observing the neighborhood.

Mission St is quite a mix – tons of thrift stores, pawn shops, and other discount shopping. Tiny tiendas with fruit overflowing on the sidewalk dot the blocks and some are overflowing with a mix of Hispanic and Asian customers. I lock my bike up extra carefully given the seedy undertones I see all about me, and hop into Mission Thrift. It’s a small but well organized thrift shop full of eclectic finds that make Goodwill feel tame. Sections were clearly labeled by type of clothing – everything from “bowling shirts” to “1969’s German military” to “Burning Man jackets.” A plethora of hot pants, colorful outfits, and faux fur hang from the walls.

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These Burning Man jackets were not exactly my style but represented many of the oddities in the shop.

From here I walked down to Goodwill and Thrift Town, another interesting shop with a very large floor space. After picking up a fee small 99-cent books I headed to Taqueria Los Coyotes, recommended by Hilari. The Super Chimichanga with carnitas and a side of pickled veggies was excellent and, although it could have made two meals, this hungry cyclist devoured the whole thing. Apparently one of the best places to go is Taquieras El Farlito, which I would only learn from a local hours later.

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Solo date time. Not the best burrito I’ve ever eaten, but damn good.

After regaining the ability to move I wandered back down Mission St towards my bike. You’d think food would be that last thing on my mind but you would be wrong. I stopped for some fresh produce at one of the little stores on the street. Inside is a cramped sea of shelves, people, and overflow stock stashed all over the aisles. What drew me in though was the front – at least 20-30 people milling about buying everything from apples and peaches to dragonfruit and aloe vera.

Honestly, the price wasn’t bad either. Everyone always talks about how expensive things are in the city and, to an extent, they’re right. Bars are expensive. Restaurants are expensive. But what you’re really paying for is service, experience, and rent. Food, when you look hard enough and don’t shop at the hyped-up, marked-up local organic hipster fest stores you can find some sweet deals and pretty good produce at a fair price. Honestly, I spend significantly more on groceries in the more rural areas than I do in expensive cities…

I bought a some small items, a huge mango, and a couple of Spanish sweet breads to share with Hilari before continuing the walk back to my bike. I rode home on Valencia St. past a sea of yuppies and posh shops. I headed home, chatted with my mom, and took a breather before setting off to the San Francisco Giants vs. the Colorado Rockies (baseball) at AT&T Park. Hilari hooked me up – only $9 for a ticket! Sure, it’s bleacher seats but I don’t have to sit in them the whole time. I got caught up chatting with Hilari and was late leaving – saw the muni train (light rail? street car? both?) cruising to a stop and sprinted & jumped aboard just in time.

Same system as Seattle – refillable cards and monthly passes, plus cash tickets with exact change. Adult rides are $2.25, even during peak. BART is the equivalent of Sound Transit and I’ll use that tomorrow when I head over to Berkeley.

Before buying tickets I was a little hesitant to go to a baseball game by myself. Hilari has a early schedule and the Canadians aren’t into baseball, so I went on my own. I couldn’t miss an opportunity to visit that beautiful Ballpark! I sat in my outfield bleachers seats for an inning then wandered around the stadium for a while taking in the views. It’s a sweet deal and I wish I could have gone to a warm day game to see the bay in the background. My only gripe is the ushers – they are super strict. For every section on the concourse level you had to show your ticket every time you came back to your section. They would also physically block you from going down the stairs when a batter was in the box, “in the box” being a loose term for standing somewhere near the plate. Seriously, relax.

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Beautiful AT&T Park

When I returned to my seats in the 4th I met Sam and his friend (sorry man, I don’t remember your name), two SF natives. What a find! They told me all about SF and how it’s changing (hint: it’s the same story as Seattle. Probably the same as every recent tech-boom city). Plus I got a couple good food tip’s including Tony’s Pizza and Golden Boy Pizza in North Beach. I’ll be down that way tomorrow so maybe I will have to see if the pie is as good as they say…

There was a family with two young boys sitting behind us and they were the best. The boys were probably the only people truly watching the game and they knew every player and all the league standings. Plus, they had all the dancing energy! They didn’t blink an eye when someone behind us was escorted away by the police. We weren’t sure what happened but some whispers of theft floated around. And a short while later the ushers and police came to deal with a group of young folks who did not seem to be doing anything wrong. I still don’t know what happened – the group went back to watching the game after everything died down. But at one point one of the guys was poking at the usher and looking real aggressive – I have to hand it to the SFPD – they didn’t react with too much force like those in Seattle and elsewhere around the country. Props to you officers, thank you for keeping cool and taking the yells of “fuck the police” in stride.

Oh yeah, and Sam’s friend tried to haggle with the hot chocolate man at the end of the game to buy two hot chocolates for the boys. He was a dollar short so I pitched in. Look how happy they were!

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These kids were absolutely stoked for some hot chocolates with all the whipped cream. And it ended up everywhere.

I hate to end on a sad note, but it wouldn’t be an honest representation of SF if I didn’t share the image burned into my brain of the BART station after the game…

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The BART station was a clear reminded not everyone in SF is making big bucks.

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