The Zephyr Return 2021

Returned to Salt Lake City via the Amtrak Zephyr. Having taken that train from Denver to San Francisco, wanted to experience the trip in reverse. There is something inspiring about this train ride through the Rockies, and if you have the chance, take it.

Was concerned how to get to the Emeryville Amtrak station from San Francisco, however, Amtrak had it covered with a free bus on Mission and 55th in San Francisco. And while there enjoy the art near the stop.

Drive to Emeryville was quick with attractive bay views. The train station was organized and clean with friendly Amtrak staff.

Emeryville Train Station
Subway is across the street.

There was a short wait due to a track accident, however, there was much station activity with the 100 plus line of trains picking up the slack in light of the truck driver shortage.

And if you need bike storage, it’s available.

The Trip in pictures

The California Foothills

California Wetlands – roads suspended over the water

Apple Trees abound

as do the mountains,

and lakes.

Then evening arrives and what a wonderful way to end a beautiful journey..

Thanks, Amtrak.

San Francisco: Sonoma State Historic Park

In this State Park the Toscano Hotel was built in the 1850’s. Beside the hotel was a store and library. Lodgings with 3 meals were $1 per day in 1906. Local workers stayed in this area hoping to return to their homelands, however many stayed and created lives in Sonoma.*

Area at the end of the lobby where patrons could enjoy cards and spirits.
Boarding House adjacent to the hotel

Also in this complex is a military encampment created in 1834 to protect the territory. The Sonoma Barracks housed Mexicans serving 10 year Army enlistments. They provided a buffer to Russian expansion.

California has so much history. What a delight to have found these places.

Wish I could attend the December 11th tour.

*Much of the information is paraphrased from California State Park information.

San Francisco: Sonoma

The tour allowed 2 hours for lunch, however, when the bus passed Mission San Francisco Solano on the way to the parking lot knew lunch was not an option. One can always eat lunch, but to learn more of history outweighs hunger and the Mission did not disappoint. In speaking with the state park staff was told of a historic home within walking distance, but first the Mission.

This Mission was established July 4, 1823, under Mexican rule, and the last built in California. It was prosperous, having 900 Indian workers in residence and its 10,000 acres became a building complex. The Chapel was built in 1841 by General Mariano Vallejo, a Mexican General who started his career in service to Spain.

Vallejo was a proponent of California being annexed to the United States. Upon his retirement he continued to live in the area supporting this cause and was a keen businessman having cattle and farming interests. His home was not far from the Mission property.

General’s Bedroom

The General and his family lived in this home circa 1850. Some of the outbuildings on the estate.

View from the son’s home

What a find in the General’s storage area. This coach was the General’s personal coach and was ordered from France in 1850. The General handled the coach with a team of horses. There also was a footman for the carriage.

Some of General Vallejo’s accomplishments:

  • Member of California’s first state Constitutional Convention
  • Served in California’s first legislature as a state senator
  • Treasurer of California Horticultural Board
  • Wrote a 5 volume history of California
  • Established a 500 acre farm for his family.

San Francisco: Napa Valley Wines

California Wine History

Most wine from California originates in Central California with Napa having 4% of the industry, and Sonoma 6%. The wine industry in Napa began in 1850 with Buena Vista, the oldest of the wineries. Napa wines were not acknowledged till 1976, when Napa Valley wines beat out the French in a blind taste test. After that the industry exploded with acreage once selling for $1000, now commanding a price of $300,000 per acre.

What makes Napa and Sonoma wines so flavorful? It is the Mediterranean climate which only 2% of the world has. Great grapes grow in this climate. Also, the minerals in the soil help with grape growth, and this area has over 100 varieties of soil varieties known as soil orders.

On the tour three wineries were visited, one in Napa, and two in Sonoma. Let’s start with Kieu Hoang, a wine maker who originates from Viet Nam. Both red and wine were offered and delicious. Wine in Napa starts at $35/bottle, but worth the price. This winery grows their own grapes and manufactures the wine on site.

The Vineyard

Roses are grown at the end of each row of vines. This is done as years ago vineyards had a disease and this could be detected early by the roses beginning to wilt. Vineyards no longer have this problem yet the tradition remains.

This Sonoma County winery does not grow grapes on site. They are known for their Sangiovese wine blend. The owner of this winery has several different wineries in the area as Napa growers tend to consolidate and purchase small vineyards. Their Sangiovese blend was sublime with bottles in the $35 to $60 range.

The third winery visited was Mayo Family Winery. They have been in business for 29 years and also purchase grapes to produce wine. They make 5000 cases per year and only sell to those who visit for tasting or on line. They had an amazing Chardonnay. They age their wine in steel vats and also use French oak barrels for some blends. These barrels are $1400 each and can be used for only 5 years.

Oak Barrels
The winery vehicle

San Francisco – Day Trip Muir Woods

Wanted to visit Napa Valley, however, had no desire to drive. Found a tour on the net, $159., but worth every penny.

Great tour. Thanks, Mike. Received no compensation for endorsement.

Picking up passengers along the way gave a great tour of different parts of the city. Some pics..

View from the Presidio, beautiful spot with great views, and interesting history, but don’t waste your time and $$ at the Walt Disney Family Museum. It’s like Walt’s attic in a museum – cluttered and tmi…….


Besides Napa Valley, and a lunch stop in Sonoma, Muir Woods, was included in the tour. Had not been to Muir Woods in over 40 plus years, and thankfully it had not changed. Let’s start there.

The Visitor Center

Great first stop along the path — check out the age of these beautiful creatures. Most are 500 to 800 years of age, however, some may be as old as 1000. They have shallow roots for their height, and live in clusters known

as families. They are able to survive climate change as they receive moisture from the bay fog.

Note the burn marks on the middle tree, they are fire resistant but the scars of fire are present.
Another family of trees along the path.

They are the tallest living creatures on Earth with the tallest tree in the Woods being 258 feet.

Important information.

And look what I found at the gift shop for $14.95. Will try my luck at growing one of these amazing creatures of nature. Am told they grow a foot a year and in 7 years I can plant it outside and if I can’t will need a house with a larger ceiling..

San Franciso: Joan Mitchell at SF MOMA

Joan Mitchell, (1925-1992), was a Chicago raised artist who began painting at an early age. Comfortable in both America and France she eventually permanently moved to Paris but maintained American ties. She was comfortable in both worlds and known for her large works full of color and drew inspiration from nature for her creations.

The exhibit at MOMA was vast and alluring. Videos of interviews Ms. Mitchell had given were played in the hall allowing further insight into the artist, and the creative insights which thrived in her work.,

Joan in her Paris studio.

Some of her works

One of the few small works Mitchell painted.

A closing picture of Joan Mitchell, the artist.

The exhibit runs through January 2022. If in the area, stop, and see her amazing work.

San Francisco: Museum of Modern Art

MOMA San Francisco

While not a big fan of modern art was told this Museum was a must see, and it surely was. Phyllis Wattis, was the Abby Rockefeller of the West in her love of the arts, and donations to them. Always interested in how people make their money, and wishing to give credit for their philanthropy allow me to continue..

Photo from the Phyllis Wattis Foundation

Mrs. Wattis, was a Mormon, the great granddaughter of Brigham Young. Her father was a sugar company executive, and she studied economics. Her husband’s company built Hoover Dam. She bequeathed over $150 million to California cultural institutions and the Museum of Modern Art was one of her main endeavors. What a fascinating life!

All that said, thank you Phyllis Wattis, and let’s start our tour..

The Modern Classics

Cezanne – was surprised and delighted to see Paul here as his works are mainly in Europe.

Georgia O’Keefe

While Georgia O’Keefe spent many summers in Upstate New York at Lake George, had never seen a Lake George painting. In the visit to San Francisco MOMA one was present.

Lake George

Other Masters

Frida Kahlo, Picasso, and Pollock

Each floor was dedicated to a different branch of the arts. To visit effectively plan on at least a 2 hour stay as there are 7 floors of massive works to take in.


Art from trash..

All from a kitchen
Loved this
A close up

A MishMash of Interesting Pieces


Kids loved this one – trying to locate the rooms..

Check out the outdoor garden sculptures..

Another interesting piece.

And Ruth Aswasa from Black Mountain College had works exhibited along with Swiss modernist, Paul Klee.

Next: The Joan Mitchell Collection

San Francisco: Cable Car Museum

A must see with all the essential museum requirements – education with easy to understand and enjoy exhibits, a reasonable gift shop, good hours, convenient location, much for children, and free, but give a donation if able.

The Mechanics

The heart and brains of the operation – The actual Cable Car Machine Shop is in the museum.
A Better View
The cable – little has changed in cable splicing in over 100 years.

The Grip, pictured above, controls the speed and control of the car by “gripping” the cable. It can support up to 10 tons. To operate this vital piece of machinery requires practice and strength. The operator must feel each position of the Grip as he/she operates it. Cars move at full speed 9.5 mph and this 327 pound piece of machinery is key.

Some Beauties From the Past

Conductor Uniform

Other Memorabilia

The Famous Earthquake of 1906

San Francisco sits on the San Andreas fault. Tremors occur daily due to this location. On April 18th 1906 in the wee hours of the morning the devastation began. With an explosive fury comparable to 6 million tons of TNT and 12,000 times the impact of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the City shook for 40 seconds, pausing for 10, then shaking for another 20. Upon completion devastation was 200 miles long and 20 to 40 miles wide. Many were injured and died. The pictures say it all.

Three days of terror continued as only one fire hydrant remained with all water mains broken. Firefighters were helpless. When the fires ceased 490 blocks of the City were destroyed.*

*Paraphrased information from the Cable Car Museum exhibit. They state it better than I ever could.

From this devastation the fate of the cable car was certain. It was over. However, due to an outpouring of love and endorsement from citizens government officials changed their minds, and to this day the cable car carries on.

So, on your visit to San Francisco make sure you

and view this captivating piece of San Francisco history.

You’ll be enchanted.

San Francisco: Pier 39

Walked to Pier 39 from the hotel. While a long walk there is much to see along the way. Bay views are spectacular and bring your appetite as a variety of dining options are available.

Coit Tower guides during the walk. This 210 foot tower was built at the bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who was saved by firefighters during the San Francisco Fire of 1906. An art deco masterpiece it was constructed to beautify the City.

Other sites during the walk..

Be careful while walking as skateboarders and those on scooters are not..

For those who tire during the walk trolley cars are available..

Pier 39 Christmas tree

Unique Shops on the Pier

The largest magnet shop in the world also resides here for those magnet fanatics, or if in need of a small unusual gift. Took a bay boat ride on this lovely full moon night -half hour for $20, longer cruises are available during the day as are ferries to Sausalito. A trip to Alcatraz is also a fascinating day time cruise and visit..

Evening Entertainment – Rides on the Pier

But this was the most fun, and well attended.

The Pier Restaurants have much variety.

And don’t forget to follow that noise and visit the sea lions next door to the Pier.

Then journey further to Ghirardelli Square for some unforgettable hot chocolate or a hot fudge sundae.

The Menu

The Creators

The Server

What a memorable visit….

San Francisco: Fortune Cookie Factory and Smash and Go

What a fun visit. It is a must see and buy. Prices are reasonable and cookies tasty. Bought the chocolate covered fortune cookies. YUM! They also have specialty fortune cookies for events.

Smash and Go

At the base of Grant Avenue are designer shops. Last year during my visit I thought these shops were too exposed, and this year my concerns became a reality. The night before my visit Fendi’s windows were “smashed,” and designer purses were stolen. Throughout Chinatown police presence was strong, and in the designer shop areas carpenters were busily installing wood to cover store windows. Some pictures..

Fendi’s – where the heist occurred

Sad the Chinese soldiers couldn’t protect the area.

Next, dinner, – delicious, and only $9, with enough for 3 days. Only catch, a Chinese customer ordered for me, and I have no idea what I ate. But, as stated earlier, DELICIOUS!