Christmas 2019 – San Francisco

Tuesday, December 24, Christmas Eve

United Airlines alerted us via text that the first leg of our flight to San Francisco was delayed. We now departed Wichita at 11 a.m., instead of 9 a.m., which the boys thought was a better time anyway – more time to sleep.

Wednesday, December 25, Christmas Day

Not much happening at the airport this morning.

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On our way!

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We made it to Denver, and found out our flight to San Francisco was delayed due to fog in the bay area. We finally made it, just in time to eat Christmas dinner with Scott’s sister, cousins, aunts and friends. There were 26 people at dinner including all the kids.

View from Aunt Kathy’s Christmas Day night.


Lisa’s apartment is downstairs from Aunt Kathy and Shane’s ex-wife Evan. The entire house where the three of them (plus another person) live is quite complicated. It’s a hodge podge of doorways, stairways and rooms. Shane owns the house and lives across the street. Vicky and Bridget’s families live in the same neighborhood.

The boys stayed at Lisa’s and Pam, Scott, and I stayed at the Hotel Zephyr, in Fisherman’s Wharf, a block from the bay. There was a Starbucks around the corner and every morning you could hear the sea lions at Pier 39. The hotel had a nautical theme, a cool outdoor area and a game room with ping pong, shuffleboard, giant Jenga and connect four, and lots of board games. In the evenings they offered stores out by the fire pits.

Lounging in the lobby.

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Outside in the terrace.

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Thursday, December 26

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It’s a beautiful day to tour Alcatraz, which was a fort before it was a famous prison. We heard about great escape attempts and notorious criminals who were imprisoned there.

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The guide told us the prisoners could smell and hear freedom from across the bay, and that was the hardest part about being locked up at Alcatraz.

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There were some families that lived there, and the kids would take the ferry to school every day. There’s also lots of foliage and wildlife on the island. This flat area was where the children played and used to include accommodations for guards. It’s all ruins now. The tall structure is the lighthouse, the building behind that is the prison, and the smaller building to the right used to be the warden’s house.

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We found out on the ferry ride back that Scott “stole” a $1 map from Alcatraz. He only had $1, but took two maps. We told him he could make a sizable donation to make up for his mistake, and joked about him stealing from Alcatraz the rest of the trip.

Thursday night’s dinner was lasagna at Lisa’s.

Friday, December 27

We spent Friday at the California Academy of Sciences, a science museum. There were penguins, swamp and aquarium, a living roof, rainforest, reindeer, and a whole bunch of other stuff. We watched a dome movie in the planetarium called Passport to the Universe. The museum’s website said it “takes audiences on an interstellar odyssey that the New Yorker calls ‘as exciting as anything in a theme park.’” It was interesting, but not quite something you can compare to a roller coaster or amusement park ride. We also went to an exhibit about skin and one about minerals and gems.

Friday night dinner was Lisa’s choice, a highly rated hotel restaurant/bar we found online. When we got there, we found out the hotel used to have topless girls…which makes for interesting pictures and lots of jokes. The food was terrific! This is inside.

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The bar was uphill in a little alley.

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Saturday, December 28

A walk across the Golden Gate bridge is 3.4 miles. Six of us (minus Grammy) walked the span of it.

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The views were gorgeous. We could see the San Francisco skyline, coastline, Alcatraz, Oakland Bay Bridge, and other islands.

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This was halfway across.

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We saw lots of sailboats, ferries, barrages, kayaks, and otters. It was cold and windy going across the bridge, but coming back the sun was in our favor. The bridge was completed 1938 and it took about 10 years to complete.

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Adam was obsessed with the hills in San Francisco. What happens if it gets icy? Luckily, it doesn’t. Here in Kansas, we are not used to steep hills that require stairs on the sidewalk to go up!

Sunday, December 29

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We really lucked out on the weather, but Sunday was the first rainy day. Cousin Vicky took us on a tour of one of Google’s offices. I think she said there were 7-8 in the San Francisco area. She was the only one who could take pictures inside. We got our badges in the lobby and watched the big screen of “trending” topics change by country.

There wasn’t anyone there since it was Sunday. We saw the cafeteria that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (free), a few other small snack areas with refrigerators stocked with healthy snacks and drinks. There was a meditation room, a place to get a massage, and a tech corner to “borrow” devices and accessories if yours isn’t working or is lost. Lots of little nooks with comfy couches and chairs and meeting rooms of all sizes. Since most of the office space was open, there were little soundproof booths you could conduct a video conference in private. All the meeting rooms had a theme and were named in alphabetical order so it’s easy to find. Genius! I guess that’s why it’s Google!

We ate lunch downtown at a Mexican restaurant. While we were walking there we passed a real estate office and marveled at the price of a downtown 4 bedroom apartment that was going for $18,999 per month. Wowza!

We met up with Pam and Aunt Kathy and the boys went to visit a submarine, the USS Pampanito, and the girls went to a fancy hotel downtown for a quiet drink and conversation.

This is the view from the submarine. We ended up eating at the Boudin restaurant for dinner. You can see it in the picture below. Boudin is a famous sourdough bread company. Scott, Pam and I ate there for breakfast one day. They have a bread museum and you can see the workers make the bread.

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Monday, December 30

Lisa picked us up at 9 a.m. for our 12:45 p.m. flight. We weren’t sure how the traffic would be. We saw a caravan of six unmarked buses escorted by about 10 highway patrol officers on motorcycles. Obviously someone more important than us.

We at lunch at the airport and had an uneventful flight to Denver. Our next flight to Wichita was supposed to depart at 6:30 p.m.

This is where the fun begins.

Our 6:30 p.m. flight got “delayed” to 8 a.m. THE NEXT DAY. A crew member called in sick and maybe because it was the holidays there was no back up?

There was a flight to Wichita that left at 8 p.m., but there was a 0.0001% chance we’d get on that. United put us up in a nearby hotel (15 minutes away), gave us dinner and breakfast food vouchers and toiletries. None of us had bags, but luckily we had enough in our carryons to get by one night.

The United representative said there was a hotel shuttle that runs between the hotel and airport every 15 minutes. It was 18 degrees in Denver. We waited outside for about 30 minutes. Scott called the hotel. They said the shuttle was on its way. Another 15 minutes and more folks gathered to wait. Scott called again. Seems there WAS a shuttle that wasn’t marked as going to our hotel, that actually did drop off at our hotel. It would have been nice for someone to tell us (and the 20 other people waiting) that important piece of information. After an hour and 10 minutes we were finally on the shuttle… which was packed full.

We checked in at the hotel and Scott asked about reserving space on the shuttle back to the airport in the morning. There was room on the 3:30 a.m. shuttle. Um… no thanks. The hotel did say they would reimburse us for an Uber in the morning. That turned out to be more complicated but in the end we did get our $20 Uber fare reimbursed.

We weren’t that hungry, but Scott went down to the restaurant and got a few things. The soup was so-so and the rib sandwich the boys ate was nothing to write home about. Everyone was tired. The room didn’t get cool enough. The alarm was set for 5:30 a.m.

Tuesday, December 31, New Year’s Eve

We’re in an Uber by 6:15 a.m. Getting out of the airport, Scott suddenly realizes he left his cell phone in the car. He runs after the car and it’s not there. It had fallen onto the road when he got out, and a bus driver picked it up. 😕

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We didn’t need to check any bags because we didn’t get ours from the night before. The security line was long, but moved pretty fast. On to getting some breakfast. I’m not sure where Scott and Adam went, but Zach and I ended up at Starbucks because I really wanted my coffee. The line was a little long – and a LOT long by the time we finally went through the process of using the vouchers.

Finally we’re ready to board. There’s a total of nine passengers on this flight. We have to walk outside to board. At least we get our choice of seats!

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The last person on the flight sat right next to Adam, because that’s what her seat assignment was. We had a chuckle because of all the available seats, she chooses one next to someone. Adam did get up and change to another seat.

When we landed in Wichita, I had a message from the kennel “reminding” me that they closed at noon and we were scheduled to pick up Ali today. Of course we wouldn’t forget to pick up Ali!

Adam went to a friend’s house for New Year’s Eve, but the rest of us were tired and happy to stay home and ring in the New Year with CNN’s New Year’s Eve special. Scott made it to 11 p.m. Zach and I made it to about 12:15 a.m. We heard fireworks at midnight. I don’t even remember what we had for dinner that night!

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