Time to leave the city behind

After three nights in San Francisco its time to say good bye to the golden city for a few weeks and head inland to Yosemite and start our road trip. Our stay at the Hotel Zephyr has been a good one. We haven’t spent much time at the hotel but the beds have been comfy, staff polite and the hotel is extremely well placed for Fishermans wharf and the surrounding areas. Its also very funky with lots of modern art displays and a great outdoor play area with oversize connect 4 and ping pong etc. Worth checking out if you are looking for somewhere to stay in these parts.

We had been impressed with the WIngz cars service when they picked us up from the airport a few days ago so i had booked them to take us back to pick up our hire car. They turned up on time, priced reasonable and the driver was a fount of knowledge and dropped us right outside the door for Alamo car rentals at SFO. Alamo on the other hand were not quite so organised !

We had booked in online a few days before and were expecting a similar set up to what we found at Las vegas airport last year, ie, turn up and be pointed in the direction of a row of standard SUV’s all with keys in that we just wander up and choose from. Well not here apparently ! On asking where the Standard SUV’s were the lady behind the counter at Alamo asked us our name and then said ” ahh your car is over there” and handed us the keys to a pretty shabby looking Santa Fe. We took a closer look to find it had no sat nav and we had paid extra to have a car with integral sat nav ( mainly with the thought that it should be a higher spec car) we told this to the lady at Alamo and she just replied we would pick our sat nav up on the way out. NO NO NO !! i tried to explain that we wanted an integral sat nav, she said they don’t do them, i sad we had paid extra, she fobbed us off with none of the cars had integral sat nav, I explained i could of brought my own US sat nav from home and saved a load of cash, etc etc – this went on for half an hour with us arguing our point, the lady wandering off and then saying she would see if anybody else had one we could have. Anyway to cut a long story short i think she realised we weren’t going to back down and “upgraded” us to new ish Dodge Durango complete with leather, air con, Sat Nav etc. Im not sure how much of an upgrade it was as its exactly the same size and spec as the “Standard SUV” ford explorer we had last year, the problem seems to be the ambiguity of what is a Standard SUV – apparently its larger than a mid size ( according to alamo on the phone last year) but smaller than a large SUV – i’m sure its that way so they can fob you off with what ever they have in stock when you turn up.

Anyway, Funky new Durango in hand we made it out of the Alamo lot and headed through downtown San Francisco to our first port of call for the day – The Oakland O.Co Coliseum, home of the Oakland Raiders. Ive been a fan of the Raiders since 1984 ( when they were based in LA) so it had always been an ambition to visit the Coliseum. We found it pretty easily after driving through what looked like rather salubrious area of Oakland and an industrial estate with loads of Hispanic street sellers selling everything from Chicken to Ice cream from make shift stalls and the backs of trucks. Unfortunately you cant gain access to the stadium but it was good enough just being able to stand outside lol and visit the shop ( where i left with a No. 32 Marcus Allen shirt).

Next port of call was the San Francisco outlets at Livermore but we left empty handed ! followed by a drive to Tracey to go to Walmart so Oz could see what Nerf guns they had for sale. We did a little grocery shopping, stocked up on goodies and water etc and then headed on to our final destination of the Yosemite Westgate Lodge n Groveland.

The drive up to Groveland was beautiful, Sweeping roads, pine forest and small town USA. We passed through Chinese Camp ghost town which at one point in the 1850s was home to almost 5000 Chinese immigrants who had flocked to the area for the Gold rush. It was famed for the Tong wars of 1856 which pitted 900 members of the Yan-Woo Tong against 1200 members of the Sam Yaps Tong. Tong wars seemed to be the traditional way of settling differences among the Chinese miners. It was understood guns were not to be used. Instead, this battle was fought with pitchforks, rakes and other mining and farm tools. Shortly after the fight began, lawmen put a stop to it but only after four Chinese had been killed and many wounded. All that is left now is a few dilapidated buildings and around 120 residents.

15 miles on from Chinese Camp we arrived at the town of Groveland and a few miles past that was our hotel for the night. The Westgate lodge is directly off the 120 and despite being next to a main road was lovely and quiet. The rooms were a good size and had all the amenities you need and there was a central swimming pool which we would of used had we arrived a little earlier. The only downside to the Hotel isn’t really with the hotel but with the restaurant next door which is the only place to eat without having to take a drive. The Buck Meadows Restaurant was ok but seemed to play on being the only restaurant next to the hotel so service seemed surly and food was tasty but poorly presented with not a huge deal of choice.

We were in bed for 22:00 again ready for an early start and a drive into Yosemite National Park proper.

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