The Left Coast 

Partly by intent and partly by chance, it was several years--possibly fifteen--since we were last in California, which puts that last trip back in the mid-1990s. When we lived in Colorado, there were west-coast meetings and scientific expeditions to attend to, so many of them that the drive west from Denver and through Las Vegas to the Golden State became familiar.

But living almost as far to the south and east in North America as it's possible to without living on an island means that it's a long way across the continent, and research administration doesn't lend itself to field experiments. Fortunately, Claire's cousin Hilde Simon's daughter Katie decided to get married last spring, giving us the perfect excuse for a brief westward excursion. Better yet, it all happened in the Bay Area.

Since moving to a busy metropolitan corridor, one seemingly designed around the automobile, we've become accustomed to serious traffic, so our airline's scheduled arrival in San Francisco just about time for the Friday afternoon rush hour had us unconcerned. And, because we really didn't have an agenda that day, we remained unconcerned, if a bit frustrated, as we sat in gridlock, inching the ten miles through the city toward the Golden Gate Bridge for a couple of hours.

Once across that magnificent structure, though, matters improved and finding Tiburon (one of those towns on the little peninsulas on the north side of San Francisco Bay) was easy. An evening stroll around the waterfront was the perfect antidote to having sat in cramped airline seats for six hours and then in a dinky rental car for another two.

While the principals were occupied with wedding preparations on Saturday, we had most of the day free, so we explored Marin County. Muir Woods National Monument was mobbed, so we passed on that, but the drive to the top of Mount Tamalpais let us look down on the tops of the redwoods there. And we made up for missing the Woods with a long walk on Stinson Beach, with a few brave surfers in wet suits and people playing fetch with dogs to keep us company.

For lunch, we went into Sausalito, originally a fishing village but now an upscale tourist trap. And, just like our very own tourist trap in Estes Park, the Sausalito shops were crowded with people buying trinkets from China--these with different labels, of course. Alcatraz ball caps seemed to be in vogue.

The wedding ceremony, sensibly planned for Saturday evening, was held at the FOB's home. (We learned this term from the California twenty-somethings at the wedding: that generation, so into texting, seems to use acronyms for everything, including the Father of the Bride.) He and the MOB have lived in a lovely waterfront house on the Bay for years, basking in its astonishing appreciation over that time, no doubt, and it was the perfect setting for a spring wedding under the stars. And we even recognized some of the dance songs at the reception!

Hilde and Jim Simon were exceptional hosts despite their understandable preoccupation with the Main Event. An elegant Sunday brunch in Tiburon with them made our visit just perfect. After that it was time to head back east.

And even though the Friday traffic had been awful, how bad could Sunday be? But, in one of those Murphy's Law things, Sunday turned out to be the day for the famous Bay-to-Breakers Run, wherein tens of thousands of San Franciscans dress in all sorts of costumes (many of them more of the undress variety, although why anyone would want to run a 12 km race completely nude seems a real puzzle) and clog an east-west street across the San Francisco peninsula for most of the day. It didn't help very much that we were going north, across their route. Because we did have an agenda this time, it was unnerving, but it all worked out fine.

And, somehow, South Florida traffic just doesn't seem quite so bad any more.

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