Post-Fest West Coast shenanigans

After the hangovers wore off and the bruises had begun to fade, we found ourselves back on the West Coast in the ever amazing San Francisco. There was little on the agenda, other than to visit Alcatraz, blow some cash in Amoeba Music (one of my favourite record stores in the world!) and check out some live music.

San Francisco was generally pretty good to us, the sun was shining and not nearly as cold as I was expecting for the time of year. A trip to Alcatraz provided some sweet views across the bay and a few photo ops.

Mel enjoys having her photo taken.

Surprisingly, the audio guide was quite informative, one of the few I’ve ever actually paid attention to for most of the tour. The cold and haunting feel of the buildings, the history being shared, the props, the location; it all made for an excellent day out, and at a relatively inexpensive price to boot!

Mel made use of the strong $AU and filled her bags with records, clothes and whatever other goods she could exchange her $$ for. San Fran is pretty good from the shopping point of view, and the whole place in general just blows LA right out of the water.

Of course, some live music was on the cards as we went to check out the 2012 AP Tour, headed by Four Year Strong with Gallows, Sharks and Title Fight in tow. It all went down in a massive ballroom of a venue, and with maybe only two or three hundred kids in the room it felt awkwardly large. For me, the night was all about long time favourites, Gallows, especially to see how their new singer (Wade, ex-Alexisonfire) would go filling in for the huge shoes left by Frank. Sadly, he had nothing on Frank, though he deserves points for trying.

There’s never a shortage of things to see and do in SF. I’m a big fan of interesting sculptures, odd sights and pop culture, so if there’s a photo op involving any of these then I’m all over it. Here are just a few.

The Full House house! They refer to them locally as the ‘painted ladies.’

This was just one of the many yet-to-be-removed Halloween decorations. This had glowing eyes and all!

I’d also heard about a ‘wave organ’ somewhere along the shores, and as the name suggests, it’s an organ that makes sounds based on the tides. Sounded cool enough, the reality was somewhat different. I expect that when it works it would be impressive to some degree, but as I discovered, when it is low tide the organ won’t make sounds. It’s made out of recycled stone and pipes and looks kinda cool, although I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say it was worth the 50 minute walk it took me to get there.

San Francisco wave organ: Thumbs down.

Having seen and done everything I’d hoped to, I hopped on the Amtrak and headed for another favourite city of mine, Portland, Oregon. The trip was pretty comfortable, nothing like the cramped CountryLink trains you’ll find in NSW, and some pretty nice scenery all the way up the coast.

There are very few reasons to dislike Portland. There’s no sales tax on anything, they have loads of great beer, a bookstore that takes up an entire city block, free public transport in the downtown area, and best of all the locals all kick ass. Really. There are very few places in the states I could honestly say I could settle in (and I’ve extensively traveled the country), but Portland is definitely up there.

This time around, my only mission was to sample the world famous Voodoo Doughnut. The range they have, both in size and flavour, is incredible. Some doughnuts literally the size of the average adult head. I opted for the jam filled chocolate voodoo doll and can honestly say I’ve never struggled harder to finish a doughnut. Hello adult onset diabetes!

Written on May 1, 2012