Some explanation is in order here before we begin, passengers.
As I sped north on the 5 recently on another midweek trip to cover a three-game Dodgers and Giants series in San Francisco, it occurred to me, somewhere north of Firebaugh, that I had only glanced at the details of my hotel reservations as well as my game credentials.
Pulling into a Chevron station to review the mission details, I saw that I had one game credential. For the Thursday game. Today was Tuesday.
I quickly dialed up the Giants press office to explain my dilemma, knowing instinctively that no one would answer. And just like that, someone answered.
That moment would prove to be prophetic.
“Yes,” said the voice. “You have a credential for Thursday. And, let me check…..and Wednesday.” And then after what seemed like an interminable length of time, but was most likely 20 seconds, he said, “Oh, and today.”
It was about 11 am, and with about another 175 miles to go, I was on schedule-ish.
Next stop, the Lodge at the Presidio, part of a former military establishment and now the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the largest urban national park in the United States.
Maybe I should have checked the details of this one, also.
After pulling off the Bay Bridge out of Oakland, and making my way through the City’s uncrowded streets to its northern end, driving through the magnificent grove of trees along the park’s Arguello Boulevard, parking the car, and setting my bags down at the front desk, the friendly desk clerk pulled up my reservation and smiled, saying, “We have you arriving tomorrow.”
Of course they did.
“I’m here now,” I said, with a wan smile. “Maybe we could move me up a day?”
“I’m sure we can,” he said. And so he did. That left me with an open evening later in the week where I would need to find a hotel.
So, I doubled down.
‘Well,” I began, “As you can see, I have a comp night and one media rate night for my stay, (standard practice for travel writers), but perhaps you could let me have one more night at the media rate?” He didn’t bat an eye.
“Let me just have a look,” he said. “That’s no problem.”
For the record, one night at the stately but unstuffy Lodge is an experience you owe yourself. Three nights and you’re in debt to The Universe.
And now, dear passengers, a bit of history: The Presidio was the site of Spain’s northernmost outpost in the late 18th century, about the time the US was declaring independence from Great Britain. Eventually the site was claimed by Mexican forces, and finally, claimed by the US, during the Mexican-American War.
The military reservation at the Golden Gate eventually became the most important Army post on the West Coast, part of a coastal defense system that eventually included Alcatraz and Angel Island, to as far north as the Marin Headlands, and as far south as Fort Funston.
Until 1973, the Presidio was a key link in American military power into the Pacific Basin.
The Army continued to expand the Presidio. Then, in 1972, the still-active Presidio was included within the boundaries of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Congress closed the base in 1989, and 1994 it was transferred to the National Park Service.
In 2013, the Presidio Trust, established to maintain and develop the area, became financially self-sufficient. Its development and expansion of the Presidio now includes two major hotels, a number of restaurants, offices, and film studios, as well as the Disney Museum.
My large second floor room was tucked into a corner of the historic property looking out north across the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Ironically, I would only see the bridge from that window view once, as it was socked in by fog on the remaining two days.
The room also overlooked a courtyard, where I would brave the chilly morning for breakfast the next morning, just to say I did.
But there was little time to appreciate the room at that moment. There was a game to cover.
The Dodger-Giants series has been covered by me elsewhere (The Dodgers lost two out of three games to their arch-rivals), but traveling by car through the City from the Presidio to Oracle Park, which is along the Embarcadero, provided three different routes, all of which were a sightseer’s dream from the top of the hill along Vallejo, to two different routes which cut directly through the City along Van Ness, and then through the Financial District.
The streets in San Francisco are still relatively free of traffic, with the pandemic now simply evolving, but still manifesting. The cable cars are still not running and that might be the biggest indicator of the City’s status, even with the busy restaurants and shops.
Regardless of the outcome of the games, few sights are as warm and welcoming as seeing the lights of the Lodge at the Presidio lit in welcome at the end of the evening. The home-like surroundings and the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge through the rolling incoming fog, are travelogue scenes as memorable as the Eiffel Tower or Times Square.
And another highlight was quick to arrive. Morning brought my pre-selected breakfast happily waiting for me on a tray.
Pre-selected might be off a bit, however.
Breakfast is provided for all guests, but because of COVID restrictions, there is no service in the dining room, although you’re welcome to eat there. Select your meal from the provided menu the night before, before 10 p.m., to be precise, and it will be waiting for you in the morning just off the dining room.
Unable to complete such a simple task, I approached the front desk early the next morning, menu in hand. Almost wordlessly, the desk clerk happily took my menu, and half-whispered, “45 minutes.”
Having arisen so early, I went back upstairs for coffee and the news.
Breakfast was ready in less than 45. I took it outside to the courtyard in the slight chill of the summer morning, as I gazed at the fogged-in “view” of the Golden Gate Bridge, less than a quarter-mile away.
A fresh pot of coffee, cereal and fresh fruit served in a mason jar, fresh orange juice and yogurt, and my iPad. Who needed the Golden Gate Bridge?
With nothing left to do but wait for lunch, I explored the historic property and admired the photographs and simple but overwhelming construction offer of the beautiful once-military buildings.
A long outdoor porch, much like the one on the outside of the Inn at The Presidio, a sister property, provides the perfect spot for everything-watching, from children playing on the great lawn that stretches east and west across our location, to watching the waters of the San Francisco Bay just to the northeast.
Tucked just off the Chestnut Gate at Lyon Avenue, at the site of the former Letterman Hospital complex and now part of the Letterman Digital Arts center, sits the “hip gastropub” and craft beer bar Sessions at the Presidio.
As noted on the website, the name comes from the British term—“session beers”. The story goes that during WWI in England, munitions workers had to take long breaks between their double shifts. Those breaks were often taken at the local pub where the workers downed multiple pints of ale along with their lunch. In order to remain somewhat sober after the “session”, the workers would drink the lower-alcohol ales available. Those were called “session beers.”
And of course, “craft beer” means, wait for it, “beer.”
But I digress.
Meanwhile, not being the drinking sort, I skipped the recommended 2017 cuvee rouge ‘1784’, with my Pasta Bolognese—a simple, elegant pappardelle pasta packed with skywalker ranch wagyu beef, parmigiano reggiano, herbs and olive oil.
But it was more than that. Sitting out on the deck watching the Universe stroll by under a bright blue summer afternoon sky, it was a perfect respite even without the need for one.
From there it was a trip to the Apple Store in the nearby Chestnut Street ‘hood to officially document the death of my MacBook’s hard drive. Then it was off to the afternoon Dodger game, heretofore described, followed by a visit to the Ferry Building, another of my favorite San Francisco spots.
The next morning after, as I have often described, sleeping like a convicted murderer, breakfast awaited me in the Presidio’s charming dining room. Hosting my brother, a citizen of San Fran, we downed another delicious breakfast before heading off to Sports Basement, a quirkily-named supermarket-sized sporting goods store with a bustling E-bike rental department.
“Is two hours okay?,” I asked Jason, our ninja-outfitted clerk before checking out our machines. “You can ride all day if you want. Head off to Sausalito. Have lunch!” Hey, there’s an idea.
We availed ourselves of two of the larger models, gave them a quick test drive in the parking lot, and set off for the Golden Gate Bridge, looming literally over our shoulders.
Pandemic or no, the bridge was filled with tourists, perhaps not as packed as usual, but enough to create the familiar buzz. The bikes provided just enough zoom to cruise across and down into the oft-described Sausalito. I’m embarrassed to admit that this my first trip in the magical house-dotted hillsides tucked off the waters of the San Francisco Bay.
Headed back, we stopped for a panini at a local market before heading back. The steep hills we had coasted down became Disney rides, powered by our trusty, heavy bikes. On the bridge, we zoomed along through the bike lanes back to Basement. Note to self: look into electric bikes.
Returning to the Presidio for the last morning brought me that familiar twinge of happy and sad for its uniqueness and beauty, and the equally familiar longing to return. What more can be said about any place we travel to?
Lodge at the Presidio, 105 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94129 (415). 561-1234
Sessions at the Presidio, 1 Letterman Drive, Presidio, San Francisco Walk-in at the Chestnut Gate at Lyon. info@firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sports Basement, 610 Old Mason St, Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129. www.Sportsbasement.com.