Checking In: From SFO

That was totally the view from my first hotel room…

I swear I haven’t given up on my adventurous pursuits, despite what a total lack of posts may suggest. Instead I’ve spent the last week revisiting San Francisco, California… for work. And for those of you who have business travel occasionally or frequently, it totally counts as an adventure, huh? We might not be scaling 14,000 footers or setting new climbing routes, but trying to live out of a suitcase, look and act professional, fit into the new “culture”, and wanting nothing more than to go explore instead of work is a serious accomplishment. Go us. w00t.

However, I didn’t go to San Francisco without doing a few Tenders & Trails related activities, so hope you’re ready for the most random food reviews ever and my first ever climbing gym review too!

Where to start? Well, I guess it would be appropriate to start with Logan Airport – one of my least favorite places on this planet. Fortunately this time I ended up in a significantly nicer terminal with a few more food options, so when I stumbled across a Wolfgang Puck Express that was drawing me in simply by smell alone, I had to check it out. That turned out to be a pretty wise decision. I got myself a nice four cheese pizza, topped with tomatoes and ricotta cheese. And it was huge for under $15! Definitely worth checking out if you end up in Terminal C at Logan.

San Francisco is definitely a controversial place with food. A lot of folks say that it’s one of the most creative, original, and best places in the United States for food. I’m going to have to very much disagree. Throwing a bunch of ingredients together until they resemble something funky looking doesn’t make good food. Good food is all about being able to sit down to a meal and eat it in peace. When you finish, you’re satisfied. I guess if you’re into the whole funky food thing you’ll disagree with me, but my opinion of food totally led to a lot more misses than hits in San Francisco so I’ll be skipping a lot of meals instead of writing up bad reviews!

So what was worth mentioning for food? As much as the name of the restaurant threw me off, The Stinking Rose is honestly worth checking out. I’ll warn you though – you must absolutely LOVE garlic. There’s garlic hanging from the ceilings, pictures

Yep, dish of garlic to put on bread. Good team dinner.

of garlic on the walls, and the smell of garlic hits you from across the street. If they could have sneaked garlic into my drink, I think they would have. Instead, almost every single menu item has garlic – including dessert. I ordered a meal of braised beef with golden russet potatoes after helping my co-workers polish off two helpings of freshly baked bread and garlic cloves. Good stuff! I think if I have a chance to go back, I’d definitely like to check out their pasta, but I’ll keep avoiding the garlic ice cream… yes, garlic ice cream.

Anyone that knows me is aware that I can’t sit still. I fidget, I play with electronics, I wander around. It’s just the way I am. Therefore, I made sure I was aware of where the rock climbing gyms were in San Francisco and I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was a short two mile cab ride from Touchstone’s Mission Cliffs. The first day of climbing was ironically a team building exercise for my very global team of co-workers. The catch was that I would be teaching them how climb, but I’d be their belayer. I swear, you don’t know nerves until you’re trying to teach your boss how to tie the necessary knots, checking gear, and making sure you don’t leave too much slack for the newbie. Fortunately, everyone did well.

As for the gym itself – it couldn’t be much more opposite of my own gym and that’s neither a good thing or a bad thing oddly enough. Mission Cliffs is massive with over 80 top roping routes, many lead climbing routes, and a decent sized bouldering area. They also have a pretty full gym setup and locker rooms with saunas.

All cool stuff, but missing was the sense of community and climber love. It might just be a New England (maybe even an East Coast thing from what I hear from South East friends) thing to say hello to your fellow climber and ask them about their current project, how long they’ve been climbing, and offer to show the newbies around – but in my three days of climbing at Mission Cliffs, not a single person (staff included – even those hanging out in the bouldering area) did that. It bugged me a lot. I’m a friendly and approachable person. I say hello and smile at folks. At my own gym, I welcome and show people around frequently. I know other gyms are like mine, so what’s up with this one?

Some other people pet peeves from this gym were a complete lack of sharing. Some common climber etiquette is to give your project a try or two, and then move it. Don’t sit in front of it and mope blocking another 20 routes. Better yet, if you’re watching a pro work on his project, find a place to sit that doesn’t put you or another climber in danger. I had to abandon more routes I was stoked to send because I noticed my last hold or two put me above someone’s head. Lame!

Now, as cool as it was to visit a gym with over 80 top roping stations – I got to admit it was squeezed in there like spam (the fake ham stuff, not your inbox). Nothing like trying to belay someone and bumping elbows. Better yet, nothing like having to delay your climber from coming down because their route crosses DIRECTLY over the route the climber next to them is half way up now. Eek!

Would I go back there? Absolutely. I just hope they know they definitely have some issues at hand and could seriously benefit from a real climber community, but stuff like that doesn’t happen overnight or forcefully. Who knows what the future will bring!

So, there it is – San Francisco… again. Ready to get back to my mountainous, foresty, part of the country with lots of good food and good climbing. (Oh, and family. ;D)

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About Jillian Bejtlich

Hey! I'm Jillian Bejtlich. I’m a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of the outdoors, adventure, and a pretty serious inability to sit still. I’m plagued by the travel bug, and it seems I’ll try any relatively sane and safe thing once. My big goal in life: Get people outside!