Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fish and Beans

(Written March 15)
We’re now at 8,484km and two oil changes into our trip with only a few short days left to go. While we’re on our way home, we’re determined to continue to enjoy the trip and make frequent stops along the way rather than rushing to get back to the real world.

Yesterday, we rolled into San Francisco in the late afternoon. After a bit of research, we made a plan to take the ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf, then do the nighttime tour of Alcatraz. Unfortunately, as we arrived at the ferry terminal, we saw a ferry riding away. It turns out our RV park host gave us an outdated schedule and we’d just missed the last ferry for three hours—and also the last tour of Alcatraz for the day.

Not to be discouraged, we decided to drive to Fisherman’s Wharf instead and wander around there for the evening. As soon as we walked out of the parkade on the pier, my senses were shocked by all the excitement around me. Seagulls flapped their wings in the air, on the sidewalks and around fallen food on the ground, buskers banged drums and shouted out, the smell of fresh seafood tickled my nostrils, the colourful jewelry, trinket and T-shirt shops delighted my eyes and the balmy sea air invigorated me.

We zigzagged our way through the bustle of people and made a beeline to Pier 39, where I’d read that sea lions were living. Apparently, shortly after the 1989 earthquake, several sea lions moved into the area and never really left, to the delight of tourists (and local shop owners as well I’m sure).

We followed the sound of the barking to the water and sure enough, on top of a group of nine or so brown wooden floats, laid a group of 30-40 giant sea lions basking in the sun, without a care in the world. Every now and then, one would slowly use every ounce of energy he had to stand up, give a mighty stretch of his neck, then promptly plop back down to rest some more. If another one happened to be under him when he fell, none of them seemed to care too much. It was as if protesting was just too much work and it was better to just let another one lay on top than to complain. It was quite a sight and I could have stayed there for hours watching them.

My curiosity satisfied, we wandered around the pier, soaking it all in and loving the energy of the place. We had supper, watched Jaxon jump on a trampoline for a bit, then capped off the evening with a delicious chocolate crepe. Yummers.

Today, we decided to try something different and visit the Jelly Belly factory, just 15 minutes away from our campsite. The factory offers free 40-minute tours and a sample bag of beans for you to take home. Plus, there’s a free sample bar so you can try whatever flavour your heart desires before you plop down your money to buy some.

Some interesting tidbits I picked up during the tour:
-it takes 7-21 days to make a Jelly Belly
-Ronald Reagan was a huge fan of Jelly Bellys
-Reagan had a custom-made holder made for holding his Jelly Belly jar on Air Force One and the beans were in the room during almost every meeting during his presidency
-the most popular flavour is cherry, followed by butter popcorn and licorice
-the coconut Jelly Bellys have real flakes of coconut in them

To our amusement, we found out that there are now gross flavours such as boogers, barf and skunk spray. The real kicker? They look exactly like other, delicious flavours like butter popcorn, licorice and apple so you can mix them up and give them as surprise gifts to your friends (or enemies, as the case may be).

Of course, our free tour ended up not being quite so free—we picked up some candy of course, and Gerry and I each got dispensers to keep on our desks at work. I have a feeling I might be getting more visitors to my office soon. Don’t worry, I didn’t pick up any of the gross flavours—or did I?

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