Pack up and Go Adventures

Pack up and Go has been on my radar for awhile and the timing just wasn’t right. As I was approaching my 45th Birthday and a girl’s weekend trip fell through for March, it was time I pulled the trigger and go on my own solo birthday adventure.

If you have not read my last post Pack up & Go is a surprise travel agency that plans 3-day weekend trips around the US.

It did drive me crazy having my envelope arrive the week before and not able to open it.  I left it sitting on my kitchen counter and tried to forget about it. I wanted to stay true to the essence of the trip and stayed steadfast in not opening until I got the airport.

So many of my friends were trying to guess where I was going and it was fun to have everyone be a part of this adventure.  I did a Facebook live at 7:30am from the airport in my car to reveal the destination with everyone at the same time.  It was true shock and joy when I opened the envelope and saw I was going to San Francisco.

“Holy $hit, I am going to California” I think was my direct quote.

That morning I received an email with all my flight information. I appreciated Pack up & Go putting in the subject line, don’t open until you open your envelope.  Once I did, in the email was all my travel information and boarding passes.  They check you into your flight the day before so you are all set to walk to your gate and start your adventure.

While waiting to board it was the perfect time to read over and look at everything in my packet. In the packet were some cute personal touches – a post card of San Francisco, Pack up & Go sticker and a birthday card.  In the survey you fill out it asks if traveling for a special occasion and I filled out it was for my 45th Birthday.  Also in the packet was my hotel information, tips on getting around, recommendations and estimated times from airport to hotel, facts about the city and then three days of recommended itineraries.

I did not think when I woke up that morning, I would be going on a four hour flight! I flew from Madison, WI to O’Hare Airport and O’Hare to San Francisco.  I was thankful that all flights were great and landed on time.  It was raining a bit when I arrived, but as I started the taxi ride to my hotel the sun came out and  there was a rainbow in the sky.  I asked my cab driver if I could open the window, and I was like a dog hanging its head out the window, breathing in the fresh air and sun rays after living through -45 degrees and 12 inches of snow the weeks before.

I arrived at my hotel, The Warwick Hotel, and it was super cute.  The cherry on top was a bottle of champagne and a sweet happy birthday note from the hotel staff in my room.  I got settled in and freshened up and as luck should have it, on Friday night I was able to connect with a friend who I met two years ago on a different travel adventure in India. Night one, I went off the Pack Up and Go itinerary and did my own thing.

I met Nina at a restaurant called the Rite Spot Cafe. She had a friend that was playing guitar there – Chris Moss.  It was great to catch up with Nina, listen to great live music, good food, drinks and then hang with Nina and her friends for the rest of the night listening to the next band – Lee Vilensky Trio

The next morning, I followed my Pack up and Go recommendations and started my day with a 1.2 mile walk taking in the scenery of the San Francisco streets on my way to the Ferry Building Marketplace. If you have ever been to the Milwaukee Indoor Market, it is similar to that. Lots of people Saturday morning getting their coffee, fresh produce, fish and shopping done for the day. There was also an outdoor farmers market.  I stopped at a local street vendor for a great bagel breakfast sandwich and coffee to kick off the day. From Pier 1 there was a great view of the Bay Bridge and from here strolled the 1.3 miles along the Embarcadero making my way to Pier 39.

I made some stops along the way.  I stopped at Pier 23 Cafe for a bloody mary.  This was a great place right on the water and outdoor dining.  It was a little rainy and windy at this time, so I stayed in the bar area and chatted it up with my bartender. It was early yet, so the place was not crowed at all.

Next stop Pier 33.  This is where you can get tickets for Alcatraz.  I was in San Francisco for a short weekend in 2011 and wasn’t able to get tickets, so I was crossing my fingers I would be able to this time…. NO LUCK.  Tickets sell out weeks in advance and there was no stand by tickets available either.  On to Pier 39. It wouldn’t be a trip to San Francisco if you didn’t stop to see the hundreds of Sea Lions hanging out. I continued my walk up to Pier 41, and that is when I discovered my plan B. Since I could not get “into Alcatraz”, I decided to take the ferry over to Sausalito. I asked around and heard great things about it – a quaint little town with lots of shops, restaurants and beautiful views.  Round trip ticket was $28.00 and it was about a 1/2 hour ferry ride.  They had times throughout the day to go over and return to San Francisco.  I walked around and continue to take in the site between Pier 39 and 41 and at 1pm, I boarded the ferry.

At this time of the day, it was a little over cast and light rain.  I rode over on the upper deck, and it was very cold and windy, but the views on all sides where incredible.  You had the entire cityscape of San Francisco, close up view of Alcatraz,  a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and as you approached Sausalito, all these beautiful homes built into the cliff walls. If you had a bike you could take it with you on the ferry and they even had a full bar to get a drink on the half hour ride over.

Once the ferry docked I got off and this seaside town reminded me a bit of Fish Creek, in Door County, WI.  On the water, the shops, walk-able ease, the one big difference – Palm Trees! I was grateful the weather cleared as I made my way to explore the area.

I walked in and out of shops and stopped at a place to do a wine tasting. If I was looking for instant conversation with strangers, all I had to do was start talking about my Pack up & Go adventure.  Everyone I met thought it was the coolest thing, many talked about doing it and they said I was brave for going alone.

I recently read in the March 2019 edition of Health Magazine, a recent survey of 9,000 people by British Airways found that more than 50% of women around the world have taken a solo trip, and 75% of women were planning one in the next few years. 

Traveling solo is not for everyone, but I found it very therapeutic, you are able to do what you want, when you want and it is an opportunity to meet some really incredible people.  The key though is to PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN!  Don’t use it as a crutch to not be solo.  Be aware of your surrounding, take in the beauty, make eye contact with people, smile, strike up a conversation, you may be surprised at where it may lead.

“The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.” — Diane Von Furstenberg

I found that people in the service or retail industry are your best bets for pointing out some unique local places. The owner of the winery told me about an incredible seafood restaurant called Seafood Peddler. I had the best clam chowder and the service was impeccable.

After my late lunch, I continued to stroll through the streets of Sausalito and take in the beauty of the homes and the landscape. I got the ferry back to San Francisco around 5pm and I didn’t plan it, but it was perfect because I got to experience the most breathtaking sunset of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge on the return ride.  After I captured my money shot sunset pictures, I just sat back and breathed in the fresh air and was present in that beautiful moment!  I was exhausted from my full day outside and walking 5+ miles, so I got an Uber back to the hotel, a light meal and opened up my champagne to drink in bed and relive the amazing day.

Day three I started off early again by 8am and went in search of coffee. My coffee search led me to the beginning stop on the Powell-Hyde Cable Car route. I waited around for the cable car and hopped on.  I didn’t know where I would end up, but just went with the flow. A one way trip was $7.00 and I road to the other end and got off on Hyde Street. There was a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  By this time I was really needing coffee and I was starving.  As fate would have it, I was next to a restaurant called Beuna Vista, home to the original Irish Coffee! I sat at the counter and had an amazing breakfast, two incredible irish coffees and then went to the bar area and had a Guinness and watched Larry the bartender work his magic making 20+ irish coffees at a time. It was an art! I met some really fun people in this place and could have stayed longer with my new friends, but I had tracks to make to the Golden Gate Bridge.  From this area, it was about a 5-6 mile walk.  I first hit a few more of the recommendations from Pack up & Go: Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Hyde Pier and by this time I had a good 2 miles in and decided to Uber the rest of way to Golden Gate.  It looked much closer than it really was.

The sun was out, not a cloud in the sky and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the views from the Golden Gate of the city was perfection! This was another great moment of reflection being at the half way point of the bridge and to be in the moment to soak it all in and be thankful for all the blessings I have in life.

I had enough time after visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, to also hit up Golden Gate Park.  I went through the Conservatory of Flowers, and wandered around the park to make the most of the last hour of my trip.  From here I took an Uber back to the hotel and it was time to catch the shuttle to the airport.

Post reflection: The entire Pack up & Go experience was incredible. Yes, it was nerve racking not know until the morning of my trip where I was going, but we try to control so much in life, that sometimes to let go and let someone else do the planning (for me anyway) was a welcomed relief. I checked off quite a few attractions on their itinerary and some I didn’t do because I was here once before. If doing a solo trip, I think this was the perfect amount of time; 3 days and 2 nights. My advice to anyone on the fence of traveling alone — just do it. This was a perfect way for me to reflect on the first half of my life and plan what amazing adventures I want to do in the second half.  Cheers!

“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” — Albert Einstein