What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 1

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The Range took some time off to visit San Francisco and Portland last week. While we couldn't find the time to live-blog the trip, we know our readers are dying to know how it went, so we'll post a few notes and snapshots over the next few days.

Jenny and I landed in Oakland around midnight on Friday night and, after a harrowing run for a shuttle bus, just barely made it to the BART station to catch the last train into the city. Fortunately, when we emerged from the Powell Street station in downtown SF, our hotel was right in front of us—which was a relief, because we were a bit tired and reluctant to be forced to fend off the shady characters on the street who seemed eager to guide us to our final destination.

The Powell Hotel, which we had picked somewhat randomly on Expedia.com, turned out to be in an ideal location. At Market and Powell, it was in the heart of downtown and close to Chinatown, North Beach, SOMA, the San Francisco Museum of Art and all the shopping a female companion might want to do. Plus, with bus lines and a BART station right outside the front doors, we had no trouble getting anywhere in the city. And, if your room is on the Powell Street side, you can look out your window and watch as people wait an hour for chance to ride the cable car, as illustrated by this photo. (Yeah, it seemed insane to us, too.) Don't expect a lot of luxury; The Powell is a modest boutique hotel with a friendly and helpful staff. Our fifth-floor room was less than spacious, but we didn't spend much time there, anyway. We'd stay at the Powell again anytime.

The first day's highlights included lunch at Zuni Cafe, a Beard Award-winning restaurant that features an ever-changing menu crafted with ingredients that have been harvested in a "sustainable manner." We had a great piece of salmon and a chicken breast sandwich.

During an afternoon of sightseeing and shopping, we visited the Cartoon Art Museum, which featured "Why Do They STILL Hate U.S.?," a display of political cartoons from around the world. It may just have been a reflection of the prejudice of the curator, but it was remarkable to see how cartoonists in countries across the globe seem to have similar problems with the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq and sanctioning of torture in the War on Terror.

We were joined for dinner by Tim Archibald, who shot pics for TW back in the early ’90s (Tim had a much longer run with the Phoenix New Times and now works as a magazine photographer. He's also the author of the amazing book Sex Machines.). He and his wife Cheri took us to Millennium, a vegan restaurant located in the Hotel California. I had chunks of tempeh covered in berry barbecue sauce atop mashed potatoes. Outstanding! Not as good, but fun to order: The Dirty Girl Scout, a cocktail that—I think—was supposed to taste like a thin mint. Some things work better in theory than execution.

Next up: Road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway!

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