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Ferrying into Summer
By Janis Cooke Newman
The woman on the path was removing her pantyhose. My 4-year-old son, Alex, and I watched as she pushed taupe-colored nylon down to her ankles, never once taking her eyes off the view of San Francisco across the bay. Marin-ites in sundresses and khaki shorts stepped around the woman as she kicked off her stockings and bent down to pull up her sweatpants.
"Why did that lady do that?" Alex asked me. "For good luck?"
"She was probably hot," I told him, knowing exactly how the woman felt.
Heat was the reason we'd come to Tiburon in the first place -- we being two Noe Valley families who'd been finding the summer weather on 24th Street a little too bracing. Of course, after a spring of gale-force winds and frigid temperatures, none of us actually believed it would be warm here. Now we were strolling among the sleeveless-and-sandaled locals with polar fleece jackets tied around our waists, our feet sweating in heavy Doc Martins.
We'd come over this morning on the Blue and Gold ferry. Picking it up near Pier 39, we'd stood in line with goosebumped tourists watching two men in silver bodypaint robot-dance to the Temptations.
Once on board the ferry, we climbed to the top deck to watch the boat back away from the city, gliding past the seals sleeping on the Pier 39 docks like blubbery brown boulders.
The Golden Gate Bridge stretched along on one side, the Bay Bridge on the other, and dead ahead we could see the satisfyingly sinister buildings of Alcatraz. Gulls hovered over us, gauging my son's grip on the soft pretzel I'd bought at the ferry's snack bar.
"That's a sailboat," announced Maya, my friend Tracy's 3-year-old, pointing to a sightseeing boat filled with tourists, who most likely had paid quite a bit more than $6 (kids under 5 free) for the same view we were enjoying.
Halfway to Tiburon, our ferry stopped to pick up passengers at Alcatraz, thrilling my son who is currently fascinated with anything that has to do with law enforcement.
"Are there still bad guys there?" Alex asked, searching the popular tourist attraction for felons.
"Probably not," I told him, eyeing a couple of men who were coming up the gangplank wearing cameras and Bubba Gump Shrimp baseball caps.
The air felt warmer as we passed the big houses tucked among the trees on Belvedere, as if better weather were something the residents insisted upon. And when we got closer to Tiburon, I could see people who actually appeared to be comfortable having lunch on an outdoor patio in tee shirts and capri pants.
When the ferry docked, we extricated Maya's stroller and Alex's bike -- the one with the lizard decals -- from the jammed bicycle rack, and walked out to Main Street. The ferry company's recorded message called Tiburon "a perfect replica of an authentic fishing village," which would have been true if authentic fishing villages were filled with shops selling expensive jewelry and imprinted tee shirts.
While we pushed the bike and the stroller, Maya and Alex ran up the block, stopping to greet all the metal lawn jockeys along Main Street. Then they disappeared into the Westerly Tea & Spice House (46 Main St.), attracted by an enormous display of plastic drinking cups in the shape of Tweetybird and the Little Mermaid.
Outside Westerly's, I picked up a Walking Guide to Historic Tiburon, a pamphlet which revealed that four of the seven historic buildings on Main Street were once saloons and a fifth was rumored to be a bordello. Around the corner on Ark Row, old houseboats and cottages from the 1800s have been turned into bookstores, restaurants, and a pet shop that sells dog treats in wine bottles.
We found Alex sitting with an enormous stuffed gorilla wearing a flowered headband. The gorilla belonged to Bucky's Place (80 Main St.), a store filled with stuffed leopards and bears and even a plush tarantula.
"That's a rat," Maya informed me, pointing to a black and white rat who was not stuffed, but very much alive in a cage behind the counter. "Ugh!" shuddered Maya's mother, who is an exNew Yorker and not inclined to think of rats as pets.
"His name is Clinton," the shop's owner said, "no political subtext intended." Above her on the wall was a photograph of the original Bucky, a white rat, now deceased, wearing a tiny birthday hat.
Back outside, the sun was blissfully warm. Maya and Alex dropped sweaters and jackets on the ground behind them, like Hansel and Gretel leaving little GAP breadcrumbs. At the end of Ark Row, we turned left on Beach and right on Cove, heading toward the Tiburon bike path.
Before we had Alex, my husband and I would rollerblade on this path, trussed up like Power Rangers in knee pads and elbow and wrist guards. We'd wobble along, gawking at the landscaped yards along the way, stopping at the grassy field near Blackie's Pasture to watch kids playing soccer, with the San Francisco skyline as a backdrop.
"Let's walk it to the end," I suggested, watching the spandexed backside of a cycler disappear down the shady path.
"There and back would be five miles," my husband said skeptically. And after calculating how many revolutions of Alex's 12-inch bicycle wheels it would take to go five miles, we decided to have lunch instead.
We sat outside on the patio at Guaymas Restaurant, where we had a perfect view of the Angel Island ferry pulling away from the dock, the white fog oozing like shaving cream over Twin Peaks. The sun warmed the back of my neck, the waiter brought me a perfect, salt-rimmed margarita, and I felt like it was the first day of vacation.
We ordered chicken in mole sauce and grilled squid and little tamales served in banana leaves.
"That's a tortilla," Maya instructed me, waving hers over the table. "That's a baby octopus," I told her, before popping all the little legs into my mouth.
After lunch, we walked along the shoreline path, where cyclists over from Sausalito and Larkspur stretched grease-marked legs on the grass and couples in matching pairs of cargo shorts lay on their stomachs reading the Sunday paper.
Alex climbed the rocks at the water's edge, while my husband talked to a man fishing from the shoreline. Maya's dad took her over to the docks to look at the boats. Tracy and I sat in the sun, surround-
ed by a pile of cast-off outerwear we were trying to kid ourselves into believing we wouldn't have to put on again.
Alex was the one who spotted the lady taking off her pantyhose.
"Isn't that embarrassing?" he asked.
"Not really," I said. "It's just a sign of summer." M
Traveling to Tiburon
The Blue and Gold Fleet leaves for Tiburon from Pier 41. On weekends and holidays, the first ferries depart San Francisco at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. The afternoon return ferries depart Tiburon at 5:05, 5:50, and 7:30 p.m. Call (415) 773-1188 for a complete schedule.
There's usually a line at the Blue and Gold ticket window -- mostly tourists buying tickets for Alcatraz -- so allow a little extra time. Try checking the cash-only window, located behind the main building. It generally doesn't have a line.
From Noe Valley to Fisherman's Wharf: Both the J-Church and the F-Market will take you as far as the Ferry Building (the F-Market stops a couple of blocks short). It's a nice walk from Market Street along the Embarcadero to Pier 41, or you can catch the sporadic 32-Embarcadero (last bus 6:15 p.m.).
If you drive to North Beach, avoid the Pier 39 garage, which charges $30 to park your car for the day. Instead, head along Taylor Street to one of the cheaper garages (usually around $9 a day).
Eating at Guaymas Restaurant in Tiburon is a bit of a splurge. If you'd like a less expensive alternative, try the Tiburon Deli on Ark Row, or bring a picnic and sit along the shoreline.