With school fast approaching we took advantage of cheap airfare and booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to San Francisco for a long weekend in August. Amy and I had been there before, but it was the first time with our kids. We stayed in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, which was a good landing spot for getting around the city. 

Our first day we hopped on a historic cable car to explore Union Square and Chinatown. We walked Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square and watched the sea lions and street performers at Pier 39. We had hoped to go to Alcatraz, which is operated under a contract granted by the National Park Service, but learned that we would have had to book the tour 45-60 days in advance. They no longer even fill last-minute spots for no-shows.

The next day we rented bikes and rode across the Golden Gate bridge. The guy at the rental place suggested that we ride into the little town of Sausalito on the other side of the bridge for lunch. From there we could either ride back or hop on a ferry with our bikes. The ride across the bridge was pretty treacherous due to construction and the number of inexperienced tourists riding bikes along a two-way, narrow path; it is a bit challenging as the start has a good hill climb to the bridge. 

The rest of the trip is primarily downhill. The wind and fog can be damp and brisk. For those reasons, we opted to take the ferry back across the Bay. On day three we rented a car and drove up to Sonoma County and stayed for two nights along the coast in Bodega Bay. We walked the beach, toured a sustainable vineyard, and hiked through the giant redwoods at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve – free admission unlike the more popular National Park Muir Woods, and, in my opinion, it was better, as we walked into a nearly silent forest. The Redwoods can live to 2,000 years and stand 379.3 feet tall - the world tallest living thing. While the area is known for farming and is best known for wine production, we especially enjoyed the local restaurants, bakeries and side of the road cafes. 

A couple of things to keep in mind when planning a summer trip to the San Francisco area. Plan ahead and bring warm layers like sweatshirts or jackets. The fog hovers over the city and along the coast and it can be cool. Consider renting electric scooters or bikes to get around and better navigate the steep hills. For us, the trip provided the family togetherness we needed at the end of a summer where everyone seemed to go different directions.



Last year I wrote about learning how to become a beekeeper. Our family has had help from countless friends and neighbors in our beekeeping endeavor. It has been an interesting new hobby. My daughter, son and a neighbor have been involved with me and each of us has been stung a few times. Our first season was exciting because of so many unknowns. As fall approached last year it was clear the bees didn’t produce any honey, which was disappointing. We gave it another try this spring and bought two nuc (starter bee set of four frames of bees and a queen). 

This past weekend another beekeeping friend and I spun our frames and my family ended up with three gallons or about 36 pounds. If you’re looking to take on a new hobby or helping out your gardens, try your hand at beekeeping. Round up a few friends or neighbors, find a mentor, look for used equipment and start your hives in the spring of 2020. I can envision where keeping bees could become like community gardens within neighborhoods. Remember to check with your local municipality to make sure bees are legal in your area, and invest in a good beekeeper’s suit. A beekeeping friend reminds me of her great mentor Winnie the Pooh, who says, “You never can tell with bees.” The reward, though, is sweet.


Carter Johnson is  publisher of Press Publications.

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