San Francisco – Everyday Insider! (TM) Trip 20

Today, I am continuing our trip along San Francisco’s famous 49 Mile Scenic Drive. It is not wise to depend on just following the famous street signs as vandals often steal them. You will need the official map or just a city map.

I changed the route to put San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park before the following sites. They are both all near one another, so you can do the route either way, depending on the day of the week. The Park is very crowded on week-ends if you only want to visit the Japanese Tea Garden, de Young Museum of Art or the California Academy of Sciences. Other parts of the Park are less stressed, even on week-ends.

If you are driving to Golden Gate Park, then park at Ocean Beach and get the shuttle. (See the archived post for more details.)

This post shares some other things to see or do at Ocean Beach in San Francisco and then a little mention about another 2 sections of the seashore.

___ Ocean Beach: People don’t expect this vast expanse of empty, even wild, seashore near and in San Francisco! It is a marvel, in its own way, to have survived so well.

There is the Beach Chalet at Ocean Beach which was one of the WPA projects whereby the government, during the Great Depression, employed many people, especially artists, who otherwise had no jobs.

The building retains the original murals and is the site for an eatery with an ocean view — well worth a visit either before you get the shuttle into Golden Gate Park’s interior, or after you finish that visit.

Near the Beach Chalet, notice the large stone marker about famous explorer, Roald Amundsen’s, ship “Gjøa” which was returned to Norway in 1972. Vandals kept defacing this important piece of maritime history then housed at the ocean-edge of Golden Gate Park, not far from the historic windmills and the Beach Chalet.

Originally the ship was a gift from San Francisco’s Norwegian community. The “Gjøa” (pronounced “Joe”) has a 12-foot “bauta,” or stone shaft marker, which is made of Norwegian granite. It features a bas-relief of Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) and the route he found of the fabled Artic “Northwest Passage”, a critical maritime seaway, before he ended his exploratory journey in San Francisco.

Ocean Beach also has plenty of sand and surf — and a view of the small, stony islands called Seal Rocks. Swimming and wading at this beach are strongly discouraged! Immediately offshore are unpredictable currents which can take even the strongest swimmer by surprise.

___ China Beach at 28th and Sea Cliff Avenue has 600 feet (183 m) of (somewhat cold-water) sandy beach frontage for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking. This is a safer place to swim, but be aware the water is much colder than in Southern California and it can ebb your strength. Sunbathing and picnicking are better choices than swimming, unless just wading.

Historically, it is part of the Chinese Community’s history of living in San Francisco and there is an historical marker to read there.


Yes, another warning. For those with congenital heart-valve defects, be aware that at the southern end of the beach section of the Great Highway, as it begins to climb into the hills along Skyline Drive, during WW2, the US Army had an experimental biology, germ-warfare station there.

Many decades later, under the Freedom of Information Act, probably, the public learned of many dangerous “experiments” perpetrated on the unsuspecting public.

One of these incidents was the release of a certain rare bacterium into the atmosphere from this part of San Francisco. Doctors had always puzzled about the high incidence of this rare type of heart infection in San Francisco before the “secret” came out.

As I have mentioned, my family used to frequent this area and I had relatives living nearby, whom we also visited periodically. My father had a congenital heart-valve problem and he developed the exact type of rare bacterial endocarditis found so much more prevalently in San Francisco.

He had one of the first heart-valve transplants done, in 1974. If you have these issues, be aware. I do not know if, in the intervening decades, there is still a large local population of this rare bacterium, but as this area on the southern end of the usual beach turf is where it will be highest, I wanted to let you know. If you have a healthy heart, there should be no problem.

After all, the rest of our family went on the same journey, and tens of thousands of people, including our relatives, and later my sister and her husband, lived there without problems.

Next time, I’ll share the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, a replica of its Paris namesake. This museum has masterpieces of European art from Medieval times into the 20th century, many Rodin bronzes, period rooms, prints and drawings.

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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