Muir Beach, San Francisco, California

Posted on
Aug 16, 2011

I’ve often said that the greatest trick San Francisco ever pulled was convincing the world it was part of California.

The city by the bay isn’t terribly sunny or warm. A chilly wind barrels down its streets, and as you clutch your coat tightly to you IN THE MIDDLE OF AUGUST, you contemplate moving someplace warmer. Like Portland. The beaches near San Francisco aren’t much better: cold, rocky, and inhospitable.

In both cases, I blame the Pacific ocean. It is deep and dark and vast, and unforgivably cold. I’ve never swam in it – I refuse to do so until I have a full body wet-suit that makes me look skinny and has a special apparatus to keep my cupcake dry (that is not a euphemism).

So when Rand suggested we visited Muir Beach – roughly 20 miles and 40 minutes away from San Francisco, I was hesitant. I grew up near a real beach – on the Atlantic Ocean – where the water was warm and the sand would scorch your feet. Where you could run around in a bathing suit in the middle of December (wearing a bikini in the holiday season is not something I have attempted since childhood. Now, I suspect large parts of me would jiggle like a bowl full of jelly). But I was curious to see what the Pacific had to offer in way of beaches, and despite the weather, the Bay Area is beautiful. So on a grey morning, Rand and I headed out.

It was hazy, but not terribly bad. We could still see the top of the pillars of the Golden Gate.

As is usually the case, we found sunshine as soon as we were outside of San Francisco.

Its name means "Land of Tamale."

We encountered the marine layer again as we neared the water. To complicate matters, construction crews were doing repairs on the narrow winding road to Muir beach, and we found ourselves caught in terrible traffic.  Driving to the beach was not proving to be the walk in the park we thought it would be.

This was our view for the better part of half an hour.

At one point, a construction worker stopped our one-lane road altogether to let traffic by in the other direction. I was able to pop out of the car for a few moments.

Aw, come on, babe. SMILE. Pretend you aren't spending one of your few days off stuck in traffic.

Rand also proceeded to take a series of terribly unflattering photos of me (this is not his fault. I am notoriously unphotogenic). This was one of the better ones, in part because you can barely see my face:

On the plus side, my boobs look great. I must wear that bra always.

I then returned to the car and we proceeded to drive 50 feet before we waited some more.

They warned us of 5 minute delays. What they did not say was that there would be half a dozen of them.

I probably should have been annoyed by now, but I wasn’t. Not really. You’re going to think I’m a sentimental sap for this next comment, but here goes: being stuck in the car with Rand is not all that bad. He looks great in profile, for one. And he’s an excellent driver. And he let’s me finish whatever snacks I’ve packed.

And he sings along to Journey.

I’m not saying that I wasn’t relieved when we finally made it to Muir beach. I’m just saying, there are worst things in the world that being caught in traffic with that man.

You heard me, brown eyes.

The beach was what I had expected – chilly and overcast. It didn’t stop it from being crowded. I suppose west coasters aren’t terribly particular about beaches. After all, they’re all on the Pacific.

We're going to the beach. Bring a sweater.

This was not like the beaches of my childhood.

The sand did not scorch our feet. It was so fine that it became sticky when wet, and felt like clay on our toes.

There were no palm trees or ugly, enormous hotels. No flat expanses of land meeting the sky. Instead we found evergreens and rocks, and the occasional house, no doubt owned by some old silicon valley billionaire.

Beads of sweat did not accumulate on our brows the moment we stepped into the sun. We were not wearing bathing suits. We would not even take off our sweaters.

No. This beach was not like the ones on the Atlantic, at which I spent countless hours. Neither the sky nor the ocean was blue. And despite that, despite the chilly wind and the lack of sunshine and the frigid water?

I didn’t feel the cold at all.

Heck, I might even go back to Muir beach. I don’t think I’ll bring a bathing suit, though. Just a sweater.

Oh, and I’ll bring him, too. He keeps me warm.

Leave a Comment

  • Penny

    You two are the cutest.

    As a side note, growing up on the East Coast, this is what all beaches look like and I kind of like going to the beach in a sweater…in fact, winter is even a nice time to go. Not crowded, peaceful…

  • Jeez! I’ve been lurking here for a while and love your posts, but I laughed so hard that I snorted coffee up my nose at ‘that is not a euphemism’. I’m gonna giggle about that all day!

  • You make travelling more exciting read than the what we experience. That why you are TIME LIST OF BEST BLOG. Congratulation

  • catcat

    To be fair, it is one weird summer: cold in California and sweltering in Georgia. (Yes, we stole all the heat.) Growing up in that area, July and August, you can USUALLY wear shorts to the beach though only the under 18 that don’t have nerve endings go in the water without wet-suits. If you go to a beach with a river inlet, sometimes the river-side is warm enough to swim in. (Russian River is nice.) The sand and sun are fun, and it is pretty.

    And bring a sweater.

  • Colleen

    Growing up in San Diego, I can assure you not all California beaches are cold. Some do have sunshine, scorching sand, and warm-ish waters. I went to Chatham in Cape Cod, and I loved it there!

  • I thought San Francisco warmed up in the summer. Still it sounds much better than 100 degrees in the South!

  • Lisa G

    Funny, I grew up with Oregon beaches, where everyone wears a sweater, if not a parka, and I always assumed that the east coast beaches were even colder, with snow directly ON the beach. What I always appreciate, though, is that the beaches here in Oregon are hardly ever crowded, and I have never seen a beach with trash laying around all over like I did in Southern California. You may be cold, dammit, but you will appreciate the views.

  • Annie

    Funny you should mention scorching sand… my hub and i went to Cocoa Beach this past Sunday, and we did in fact burn our feet on the sand. Literally. I have sun burn. On my feet. Sand burn. Only in Florida…

  • Igor

    If you’re cold, you can come to Novosibirsk. It’s hot now there)))

  • Aysha Iqbal

    I love your blogs, and how much they make me laugh out loud! Seriously loved the cupcake being kept dry comment on this entry.
    Jealous of you and Rand travelling the world, but love seeing the adventures you get up to and the wisdom you pass onto your readers! Your travelling is more of a public service really!
    Keep up the typing so we can keep up the reading . . .

  • Totally resembles the summer we have had here in Seattle. Depressingly beautiful ? is that a word.

  • Janet T

    Mark Twain said it best….” The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco”.
    The Pacific is very cold…….the Atlantic is like bath water in comparison.
    But when we were kids we swam in the Oregon Ocean, and I’ve surfed/boogie boarded a lot in Southern California. You get in, your nerve endings deaden and you get used to it.

  • Well done on being added to Time’s Top 25 list. Why don’t you write a book by focusing on the best parts of your blog? Have added your blog to my blogs to watch list Thx Robert

  • I got married at Muir Beach! Technically the English pub about 200 feet off the beach, the Pelican Inn, but it’s considered to be in (on?) Muir Beach. Yay!

  • Nik

    You should visit the other side of the Pacific, the beaches on the east coast of Australia are amazing! Not to mention really warm all year round at the north of Australia and pretty awesome during summer down south. Don’t hate on the Pacific, she’s a pretty sweet ocean, you’re just on the wrong side!!

  • Klara

    I’ve been lurking at your blog a while, really enjoy reading it. So warm and funny! More cupcakes to the people!

    I’ve visited San Francisco once – and I swam the Pacific. This was in February… But then, I’m from Sweden, and just the fact that there was no snow and the temperature was above zero (in February!) meant I had to get in the water. In fairness, it was a millisecond and then I basically jumped into all the clothes I had brought – including sweater and rain coat 🙂

  • Jim

    Next time you’re in the Palo Alto area and have a time for a side trip, try going southwest ‘over the hill’ to Santa Cruz. It’s a bit like a Wildwood, NJ used to be. Beautiful beach, boardwalk with rides and arcade. Lots of fun. Also a hoot for people-watching.

    Or go a few minutes further down the highway to Capitola. It’s a bit more frilly, but on the plus side: sometimes you can see squadrons of pelicans buzzing in low over the beach. Very un-NJ, but extremely cool. 🙂

    • Everywhereist

      I love old-timey boardwalks. The one at Seaside, OR, has an arcade, and when we visited, the skeeball machine was broken. It kept resetting after I finished each game, so I could keep playing forever.


      • RiderWriter

        Oh, wow… this just about made me cry. The last time I was able to take my dad to the boardwalk we went to Seaside Park, NEW JERSEY (yes, “that” Seaside – this was years and years ago well before the advent of that revolting television show which has poisoned the minds of millions re: NJ beaches). His very favorite thing to do was play skeeball. Dad had an advanced case of Alzheimers by then and I was afraid he wouldn’t remember what to do, so I was bracing myself for the heartbreak of seeing him try. Guess what? He could still play. He did a wonderful job and had the most fantastic time. I just wish we’d lucked into a machine that let him keep going and going, like yours… *Kisses* to you Daddy, and I hope they have some alleys in the Great Beyond!

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