San Francisco : Highway 101

Painted Ladies

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The Painted Ladies are located on Steiner, a very busy street. It was crazy to me that dozens of strangers were just walking onto the steps of these houses. The owner’s must know what they are getting into when they purchase the property. I saw a man come out and grab his paper while a girl was having a full on professional photo-shoot on his steps!

Cody and I sat on a bench in Alamo Square Park that directly faced Painted Ladies. There is also a field of grass right across from the Painted Ladies that is perfect for sitting and picnicking to enjoy the view. There are similar houses of color and architecture in every direction.

 

Golden Gate Bridge

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Did you even go to San Francisco if you didn’t get an iconic picture with Golden Gate Bridge?! There are a few different places to stop to get a view, but we went to Fort Point. Fort Point is a historical site and is rarely open, but the parking lot for the view is always open! Keep in mind that if you plan to spend more than 10 minutes there (walking, biking, picnicking, there are trails there) you will have to pay for parking.

 

Alcatraz

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Visiting San Francisco, and Alcatraz, was not in our original plans but I cannot tell you how stoked I was and how grateful I am that we made that decision on whim. If you are that far on the coast you definitely need to continue onward and stop by San Fran! I had only briefly visited San Francisco before and I remember sitting in a gift shop staring at Alcatraz thinking, “one day I’m going to go there”.

Alcatraz Island is a National Park. Tickets are a bit pricey at $46 a ticket, but the fee includes a ferry ride to and back. If you do both the Ranger guided and audio tour (which I 100% recommend doing both because they take you through different parts of the island and different parts of its history!) then I would plan to spend 3 to 4 hours there.

 

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Alcatraz Island began as a military fort in the early 1820’s and served during the Civil War. The photo above is an original building from that time era. It is also appears in many movies such as the 1996 thriller, The Rock.

The only prison that was held here at the time was a military prison. It did not become an infamous Federal prison until 1934, over a century after its original building, and only lasted about 30 years.

 

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Six years after the federal prison also shut down, Native American college students, “Indians” took over the vacant land in protest of the Bureau of Indian Affairs‘ (BIA) Indian Termination Policy As they occupied, they also destroyed dozens of historic buildings by fire. They were successful and Nixon retracted the Indian Termination Policy and the students ended their occupation.

 

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The Alcatraz Lighthouse was the first built in California. Fun fact about the lighthouse, if you google it every site will tell you it was damaged in the 1906 earthquake and had to be rebuilt. That is FALSE! It survived the 1906 quake but was relocated so that they new citadel prison would not interfere with its operations.

 

Alcatraz Penitentiary

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Onto the main attraction, the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary that held America’s worst criminals such as Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud.

When you reach the prison you are given an audio set which tells you history and stories during a self guided audio tour.

The prison is eerie. Rows and rows of orange rusting cells filled with nothing but a toilet.

Cell Tour

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The key above was the key used to unlock the doors. It is in the same position it was during the “Battle of Alcatraz”.

 

-Battle of Alcatraz-

The Battle of Alcatraz was the result of an unsuccessful escape attempt that left two correctional officers and three inmates killed. Later two of the three inmates were executed due to their roles in the plan. Clarence Carnes, the youngest inmate in Alcatraz (18, sentenced to life after murder and kidnapping at age 16), was spared and not executed because he spared the life of a correctional officer.

The plan was to get into the gun shift to equip themselves while on the run, hold officers hostage so no one could find out, and get the keys and escape.

One man used a makeshift bar spreading device and had starved himself so that he could fit through the bars.

They men successfully got into the gun shaft and retrieved the keys from an officer not following protocol. However, the door was jammed because the prisoners could not figure out which key opened the door, thus they remained trapped inside the cellhouse. So the inmates decided just to shoot it out. They also decided to kill the hostages so that they could not testify against them. One hostage, wrote the names of the rebels down on the wall of the cell in which he died in.

 

 

There was a second, more infamous breakout in 1962

 

-1962 Alcatraz Escape-

You’ve probably seen it in documentaries and movies, a well plotted escape from the most guarded prison in America.

These men used make shift drills, spoons, and discarded blades to dig themselves out of their cells. They would make out to an unguarded utility corridor where they stored their supplies. They stored over fifty raincoats where they made a makeshift raft.  Then in June of 1962, they escaped from the utility corridor to the roof and out on their raft.

The next morning, the guards screamed as heads rolled off their beds. These “heads” had been carved and molded from soap, toothpaste, concrete dust, and human hair from the barbers floor.

An extensive land, sea, and air search ensued for ten days. The remains nor evidence of the inmates were ever found.

 

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