On my recent (and soon to be blogged about) trip to Europe, I ran into a nice couple during “happy hour” at a bar in Milan. The senora was planning a west coast trip to our fair country and started to pick my brain about the sights and the weather. Because she wanted to see some of America’s natural beauty (and what with the GF no longer allowing me to model cut-off jeans and muscle shirts for the “tur-eests”) we discussed a route that would pack as much sightseeing as possible into her three week-trip. I suggested a route would take her from L.A., up the coast to the Bay Area, on to Yosemite, Death Valley, Vegas, Utah (Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce, Arches), Arizona (Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, and parts of Route 66), and back to L.A. (via the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree) for her flight home. Of course, no trip to the West Coast is complete without some time in San Francisco.
I tried to talk her out of a trip to Hollywood, as well as the whole of Southern California for that matter, but she insisted. It makes sense that people who are enamored with western pop culture won’t miss an opportunity to visit L.A., but with only three weeks to see our natural wonders I thought L.A. was a bit of a waste. She was quite interested in viewing sea lions in their natural habitat (clogging up the docks in at Pier 39, right?), so a drive up the coast with a stopover in S.F. would satisfy that need, while exposing her to what we locals know to be a wonderful city. She asked me how the weather would be in mid-August. I chuckled, depending on the time and the day, it could be sunny and warm or it could cold if the fog is pressing in from the Pacific.
I told her to pack a coat, something every Bay Area resident knows instinctively, whether it is December, May, or August. (When my mother is asked if she missed the seasons from her childhood on the East Coast, she answers that she gets to enjoy all four seasons every day.) My Italian friend didn’t understand what I meant and wanted me to explain “fog.” I told her that on some days you can barely see the cables of the GG Bridge as they disappear just inches above your head. On that very same day, if you come back a few hours later, the view can be clear enough to see the peak of Mt. Diablo to the east and ships way out at sea off to the west. (She got lucky and visited S.F. during a heat wave and probably thinks my whole “fog” story was bunch of bull.)
That conversation got me thinking about one of my favorite cold weather phrases. You have no doubt heard the phrase in reference to Southern, Mid-Western, and Eastern heat that, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Keep in mind that “humidity” merely refers to moisture in the air and not to temperature. (You don’t need heat to have humidity. A rainy day is pretty darn close to 100% humid, no matter what the temperature. I have yet to experience “a dry rain.”) When it comes to some of S.F.’s bone chilling weather, I like to say, “It’s not the cold, it’s the humidity.” You don’t have to live for long in the Bay Area to know that even a slightly chilly day can turn to utter misery with the addition of a sprinkle of fog and a touch of wind. I have walked around Truckee in a t-shirt in 30°F weather and been more comfortable than a soggy afternoon spent in S.F. with temps in the mid-60s coupled with some fog and wind.
So what about our fog? I was not surprised to learn that S.F. is well above the national average, ranking somewhere around 25th on a list of 140 or so U.S. cities according to their average humidity. That puts S.F. ahead of notoriously humid places like Tallahassee, FL, Athens, GA, Knoxville, TN, and Toledo, OH. The list is topped by Astoria, OR and Olympia, WA – exhibiting the true definition of humidity. Don’t be misled though…that is an average of both A.M. and P.M. humidity levels. Even though S.F. ranks high, the warmer it gets, the less humidity we normally have.
And how about S.F.’s wind? It may surprise you to learn that S.F.’s average wind is on par with places like Chicago. I know, hard to believe, what with all the great weather we have, but it is true. Then again, Chicago is not particularly well known for having strong natural winds. Contrary to popular belief, “The Windy City” isn’t all that bad when it comes to wind. If you take a look at Wikipedia’s “Origin of the name “Windy City” you will find that wind plays a small role in that city’s nickname. Actually, “Chicago is not noted to be significantly windier than any other U.S. city.” (As long as we are on Chicago, did you know that there is evidence to suggest that the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, was started by meteors and not Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocking over a lantern? Wikipedia can be a dangerous time waster…)
So how does this all play into our beloved S.F.’s weather? Mark Twain put it best when he proclaimed, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Although a very accurate account of our weather Mark Twain never made such a statement. Twain is credited with the quote, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes,” but the closest he came to the now infamous S.F. weather quote was something along the lines of, “You cannot go without a coat in the city of San Francisco during the summer.” Twain suffered a bout of hypothermia during his time in S.F. so that might have made him a bit weary of our weather. Don’t ask me how he achieved that; it was quite a different time back then.
Again, how does this all play into our weather? Nobody is going to argue that we don’t have fairly fair weather. In my opinion it is better weather than one might hope for living so close to the coast and to the mountains. But when it comes to creating unexpectedly miserable weather S.F. can hold its own so pack a coat, even if it is sunny out.
Alrighty, all this talk of cold, foggy weather has got me thinking about pizza. (Food is never far from my thoughts.) Wild Goat Bistro’s aptly named “Fog Lifter” was inspired by owner Nancy’s time chef’ing in Bodega Bay. With ingredients like spicy fennel sausage, applewood smoked bacon, pepperoni, and mozzarella, WGB has thwarted my dislike of “thin crust” pizzas with this meat lover’s*** extravaganza. Then again, I have recently learned that there are many styles of “thin crust” pizza and apparently WGB’s “Neapolitan” style is one that I like. They even offer curb side pick-up if you want to enjoy your pizza in the comfort of your own home.
***From NBC’s “30 Rock”:
Alec Baldwin: “That woman you met in my office this morning is not a colleague of mine. We are lovers.”
Tina Fey: “Ooh, that word bums me out unless it is between the words “meat” and “pizza”…”