November 26- December 10, 2023.
When we sat down to make a rough sketch of how to spend a two-year road trip, one thing was certain: we needed to visit the place where our Capoeira school started. We’ve got so many friends in the Bay Area who we met through Capoeira and we wanted to experience being on their home turf. It just so happened that near the time we planned to visit, Mestre Acordeon would be putting on a huge, five-day event called Pôr do Sol. So, we spent a little over a week taking classes and hanging out in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco before diving into an intense five days of Capoeira.
Capoeira and van travel
We reached out to one of the local mestres ahead of our trip and he set us up with one of his students for a place to stay. It can be quite difficult to find overnight parking for a van within city limits in many states, so we have learned to get connected with locals before driving our van into a city. Our host and friend offered up a parking spot in a gated lot at his apartment, which was a perfect base of operations for most of our stay. In order to not irritate his neighbors too much (there’s always one grumpy neighbor), we found some alternative parking for a few nights here and there so we didn’t take up that spot for two weeks straight.
I made a list of seven schools I really wanted to visit while in the area; we only made it to three: UCA Lua de Prata, UCA Hayward and Castro Valley Capoeira. But we were able to get a wide variety of instruction during the Pôr do Sol event and we prioritized going to schools led by the teachers we know best. I think we made the most of our visit without breaking our bodies!
Big city treats
After having spent the bulk of our trip in rural Oregon, we were eager to take advantage of big city options like FOOD. If I could imagine it, it was here. We ate Afghan ice cream, Georgian cooking, fancy cocktails, Algerian pastries, delicious Mexican food. As much as I love preparing our own meals, I was not going to miss out on the diversity of cultures and flavors to be found here.
In addition to ethnic restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries, I also found a variety of ethnic grocery stores. We found several nice little groceries selling Middle Eastern, Mexican and Asian food. It was a great opportunity to switch up some kitchen staples, sample unfamiliar spice mixes and try new recipes.
Another experience I love to have in big cities is exploring museums and gardens. Our garden tour began with the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. I learned about the AHS reciprocal gardens, ROAM and NARM programs when researching our visit. With an annual membership at any museum or garden in the program, you unlock free visits to hundreds of other museums and gardens across the country! Since we’ll be spending a lots of time on the road looking for places like these, purchasing an annual family membership was a no-brainer. It was only $95/year. It won’t take us long to more than get our money’s worth, plus we’re supporting a really cool garden. If you have a local museum or garden on any of the lists above, I highly recommend signing up for an annual membership and take advantage of all the benefits!
I spent one morning hiking Mission Peak. I found a loop online that went up and over the summit, linking a less-commonly used trail up and a popular trail down. Without thinking, I did the loop in the reverse order, which worked out fine. Shortly into the hike I crossed paths with an older man hiking down. He was wearing an 80’s sitcom dad sweater and had a big smile on his face. “You’re a hardcore hiker,” he said to me. Then, pointing to himself said, “I’m a softcore hiker. I turned around right up there.” We had a nice little conversation and that set me up for a really enjoyable hike that day. I encountered many more people than I’m used to when hiking, but everyone was just so happy to be there that the crowds actually enhanced my experience.
And then there was ice cream. We had three notable ice cream stops in the Bay Area. Here they are in chronological order:
Kabul Icy Treats Cafe. O M G. We ordered the Sheeryakh and split it. Scoops of ice cream piled high atop a bath of cream. Delicate pistachio, rose and almond flavors infused the delicious dessert. I didn’t even know I needed this in my life.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience. Our friend in San Francisco recommended this place, so we wandered in to check it out. The entire store was overwhelming, but it took us no time at all to get through the ice cream line (unlike at the Tillamook factory) and sit down to decadent sundaes. Another win.
Fenton’s Creamery. After all the Capoeira had finished, we treated ourselves, upon another friend’s recommendation, to this restaurant. We were so hungry that we ordered a meal and then a big dessert. Each of us had no problem crushing all that food. Capoeira leaves a big hole in your belly!
With a little planning, local knowledge and flexibility, you can spend time in city limits in a camper van. We enjoyed this taste of city life and will definitely use these skills in the future. But for now, it’s time to camp on public lands once more.