It’s 8 a.m. on Saturday morning and Andrew W.K. is full blast in the car stereo. White-undershirt chants of “Let’s get a party going,” swirl around our overstuffed backpacks and cans of Starbucks Doubleshots as if we could pull onto the soft shoulder and crack a keg for him and his crew.

But the hoodie I’m wearing says it’s too cold to party, and the mist of morning has been following us since we slid down the Grapevine. It hovers over the miles of empty fields surrounding our concrete strip of highway, hiding California’s Central Valley under a winter veil of dream sequence visual effects and taunting my summer road trip dreams.

Twelve hours ago I got home from a grueling midterm week, called my best friend and begged her to sweep me away. It’s not very often I have the weekend off work, and nothing beats ignoring collegiate responsibility like relapsing into high school-era escapist traditions.

“Like old times, please,” I said, referring to our former habit of taking advantage of the hot months (and her parents’ gas card) by driving anywhere west of the Rockies for a good concert. “I need it.”

Throwing warm clothes, my camera and a pair of earmuffs into my backpack (and leaving the textbooks, lecture notes and incomplete essays at home), I thought about our destination: San Francisco. I’d been there before, but watching people puke in the street and then make out while wandering somewhere in the Sunset District on New Years Eve ’02 doesn’t count. Neither does driving straight from Los Angeles to a show at the Pound before turning around and driving home again.

This time, my best friend’s dad, a San Francisco transplant-turned-local, who departed but left such a mark that he is still considered a local, was going to be our tour guide. He had driven up for an art sale in Marin County and offered to meet us in the city for the day.

She picked me up from my Friday night graveyard shift, and we hit the road with no regrets. We shuffled our iPod songs, stopped only to buy more gasoline and caffeine and by 11:30 p.m., we were sitting in traffic on the Bay Bridge antsy to get to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market before all the organic eggplants and spring salad mixes started to look gross.

Her dad met us there, and we were whisked away to a day on the town. Flying up hills like a veteran taxi driver (and with no respect for stop signs and pedestrians), her father crisscrossed the city for an hour and a half, double parking in front of every famous pizza place to grab their specialty (usually garlic-covered) slice, which we had to chow down before stopping at the next one.

We went to Golden Gate Park, got offered every kind of drug imaginable walking by a drum circle on “hippie hill,” hopped on the last carousel ride of the day and managed to make it to the de Young Museum with enough time to sneak past the guards and scope the Yves Saint Laurent and Andy Warhol exhibits.

We ate authentic Italian food at his favorite North Beach restaurant, drank the most perfect shot of espresso at the coffee shop where he first met my friend’s mom and got overeager hugs from all the business owners.

After her dad returned to the great unknown of Marin County, we topped off our day with a stop by Bottom of the Hill to watch our friend’s band open for Murder By Death (show sold out, bought one ticket on a craigslist whim), a few drinks in the Mission District on Valencia Avenue (with a friend I almost forgot moved up there last year), a late-night run to Taqueria Cancun (best bean and cheese burrito) and a room at the Rodeway Inn (with Carrot Top’s Chairman of the Board on TV as we lulled to sleep).

What partying we lacked at 8 a.m., we made up for with a full day in the City by the Bay. We might not be in high school anymore, and the responsibilities in our lives are very real (rent, ugh), but once in a while, it’s OK to play hooky, skip a night’s sleep, fill up the tank and see how far it will take you, to eat more garlic pizza than your Italian blood knows what to do with and explore a new city as if you don’t have one to go back to. It’s not summer yet, but go on, make Andrew W.K. proud.

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