For one summer in 1967, an estimated 100,000 people flocked to the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco and ended up making counterculture history. The Grateful Dead. Janis Joplin. Jack Kerouac. Bill Graham. These are just a few of the iconic merry pranksters who, along with the rest of the flower-crowned masses, helped make San Francisco a short-term mecca for live music and art.
Although hippies, mood rings, and long-haired rock ‘n’ rollers aren’t as easy to spot these days in the City by the Bay, the spirit of 1967 can still be found. Perhaps no one has kept that spirit more alive than San Francisco local Allan Graves, founder and CEO of San Francisco Love Tours.
We grabbed some time with him to learn how he got to building one of the most unique tour companies for travelers to San Francisco, a company that celebrates a truly iconic moment in San Francisco history.
Q&A With Allan
TripAdvisor: Take us back to the very beginning. Before you had the idea to start a tour company featuring a VW bus, we heard that you bought your first one “on a whim.” But can you explain that “whim” a bit more for us?
Allan Graves: I’ve always had a thing for Volkswagens. When I first moved to San Francisco from Costa Rica, I was 12 years old and my uncle had an old yellow VW bus. He would take me out exploring in it, so I really got to know the city in a VW.
In the beginning of summer 2014, I was feeling very nostalgic and was looking for a summer vehicle that was cool enough to take to Dolores Park with my family and friends. I was up super late on the internet waiting to start a conference call with my then corporate job’s London office, and I came across an old yellow VW bus for sale.
Immediately, I thought to myself, what if I were to buy a bus, take all my family and friends around the city in it, and go from place to place, making new friends along the way? I’d even joke and say to strangers, “Hop on, hitch a ride with us.” I believed I could take visitors around the city to give them a true local’s perspective and show them all the places I love in San Francisco.
The very next day, my brother and I drove a few hours south to Los Banos, CA and bought the bus.
TA: The inside of your buses are decked out with shag carpeting, beaded curtains, and more. Was it difficult to find those 1960s icons?
AG: Yes, I have installed every 1960s detail inside of every bus by hand. At first, the biggest challenge was finding the most authentic shag carpets — they have to look and feel just right. There are tons of nylon and synthetic shag carpets out there, so finding the real deal is a challenge.
TA: What’s the best part of your day-to-day?
AG: Honestly, when I see a 5-star review gets posted.
TA: When you have a friend visiting SF for the first time — besides taking your tour, where else do you recommend they visit?
AG: I grew up in the Mission, so first I would say to grab a burrito at Pancho Villa, then head over to The Devil’s Acre in North Beach for a cocktail. Then, if you’re up for a San Francisco classic, check out Beach Blanket Babylon. If you’re in the mood for dressing up, visit The Speakeasy Theater.
TA: And YOUR favorite song from the 1960s?
AG: That’s easy. All You Need is Love by the Beatles.
Cheers to that, Allan and thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with us.