Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monday in San Francisco

I slept well at the apartment, but woke up pretty early to the sound of bottles and garbage being rummaged through and kicked around in the alley. The old familiar sounds of a weekday morning in the city. It was Monday morning but I didn't need to leave until 4:00 or so to catch my flight. I was still pretty tired so I put my earplugs in and slept in until around 10:00am.

I found a small cafe near the apartment and ordered a quiche and coffee that got me started for the day. I ended up sitting at a table that was evidently occupied by somebody else who was just waiting for his coffee. No worries, he sat down with me at the tiny table and we did our best to ignore each other. I considered my options for the day. It was cloudy, but I expected it to clear up as the sun rose. I wanted to see Golden Gate Park, so I charted my course using a new San Francisco metro guide that I found on my phone.

I took a streetcar along Market Street and then a bus to Golden Gate Park. The streetcars are on tracks and powered by overhead electrical wires. The buses in San Francisco are mostly electric / zero emissions. They are also powered by overhead electrical wires, but the buses themselves are on rubber tires with steering wheels and so on. They can weave around traffic just like any other but, but obviously are restricted to routes that include the overhead wires. These buses probably get more torque than a standard internal combustion engine bus. They are also more efficient because they draw off the collective efficiency of the grid. Using these buses it took me about 30 minutes to get to Golden Gate Park.

The park was HUGE and I only managed to see a tiny fraction. The gloomy fog made it a bit dismal, but I liked seeing the flora and some fauna. I wandered around for about 2 hours before walking out on the north side of the park and over to California Street to catch the cable car back downtown and then to North Beach. I described the San Francisco Cable Cars in yesterday's post. I really wish more cities had these! Chicago and Melbourne both used to have HUGE cable car systems that were eventually shut down with the advent of the automobile. The entire San Francisco system is powered by just four 510 horsepower motors. This, combined with clever counter-weighting schemes, manages to move the cars up the incredibly steep hills.

By the time I got back to the apartment I was exhausted and ready for a short nap. This weekend has been an adventure! I've hiked up and down and around this city more than most locals might in a year. I slept for a half hour and then kicked myself awake because I don't want to waste any time! I got an espresso at one of the many many espresso joints in Little Italy and then passed a gelato shop on the way to Chinatown and had some gelato...

Okay now I'm ready for lunch and I remembered a sushi boat restaurant that I passed when I walked through Chinatown last night. The restaurant had sushi on little boats that floated around the bar. The chef would make his or her favorites and put them on the boats. You were charged according to what types of plates were in front of you when you finished.

Well, that's unfortunately about all the time I had in San Francisco. I'm not going to leave my heart here, but I will leave what's left of this bag of chips for Wayne. I tidied up the apartment and gathered my things. I hopped on the Stockton bus and took it to the BART where I could travel to the airport. At the airport, I took the airport people mover to my terminal. There I was able to get a plate of oysters and another bowl of clam chowder. I felt satisfied that I had fit so much into this abbreviated trip to San Francisco. I will definitely be back, this city has everything I like in a place - good public transit, history, modern architecture, hustle and bustle, cultural diversity, and most of all... it has a vibe. It's most difficult to describe the vibe, but it's ALL San Francisco - and I'm going to miss it tremendously until I return.

- Andy

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