Monday, October 28th, 2013

Lombard Street, San FranciscoMy Darling B says I didn’t say enough about how hilly it was in San Francisco. I am here to dutifully report that San Francisco is every bit as hilly as the movies make it look. San Franciscans must be incredibly fit people. If I lived in San Francisco and all the exercise I got was a walk to my car every morning and back to my house every evening, I’d have calves as big as cantaloupes.

We ended up walking quite a bit more than that, however. Almost as soon as we got there, we walked from our hotel to Cliff House to get a bite to eat, but there was a wait, so we walked about halfway back up the hill to Louis’, where we had better luck. Total change in altitude: 50,000 feet. Not actual feet, but the kind that counts: It felt like at least 50,000 feet. The hotel we stayed in, Seal Beach Inn, was perched on a hilltop on the western edge of the city and would have commanded a dizzying view of the beach if the trees in Sutro Heights Park weren’t so inconsiderately growing in the way. By the way, stay out of Sutro Heights Park unless you’re looking for a place to hang your blue plastic tarp to sleep under.

The next morning we were down by the wharf for a couple hours, so mostly on flat ground, but eventually My Darling B wanted to see Lombard Street, the hyper-crooked street, so we hopped on a cable car to scratch two things off our bucket list at the same time. Please note: “Hopped on a cable car” is a figure of speech. It’s not something you can do most of the time because every single cable car is packed full of tourists from the time it rumbles off the turntable at the end of the line. If I can give you just one piece of advice about visiting San Francisco, don’t think of the cable cars as transportation. Wait in line like the rest of the tourists, ride the cable car, get it out of your system, but take the bus if you want to get anywhere. The cable cars are just carnival rides that happen to run down the middle of the street.

Hyde Street runs from the wharf up to the top of Lombard Street and one of the three remaining cable car lines starts right at the wharf, but there were a lot of tourists waiting in a very long line and Yours Truly thought he was smarter than they were, so he talked My Darling B into climbing a couple blocks up Hyde Street to the first cable car stop to get on, because he thought the “stop” in “cable car stop” meant that the cable car had to stop. It doesn’t. Figure of speech again. The first cable car that came along rumbled right past us without so much as a pause. As luck would have it, though, there was a bus stop right around the corner. We ended up riding a bus to a street near Lombard Street instead of the cable car that would have taken us right there.

Next, Telegraph Hill, because we love torturing ourselves. There’s a bus that runs to the base of Coit Tower from Washington Square, so we walked down Lombard Street to Powell thinking, Hey, it’s downhill! Easy! But not thinking, Hey, if we walk downhill, then we may eventually have to walk uphill. Funny how it seems so clear in hindsight now. It’s two blocks uphill to Washington Park. Two very long blocks. But we made it, and even found the bus stop in spite of someone’s best efforts to hide it on a side street.

The real reason we went up Telegraph Hill was because of the parrots and Filbert Street. B read about the parrots and wanted to see them. I figured there was no way we were going to see the parrots even by accident but went along with her anyway. She’s usually not wrong. And she wasn’t this time, either. Almost as soon as we got off the bus I saw a flock of parrots whiz by, and B says she saw more later while I was looking for the way down the hill. One more check mark on our bucket list. Parrots, did that. As for Filbert Street, don’t bother. The guide books go on and on about how cozy and quaint this street is, especially near the top where it’s not a street anymore but steps. Well, it’s just a very steep street. There’s not much to see. The view from the top is impressive, but I would point out that you can get that view at the top of almost any hill in San Francisco, so I’m at a loss to explain what’s so special about Filbert Street.

After taking a break in a restaurant on Washington Square to enjoy a well-deserved cold beer, we walked one block over to Mason Street to see if we could get a cable car to take us to the cable car museum, imaginatively named “Cable Car Museum” so as not to confuse the tourists, I suppose. The gripman in the first cable car we saw crossed his arms as the car rumbled past us without stopping. I guess that’s San Francisco cable carish for “screw you.” The next car stopped and the gripman shouted, “Four! I can take four!” He pointed at the fender. “Two there! And two there!” When the man says jump, you jump, so we climbed up on the fender, grabbed the railing and off we went. A cable car moves at a top speed of just nine miles an hour. It’s amazing just how fast that seems to be when your dangling from the fender of a cable car as real cars driven by ordinary people whiz by close enough to touch. My pants pocket might have caught on the side mirror of any one of them and I’d have been snatched off the fender faster than I could say, Well, shit.

Any trips we made around town after that were all carefully planned to get us to the nearest bus stop, downhill if possible.

ups and downs | 6:30 am CDT
Category: play, travel, vacation
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