Tuesday, March 9, 2010
San Francisco: Lombard Street, Golden Gate Park,
Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Bridge


Breakfast has gotten more meager at each hotel. Now at the Best Western, there is only coffee. In a couple of days, we’ll be reduced to a breakfast of tepid water straight up!

The concierge informed me about Muni Passport public transportation passes, good for unlimited rides on all San Francisco buses, streetcars, and cable cars. Passports are available for one day, $13, three consecutive days, $20, or seven consecutive days, $26. Otherwise, each cable car ride costs $5, and streetcars and buses are $2, which can add up quickly. Another couple had purchased three-day Passports and were only able to use two days, so the concierge gave us their two Passports to use today for free.



Powell-Hyde cable-car terminus at Fisherman's Warf

San Francisco’s world-famous, historic cable cars are pulled along on rails by a moving cable beneath the street. The gripman grabs onto the cable with a vise-like mechanism to propel the car and releases the cable and engages a braking system to stop. San Francisco has the only cable cars left in the world. There are three cable-car lines, the Powell-Hyde line, the Powell-Mason line, and the California line.

Streetcars also run on rails, but are powered by an overhead electrical wire. The F-line streetcar runs along Market and the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Warf. It’s pretty handy for tourists. We rode it several times.

A bus is a well-known form of public transportation filled by tourists, big-city dwellers, environmentalists, and others wackos. We fit into the "tourist" category.

Our hotel wasn’t far from the Powell-Hyde cable-car line, so we walked over there and hopped aboard. Passengers can ride inside, outside, or actually hanging off the side. We rode all three places at different times. Riding on the outside was pretty thrilling and somewhat dangerous, even at a top speed of 9.5 miles per hour. The cable cars pass pretty darn close to parked cars and other traffic, you know. We loved it, of course!



A rare low-traffic moment in San Francisco

We rode the cable car to the end of the line at Union Square and got right back on and rode back up the giant hill to Lombard Street, “the crookedest street in the world.” It’s not even truly the most crooked street in San Francisco, but it is quite crooked and very picturesque.



"The crookedest [sic] street in the world"

From Lombard Street we walked downhill to North Beach and caught the Powell-Mason cable-car line back to Union Square and took buses over to the 1000-acre Golden Gate Park.



A moment of tranquility, Golden Gate Park

We walked around the park for two or three hours and saw the polo field, Chain of Lakes, the fly-casting pools, a golf course, the Buffalo Paddock, and the Dutch Windmill. But I’m not sure if we ever saw the exact spot where Captain Kirk landed the Klingon ship in Star Trek IV.



Buffalo in San Fran - Who'd a thunk it?



Dutch Windmill

Around 2:30 we left Golden Gate Park and bought sandwiches at a deli inside the Safeway near the Dutch Windmill. It was very warm earlier in the day, but then the wind kicked up, the sun went behind a cloud, and it turned cold!

After lunch, we walked along cold, windy Ocean Beach, where some folks with much thicker skin than ours were kitesurfing. Brrrrr!



Crazy cold kitesurfers

At the Cliff House on Ocean Beach, Tom showed me where he fell down a cliff the last time he was in San Francisco, many years ago. They have now built a guardrail in that location. Good call.



The Cliff House, overlooking Seal Rocks

Back by the Safeway, we caught a bus over to the Golden Gate Bridge. I was afraid we’d get blown off the bridge and into the Bay, but the wind died down and the sun came back out, so it wasn’t too cold as we walked most of the way across.



Golden Gate Bridge



Downtown and the Presidio from the Golden Gate Bridge

Two more bus rides took us to North Point Street and Columbus Avenue, and then it was only a short walk back to the Best Western. We used the heck out of those free Muni Passports today. Since we had an interior room, a hotel employee let us up on the roof for a fantastic night view of the city!

For dinner we wound up at IHOP, two blocks from our hotel, for a great cheeseburger and decent cheesesteak at a reasonable price – no small accomplishment in San Fran.

Continue to March 10, 2010

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