Monday, July 28, 2008

SpongeBob and San Francisco public transportation (Part III)

Our last day in San Francisco reminded me of one of my favorite SpongeBob episodes where he rode the bus far from home for a day at an amusement park. The episode is all about his experiences of trying to get home again...buses zoom past his stop without stopping, they don't come when he's at the stop but do come when he's distracted by a vending machine, and so forth. It's hilarious, just because it's so true sometimes!

Our day was just like that...we decided to take public transportation that day to avoid the exorbitant parking rates in downtown San Francisco, but that turned out to be a mistake. Our hop-on/hop-off tour bus had problems that forced us to get off the bus and stand in line to get on again three times during the day. The cable cars zoomed past our stop because they were too full, so we walked to the stop where they were picking up people, but, in true SpongeBob-nightmare-public-transporation-episode fashion, the next cable cars didn't stop there and went to our original stop instead. When we finally got on a cable car, it got stuck in the middle of an intersection because an automobile got in the way just as it was heading up a hill, and so it lost momentum. We waited for 10 minutes until a big tractor trailer cab came gave the cable car a push from behind, but that only moved it out of the intersection, where they then told us that everyone had to get off because the car wasn't going to continue its route.

What really made me cuss, though, was when we missed the last CalTrain out of town (our hotel was about 25 minutes south of the city), because the 5 or so city buses and electric street cars we tried to take to the station just zoomed past their stops without stopping (because they were too full) and even the taxis we hailed wouldn't stop. But, never fear, we didn't spend the night homeless in San Francisco. We took a BART train to a station that was about a mile from the CalTrain station where our car was parked, and then luckily found a taxi. We didn't know the way to the other station, and it was very late at night, so I considered that a serious blessing. It turned out that we spent quite a bit more money on public transportation than it would have cost us to just drive our car and park! Looking at the bright side, Tracy set a new record on her pedometer that day (over 21,000 steps)....and at least we could take comfort by thinking of SpongeBob!

There are beautiful parts of taking public transportation, too, though. Here's a little video of the fun part of our Cable Car ride:

One of the highlights of our day was stumbling across some tourists who were doing a special "Shanghai San Francisco" tour. Back in the early days of the town, the ships had a hard time recruiting sailors for the long trip to Shanghai, and so they would kidnap sailors by various means (like by getting them drunk or sending them through a trap door in a bar, and they'd wake up to find themselves on a boat headed to Shanghai), and so getting kidnapped became known as getting "Shanghaied". The people on this tour were following clues that lead them to actors placed around the city which would help them to solve a kidnapping case. We stumbled across these actors, who were part of the adventure:

As we watched the Shanghai people on their tour, their leader even pulled us into the fun, by warning his tour group people that we were some of the bad guys! One of the ladies (who happened to be wearing silly rabbit ears) did a hand gesture to indicate that she'd be watching us!

This tour was happening on Telegraph Hill, which is the hill on which the Coit Tower sits. We really enjoyed walking through the neighborhoods around there and seeing people who live in homes that can only be accessed by lots of stairs (which made me wonder how they ever got their refrigerators and couches and stuff up to their house!). One of the fun things about that area is that there is a flock of wild parrots that live there (some pet parrots escaped, reproduced, and that's how a whole flock of wild parrots came to be living in urban San Francisco).

Another highlight of the day was visiting the Mussee Mecanique at Fisherman's Wharf, where they had lots of antique arcade games. If you saw a machine like this, wouldn't you be tempted to put in a quarter too?

Wanna know what the Belly Dancer does on her day off? She plays the ukulele!

They were very effective at getting the quarters out of our pockets. We couldn't resist seeing "Susie dance the Can-Can" either:

The last highlight of our trip was visiting the prison at Alcatraz Island. We took a night tour, which was fun because they had extra ranger tours. We attended one about Al Capone, who was the most famous inmate there. It was interesting to learn how he was able to bribe or buy the officials at other prisons (he had carpet and curtains in one of his previous prison cells and could run his gang from within prison), but how the warden at Alcatraz could not be influenced by him. Al Capone offered the warden at Alcatraz $10,000 so they could build tennis courts for the inmates there, but the warden refused. He made several other offers also, but finally realized that this warden couldn't be bought. The end of Al Capone's life was really sad...all the other prisoners were out to get him (his partner in the kitchen duty stabbed him in the back with a spoon or pair of scissors). He finally ended up dying of syphilis. His life choices finally caught up to him.

Here we are at the end of my San Francisco blogs. To end, I'll just include a a sunset photo of Alcatraz island:

Here's one last photo, taken of the Golden Gate bridge from our Alcatraz ferry.

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