Back to north america

Trip Start Dec 30, 2006
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Trip End Jul 27, 2007


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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, February 12, 2007

Brutal time change coming back to North America.  17hrs...which meant my flight, that left at 5:05pm on Feb 12th arrived at 8:45am on...Feb 12th.  Feb 12th was a long day.  Luckily for me, Star Alliance has a nice arrivals lounge at San Francisco where I could go for a hot shower and a free breakfast - very nice.

Took it easy and eventually grabbed the train heading downtown.  I must have still been tired though 'cause I fell asleep on the train and overshot my stop by a few stations.  Had to get off, change trains and get back on again. 

This time I thought I would be smart and wrote down directions to the hostel.  I failed to write down the EXACT street address though.  my bad.  After forty minutes of walking and cursing I broke down and called 411 to find I had passed the damn hostel three times.  Small signs.  Checked in, dropped my bag and headed out.

Hostel was a bit older but was in a great location just off Union Square in downtown San Francisco.  Thankfully the cable cars where included in my three day transit pass 'cause the stinkin' things cost $5 a ride otherwise.  Grabbed a Powell-Mason car and headed to the museum.  The outside seat was nice, despite the heavy rain. 

Museum was interesting - lots of info on the only cable car system in the world...which seems to cater 95% to tourists who want to pay $5 a shot.  It seems like a very impractical transit solution for any city and I doubt it makes any money since each car requires two to three staff to operate and can hold maybe 30 or 40 people if packed.  Plus the cable has to be fully replaced every 30 days or so due to wear and tear. 

Jumped back on the cable car and headed to the end of the line - Fisherman's Wharf.  Being at Fisherman's Wharf I felt an obligation to have fish & chips...which I did.  They where tasty. 

Living for many years on the west coast - I should have known what was going to happen next though....lots of seagulls and other birds walking around, looking cute and innocent for the tourists...it's all a ploy of course.  As soon as I turned my back to talk to someone a damn seagull jumped up and grabbed half of my fish...swallowed it all in one big gulp - gave me a look and walked off.  I think the look was supposed to say something like "sucka".  I'd been had.

At the same time I met a guy named Louie who was visiting from the Sacramento area.  Louis is 97 years old (or so he claims - I mean, look at him!  He doesn't look like someone pushing a hundred years old) and came down with his wife for a day trip to San Francisco.  We talked for awhile - he had lots of stories about the old days of San Francisco before the bridges where built and when the wharf was THE place to be.  The best story he told me was from back in the depression when he was a bum, riding the rails looking for work...he got arrested in a boxcar near New Orleans and was sentenced to thirty days of hard labour - picking cotton on the fields.  He got paid $0.20 a day for ten hours of work.  He found out the Sheriff was pocketing $0.80 a day for every prisoner and when he confronted him, the Sheriff let him go before he could start a revolt amongst the other prisoners and put an end to his little scam.

After leaving Louie and his wife, I headed over to Pier 45 to check out the penny arcade museum.  This was a large building filled with coin-operated games from carnivals and fairs from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s.  An interesting snapshot of American pop culture of the past.  Many of them would be considered very "un-pc" by todays standards and is yet another example of how the "leave it to beaver" fantasy couldn't be further from the true American experiance.

I especially found the "xxx" shows very interesting - which, although I'm sure where provocative in the 20s and earlier would barely register an eyebrow raise in todays post-Brittany / Paris Hilton world.  To be honest though, I do think I saw some side-boob.  After spending five or six bucks on old tyme porn, love meters, fortune tellers and other games I headed back towards the cable car, leaving fisherman's wharf for the day.

Next day, up and headed to Pier 33 to catch the ferry to Alcatraz.  I made the mistake of not eating before getting there figuring I would get there early and there would be lots of great food to eat at the docks.  Wrong!  Nothing!  No real food options around Pier 33 except the cafe run by Alcatraz Cruises who know they have a captive audience.  Grabbed an over-priced, poor-quality sandwhich for $6 and waited for my 'cruise' to start. 

I'm not sure I would pay $21.75 again to see Alcatraz...it was interesting and I went on a great walking tour with a park ranger talking about all the attempted escapes from Alcatraz but I'm just not sure it's worth $21.75....$10 for sure.  Ended up spending almost four hours on the island before heading back on a return 'cruise' to the mainland.

After a late lunch near the Embarcadero I headed up to Chinatown, looking for the 'infamous' fortune cookie factory of San Francisco.  I did not find the 'infamous' fortune cookie factory of San Francisco, despite asking a couple people where it was.  I ended up walking up and down the street which I felt was a little over-rated.  I guess I was expecting more action considering the hype the San Francisco Chinatown gets...I find the Vancouver Chinatown to be more vibrant.

Ended up walking back to Union Square and do some shopping before hitting the hostel and a nap.  I like naps.  There should be a law that makes naps mandatory.  I'd vote for that.

Tried to check out Lombard Street, the so-called crookedest street but it was starting to get dark so I didn't see much.  Not much going on at fishermans wharf at night so headed back to the hostel as I had a 8:45am flight the next day to New Orleans.
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