San Francisco 2013, Part 4 - Day 3

Learning from yesterday's mistake, I set an alarm for 8am and was a bit miffed that I didn't wake up earlier. At least I didn't wake up because of house-keeping again, but it was clear that jet-lag was still haunting me into my third day in sunny California.

I did the whole 'breakfast at the hotel restaurant' thing, feeling a bit of a smug satisfaction that I could just charge whatever to my room (and have to suffer the consequences when I check-out). Today will be a transportation and rides day. I thought to myself as I ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant whose lighting was only a few shades brighter than the rest of the super-dim hotel lobby and halls, which meant that today I would be riding a boat on the bay and riding the cable car through the city.

The boat ride I was aiming for wasn't until about noon, so I thought I'd complete one of the errands I was given to do here before leaving New Zealand: posting a birthday present on Melissa's behalf.

So Melissa, aka: voucher queen, thought to save a little money on postage by turning me into her pack mule, except instead of using what naivete I had into fooling me to carry contraband, she instead just had me deliver a large envelope that contained a birthday present to her friend who leaved in/near San Francisco. After breakfast, and once again walking towards San Francisco Bay, I took that long walk along Market St to find any kind of postal service. It didn't take long for me to find and enter a FedEx shop, and discover the most dead-behind-the-eyes employees I have ever seen.

After the vitality and expressiveness of restaurant/waiting staff these last few days (who of course are there to earn their tips), it was quite a surprise to see such unenthusiastic workers behind the counters at this shop. Nary a smile was given, and eyes were staring at nothing in particular somewhere behind me as the staff explained to me how to send this little envelope on to some address in neighbouring Sacramento.

When I finally had it all sorted and paid for, I exited the shop and had to look back at it and just laugh at what I had experienced. With a shake of the head and a smile of 'WTF' on my face, I continued my walk to the waterfront to my first destination: a boat ride around the bay.

San Francisco Bay, and (under) Golden Gate Bridge

As I passed by a lot of bay cruise options on my way to the one that my CityPass included, it was clear that the Alcatraz ones were the most popular option. Where the other operators had signs saying that the next departure time was something like '10:30am', or '2:00pm', the Alcatraz cruise would say something like 'September 24', a date that was usually a few weeks in the future.

The boat I'd be taking would just take us out of Pier 39, under Golden Gate Bridge, and back via Alcatraz Island.

Under Golden Gate Bridge
Passing by Alcatraz Island

Aside from great views of these landmarks and the city skyline, I also got to see my first AC72 America's Cup yacht. On the way to Golden Gate Bridge, we could see Team Oracle USA training with both of their boats not far from us. I hadn't really kept up with the Louis Vuitton challenger series, or the America's Cup, so I never got a good look at the new boats the teams were sailing in this competition. Queue one of Team USA's yachts, flying right alongside, then passed us, at what seemed to me a ridiculous speed. Hooooly shit! I thought, as I saw how fast these new boats were, and the damn thing was glued to the water by what looked like just the rudders.

The tour guide of this boat told us just then that these new boats can travel faster than the cars on the Golden Gate Bridge, which we could just see at this point.

When I get back on land, I started telling myself, I gotta figure out what voodoo magic science is behind these yachts.

Sea lions
Sea lions camped out on the entrance/exit to Pier 39

Back on land, I had lunch at Fisherman's Wharf and crossed-off another item on the todo list, another item from Melissa: to eat a white clam chowder, served out of a sourdough bread bowl, on Fisherman's Wharf.

Clam chowder, in a sourdough bread bowl

The Cable Car

During yesterday's walk from the super curvey and super steep Lombard Street back to the hotel, I found that I couldn't escape this constant mechanical noise. I thought that there was some kind of construction work going on just around a corner, but when I got to that corner and couldn't find a single digger or cement machine, I started wondering what the hell that noise could be. Whatever it is, I thought, these houses better have some decent sound-proofing against that noise. I didn't click to what it could be until I crossed one street and my foot landed on the cable car rail. I stopped in the middle of the road and felt the vibrations from under the concrete through my shoes, undulating in time to that mechanical drone I was hearing for several blocks now.

Cogs started turning in my head as I put it all together. Wait... this is the cable car rail. That noise is coming from under the road. Is that... is there a massive cable network running underneath all these streets that's pulling the cable cars?!? Having come from a city where the definition of 'cable car' is a glorified elevator and counterweight pulley system, the thought that a constantly running cable system underneath a large chunk of the city was freaking mind-blowing!

This afternoon, I waited in the long queue at one end of the cable car line to see just what that massive cable infrastructure was supporting.

And this afternoon, as it neared my turn to hop on, the busker nearby paused between songs to tell the worst joke I would hear all vacation:

Did you hear about the 2 nuts, the 2 peanuts, that were taking a walk through the park last night? One of them was a salted.

*queue groans and nervous laugher from the crowd*

Anyway, once on the cable car, I got to stand up and hang out the left side as it cruised through the city. All those things I saw yesterday at my slower walking pace buzzed on by as I kept one half of my body, foot and arm, attached to the standing-room-only parts of the car, and the other half hanging out of the car.

At one point I saw another cable car on the other set of tracks, about to cross us going in the opposite direction. I held out my hand in a high-five gesture to see if anybody in the other car, also standing-up, would respond. 1 man did, and as our cars crossed paths we high-fived each other! I fist-pumped triumphantly and whooped into the air, then brought my hand back down and shook it furiously because it that collision of palms actually hurt.

Cable Car
The vehicle of my high-five hubris