Aug 7, 2007

San Francisco Stopover

Golden Gate Bridge wrapped in fog; San Francisco, California, July 25, 2007

On Wednesday, July 25, our summer vacation began its conclusion. Because Babs and I did not book our flights at the same time we were routed differently all the way back home. So, I left first on Wednesday morning, with Barbara following an hour later. I was routed first to Detroit, then to San Francisco and finally on to Honolulu Hawaii.

I had a layover of about four hours in San Francisco and I decided that rather than sit at the gate area in yet another faceless airport for several hours, I was going to race out for a whirlwind tour of the city. I'd posted a request for advice on my favorite website, Intereference, and most people advised against it. The window was too narrow. I might not make it back in time to catch my flight. And even if I did, it probably I wouldn't have enough time to see or do anything worthwhile. I listened, I pondered this wise counsel. . .and then threw caution to the winds and decided to go for it. After all, I'd never been to the Bay Area and it wasn't likely I'd have a reason to visit the area again anytime soon. This might be my only chance to see, albeit briefly, one of the great American cities.

My plane landed around 11:15 A.M. and I was off the plane by 11:25. I had less than four hours before my next flight left for Honolulu. I took the BART out of SFO, leaving around noon and arriving at the Embarcedero Station in downtown San Francisco around 12:30. The day was overcast, surprisingly chilly, and swathed in that classic San Francisco fog. The hilly neighborhoods that I saw from my train window, even the run-down ones, looked quaint and charming. I can't think of too many American cities that have such a distinct character. I found the F line electric trolley, which would take me to Pier 39, the vantage point from which I'd be able to get a look at several of San Francisco's landmarks. I lost valuable time when I took the trolley in the wrong direction and had to get off and wait for the next one going towards the pier. As it was I arrived at the world-famous Pier 39 just after one o'clock with less than 30 minutes until I needed to be back at the Embarcedero Station to catch a train back to SFO. And this is what I saw:

"The Two Sister Ships: Jenny and Barbara Ann" One of the first things I saw as I trotted down to the water's edge were these two sailboats right next to each other in the marina. I had to take a picture because the boats shared the names of two women dear to me--my sister-in-law and wife! You can see the Jenny clearly, of course, in this photo, and if you look carefully, you can make out the words Barbara Ann on the next boat. (And yes Barbara's middle name is Anne--though spelled with an "e"). I thought that was pretty cool!

There's Alcatraz!

Me with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Unfortunately there was so much fog, the bridge didn't show up very well in the photos, though you could see it pretty well through the mist in real life.

Pier 39

Sea Lions! There were tons of these sea lions basking in the fog just off Pier 39. There were a lot of tourists clustered around watching them and taking pictures and I joined in as well.

A shot of the San Francisco cityscape, looking back from Pier 39.

Here I am at the entrance to Pier 39, on my way back to the BART station.

I walked around Pier 39 exactly once, stopping long enough to enjoy the view for a few moments and snap a few keepsake photos. Closing in on 1:30 I arrived back at the entrance to the pier. I needed to catch the 1:43 train back to SFO and it was clear that taking the F line back wasn't going to do it. I hailed a cab and paid $10 for him to drive me the few minutes to the station. I would have made the train too if I hadn't wasted a valuable couple minutes trying to find the entrance to underground station and then feeding individual dollar bills into the ticket machine to buy my ticket since the machines didn't take credit cards like they did at the airport. By the time I reached the platform, my train had just pulled away.

It wouldn't be San Francisco without those iconic trolley cars right? I took a split second to take a picture of one outside the Embarcedero BART station before hustling downstairs to catch my train.

I would be cutting it close now, I knew, but I was still pretty sure I could make my flight. I picked up the next train to the airport at 1:58 and arrived back at SFO at about 2:30. I took the shuttle back to the terminal, zipped through security, and sauntered up to the gate at 2:45 with still enough time to buy some postcards and an overpriced caesar salad and tomato & mozzerella sandwhich before boarding my flight to Honolulu.

A misty view of San Francisco from the train window on the way back to the airport.

So was it worth it?

Absolutely. Seeing a glimpse of this lovely city even if only for a few moments was far better than sitting at the gate. I wish I'd had more time, of course, but what little I saw whet my appetite for more, and I do hope I'll be able to return to San Francisco someday when I can truly see and experience all that this scenic city has to offer.


Mr. Graves said...

I love the trams in San Fran.

pretzels...yum! said...

pier 39! my favorite, and hanging out of the trams in san fran. how fun!