San Francisco looked like it was going to be one of those exceptions. Even if I did find a fantastic rate on a car, it was going to cost me around $50 to park overnight at the Fairmont (Seems like the Presidential suite should come with a parking spot doesn't it? I'm trying to picture Obama parallel parking out front...) and more to park anywhere else we might decide to visit. Since a cab ride (we were told) should only cost $42 from the airport, it seemed like a good financial decision to go without a car for our one day stop.
Here's the point where I have to own up and say I was warned. People told me to take a limo or a town car from the San Francisco airport because the taxi drivers were nuts. I, figuring that I was a man of the world and having taken cabs in Los Angeles, New York, and Las Vegas, thought "How bad can it be?"
Traveler hint #1: When the words "How bad can it be?" go through your mind, it's probably time to reconsider the course of action that you are embarking on. Alas, this kind of wisdom only comes from bad decision making, so we climbed in a cab at SFO and headed for the Fairmont. We were told that the fare from the airport to the hotel should be $42. Apparently this is only accurate if your driver knows what a red light means. I will say that it was very thoughtful of our driver to give us a view from all three lanes of the road during each block of the trip. We managed to make it in to town without killing anybody (that we stopped for anyways), and our fare upon arrival was only $35. Aren't taxis supposed to take you the long way to run up the fare? While paying the bill, it came to my attention that our driver looked remarkably like the default driver in the game Crazy Taxi, which coincidentally was set in San Francisco. I thought about asking him if he knew of the game, but by the time I turned around he was already gone, two blocks and eight lane changes down the road.
|Here's a picture of us passing a cable car on the way to the Fairmont.|
After getting settled in our room, we decided to head out to Union Square for some lunch, and we decided that we would be "those tourists" and take the cable car. Fortunately for us, the only place in San Francisco where the lines cross is right outside the Fairmont. We went out and found the sign for the north/south route, and sure enough within a couple of minutes the cable car showed up. Here is where I got to look like a real tourist. The car pulled up and stopped in the middle of the street. I waited patiently at the sign, but everybody else in line wandered into the street and jammed themselves into the cable car. By the time I realized what was going on, the car was full and on it's way down the street. I'm not too sure how I figured the cable car was going to pull up to the sign I was standing at since the tracks only go down the center of the road, but somehow that was the image I had in my head.
Eventually we got down to Union Square, and after some lunch and shopping we went to take the cable car back down to Fisherman's Wharf. One end of the cable car tracks is down that end of town, and at that point there is a nice orderly line to get on a car. While we were standing in line, a homeless guy named Dave (I know this because he was wearing a name tag, which I thought was very helpful of him.) came up to us and told us that we'd better get on a cable car because there was a protest coming and they were going to shut the whole area down! We thanked Homeless Dave for the information, and headed back on the next cable car.
When the time came to go back to the hotel after walking at Fisherman's Wharf all afternoon, we found ourselves quite far from the cable car station. We decided that we would take the Muni train around to the east side of town, and then catch the east/west cable car back to the hotel. We jumped on the train and rode it around the bay, but a couple of stops before we were going to get off the driver of the train came on the P.A. and told us that the train was going to have to stop here as there was a mass of protesters (Homeless Dave has an army?) coming this way blocking the track. We got off and started walking to the cable car stop.
The stop wasn't too far away, and it was fairly deserted, so we jumped on a cable car and waited for our turn to go. While we were sitting there, the Homeless Dave army came around the corner and a line of policemen came trotting out from the shadows to try and divert the protest. Our cable car operator, upon seeing this, decided that "We're out of here!" and he released the brake on the car fully, shooting us off to the west right through a red light (Does nobody in the San Francisco transportation industry know what a red light means?) As we accelerated away from the crowd, I began to regret my decision to stand on the runnerboard of the cable car instead of having a nice secure seat, but after the first block we were well clear of any protests, and the rest of the ride was pleasant and uneventful.
The next day we got an added bonus on our return taxi trip to SFO, as our new driver managed to get us back to the airport for only $33. The ride was also enriched by our driver's frequent use of his horn, and his ability to carry on a multi-lingual conversation on his cell phone while consulting his GPS. Still...it was $2 cheaper.
So let's recap the top three things we've learned about the San Francisco transit system:
- Always take a town car from the airport, not a taxi.
- Don't wait at the curb. The cable car isn't coming to you no matter how important you are.
- The protest movement in San Francisco seems to be organized by a crazy street person. If Homeless Dave tells you to get out of the area, you probably want to be on the next car out.