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San Francisco in the Rain

The iconic San Francisco Trolley will set you back $5. But as is the case with all things created by intricate mechanical systems, the trolley is given to breaking down, or needing repair, or perhaps it was just having a long series of bad days and it really just needed a vacation. Whatever the cause, when the trolley is not working, its routes are replaced by common, run-of-the-mill buses with a more wallet-friendly fare of $2. I boarded one of these, and once I was firmly on my way to Fisherman’s Wharf, I noticed the bus deviate from the route drawn on the map. I waited a few seconds, building up the courage to openly reveal myself as a clueless tourist instead of the savvy local, and softly asked the driver about the route change.

“You don’t want to see this bus try to go down that hill,” said the driver. “Especially in these wet roads.”

“Now that you mention it, no, sir I would not,” I said.

Then he laughed.

San Francisco, California bus riding

He went on to explain he might have attempted the downhill part of the trolley’s journey if the roads had been dry. Beyond the practical reason of favoring the detour, I relished the opportunity to see streets and lives of people that, not usually being in the public eye of the trolley’s tourists, continued in their quaint unpretentious existence.

Chinatown, San Francisco.

There is something so magnificent about all Chinatowns. As if residents had unanimously decided that they might be living in a different country, but they are going to continue leading their everyday lives unencumbered by local customs or expectations. I can picture them thinking “I like my system better. I will purchase my goods from little local shops instead of your big box grocery stores.”  And I can’t blame them. What looks like a hectic scene to an outsider is commonplace for locals pouring into the streets of Chinatown looking for the freshest bok choy. The sounds and smells are always unique. I love walking around Chinatown.

san francisco, chinatown

Fisherman’s Wharf is a nautical enthusiast’s playground. That is, if you stay near the ships of the Maritime National Park, or find derelict corners invaded by seagulls.

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf

San Francisco Maritime National Park

At the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, there is the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha and damned my eyes if I was not going to go aboard.

Our tour guide, the lucky man. If I could get a job just walking around this ship everyday, talking to groups of people about the sea, life at sea, sailors and history, I’d be as happy as a man with pockets full of prize-money and a shore in sight.

San Francisco on board the Balclutha

Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Let’s take some pictures.

The guy is looking down saying “I ran out of film”. Just kidding. I mean, he could’ve been saying that, right?

Had I not been on vacation, and required to fly back home, I would’ve bought one of these ship models.

I’m thankful for broken trolleys, particularly in a city where walking is far easier and enjoyable than in any other place I have ever lived (even with all the hills). I’m only regretful of not having spent more time researching places to eat and drink, as most of the fare I experience was disappointing and forgettable. Although I was in heaven at the Boudin Bakery. I’ll risk sounding pretentious here, but I don’t like to travel to new places just to eat at the nearest In ‘n Out, much as I might enjoy the cheeseburgers animal style. But if you don’t know where to eat, and you’ve been walking around all day, tired and hungry, it’s easy to succumb to the nearest fast food joint.

Stories from the trip continue as I get the photos edited and ready for the Web site. I’m still struggling to catch up with work and life back here in Phoenix. I feel behind and overworked, so in conclusion I should probably never go on vacation again. Or go and just stay gone.

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