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You Got It, Dude!

August 31, 2017

I’ve been to San Francisco a couple of times, albeit many years ago, and it’s definitely a fun town. But a big part of the magic of these road trips is seeing new things, doing new things, and going to new places, so as much as I like San Francisco I was not nearly as excited to get here as Sam was. I gave him a lot of control over our itinerary here, but he really insisted on only four things: driving down Lombard Street, riding in a cable car, driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, and seeing a Giants game. I added a few activities I thought he’d enjoy, but even so that left us with a pretty loose couple of days here.

As soon as we arrived, I drove straight to Lombard Street. San Francisco is known for its steep hills, and Lombard is one of the steepest streets in the city. Specifically, the block between Hyde Street and Leavenworth Street is so steep that it weaves back and forth several times. With eight hairpin turns, this one block claims to be “the crookedest street in the world.”

Lombard Street

This sign shows only two hairpin turns, and is thus a major understatement.

Lombard Street

Here’s our view from the bottom.

It’s also a major destination for tourists, to the point where driving down the block takes several extra minutes because the stupidest of the tourists walk out into the middle of traffic to take photos, and then stay there taking more photos. Here’s a video of our drive down the crookedest street in the world; it’s a full two minutes long because we kept having to stop along the way while cars in front of us waited for people to scurry out of the way.

Lombard Street

This brings me to a rant that’s been brewing inside me for several days. In short, people suck. National Parks and other major tourist destinations attract many wonderful, well-behaved, considerate people, but they also attract everyone else. And everyone else is a jerk. The bottom of Lombard Street has a sign posted asking people in very polite terms to not be jerks. Mere steps away from this sign, and miles away from common sense, people wandered out into traffic to take photos or just gawk, completely ignoring the cars that were coming from all directions. Here, take a look:

Lombard Street Tourists

See all those people standing in the middle of the crosswalk taking photos? There are cars right behind them, and right in front of them, and they don’t even know that.

This is one of dozens of examples we’ve witnessed over the past week. In Death Valley Sam was taking a panoramic photo of the salt flats at Badwater Basin, and even though there were only a few other people there, one of them managed to completely ruin the shot by almost walking right through it and almost into Sam. At Yosemite we saw people smoking near No Smoking signs, people yelling to each other continuously in otherwise silent settings, and people who had a drone with them despite many signs making it clear that drones are not allowed in the park. In Sequoia there was a guy who got out of his car at a scenic overlook and left the door open with the keys still in the ignition the entire time, so that everyone looking at the serene scenery had to listen to his car go “ding ding ding” interminably. We also saw people walking right past countless “stay on the path” signs to take shortcuts off the path, through exactly the wild terrain that the signs specifically asked them to help protect. And we watched a video about a bear that had to be killed because he got too aggressive and dangerous after someone in the park fed him despite the 900 signs throughout the park begging people to not feed the animals and to specifically keep food away from bears SO THAT THEY DON’T DIE. At the Grand Canyon one guy had a Bluetooth speaker in his backpack and left it on at full volume throughout his hike, and his trip to the bathroom, and as he sat waiting for the shuttle bus. And the litter! We’ve seen litter at every National Park, including the packaging from a SIM card, which somebody left on the ground at Tunnel View yesterday. People’s selfishness and thoughtlessness literally ruins the thing they came to see.

OK, rant over. On the way to Lombard Street Sam called an audible and asked if we could visit the house from Full House. My answer: you got it, dude!

Even as a child I immediately recognized that Full House was not only schmaltzy but absolutely insipid, with terrible acting and even worse writing that insults the intelligence of every viewer. Whoever is reading this, I know you probably watched the show, and I know you probably love it, and that’s fine with me, as long as you understand and acknowledge that Full House was an obviously terrible show that you love despite its stupidity.

Thanks to Netflix, YouTube, and other modern miracles, my son’s generation has, at their fingertips, every TV show that currently exists and has ever existed, and yet somehow they have latched on to Full House as if it is actually worth watching. Nonetheless, I took Sam to see the house, and he was thrilled.

Full House house

Hey, what’s that big white sign on the bottom left? I wonder what it says …

Full House Sign

See? I told you people suck. You can’t even visit Danny Tanner’s house without people acting like jerks.

Our next stop was Fisherman’s Wharf, at my suggestion. I normally dislike phony tourist traps like this and their overpriced T-shirt shops and their soulless Bubba Gump restaurants and Hard Rock Cafes, and we’ve been to some version of Fisherman’s Wharf in a whole bunch of different cities (Los Angeles’s Santa Monica Pier, Chicago’s Navy Pier, New York’s South Street Seaport, and on and on). But there’s one thing at Fisherman’s Wharf that I knew Sam would love and can’t see anywhere else: an underwater aquarium.

Aquarium by the Bay is not a very good aquarium by most standards, as it’s very small and has only a small fraction of the variety of aquatic species you see at a typical aquarium. But if you take the elevator down a couple of stories you get to walk through a Plexiglas tunnel surrounded on all sides by sharks, stingrays, and other fish, and that alone is worth a visit.

Aquarium by the Bay

The best part is when the fish swim directly above you and give you a truly unique view.

IMG_1921

You may have noticed that Sam is wearing a sweatshirt in the photo above. After we grappled with oppressive heat for eight days, San Francisco’s 67 degrees and its stiff breezes took us by surprise, and we both had to bundle up a bit when we got to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Sam was underwhelmed by the aquarium but he did very much enjoy the underwater tunnels. He also loved the aquarium’s two otters, Shasta and Tahoe. You may have assumed that the Hamster’s spirit animal is a hamster, but you’d be wrong. Sam says he identifies with the otter because it’s soft and cuddly and playful, but if you get it angry it will bite you. These two otters were especially playful, and we spent almost 20 minutes watching them chase each other, wrestle, and groom each other.

Otters

After the aquarium we wandered around Fisherman’s Wharf, which actually has a few interesting shops sprinkled among the souvenir shops, including a robust candy store where we bought Pez and a fun sock store where Sam and I picked out a few pairs. The Wharf also has great views of Alcatraz, and a resident population of seals that sunbathe on the floating docks like big, lazy dogs.

Alcatraz

Fisherman's Wharf Seals

Sadly, that’s about as close to Alcatraz as we’ll be getting on this trip. Sam badly wanted to take the tour, but tickets need to be purchased months in advance, and we were late to the party and got sold out.

By the time we left Fisherman’s Wharf it was late afternoon, but we still had time for a little more sightseeing before dinner. We checked into tonight’s seedy motel and dropped our stuff off in our room before heading out again to see more of the city. First I took Sam for a drive through Haight-Ashbury. I gave him a brief overview of the neighborhood’s historic importance, and we drove around gawking at the dab bars, hooka shops, and stoners for a couple of minutes before moving on.

Less than a mile from the corner of Haight and Ashbury is another San Francisco icon known as the Painted Ladies. “Painted lady” is a nickname for any old Victorian house whose exterior is painted at least three colors to highlight the various architectural details. With so many old Victorian row houses, San Francisco has many painted ladies scattered about, but the most famous are a row of seven consecutive painted ladies on a block that borders Alamo Square Park. Ordinarily Sam wouldn’t care much about any of this, but Alamo Square Park is the park where the Tanner family is having a picnic in the opening credits to Full House, and the Painted Ladies appear behind them.

Full House Picnic Alamo Square Park

Sam was very excited to see the park and the real-life view of the houses, and even appreciated the beauty of the architecture. We were happy, and we were hungry, and it was finally time for dinner.

The only kosher restaurant in San Francisco serves Israeli food and is located, oddly, just inside the official entry to San Francisco’s Chinatown. It’s a little pricey but it’s the only game in town, and the food is good, and its odd location gave us an opportunity to see a bit of the country’s most famous Chinatown.

We have a lot more to do and see tomorrow, but so far Sam is really enjoying San Francisco, especially the quirkiness of its various neighborhoods. It’s hard to believe there’s only one more day of this road trip. Tomorrow night we fly home, leaving the land of Full House behind as we make our house full again.

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