San Francisco, finally!

29 07 2009

I guess today was a blessing in disguise (a very convincing disguise) as I got to experience a great cross-section of the Bay Area region. My original intention was to get up early and get to San Francisco before noon so I could relax, take in the sights, get a feel for the lay of the land and such. But the city that I’ve wanted to visit for oh-so-long had other plans for me.

So I got up bright and early, packed up my stuff, nearly lost my hat in a rush and headed out into the mystic. I ended up at the airport, went through security in a chaotic rush and was told there were delays due to low clouds. Long wait. We finally got on the plane and waited some more. And then we took off!

Only we didn’t. The plane started to go up and the pilot pulled it DOWN. And then we waited for a while and then we got off. And then I waited in line for a long time. It was 6 hours after my first flight that I finally got through a line of people with a ticket for a new flight on a tiny commuter jet to San Jose, not SFO. I said OK, I’ll take it vs. waiting another three hours to catch a direct flight.

So I left the secured area, ran to a bus stop with all my stuff, hopped on a bus, went back through security and headed on over to the commuter area. The commuter jet was one of those tiny jobs, one seat on one side and two seats on the other. No propellers but still small. I even walked out on the tarmac to get to the plane. The ride itself was fine, smooth, about an hour long, complete with cranapple. I shudder to think that a ride on that little thing was deemed safer than on the big thing, but I guess a functioning plane is best.

I always seem to have these mechanical issues on Star Alliance flights in particular. Maybe I’m on crack, or maybe they all do it. Who knows? Anyway I have a $150 certificate now for a United flight.

So I got to San freaking Jose and it was all desert-y and hot and sunny. Weird. Almost like Palm Springs. I didn’t expect the Silly Valley to be like that. And then I got on a shuttle bus to Santa Clara, where I saw a model train museum that was pretty cool and then hopped on the double-decker CalTrain commuter rail. From there, I got on BART and then I wandered downtown to my hotel. After that I wandered to the Embarcadero, the SF Bay Bridge, Union Square and the general area around my hotel. All in all, I got a pretty good summary of the Bay Area given that today went so horribly wrong.

I’ll have more on impressions of the city later, but suffice to say it’s lovely. There is lots of music and activity and cable cars and pretty Gothamistic skyline-ness. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a moment so wonderful that you didn’t want to taint it, but at one point I was walking and there was saxophone music playing and a cable car passed by me (one of those retro buses, glowing in the night) and it would have made a postcard picture, but I didn’t reach for my camera. I just savored it. The sounds and smells of this town change and morph as you walk by. It’s a great place to walk around with a recorder, taking in the changing sounds of the traffic signals and the squealing whale calls of the BART trains.

One thing though: transit is way expensive and I’m scared of the Muni and all the different breeds of buses and cable cars. There’s always tomorrow, but I’ve got to figure out a way to get around.

I think this qualifies as an epic fail today, but it turned around to become an epic win. The blessing in disguise is I really got to see a cross-section of the city: from the sunny, desert surroundings of Silicon Valley to the foggy, touristy, romantic, romanticized, almost New York-like pulse in the urban heart of San Francisco.

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