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Summer in the city

San Francisco, United States

Day 36 26th May 2009

We sat around in the airport after a few hassles with the luggage and getting it transferred from the Quantas flight to our brief hop on an American Airlines flight to San Francisco. The flight was absolutely full, so there'd been no chance of getting better seats, or even seats together, but it was only an hour or so, so we could cope.

Our plane, a McDonnel Douglas DC80, arrived at bay 40 and we all waited patiently for it to be cleaned before we could board:

Eventually, everyone was jammed in, and all the commuters' big wheely-bags jammed into the overhead lockers and the world changed from boring, static and horizontal, to exciting, fast moving and angled:

Some nice views of sea, coastline and big hills later, we were descending fast towards what appeared to be the sea. When we were about 50 feet above it, the end of the runway mercifully came into view and we touched down and taxied rapidly into our parking spot, and the usual scramble to get out ensued. As we had bags in the hold, we didn't bother rushing as they always take that bit longer to unload. The carousel eventually disgorged all four of our bags/boxes safely and we staggered off under the weight of all our bags to find the car rentals, because the trollies cost four dollars (unlike any other airport we'd so far visited) and we didn't have the relevant change (black mark for SFO).

The driverless rapid transit system:

took us efficiently to the car rentals and eventually we got a car with Avis (partnered with BA for the air-miles) but they only had a choice of one for a one-way drive to Seattle – a Mercury something-or-other. Much bigger than we'd have chosen it is at least comfortable but probably drinks petrol in typical American style, so very un-green – sorry planet, we'll make up for it when we get home.

Found the car in the multi-storey parking lot and then spent quite some time trying to figure out the multitude of controls. Barbara's first problem was that the passenger seat was so far forward, she couldn't even get in and it wasn't at all obvious how to move it back. When we found the electronic controls that moved the seat up, down and round-and-round, normality returned and I gingerly set off, trying desperately to remember to drive on the wrong side and figure out all the confusing signs as to who gives way to who.

Barbara said we must see the Golden Gate Bridge, so we programmed that into the GPS and set off through the San Francisco rush-hour traffic – unnerving is something of an understatement!!!

We drove a good few miles with hitting anyone or being hit, though I'm still not sure how we managed that, and found ourselves on one of those hills where they film the car chases, with the steep bits punctuated with horizontal intersections:

The steep bits are seriously steep (not like Baldwin St. in Dunedin) but not far off, and the intersections are worrying as you have to stop and give way, which means multiple hill starts, and despite being an automatic, this car did have a tendency to roll back, even in forward drive.

We (and the car) survived that as well and eventually found the impressive bridge, and fortunately drove north over it which didn't involve having to pay. I insisted on a photo for the blog, so we drove around in circles for a while until finding the best road up a nearby hill, which was being used by cyclists for suicide practice at the time.

We stopped at the first parking spot and got out for the photo:

It was windy! And relatively cold. Up until then, San Francisco had seemed very comfortably warm and the air-con in the car was in gratefully used.

So when we'd driven a bit further up the hill and found an even better spot for a photo, this was the most Barbara was prepared to expose:

By then, it was mid evening and time to find a bed for the night, so a random choice of motels on the GPS got us to Novato and a pleasant enough place for the night with free WiFi internet access – full marks on that score.

Tomorrow, time for some serious mileages.

permalink written by  Saros on May 27, 2009 from San Francisco, United States
from the travel blog: The Hairy Animal 2009 World Road Trip
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