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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Middlerun Does America, Day 4

On Monday I went for a wander towards Chinatown. I stopped off at a McDonald's in the financial district for a late breakfast and/or early lunch in the hope of observing some interesting differences from Australian McDonald'ses, but it was pretty much the same with the exception of Spanish parts of the menu.

After eating I went up to Chinatown and wandered down the main street, stopping in a few interesting looking shops. One place had full-size wooden swords for four dollars, and all sorts of tacky San Francisco and Chinatown-specific souvenirs. Another had bobbleheads of hundreds of characters from Star Wars, Star Trek and various non-star-related movies, TV shows, etc.

After seeing the sights of Chinatown I got on a bus to go see the Golden Gate Bridge. The number 28 Muni bus dumps you at a carpark near the bridge, with a snack stand and gift shop. I went to the viewing platform, snapped a few photos, then set off walking the footpath along the side of the bridge. I'd originally planned to walk all the way across and back, but when I got there and realised just how long the thing is, I changed my mind and just walked to the first tower. I figure the second tower looks much like the first so really it would be redundant to go more than halfway.

After walking back to land, I set off for the other, lesser known attraction in the area, Fort Point. Fort Point was built before the Civil War to defend the bay (from zombies, I believe), and sits right below the bridge. Originally they were going to knock it down to build the bridge, but upon visiting the fort, the engineers were so charmed by it that they changed the design of the bridge to preserve the historic site. So now there's a little arch which goes over the fort before the main suspension part of the bridge begins (visible here).

The path down to Fort Point was very long and a bit difficult to navigate, but eventually I got there. I wandered about, snapping a few photos and reading about the history and living conditions of the fort. There were a few old cannons hanging around, but sadly I couldn't find any gunpowder to try them out with. By the time I got to the top of the fort a strong, cold wind had picked up and I foolishly neglected to bring a jumper so I took a few photos and went back to the carpark.

Before I left I checked out the gift shop, which as expected was full of tacky stuff, all of which will someday end up in boxes in people's attics. Though I was amused by some mugs in the gift shop which were semicircular, and said on the side "San Francisco was so expensive, I could only afford half a mug."

I hopped on the next bus to head back into the city. Unfortunately I didn't realise until I got to Golden Gate Park that I'd caught the bus going in the wrong direction. Luckily I was able to easily transfer onto another bus heading back the right way. The route went through Haight-Ashbury, which looked pretty interesting, and I made a mental note to check it out later.


At one point there was a removal truck stopped in the street, which the bus driver attempted to drive around. The thing about the Muni buses is, they're electric, but they don't run on batteries. Every Muni bus has two long stalks which jut out from the roof and connect to overhead wires which run everywhere the buses go. The stalks can swivel and tilt quite a lot which gives the bus lots of freedom of movement, but it's still a significant restriction compared to a normal petrol bus. When the bus driver tried to go around the truck, the stalks ended up hitting the truck and disconnecting from the overhead wires, causing the bus to stop and the lights to go out. I guess there was an emergency battery, because very slowly we drove past the truck and pulled over. The driver then got out like it was no big deal, walked around to the back of the bus and presumably climbed up onto the roof to manually reconnect the power connectors. The lights came back on, the driver got back in and we were on our way.

Looking at my map I realised the bus route would take me pretty close to the Castro, San Francisco's legendary gay district, so I figured I might as well have a look. I got out at Divisadero Street, which turns into Castro Street if you go south, walked down it and wandered through the Castro a bit. It was pretty gay. Satisfied with this, I walked up 16th Street to catch the BART back towards the hostel.

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