Our trip got off to a good start. We arrived at the airport early, and found the flight delayed an hour due to conditions in San Francisco. We boarded and discovered that we were on a brand new A330, with the new-plane smell and everything. The thrill of that realization wore off the second the captain came on the intercom to tell us that they weren’t quite ready to fly yet; there was still some paperwork that needed completing before SFO would allow them to land. A while later, he told us they were awaiting an engine check: they had to run the engines, shut them down, check for oil, and then start them up again. It would probably take another hour or so. People on the plane got a little uptight about that, but we were trapped. And I was a little concerned maybe they had just assembled the airplane right on the tarmac, and which case it hadn’t even been checked for airworthiness yet.
We passed the time arguing about whether the airplane left the planet when it flew. She said that the atmosphere was part of the planet, so technically no. I maintained that she was full of crap. An hour and a half later, we were flying. They passed out headphones and switched on the back-of-seat entertainment for free, to quell our collective crabbiness. Stephanie announced, ‘Dude! They totally pimped this ride!’ and started watching The Notebook, even though I told her I’d make fun of her if she started bawling over that movie again.
I didn’t want to be in-seat entertained because I was knitting, but I did switch on the map. Man, that map is awesome. It told me where I was flying. Like South Dakota and the corner of Wyoming and Utah. Finally California. It told me we were averaging 550mph, how far we had come, how far we had to go, and that it was -60 degrees outside. And then all of that again in metric, as if I cared. It showed the entire western hemisphere, in case we got hijacked to Venezuela. If it involved the Middle East, we were on our own.
We arrived in SF around noon, and took the AirTrain to the BART. Being the awesome travel planner that I am, our hotel was located about 20 steps from the BART station at Powell Street. We checked in and then wandered through the Metreon and Yerba Buena Gardens on our way to find us some Pad Thai.
After lunch, we took the trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf. I was so less-than-charmed with Fisherman’s Wharf the last time I was there than I had missed the sea lions, so I was on a mission to see them. They were awesome, as long as their smell wasn’t wafting in our direction. They reminded me of my cats. I even made a movie of them.
We wandered through Fisherman’s Wharf, down to Ghirardelli Square. I don’t really get the whole chocolate empire thing, but it seemed to be a big draw. For some reason, we had already managed to do a ton of walking, even though I swore I was going to lay off and take public transport as much as possible (I was still having trouble with my ankle from the 3day in September). So we hobbled over to the cable-car turnaround nearby and waited to go up Russian Hill, one of the steepest in the city. Last year, I climbed it. This year, I was riding.
We dismounted at Powell Street and walked through Chinatown on the way back to the hotel. It was getting cold, possibly even colder than in Minnesota. On the way back, we discovered that the hotel strike has just begun. The sound of bullhorns, whistles, and banging on overturned buckets was to become the soundtrack to our stay there, together with the much-more-charming ‘dingding!’ of the cable cars.
Back at the hotel, we put on warmer clothes and headed over to meet Jay for dinner at the ‘fake-meat Chinese place’ in the Tenderloin. The tamarind beef was so good, I considered replacing my usual fantasies with memories of dinner. Tired as hell, we made our way back to the hotel, weaving our way through street people and hotel strikers. I promptly passed out because I can sleep through anything; my sister stayed awake most of the night listening to cable cars (we were right above the Powell St turnaround), the resident street preacher, and sirens.