San Francisco Travel Blog

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San Francisco's official crookedest street

So, lots to tell again.

We moved hostels to a place called the Green Tortoise, those of you that pay attention may remember that we stayed in a place by the same name in Seattle. Its located in the heart of China Town, great if you want to buy weird fruit and veg, terrible if, like us you have to rely on public transport, namely the bus. Getting on the bus is a nightmare as there is absolutely no queing system (Im British, its in my blood to queue!), as soon as the bus opens its doors its a free for all.

Locked up in Alcatraz
The worst culprits are the old folk, they barge and shove their way past you and scramble madly to get into the seats vacated by people getting off the bus. Speaking of, getting off is just as bad, those old folk that barge onto the bus dont actually wait for you to get off the bus before barging on so you are almost knocked flat by them trying to get through you to your seat.

On Saturday we took the cable car up to the top of Lombard St. Its called the 'crookedest street in North America'. Its a very short but very steep and windy road. We thought we were being quite clever by going to see a road but it seems so did every other tourist in San Fran as there were tons of people milling about taking pictures. It seems that for the past seven years on Easter Sunday there is a rather unusual event that takes place on this road.

Contestants in BYOBW 08
It called BYOBW (bring your own big wheel), the event consists of grown men and women sitting on childrens bikes, trikes, scooters, and anything else that has wheels and hurtling down the hill as fast as they can!

Now this sounded like great fun to watch so of course we decided to go. We found out through their website that this year the location had changed to Vermont st and decided to go after visiting Acatraz.

We got the 10.30am tour to Alcatraz, along with a cruiser full of other people. The ride over was very quick, taking less than ten minutes. We disembarked onto the pier where a ranger was giving us a brief overview of the island and telling us where we could pick up the audio tour headsets. We first went into one of the buildings and watched a short program on the Island which had been made for the Discovery channel.

Trekking back up the hill to start again
I didnt know that Alcatraz started its life as a Military outpost, protecting the Californian coast against attack. It was then turned into a Military prison, later being changed into a government facility which housed the worst of the worst criminals.

After the film we all trooped up to the old shower block and collected our headsets. The audio tour was narrated by ex guards and ex inmates. The narrators guided us around the facilty, telling us where to look and gave us the history on each section of the jail. It was very strange to walk into a tiny jail cell, just big enough to contain a small cot bed, a toilet, sink and a chair. The guards and the inmates both said the real torture of Alcatraz was not the cramped conditions or the monotonous routine but the view. The Rock lies 1.2 miles off the San Francisco coast, close enough to see cars filled with people going about their business, and on New Years, close enough to hear the laughter of party goers. This torture was what drove certain men to escape attempts, some tried to shoot their way out and were killed (some during the initial escape attempt and others later executed for their part in it) while a group of three men dug their way out of their cells with spoons. They managed to dig round the vent in their cell into the utility walkway behind and crawled up the pipes to the roof where they then scaled the walls and disappeared. They were never caught, many believe they drowned though their bodies were never found.

Once back from the Rock we trekked our way over to the unofficial crookedest street in North America. We arrived slightly later than intended but still arrived just in time to see the first people come bombing down the hill. Then there was hundreds of people whizzing by, every now and then crashing into the slower moving people in front of them. It was quite a sight, many of the participants were wearing fancy dress for the occasion and once they reached the bottom of the hill they started back up to go again. That is of course if their vehicle was still in working order. We saw many wheels come tumbling down the hill independent of their carriage. It was quite a brutal event, we saw many peope crash into the hundreds of spectators lining the route and a fair number of participants got knocked off their feet by vehicles coming down the hill at a termendous speed with the driver not being able to stop. There were many bleeding elbows, knees, backs and Im sure a few faces too.

We had been waiting for a Credit card to arrive so we could hire a car, no where would rent us one as the only car we have is in my name. They wanted the driver (that would be Rachel) to be the card holder too. On Tuesday we finally decided we couldnt wait any longer so we went down to the car rental place to see if we could blag it with a Debit card instead. Turns out we could so we are now driving down Highway 1, South along the Californian coast to LA and it is beautiful! But more on that little adventure next time.

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San Franciscos official crookedes…
San Francisco's official crookede…
Locked up in Alcatraz
Locked up in Alcatraz
Contestants in BYOBW 08
Contestants in BYOBW 08
Trekking back up the hill to start…
Trekking back up the hill to star…