Saturday, September 17, 2005

Day 13 - 'Sign' me up please

Day 13 from San Francisco where the wife is headed to Fisherman’s Wharf to see the Aquarium of the Bay and where I sit in the room, resting my tortured back muscles (an old, OLD football injury some 38 years ago). Outside on the Michael Douglas-less Streets of San Francisco, a major motorcycle ride has just passed the hotel and it has suddenly gotten quiet enough to hear the seagulls.
For such a major tourist destination, San Francisco is not THAT visitor-friendly to those driving into the city. It is bad enough to navigate the many streets in places like Chinatown, North Beach, Castro District, Twin Peaks, Union Square and others. But there is a distinct lack of signage to help one know where in the hell he is going.
Signage depletion is a universal problem; not just in San Francisco. If you try to find a national monument or park, those signs are usually brown – but not always and they don’t always exist. Nothing is worse than trying to “follow the signs to …” and being unable to … follow. It tends to make the cranky driver crankier and make the passenger even bitchier.
But that’s a whole other problem, thank you.
Jodie and I have seen plenty of San Francisco neighborhoods as we either search for the hotel or try to make a left turn. Coming from the Presidio area, we avoided going on the Golden Gate Bridge (we planned that for the next day) and turned onto Southbound California Highway 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway in other parts) to go through Golden Gate Park (which is different from Golden Gate National Recreation Area – home to Alcatraz, Fort Point, Fort Mason and the Presidio, now home to George Lucas’ film/studio operations).
However, the traffic flow did not permit left turns for five miles, well past where we knew where we were going. Eventually, a few calmer nerves and the ability to decipher the hotel map landed us safe and sound in the $25 per night parking lot.
Just to be safe, Jodie took the F-line to Fisherman’s Wharf. The next time we use the Escape will be to escape to Southern Oregon.
Traffic lights in California offer a mixed bag. In Los Angeles, we liked the second traffic signal for left turns, located right by your left elbow – almost at eye level. In San Francisco, the lights are difficult to see, located at the sides of intersections and often blinded by sunlight.
Plus, I’ve never seen such poorly time stoplights in my life in San Francisco. It caused humungous traffic jams without benefit of accidents, merely because cars could only inch forward while waiting for the next light to turn green. One block at a time does not accentuate the positive.
And lack of signage has got us $35 for illegally parking on a 12 percent incline without our wheels turned. Who knew? No out-of-towner, that’s for sure.
We were at Ghirardelli Square, looking for a quick parking space. One was sighted at the corner on Larkin Street and we turned into a driveway and stopped in front of the cafĂ© for a little (or a lot for Jodie) chocolate buying. After a rest room stop, we returned to the car (not more than 15 minutes having elapsed) to find this ticket - parking violation, pay $35 and do not pass “go” or pass the streetcars.
The law makes sense but where we parked, there are no visible signs. Aha! Grounds for a challenge! I think a vehicle from out-of-state with a handicap placard hanging in the windshield might earn one a slight break from such a cold response.
A letter, when I return, to the Department of Traffic and Parking, plus a copy to Mayor Gavin Newsom, will be forthcoming when I return to Texas. I will offer my thoughts and my observations and make the man an offer. I’ll chip in $35 to his favorite charity but I think the ticket is unfair because of the lack of local knowledge and the lack of signage within clear view of our parking spot.
We’ll see if I can leave only my heart, and not my wallet, in San Francisco.

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