annie are you okay

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

If you're going to San Fran Cheesey

That's not how the song goes...but what if it was...

Road Trip Diary: San Francisco

Now, after my counts from the D.C. Trip, one might think Margaret Ila and me to be dirty and uninterested and unfunny people. But, I remind you that we were dealing with a totally different situation here. First of all, the temperature was about 30 degrees (not an exaggeration) cooler on the West Coast, therefore, the CONSTANT need for a shower was not there. We had some issues with electronics and thus could not have taken as many pictures as we each would have wanted. And finally, umm…yeah, the jokes from May, well, my friends, they are STILL FUNNY!

Day 1…really Evening 1: BHM to SFO.

Go time was 2:30 in the afternoon and we arrived in Birmingham approximately an hour later. We checked in with no problems and had no problems getting through security, thanks to Margaret Ila’s through research on the 3-1-1 rule, that’s 3 ounce bottles in one clear and sealable bag per one person. I was not called bulky and life was good. And we took our seats at the departure gate. And we waited. And we saw our 5:00 departure time come and go while still sitting in the Birmingham airport. Rain, my friends, rain. And who wants to fly in the rain? Not me!

It was a rather pleasant flight, we carried most of our luggage on so didn’t really have Lost Luggage Fear Syndrome, although because we carried on, we had to hoist our bags into the overhead compartment. Charlie (my suitcase) nearly took out the guy we were seated with. But, the hoisting was successful in the end.

It was 45 minutes later and we were taking off for Atlanta. And we arrived approximately 28 minutes later. Next departure time was 9:40. We’ve got a while folks. Okay, so what does one want when in Atlanta? A coca-cola and a chick-fil-a ANYTHING! And what do we find? Not a nugget in the joint. But, there is a slice of pizza at the Sabarro. Not only is there a slice of pizza but there is the world’s SLOWEST individual.

Okay, so this lady—if I hadn’t have had my hands full with my one slice and my luggage, I would have taken a picture of her—she had a problem with the bottled cola that was handed to her.

Mind you, the line for the pizza (or big meatball, your choice) has tripled (a little bit of an exaggeration, but really, the line was growing). She prefers the fountain drink. Well, honey, who doesn’t? But, we’re in an airport; planes are taking off right and left, people are fainting from hunger because their Delta Snack Pack © isn’t satisfying enough, take the drink and MOVE ON!

She does no such thing. She requests the fountain drink and then all but counts the number of ice cubes that are put in her cup. After playing Goldie Locks and complaining about their being too much and then too little ice, this chick has it to her liking. Then she takes about 4 minutes to pay. Okay, folks. Airport Fast Food Etiquette says that you pay in cash and you have it ready to hand to the gentleman or lady behind the counter. It should go down in almost Soup Nazi (Seinfeld, guys) fashion.

Finally, we have paid for our slices of pizza and make our way to the $1.75 vending machines to purchase Atlanta’s finest cola. Then we make it to our gate and park it. Okay, so strange thing we start to notice is an obnoxious amount of orange. Now, most of you know that I love Kevin Bacon and I love the color orange. But, really guys, too much is definitely too much, and we were seeing too much. What is going on here? Tennessee’s opener is at Berkeley is what’s going on.

We mentally prepare ourselves that all this orange might board the plane with us at 9:40. While doing so, we notice a man sitting across from us. He’s wearing white pants and a white shirt (it wasn’t Labor Day at the time, so it was acceptable), and the man looks just like Robin Williams.

We’ve got to figure out how to take a picture of this man without really being obvious. We fail a good couple of times, but finally manage a picture of the guy. You decide. I think Robin Williams might like to travel to West Palm Beach.

We also see an Atlanta Hawks player. Margaret Ila RUNS down the hall as if she is late for a flight to get a picture of this gent. Success.

Celebrity Count: 2. Who needs LA when you’ve got the Atlanta Airport!?

Then over the intercom comes a voice. "Sorry folks, we’ve had a collision of aircraft. The gate for the West Palm Beach departure is likely to be changed. I don’t have any more information, but as soon as I do, I will let you know."

Now, when you hear "Aircraft collision," there tends to be a little bit of a panic. I mean, I know that aircraft tend to just fly through clouds, but if pilots are running into things, I don’t take it as a good sign. I don’t know quite what happened, but their plane was deplaned and then folks left the gate.

Soon we experienced some slight déjà vu when we saw our 9:40 departure time come and go while sitting on the seats in the Atlanta airport, not on the plane. And, we saw 10:40 go by.

Don’t worry. By 11:45, we were on the plane and heading towards San Francisco (with no flowers in our hair).

We sit down. Seats A, B, and C. I sit by the window. Margaret Ila gets the middle, and Brian Fellow gets the aisle. We also have Einstein’s cousin in front of us.

Celebrity Count: 4 (still haven’t made it to San Francisco).

Okay, so, Einstein. This man has long-ish white hair, looks like he could be a little smart…and crazy.

Brian Fellow. You all know the SNL skits, right? I couldn’t find a youtube link, but hopefully you are aware (it’s REALLY funny). In our case, Brian Fellow is an elderly lady with a safari jacket on. I’m talking about not only Lions, Tigers, and Bears (oh my!), but also elephants, cougars, jaguars, hippos (okay, I’m not positive about that), etc. This woman also seemed to have a bit of a staring problem. LADY, EYES FORWARD; it’s 11:45 your time, 10:45 my time, and 8:45 in Craig’s time.

We’ve got 5 hours on this plane and have no time for you! We need for the movie to come on (we think it’s gonna be Fracture, and we’ll take it) and for you to leave us be!

Flight attendant comes over the speaker, "We’ve tested the electronic equipment and it appears as though we will not be able to show the film, but please be encouraged by the fact that we are even getting this flight in the air, we almost had to cancel it."

You, Ms. Flight attendant. I don’t think you quite understand. We have been delayed twice. Einstein to the front, Brian Fellow to the right, and WAY TOO MANY VOLUNTEERS on this flight, in the paraphrased words of one of those history guys, "GIVE ME RYAN GOSLING AND ANTHONY HOPKINS or GIVE ME DEATH!" And, ma’am, what do you mean the electronic equipment isn’t quite working right? Does that mean that other plane equipment isn’t working right? Are we doomed?

The plane takes off without incident and while there is much disappointment over the lack of entertainment, we are all surviving. And then there are some screams from a baby. Can’t you drive across the country? Gah! Well, at some point during the five hour flight, Margaret Ila and I get the giggles. And someone SHHHHH’s us! Come on honey? You’re gonna let a kid scream and wake everyone up but you’re gonna SHH some slightly grown up folks for telling some GREAT jokes!?

Then Brian Fellow looks over and starts telling us that we are disturbing people. Oh, I got your disturbance, lady. Don’t test me.

We land in San Francisco at 1:45 their time, 2:45 Eastern, and 1:45 Central time and are greeted by Elvis, the luggage attendent. And we are TIRED. Our checked bags are there! Such a different story from the New York trip. Craig, where are you?
He arrives and we pile into his truck and head down the road to Mountain View. Get me on the futon, it’s time to sleep.

Day 2: Downtown San Francisco.

Wake-up time is approximately 7 or so hours after head-hitting-the-pillow time. We’ve got a plan. We are going to hop on the Cal-Train, when you say it, it sounds like Cow-Train…MOOOO, and then ride down to San Francisco, where we will hop in a cab to be dropped off at Union Square. And all that is a success.

We eat lunch around Union Square, do a little shopping, and we’re ready to hop on the Cable Car up the hill. It’s a hill and a half. And it’s an even great experience (in some capacity) when you are staring at a Volunteer’s behind (That’s what she said).

At the top of the hill we come to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a pleasant place. First stop, GRAYLINE office! We walk around a little bit trying to find it, but find it we do. Or so we thought. We stepped right up, ready to ask some questions, and asked the right questions to the wrong person. This lady wanted us to sign up for a time-share informational meeting. It would just cost us 90 minutes of our time, no obligation to purchase, we’d even get lunch. Ma’am, (a) we’ve already eaten, (b) we are on vacation, we do not have time for 90 minutes with your people.

She said that she would buy our tour tickets if we would go hear the talk. While that does sound like an interesting proposition, we really don’t want to waste that time. Margaret Ila and I are trying our best to come up with a way to let her down easy.

Well, she doesn’t acknowledge that we need time to think up a way to get out of this, she’s already onto the sign-up form. All we have to do to qualify is be American citizens (done), have valid driver’s licenses (done), and make 60 grand a year. At that last statement, we looked at her and started laughing. Ma’am, thank you for thinking that we look like we make that kind of money, but ma’am, I’m a student, she’s a social worker, together we don’t make 60 thousand dollars a year.

But, thank goodness, because we didn’t have to waste 90 minutes hanging out hearing about a time-share that we couldn’t afford.

We go inside and purchase our tickets for a Bay Cruise for Friday night and Tours Galore on Saturday. And we make our way to the cannery for a Hop-On, Hop-Off double decker bus tour.

Those are the best! We totally owned the one we took in DC, and we expected a similar experience on this one. We hop on, quite proudly, take our seats, and get our cameras ready to take pictures of the sights of the city.

What we got was a tour guide named Jack…or Philip, who now goes by Jack Philip Jackelynn. He introduced himself as Philip. But, him mom (yes, his MOM was on the bus) called him Jack. In true Scrubs fashion, he quickly became Jackelynn. He told us a little about a very few things.
(a) about some folks who were gunned down by some cops, maybe. Or maybe it was some cops who were gunned down by some folks?...nevertheless, while I may forget, he repeated over and over: "We will not forget"

(b) the Tenderloin district

(c) the Tender Knob district

Jackelynn...I bet you know.

We rode around the downtown loop and hopped off at Pier 39, my new favorite place. It’s touristy and clean, cute little stores, coffee, and the barking seals (or otters or sea lions or whatever they are). I mean, watch that clip too. These guys are fascinating. I really do think I could have stood there and watched them for about four hours. But, that couldn’t be the case.

Then came the Bay Cruise, not with Captain Jack Sparrow, but let me tell you, this guy to the left was a close second. He did smoke on the ship that allowed No Smoking, but whatever, he's the captain. Let me tell you, it was COLD…but other than that, it was FABULOUS! We saw some international characters. We held onto the rails. We snapped pictures. Went under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Went by Alcatraz (did you know there was an inmate there named Bird Man!?). Saw the sailboats, the skyline, the umbrella (like Rhianna)-balloon surfer people. It was COOL!

Craig came and met us down at Pier 39 and we grabbed dinner…at the Sea Otter Café, no doubt, because, of course, we hadn’t gotten enough of the cool barking animals. Well, we sat and ate it, and then back to Mountain View it was for us.

Day 3: The somewhat Greater San Francisco Area.

We had to get up at the crack of dawn because we had an hour train ride to take before hopping in a cab to be taken to the place where we would meet our tour bus which departed at 9:15. Oh golly, that meant leaving at 7:00 to catch the 7:19 Cal (not Cow) Train. We made it. Also heard about some illegal activity by a strange-looking drug-user (we know this because he was talking about how his girlfriend gave him a gram for his birthday—now, I know, this is San Francisco, home of Gheridelli, so he could have been talking about a gram of chocolate, but somehow I think not. I also wasn’t going to tell him that we should participate in hugs not drugs, because I sure wasn’t getting close enough to him to hug him).

Made it down to San Francisco okay, got in the cab okay, and then we were stopped by a parade. Folks! We are in San Francisco for a limited time, while yesterday’s tour guide was sub-par, we cannot miss the tour! We talk rather loudly about the tour that we fear we will miss and

Mr. Taxi steps on it and we are off.

Mr. Taxi, man, he’s Mr. Taxi operator of the year, because he got us to Fisherman’s Wharf with like 25 minutes to spare. We stood in line and waited our turn to hop on this enclosed double-decker bus.

Up-top we go, behind and across from some Germans. In front off three Australian’s (2 ladies and 1 man, and one of them was the third wheel) and caddy-corner from Wyoming’s Welcome Wagon.

And we saw some great things, back to the Golden Gate Bridge for more photos, the Golden Gate Bridge National Park, the Presidio, like 49 miles of Scenes. At the Golden Gate Bridge stop, we ran into Ms. San Fran Cheesey. This lady, well, she was decked out in all-things-San Fran-gear and when we took our picture with her (because, why wouldn’t you?) she said, "say SAN FRAN CHEESEY." Well, I didn’t say that, but I did note that phrase for later usage.

Ray, our tour guide of the morning, unlike Jack Philip Jackelynn told us about all the celebrities in San Fran, like Robin Williams—we drove by his high school. We drove by OJ’s high school (Juice). We drove by the House of Nanking, the Lady and Sons (Paula Deen’s) of Chinese Food. Ray was pleasant and he would tickle himself (just a phrase). He couldn’t pronounce Tuscaloosa, but he did find the name amusing. If there were an award for Gray Line Tour Guide of the year, it would go to Ray. I need to send a letter.

After our morning tour, we had an hour or so to bum around before we got on the Muir Woods, Sausalito Afternoon tour. So, we went to In and Out, of course. Where Happy Cows, who live in Happy California go to die and be eaten…but, they were good hamburgers, so good job CA.
As we stood in line for the afternoon tour, we wondered who our tour guide for the afternoon would be. And, I’ll be darned, if it wasn’t Ray again! It was going to be a good afternoon, I was positive.

Now, we went to Muir Woods, but were a little afeared that we might not make it to Sausolito because of time issues stemming from the closing of the Bay Bridge for the weekend. Don’t worry, we made it both places.

Muir Woods. We didn’t take too much time there, but it was nice. Not only do they have Happy Cows in California, they also have extremely tall and wide trees.

Back on the bus to Sausalito, America’s best city, I think. They had ice cream, sail boats, and art galleries, all for the viewing (and the ice cream for the tasting). Man, it was a pretty place. Touristy enough to be fun, but not enough to be obnoxious or dirty.

We came back from that tour and were dropped off at Pier 39 with only one goal in mind. Find somewhere to watch the Tennessee Cal-Berkeley game. Destination: Wipe-Out. So, this place was a little slow, but that was okay, we had football to watch. We sat outside in the awesome weather that got progressively a little chilly…don’t worry, they had outside heaters. And the result? Roll Tide. As Jonathan King says, "Any Tennessee loss is an Alabama victory," which means that Alabama won twice in one weekend, amen?!

Craig came and met us down there and we hopped in his truck for Mission Cream-Puffs. We failed, just to go ahead an alleviate your suspense. We could not find the Cream-Puff store (what in the world is a cream puff?) We might have found it eventually, but it was definitely closed. And Craig almost took out a innocent pedestrian in the process. CRAIG!

On the way back to Mountain View, we decided to stop in Palo Alto to see if they made Cream Puffs. They do not, just in case you were thinking about making that trip. Back to Mountain View.

Day 4: San Jose, Palo Alto, Sonoma, Berkeley, Oakland, and Santa Cruz

We stopped first at a San Jose Starbucks were I added a Starbucks City cup to my collection.

Next stop, Palo Alto by day to get a glimpse of Stanford’s campus. We stopped at an open-air mall to purchase our Stanford gear because the bookstore was not open on Sunday. I tell you what, open-air malls, fantastic! And this was an excellent one!

We traveled next, down to Sonoma Valley. Cool place. They had a lot of grapes there. It was HOT!, but a different kind of hot, as you would imagine. Tolerable. We wondered around. Saw some defeated Tennesseeians drinking off their moral and game defeat from the previous night.

Next came Berkeley by day. Well, this is what I’ll say about Berkeley, they got one great Library with some great bathroom facilities, and a statue of Einstein sitting on a bench welcoming you to the library. Good job Berkeley. We also saw a man who looked so stressed out and fatigued that he might jump off the library landing. Funny that classes weren’t in session yet, but maybe he had a stressful semester coming up? Who knows.

We drove through Oakland (not Michigan) by dusk, and it was nice. Didn’t really stop to do anything, just saw it from the car, but I can’t complain about it. It treated me just fine.
And then on to Santa Cruz. Took wayyyy too long to get there, and the Bad Ass Coffee Co. was closed by the time we got there. Shame too, because if we had known that upon our return the Bad Ass Tuscaloosa branch would have changed its name, we would have insisted they let us in to purchase Bad Ass gear. Oh well. We went to Pizza My Heart. We walked around. It was pretty cool…and way to busy. We stepped out onto the beach. Didn’t make it to the water. It was cold outside.
Done with Santa Cruz, back to Mountain View we go. We need that precious 4 hours of sleep on the futon before we have to get up and go to the airport.

Day 5: SFO to ATL to BHM

It was a 3:45 awake time and a 4:00 departure time from Mountain View. Charlie was thrown into the back of the truck and away we went. After our drop-off at the airport, we hung around our gate until take-off-time. So, you know what? No celebrity sightings in the airport (real or fake), but we did see some interesting things. I was quite worried about some glass bottles shattering due to employee handling or pressure or whatever thousands of feet in the air will do to glass. Well, don’t fret, the bottles made it. But, what I was really concerned about was the gerbil on board. Yes, this woman brought her pet gerbil on the plane with her. Now, I know that dogs and cats have been known to travel on planes, and survive. But, gerbils are little. I was worried whether it would it explode. I haven’t seen snakes on a plane. But, I just thought that Exploding Gerbil on Plane would make a horrific real-life Life Time movie. Plus, the woman carrying this gerbil, man, it appeared as if the gerbil was her life. If that gerbil had lost its life, I don’t know what we would have done, but it would be bad news.

Fortunately, there were no screams, and while I did not see a breathing gerbil exit the plane in Atlanta, I imagine that there was a happy ending. Not positive, of course. On the flight from SFO to ATL, we did have a movie and two seats on our row. No Brian Fellow and Fantastic Four. Great combination. Of course, I had Mr. Tennessee who couldn’t understand that it is impolite to use the seat-back function when NO ONE ELSE ON THE PLANE IS AT 6:00 in the morning! RUDE! Well, I made my annoyance quite apparent by talking loudly about etiquette and digging my knee as far and as hard as I could into the back of his seat. I am not 5 feet plus 2 inches, folks, these legs need room, and I needed it from Mr. Tennessee at that moment. And I was denied.

Thankfully, when we landed in Atlanta, we were done with our weekend of Tennessee orange. And I LOVE the color orange. I was just ready for it and its people to leave me be! They went in another direction. We sat down. I went and got some Ben and Jerry’s and was ready for my 26 minute flight back to Birmingham. It was unproductive, except for I swear I saw a cloud that looked like Garfield.

And when we arrived and went down to the baggage claim, there Charlie the Tuna Suitcase was just a waiting on me.


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