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TR: Nicest People in the World: S.F.,Sonoma,Carmel

The Sea
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TR: Nicest People in the World: S.F.,Sonoma,Carmel
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Little windows of our trip are contained in a few of my previous and recent posts, but I wanted to acknowledge the unbelievable graciousness of Californians from Sonoma to Big Sur. The scenery is unique, the food is wonderful, but the welcome from the people we met will draw us back.

I'll write more here about the hotels we stayed in, public transportation, various tours we took etc. once I get some rest.

Thanks to all. You helped make our trip so memorable.

Santa Cruz...
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1. Re: TR: Nicest People in the World: S.F.,Sonoma,Carmel
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So glad your trip was enjoyable. Will look forward to your trip reports.

The Sea
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2. Re: TR: Nicest People in the World: S.F.,Sonoma,Carmel
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We had a great visit.

We arrived late in the evening on Friday. Our cab ride from the airport to the hotel was nerve wracking however. The cab driver's speed exceeded 95 mph the entire trip on the freeway. I asked him to slow it down a bit; he didn't seem to listen. I know they're trying to get as many fares in as possible, but jeez!

The Chancellor Hotel is just great. Of course our room was ready and it was immaculate, charming and certainly big enough for our 4 night stay. The room decor is really lovely. Of course the bathrooms are also clean and well-maintained but they could use a bit of an update. The tubs are huge though and the lovely shampoo and body lotion were an unexpected surprise. The location is really superb, customer service is amazing here. I would recommend this hotel to any visitor. There are niumerous good restaurants in the neighborhood and the trolley is right outside the door. The hotel tour assistant in the lobby was an invaluable source of information. It was the perfect place to stay.

After having a drink at the bar at Scala's across the street in the Sir Francis Drake hotel, we grabbed a quick bite at Lori's Diner (actually very good for what it was. I had a yummy spinach omelet). We hopped on the trolley and rode down to Market. While we were switching cars, an older gentleman came up to me and gave me his muni-pass. He said he was finished with it for the day and would appreciate it if I'd use it for the rest of the evening. This was incredibly generous and much appreciated.

It was a beautiful evening and we continued back up Powell, past Lombard street and on to Ghirardelli Square. The views were amazing! It was a very quiet night, the stars were out and it wasn't terribly cold. People jumped on and off the trolley at various stops and the driver gave me and my husband a running commentary on what we were seeing. He was a great tour guide. What I'll remember most is how quiet the ride was. We felt like we were the only trolley car still running in the city.

We ended our ride, opened the hotel room window, turned on the ceiling fan and fell asleep to the very pleasant sound of the trolley bell.

Down Under
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for San Francisco
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3. Re: TR: Nicest People in the World: S.F.,Sonoma,Carmel
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Looking forward to the rest of it.

--
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4. Re: TR: Nicest People in the World: S.F.,Sonoma,Carmel
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Thanks for the great first installment of a trip report!

One note of clarification is that those "trolleys" you had running in front of the hotel, and which you were graced to get a conductor who shared his knowledge of the City were actually Cable Cars. "Trolleys" refer to transit vehicles which pull power from an overhead line by a pole (or pair of poles) affixed to the top of the vehicle; in other parts of the country and world what we call streetcars are sometimes called trolleys. Although I grew up in the City calling streetcars trolleys (riding the streamlined PCC streetcars, which were all MUNI had at the time, was a major treat when I was little), I've been since told that we don't use the term because both MUNIs electric buses (also drawing power from overhead lines) and streetcars are both technically trolleys. In proximity to your hotel trolley powered vehicles run up and down Market street both on the street and below ground.

San Francisco
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Great report! Can't wait for the rest!!

I was wandering about with a couple from out of town and as we crossed Powell at Union Square I had them look down between the cable car tracks. They were amazed to see the cable moving below the street (OK, not sure *how* they thought they were propelled, but still it is different).

Forestville...
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This is why EVERYONE needs to visit the Cable Car Museum and Powerhouse (www.cablecarmuseum.org) at least once. Seeing is believing, indeed!

The Sea
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Thanks for the clarification. Mass transit in S.F. is fantastic.

Santa Cruz...
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Oh, you caught the spirit of the City. More, more.

San Francisco...
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9. Re: TR: Nicest People in the World: S.F.,Sonoma,Carmel
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Thanks for your kind comments about people in San Francisco! It appears you did not meet many of the scary or scroungy characters who have given the City a bad reputation among many visitors or outsiders, and caused many TA posters to ask whether they will be safe. :)

We look forward to the rest of your reports and all the things you saw and did (and more about the great folks you met too).

Indeed, the cable cars are propelled by the cable under the street. A cable car has no motive power. The only energy source on board is a generator for the lights. All power is from huge motors in the barn that operate endless cables in vaults under the streets. The cables are always moving at a speed of 9 mph. The cable car has a grip that fits into the slot and grabs the cable to move the car along.

A cable car cannot exceed 9 mph--unless (eeek) 1) it's disengaged from the cable and runs away, or 2) the cable breaks.

There are several ways to slow or stop cable cars. By gripping the cable, the 9 mph speed is maintained. Then there is coasting, letting go the cable on the level or upgrade. A third is the wheel brake, iron shoes that work like a brake on any vehicle wheel. The gripman and conductor have hand levers for these. A fourth is the track brake, which is engaged with front and rear foot pedals by either or both crew members. The brake shoes are of soft pine wood because it creates better friction with the track. These blocks last about 3 days, less in wet weather.

All cars and parts are made in San Francisco at the cable car construction division and metal fabrication shop, both of which I had the pleasure of visiting regularly for professional reasons years ago. It's fascinating to see a cable car being built from scratch by skilled carpenters, and every replacement part made with the skills of a blacksmith. There is no other place on Earth to get them. Cables in service are inspected each day, and every half century or so the entire system is overhauled.

In case you wondered, a cable car can "stop on a dime." Very rarely, all the brake systems fail or there is a dire emergency when they're inadequate. That's when the emergency brake is called upon. The red lever is farthest forward from the gripman--little chance of mistaking it for anything else. An iron wedge is jammed into the slot and is literally welded to it by the heat of friction. An acetylene torch is needed to free it. Folks will be going to the hospital, because riders get flung around inside or off the side steps. This brake is the alternative to T-boning a school bus or running out of control down Hyde Street at 40 mph and flattening people at Aquatic Park.

The powerhouse at Mason and Washington contains the Cable Car Museum, where you can see exhibits, historic cable cars, and the actual machinery and cables. If you didn't see it on this visit, put it on your wish list for next time.

The Cable Car Museum and Streetcar Museum websites have scads of info and pictures of San Francisco rail transit.

http://www.cablecarmuseum.org/index.html

http://www.streetcar.org/index.html

The Sea
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10. Re: TR: Nicest People in the World: S.F.,Sonoma,Carmel
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Amazing post, Frisco_Roadrunner and thank-you for taking the time to share all that information.

Regarding our safety: We take full responsibility for maintaining our safety when we travel. We didn't venture too far afield and didn't assume all parts of the city were tourist destinations. We did what thousands of visitors do and were perfectly safe. I think one of the biggest mistakes tourists make is to drink too much and assume that all parts of a city will welcome them. That's just naive.

Anyway: the people constantly asking for money are a reality in San Francisco. I don't have the answer to this phenomenon but I know S.F. isn't the only city dealing with homelessness, mental illness and crime. These issues are a reality in every American city. I have to say I was particularly intrigued with the story of the people who live in the trees in Golden Gate Park. Now that's a bit unique, isn't it?

One of the neighborhood regulars met us every night as we were returning to the hotel. He sang to us as we walked, he asked first if he was bothering us (he wasnt'), and since he had a wonderful voice we paid him. I put money in the cup in front of the living statues and I dropped a bill in front of the time stepping tap dancer at the end of Powell and Market. Everyone else is of course free to do what they want when they visit but these people, in these locations, are not threats to one's safety.

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