My second Saturday in San Francisco was not blessed by the weather gods. This was unfortunate, since my crew was booked for an outdoor activity the bulk of the afternoon.
About a week before I moved, I changed my Groupon city to San Francisco. The day I switched it, the deal of the day was for discounted registration to Challenge Nation‘s SF Urban Challenge. Having had to miss the Great Milwaukee Race last year due to work and still needing to explore my new city, I thought it would be a good idea to get a small non-competitive team together. I recruited Ritu and Ingrid, and Ingrid convinced her friend Nicolette to sign up with us for team “Brew To Bay.”
Ritu and I got up and ate some breakfast, watching the rain out the windows. We opted to wear exercise gear along with our Wisconsin-related t-shirts for the event. We darted over to the Muni stop, getting close to our “go time,” but ended up having to wait a little longer than planned. As much as Muni is totally OFF schedule (hey, I worked for transit, I know it happens – although MCTS is much, much for reliable), the nice thing is that at some point San Franciscans agreed to fund NextBus technology, so even when it’s late you can go online, text, or check the digital signs in some bus shelters to find out when the next one is coming. Magic. And a huge improvement to quality of life for a relatively small cost.
Ingrid lives about two blocks from Fort Mason’s Great Meadow, where registration was located. She and Nicolette had brunch plans, so we just agreed to register on our own and rendezvous at 1 p.m. when clues were handed out. Registration took about five seconds and Ritu and I realized the oranges and biscuit enjoyed in the morning weren’t going to cut it. She suggested we walk over to Mel’s Drive-In on Lombard to grab some quick grub. Unfortunately it was really busy and I had to scarf my The Haven’s Famous Vegetarian Sandwich when it arrived. Bummer too, as the veggies (especially the avocado) were incredible. While there we did find out about bombing Libya. Sort of surreal to watch that news in a ’50s style diner.
We sprinted back to the Great Meadow and got the clue sheet (handed out at 12:59). We opted to just meet our two other teammate’s back at Ingrid’s, since by this time it was pouring. The clue sheets were wet already.
So yes, we weren’t allowed to use anything but public transportation or feet to get around, but smart phones and computers were fine to decodify the clues. There were 12 clues, we were supposed to complete 11. And by complete, we had to take photos of each stop. Nicolette has these and I’ll be posting a follow up to the blog with the clues and photos once I see ’em.
Once we started in on the clues though, we were pretty disappointed. Logistically it would be difficult to cover the whole city in just 4 hours (and Ingrid had to be at a volunteer gig at 5, so we really had to maximize our time), but while we’d thought this event may take us some obscure or neighborhoody places, it did not. Nope, instead we had to fight throngs of tourists and begin our “race” in the Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39 area. I hadn’t been down there since I was 10, and unless I need fresh bread or fish, I don’t see a reason to go back often. Imagine if they plopped the tacky shops of The Dells right smack on the middle of Milwaukee’s Lakefront. Yes, not my favorite part of San Francisco.
We next ran into the obstacle, that the public transportation that we could have used to cover the large distance from Pier 39 to the Ferry Building was PACKED. We continued walking in the rain, Ritu and I with soaked running shoes and Ingrid and Nicolette with blisters from the rain boots they’d worn. When the clock hit 3:30 and the skies opened up again as we reached the fountain in the Yerba Buena gardens, we decided to call it a day, grab some hot apple cider (and a fresh out of the oven oatmeal raisin cookie) at The Grove, and relax for a few moments.
Obviously this would have been better in the sun, but I’m not sure if I would’ve *loved* the event either way. This wasn’t “real” San Francisco — even a newbie could tell that. But what do you expect from an organization that plans these across the country? Well, the $25 Groupon was worth it for a bonding day with friends old and new. And Ingrid’s “Fit-o-Meter” tabbed that we walked 7 miles. So go Team!
After a quick stop back at the condo to enjoy a nice hot shower, I donned some red and white clothing and headed to the nearby Phoenix to watch the Wisconsin game. I slowly staked out a prime spot at the bar (started a table, moved to the wrong end of the bar for the correct TV, and finally to a good spot) and sipped my Anchor Steam, before switching to the delicious Lagunita’s IPA. A friend of mine in town for work was supposed to text when done with an evening event, so I planned to camp out in a solo spot until she could meet up.
The game was delayed, so I watched the tense ends of the 2OT San Diego State/Temple game and the Butler/Pitt game. The guy next to me threw a fit at the calls at the end of the latter and literally stomped out of the bar, the guy next to him and I were like “Uh, what just happened?” Another dude took his spot and the Badgers began. So did this new guy’s clapping each time K-State scored. Turned out he was an alum, and polite, so we cordially cheered for our respective teams. It’s so weird to be somewhere where people cheer for all 64 (or 68 whatever it is now) teams in the tourney.
When I got up to use the restroom I did spot a guy in a Marquette shirt, but he was with a big group, so our conversation was brief and awkward. I liked the solo folks at the bar later. As the game was wrapping up some other guys came in and took the spots on the opposite side of me, that had been previously occupied by the most boring date ever. It was an early date, but overhearing the conversation was painful. These friendly, funny new people were a welcome change, especially since they agreed to cheer for Wisconsin if they sat there.
Before I knew it, it was 10:30 and time for me to hit the hay for 10 miles in the morning. I also realized I hadn’t eaten dinner, as my friend got stuck at work all night. Whoops.