Saturday, June 18, 2005

Around San Francisco in a Day? Sure, why not! Part 2

The carnival was very lively. Numerous bands/troupes were playing live music. All the music had (obviously) a latino feel to it and was pretty foot-tapping too. We started "peyt pooja" again. First it was garlic fries, followed by roasted corn cobs, followed by mango sherbet. By this time our stomachs were crying for mercy. So we stopped plying more food onto it and instead just browsed among the various non-food stalls. Surprisingly, unlike the music, most of the handicrafts had an Indian feel to it!! They looked pretty Indian and when we asked where they were from, the sellers confirmed our suspicion that they were from india. Obviously they were way overpriced over what would have been charged by Indian foot-path hawkers and so our purses remained shut.

After touring around the entire stretch of the carnival road, we decided to proceed to Pier 39. Just as we reached the bart station 16th St, we spotted a bus at the bus-stop and ran and jumped into it. The bus driver said that he would take us as close to the Pier as possible and then we could take the tram.

After a long and pretty uneventful ride (during which we discovered that certain parts of SF looked very much like any Indian city), we got off to get our tram connection. The tram was very crowded. Nonetheless, we got ourselves seats and arrived at the Pier after a short ride. It was around 7.00p then.

All this while a doubt had been niggling at the back of my mind. I remembered that there was something unusual about caltrain timings on weekends. The service stopped early or sth like that - but for the life of me I couldnt put my finger on what! As luck would have it, our numerous attempts to procure a Caltrain timetable since noon had failed. So I called my room-mate up to ask her when the last train back to San Jose was. She wasnt there and so I just left her a message.

15 minutes later, at 7.15, when we were fast becoming a merry part of the merry crowds at Pier 39, I found that I had missed my roomie's return call and she had left a message stating that the last train back to San jose left at 8.00p. Panic!! Now, I wasnt sure if this was the case because I distinctly remembered the service running till a later time on weekends. But, considering that there was just 45 minutes for us to dash back to the caltrain station if this was true, there was no time to verify this information.

By the time we got out of fisherman's wharf, it was close to 7.25p. Adventurers not being so easily defeated, we stood in the serpentine queue waiting for the tram. As the clock ticked, our hopes of any tram appearing began wearing out. We were contemplating getting a cab when the tram appeared. By the time half of the zillion passengers ahead of us got in, the tram was full and just left, leaving us still waiting on the kerb. Mercifully, the next tram appeared minutes later and we hopped in. Then, dashing our hopes of a speedy ride to the caltrain station, the driver said that the tram wouldnt go to the caltrain station but - we could take the bus, which, fortunately, stopped just a block away from where we stood. So we hopped out of the tram and ran in the direction the driver had indicated.

As we ran, we spotted the bus we needed to take. Only, it was pulling out of the bus-station before we were anywhere near it. Defeat stared at us in the face and I began scanning the road for taxicabs. Then S excitedly exclaimed that the bus was caught in a traffic jam and if we ran after it, there was still a chance that we might actually catch it.

So, there we were, two girls sprinting madly after a slow-moving bus. Eventually we caught up with the bus as it stood at the signal. We tapped on the door and the startled driver let us in. As we sat inside, panting, the clock struck 7.40p. We congratulated ourselves on our success at getting into the bus. Given that the bus stopped directly at the caltrain station and that the road to the caltrain station, being fairly straight from where we are, shouldnt take too long to traverse, we decided that we would make it for the 8.00p train.

We were right about the first part. As for the road being straight, whats the point of the route being straight - the bus decided to take us on a mini-tour of San Francisco before taking us to the Caltrain station. And we gnashed our teeth at every slow-down, groaned at every red light, complained about every stop. Eventually, even our laid-back driver got the drift that we were trying hard to get somewhere by 8.00p and speeded through green-lights instead of sauntering slowly up to every green light till it turned red as had been his wont earlier.

Anyway, as it turned 7.58p the bus stopped at the caltrain station. We hopped off and we crossed the road on red-light to get into the station. Hallelujah, the train was still there!! And then I realized, due the malfunctioning ticket machine of the morning, we did not yet have our return ticket and had to buy it before we could board the train. Nervously, we both plunged our credit cards into the machine - my processing went quicker and I triumphantly turned around with two tickets clutched in my hand - to see the train slowly pulling out of the station. I could have sat on the ground and wept. S was too stunned to speak. And then the funny side struck us and we both burst out laughing. Here we were with two caltrain tickets - with no caltrain to board it with.

Then two helpful caltrain-affliated souls, who had seen the entire drama of our mad dash into the station, told us that we could still take a cab to the next caltrain station and get into it there. By now, we were quite assured of our luck having changed and hence werent too suprised when we could not find a single cab in sight. So we enquired about further options and one of the guys said that we could still catch the 10p train though it was a long wait. And we were like, 10p? Isnt 8p the last train? And then it all came back to me. On weekends, the caltrain runs till 12a, but if you missed the 8p train, you had to wait for 2 hours for the next train instead of the usual hour's wait. That was what was unusual and that not 8p was the last train. Aaaaargh my roomie with her button-eyes (later it turned out that she had inadvertently missed a column)! The caltrain guy continued with his suggestions of things to do. By this time though, we had run out of all energy and of all the various fun things he suggested, chose to spend time browsing at the nearby Borders bookstore.

Once we reached Borders, we picked up some books and some coffee and curled ourselves up in comfortable couches for the next one and half hours. This time round, we had had enough adventures and so left at 9.45p to catch our 10p train. We stopped at Safeway on the way to pick up a few things. Nevertheless, for once in the day, we were ahead of schedule and reached the station with time to spare. The train was pretty crowded but we were too tired to notice. We got back to San Jose after an hour and a half. Then we picked up the car and drove back home. Once home, we carried out one last abuse of our stomachs with waffles and Nescafe mochacinno (which we had got a free sample of at the carnival) in lieu of dinner and then crashed.

And so we went by car, train, bart, tram, bus and walk on the same day. And so we went to previously unseen regions of SF. And so we went Run, S and A, Run! throughout the day. And so it was a whole lot of fun!

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