Family anecdotes, camping tips, how-tos, hiking with children, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Five Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie Lees

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Ups and Downs of City Life in San Francisco, California

San Francisco and the cable car go together like our family and camping. There are ups and there are downs, and ups and downs.

The first down—literally—came when we were looking for the Visitor’s Center in San Francisco. The campground told us we could buy cable car passes for the day there.

Seriously! This shouldn’t have been so difficult. We drove around and around the city in search of this mysterious Visitor’s Center.
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I clung to the cable car as my children clung to its poles!

My husband was driving. The kids were chattering behind us in the van. It was my job to find the Visitor’s Center sign. I saw this sign with the right colors, brown and white. It said Visitor’s Center in small letters. But it had this wiggly line next to it. The line looked like pyramid steps the closer I got to it.  But there was no Visitor’s Center. No specific building with a sign.

“I’ll have to get out and explore on foot,” I finally told my husband. “Because if we come around the corner one more time, trying to follow that blasted brown sign, and see this wrought iron fence and then some bland gray buildings with no signs on them, I’m going to scream.”

“Maybe it’s in one of those gray buildings. Maybe they don’t need to mark things out here.”

I glared at him. “That’s okay for the Californians, but how about us New Jerseyans?”

He stopped for yet another traffic light. I glanced back at the kids, they were getting restless. They needed to explore the city on foot as well. I hopped out of the van.

“Please be careful,” he cautioned.

“Right! Please come back to identify the body.”

“Not funny,” he said though the window as the light changed and he moved forward.

I headed back to where that goofy brown sign was supposed to tell us where to find the Visitor’s Center.

It was a fresh, cool day to explore a new city. People, deep in conversation with each other, strolled all around me as I traipsed back to the sign. As beautiful as San Francisco is, there are reasons why I prefer the quiet of nature. For one, I always know where I am if I stick to the trail.

Staring at the Visitor’s Center sign, I sighed and glanced back at the street, searching for our big blue van. Where was my husband? I shook my head and leaned against the wrought iron fence. Well the sign did look like steps. But steps up to…where? Then I noticed people walking in front of me with city maps and cable car schedules.

“Hey!” I accosted one of the people.

She jumped.

“Sorry! Where did you get the map?” I asked.

“At the Visitor’s Center.”

The mysterious Visitor’s Center again. “But where’s the Visitor’s Center?”

“Right behind you.”

I whirled around, finally looking through the bars. Then I looked down. There was a huge hole in the ground. And down below—the steps—were buildings: stores, cafes, and the mysterious Visitor’s Center.

I raced down the steps and rushed into the Center, purchased seven cable car passes with a time schedule, and picked up a map of the city. I was back at street level in about 15 minutes. I was afraid of missing my husband as there was no place to park in this area.

Breathless at the street light, heart hammering in my chest, a guy came up behind me and screamed at the back of my head at top volume. My heart stopped instantly, and I thought about the last thing I’d said to my husband. Did I have any I.D. on me? 

I was afraid to turn around. Did he have a weapon? Would anybody come to my rescue? The city was jam-packed, but no one approached me. Then I saw the blue van and ran to the curb.

My heart resumed beating, and I climbed into the van. “Where were you?” I screamed at my husband.

His eyes widened. “I…I went around the block. It went on forever. Caught every red light, like usual. You okay?”

I decided not to frighten him or the kids, telling him about the guy who screamed at me since that’s all the guy did was scream at me. He never touched me. Was this a normal thing in cities? I guess the guy thought it was funny or was trying to get a rise out of me. It worked, by the way.

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Lombard Street, one of the “crookedest” streets in San Francisco.
The rest of our day was uneventful. We traversed this bustling city on foot and by cable car. I must admit. I sat in the middle of the narrow cable car while my children clung to the poles pointing out the colorful buildings and nearly vertical hills the car flew down and climbed up. The children especially loved Lombard Street, billed the “crookedest” street in the world. It’s not! You can find an interesting history of Lombard Street and other crooked streets in San Francisco here.  


Have you ever had an odd experience exploring a new city? Feel free to tell me about any of your own city adventures in the comments section.