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Car-Free day off

There was no school Monday, because of Columbus Day, or Indigenous Peoples Day, or Syphilis Day, or what have you. So the kids and I joined Car-Free Dad for his ferry ride into San Francisco.

Erik usually leaves on his bike about 30 minutes before the ferry pulls out, but Toth is still a pretty slow rider on his tiny little bike, so we left the house by 7:30 for the 8:30 ferry. The morning ride across the bridge to Bay Farm Island, then along the bay trail, was divine. We watched egrets picking in the mud along the shore, and passed by the Harbor Bay Club were the kids were amazed to see people swimming laps in the chill morning. We got to the ferry in plenty of time and locked up my bike and the kids’, because we wouldn’t be using them in San Francisco.


There were a few other kids boarding the ferry with their parents too. We took a booth on the ferry and the kids ate the granola bars and yogurt tubes I’d brought them for breakfast. Pebbles bit into something and then the tooth that had been wiggling for weeks fell out. Her first top tooth. The other one is coming out soon too.


We disembarked right at 8:55 and walked down a busy Market Street with Erik to his office, where Erik swiped his key fob and raised a garage door into the bike storage room. The kids liked getting this entree into a secret place.


Then we took the elevator upstairs to the office, where the kids proceeded directly to the kitchen and helped themselves to more snacks and to fruit-flavored San Pelligrino. They love Erik’s work.


Then Erik went off to his cubicle and the kids and I walked a few blocks to the corner of 2nd and Howard streets, where a friend pulled over and put them all in his Prius to bring them to his work along with his son. That’s right, as of 10 a.m., I was all on my own in the city.


I proceeded to the offices of Detour, this really cool walking tour startup whose tours I was going to beta test. After getting some quick instructions from one of the company’s managers, I walked back down the many, many flights of stairs to the street. Then I walked to another neighborhood to visit with an editor I write for occasionally. On the way, I saw a Tesla with a big pumpkin in the passenger seat.


Then I walked to the Ferry Building and enjoyed an audiotour, learning about what it’s like to be a steeplejack who cares for the flag on top, and going upstairs to see the California seal in the floor for the first time in my life. Turns out this was hidden under linoleum for years until they restored the upstairs:


I also noticed this cool map of the ferry routes before the bridges opened and the ferries shut down. I’m so glad they started back up again. I think this map shows more ferries than we have now, though. I want them all!


Almost as soon as I finished the tour, our friend returned with his Prius full of kids and dropped them off, along with a bag full of lunch from the company cafeteria. We walked upstairs of one of the ferry terminals, where there are benches with great views of the Bay, and ate. Then, we walked to the San Francisco Railway Museum, where the kids were able to pretend to be streetcar drivers and I read about what life was like when people took streetcars and cable cars everywhere, even the Opera.

Then we got in line to take the F Trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf. We had to wait a long time, and when the trolley finally came, it was so crowded that we couldn’t get to the front to pay.


When we got close to the Wharf, I told Toth, who was sitting on my lap, that we could probably get away with not paying. Toth said that we couldn’t do that because Santa was watching. I said good point, so we made our way up to the front to pay, but the driver said not to bother.

At Pier 39, we bought a bucket of mini donuts for $12. I know! But it’s a tradition for us, and they are so good. Then we checked out the new(ish) Sea Lion Center, where we saw a sea lion skeleton and listened to a presentation that explained that the sea lions are always pushing each other off the piers because they are practicing intiminating one another for when they meet up with the females down in La Jolla.

After that we walked down to the Wharf and I played the Wharf audiotour without headphones so the kids could sort of hear too. Lucky for the kids, the Musee Mechanique was on the tour, so we went in and spent $10 in quarters on air hockey and vintage games.

After that we got in line to take the cable car back downtown, but it was getting pretty cold and windy out, and did you know that they charge $6 per person, even for kids??? There are limo drivers hawking the people in line, offering to take you where you’re going for $40. That seemed like a lot until I realized that if I was honest about Toth being 5, not 4, we’d be paying $30 to ride the cable car.

But we didn’t take the limo. Instead we walked over to the F Trolley stop and took that back to Market Street. Luckily it was uncrowded this time. Back at Erik’s office, the kids loaded up on snacks and drinks again, our friend stopped by to pick up his kid, and we walked back to the ferry building. We bought a cheese plate and some soup at Cowgirl Creamery, a loaf of bread at whatever the bakery is called, and a Subway sandwich for the girls, and boarded the 7:30 ferry. Erik and I used our Clipper cards, and Erik went to buy tickets for the kids, but the staff told him not to bother. We got lucky twice in one day on fares!

When we got back to Alameda, we had to ride back in the dark. Nutmeg’s bike light had burned out, and Toth doesn’t have one, but we were on the bike path the whole way so it was OK. I just kept them right in the light of my bright headlamp. It was a little stressful, though, because Toth likes to weave back and forth and stop without warning, and since I kept right behind him, I had to slam on my breaks a dozen times or so. But it was fun to look into all the living rooms and kitchens of the nice houses along the Bay, all lit up inside.

We finally got home at around 8:30 p.m. A 13-hour outing. Yep, the kids went RIGHT to bed and we didn’t hear a peep from them all night, even when I snuck the money under Pebbles’ pillow for her tooth. When I checked my Fitbit, it said I took 25,000 steps, nearly 11 miles. Whew!