Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Alcatraz Saga

Being in the San Francisco area has reminded me of my Alcatraz saga. I don’t remember if I’ve talked about this in my wanderings before, but getting to walk on Alcatraz Island required more than just minimum effort on my part.

The first time I tried was when a group of us college students were in San Francisco over the Christmas holidays and decided to take the tour on Christmas Day.

It was cold and rainy, and we didn’t have a lot of money so taking a cab from downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf was out of the question – a ride on the cable car would have to suffice. So it did. I had to stand, hanging onto a pole on the outside, while freezing-cold water dripped down my neck.

That was pretty stupid, actually. Y’know, we college students may be been intelligent, but we sure weren’t smart. I mean, anybody in his right mind would know that nothing is open on Christmas Day.

Obviously, the tours were closed and we didn’t get to see the island.

Strike one.

The second time I tried was on a family trip to San Francisco in the ‘70s. Thinking ahead, I had sent in for prepaid tickets and had them in my pocket as we drove to the pier.

I thought we headed for the boats with plenty of time to spare, but obviously I was wrong. We crept along in heavy traffic through the center of town because I had taken the beeline route instead of the swing-around faster route.

The check-in time came as we were crossing Market Street. The departure time came as we finally arrived on Beach Street. And guess what? The tickets were non-refundable. I ate the cost of four adult and two child tickets. Cripes.

Strike two.

I decided to give it one more try a dozen or so years later. We actually were staying in a hotel close to Fisherman’s Wharf, and early in the morning – the day before we were due to fly back home – we traipsed down to the ticket building. Or rather, I should say we had gotten a late start, so I fairly trotted there, my family in hot pursuit.

There, in great big letters on a great big sign on the big tour building, were the words: “Tours Sold Out. Make Your Reservations for Tomorrow.” Tomorrow? Tomorrow we were flying home.

Strike three. Y’er OUT!

I actually gave up the ghost, vowing never again to attempt booking an Alcatraz tour.

However … I really did want to visit Alcatraz, so after the new millennium rolled around, I figured I’d give it one more chance – new millennium, change of luck, and all that.

I bought my tickets online, and the day of the tour, the wife and I drove to Fisherman’s Wharf from San Jose four hours before our check-in time because my son said morning traffic on the 101 was going to be horrendous due to construction delays.

Traffic? What traffic? We got to Fisherman’s Wharf two hours before we had to report, so we sat in the parking lot napping (it was 7 a.m., mind you, and we’d awakened at 5 a.m. – the wife had been upset because I was rushing her), then had breakfast at Pier 39.

We were the first in line for the tour and I can’t tell you how happy I was when the boat finally launched and headed off to Alcatraz.

It was worth it, I enjoyed the tour tremendously. The wife, on the other hand, could not have cared less. The place spooked her.

But I didn’t care, after three strikes, I finally hit a home run and visited Alcatraz Island.


Bevlove said...

Well, as you can see, I came over here just to see if you made it to Alcatraz. I guess congratulations are in order ... LOL!

Craig Miyamoto said...

Awww, that's so nice of you, Bev! *hugs*

casch said...

There were times it gave me the creeps also, but it was still a fascinating tour and one I want to do again sometime.