Tom and San Francisco
On Sunday afternoon we visited Tom & Teri - another branch of my 'extended family'. We enjoyed a braai with them and their daughters and two other friends who were also visiting. It was a full & busy house that night! On Monday morning Teri went off to work, while Tom and his friends decided to join Mike and I on a tour of San Francisco. With Tom and Andrew (who lives in SF) as our guides, we managed to do an amazing amount in a few hours.
First we visited the Golden Gate bridge: What a beautiful sight as the fog lifted and revealed the bridge to us. But it was very cold, and after walking half-way across the bridge I had to turn back due to the threat of frostbite! ha.ha
Notice the fog over the bridge The view from below - there were surfers on this little swell later
We then took down the roof of the convertible and headed to the city - to do the famous and totally hilarious drive down Lombard Street. This road has one tight hairpin bend after another and has been featured in many movies. While Mike concentrated on the driving Tom and I hung out of the car taking pics.
Looking down and then up, Lombard Street
We then left our car at Andrew's apartment and took the trolley (restored old trams) downtown to Powell Street to catch one of the iconic cable cars. These Cable Cars started in 1873 as public transport but are now mostly a tourist attraction, with three routes still running, up and down the hills of San Francisco.
For "how it works", and to understand why there has only ever been one female 'gripman' - I quote from the museum booklet:
The cables are one-and-a-quarter inches in diameter and consist of six steel strands of 19 wires each, wrapped around a sisal rope core. There are four continuous steel ropes for the three lines. These loops of wire rope are run at a constant 9 ½ miles an hour from the Washington-Mason powerhouse in channels beneath the streets. At the end of a line, the cable is turned by the crew on a large pulley called a sheave.
The cable car's grip – essentially a 300-pound-plus pair of pliers – extends through a slot between the rails and grabs hold of the cable to pull the car along. With the grip handle at 12 o'clock (straight up), the cable is in the grip but not being grabbed. As the gripman pulls the grip handle to the rear the jaws tighten down on the cable and the car starts moving. The harder the gripman pulls the handle back, the more pressure the grip exerts on the cable until the cable car is moving at the same speed as the cable – 9½ mph. (These guys are pretty damn strong!)
Before steep grades, the gripman adjusts the grip so its jaws can exert more pressure on the cable (as much as 30,000 psi). It takes far more strength and leverage for the gripman to sink the grip when it is adjusted properly for the steepest grades. The more passengers, the more power it takes to sink the grip. If the gripman fails to adjust the grip properly, the car starts slipping on the cable. The gripman must stop and, on the conductors bell signals, back the car down to the bottom of the hill, adjust the grip and try it again.
There is considerable wear on the mild steel dies which are the part of the grip that actually close on the cable. They act a bit like a clutch in a motor vehicle but the dies wear out in about four days. If they wear out while the car is in service, the grip is replaced on the street.
An important part of cable car operations is the cable car bells. The most famous bell sounds are those made by the gripman to warn people, motor vehicles and other cable cars that the cable car is approaching. Bells are also used for the conductor and gripman to communicate with each other. For this purpose a smaller bell is used, called a conductors' bell.
Tom & I hanging out the car A powerful 'gripman' turning the car at the end of the line
It was such fun riding in the car and enjoying the beautiful views - in this picture you can see Alcatraz island in the background. At the end of the trip Tom insisted that we stop off for a rejuvenating Irish Coffee and then some chocolate samples is Ghirardelli's. This guy has endless energy! Sore feet was no excuse and we took our last walk though Fisherman's Wharf and the amazing arcade museum, where for 25c you can operate these antique machines. Here is Mike arm-wrestling with a mechanical strong man!
And then it was time to say goodbye and head to the airport for our overnight flight back to Fort Lauderdale - what a day this has been!