Giants and Crazy Ladies

Trip Start Nov 29, 2007
Trip End Jan 30, 2008

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, January 3, 2008

San Francisco turned on another brilliant sunny day for our last morning in the city. But all the upcoming weather info we can see suggests now is the time to get out of the Bay area. Things are about to become pretty nasty. Still, no chance for and no need for a rushed start to the day.

First up had to be the necessary drive down Lombard Street, just to keep the small native from becoming restless. And he did enjoy it. He seems to be the only one disappointed we don't live in the middle of the chaos which must drive the resident's nuts.

Then we head off to hunt for AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The owners of the team and the stadium made a brilliant decision in terms of where to build it - turns out it is almost in the middle of town, but right on the water. In terms of its pure location, it is streets (literally) ahead of the old Candlestick Park. We later learn it was well ahead of the old stadium in lots of ways - not the least of which was drainage.

Decide to hunt for a little bit to eat before heading into the stadium for a tour. Find a hotdog shop on the corner and think we have scored. If it was a game day, no doubt we would have. No games today. No dogs. No luck. Not much else around for three hungry Aussies who have to be back at the stadium in 15 minutes. At times like these (and really not many other times), you have to be thankful for Maccas. And we were. We all the drill down pat now - Zac scouts for condiments, napkins, straws and tables while we figure out what the least dangerous (and most palatable) menu items might be. Then its turns in the washroom. In and out in 10 minutes. What a team. We make it back to the stadium with time to spare.

Touring an empty sporting stadium is an interesting experience. And if you pick the right stadium, it can have a bit of wow factor attached to it. This place is pretty interesting and there was a fair bit of wow factor in the tour. The press conference room, the media facilities, the corporate suites, all very interesting stuff. But getting into the players areas has to be the highlight.

The tours do not go through the Giants' rooms, but the visitors facilities are pretty much opened up. We "played" in the dugout, "played" in the practice nets and sat in the visitors' lockers. Pretty much the only rule was DO NOT TOUCH THE GRASS. But, in circumstances where they had just finished a college football game, were preparing for a monster truck rally and were then going to rip up the grass, you would think they could let us have a walk around. But no. The rules are year round.

Still, the facilities were fascinating as were the stories of childish psychology that goes on between a home team and the visitors. The visitors' facilities are pretty spartan in comparison to the luxury the Giants experience - they have bigger lockers (about twice the size), the finish is nicer (laminex versus timber panelling) and they also have lap pools(compared to none), plasma screens (compared to old CRT-TVs) and anything else you could possibly conceive might give then an edge. Oh, and in the dug outs, the giants have lovely padded (and heated) seats compared against a bare wooden bench. But then again, all teams pull the same pranks on visitors, which does even the playing field a bit and does explain the "home field advantage". Here we were thinking it all had to do with sleeping in their own beds and the cheers of the crowd. Silly us.

After about 90 minutes, the tour was finished. Very interesting. In the East, it would be a brilliant thing to do at Fenway or Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium. One day.

Bought a heap of Giants stuff. Good time to be at the stadium for that - the off season means lots of bargains.

And they have a small field next to the ballpark called "Little Giants" Park. It has the proper batting cage and the baseball diamond was set out. Zac was just itching to have a play and we had enough time to indulge him. He tried valiently to hit the ball into McCovey Cove (which some of the big hitters can do from AT&T), but to no avail. But he did think he was playing in the major leagues. Plenty of air swings. Plenty of laughs.

Then we caught up with Dad and Mum, thankful for walkie talkies. Could have taken hours otherwise.

Decided to head out of San Francisco, towards San Jose. We asked TomTom to show the way to San Jose (la, la, la, la, etc). Its south of San Francisco and we had a general idea where it was. Not sure TomTom had much of an idea. It took us north over the Oakland Bay Bridge. All of us had wanted to drive that and thought we would not have the chance. TomTom gave us the chance, but we sacked him pretty quickly afterwards, deciding to run on maps and gut feel. That got us there pretty quickly. Dad later said that he had found the alternate route TomTom was trying to follow, so maybe he did have a bit of an idea.

In San Jose, we happened on the Winchester Mystery House. Its a mansion built by the widowed beneficiary to the winchester rifle fortune. She had moved to San Jose from the east coast following her husband's death. She was a dead set nutter. They reckon she was (or thought she was) haunted by the ghosts of those who had been killed by Winchester rifles. According to the story, she was told by the "spirits" to find a farm house and to never stop renovating it, lest she die. And being a good nutter, she never did stop, until she died, of course. But until then, she had workmen at the house 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

There are 160 rooms (including 40 bedrooms, 6 kitchens, 2 ballrooms and one sceance room), 460+ doorways, 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys bizarre staircases that go nowhere and all kinds of weird things. Oh, and it was not built according to any plans - she just made it up as she went along. It was very, very creepy. And we were there just before dark, which made it even creepier.

Highlight of the tour had nothing to do with the house. It was Zac. The tour guide set the ground rules early and asked the kids on the tour to raise their hands if they wanted to ask a question. The kids (including Zac) asked some brilliant questions. At one stage, Zac put his hand up and asked if a crack in the wall where he was standing was there when Mrs Winchester lived in the house. The tour guide answered it straight faced. Then in the next room, he asked another question about a window. And followed that up (in the next room) with a question about the ceiling. He had a question for every room we stopped in. He would politely raise his hand and wait for the guide to ask for the question. And sometimes he did not even have a question. He made one up after she asked him for it. I think we visited about 120 rooms. Zac had a question ready for about half of those rooms. We will never stop him asking questions (we want him to be inquisitive), but we came awfully close during this tour. Full marks to the Tour Guide. She handled all the questions with politeness and professionalism. Only down side to the questions was it meant the tour ended up running about 30 minutes overtime. And for Dad, who waited in the car, that was much too long.

It was an interesting thing to see, with an interesting story behind it. But it is a tourist trap. We don't need to return.

Then it was on to Santa Cruz for the night - a small coastal town. Pretty quiet in the dead of winter. Best question of this part of the day was from Dad - "is this a drug town?" I have a sneaking suspicion I know where Zac's question asking skills come from....

Thai for dinner. Not for Zac. He was asleep before we made it to Santa Cruz. He will be hungry in the morning. But it had been a big day for him. And for us.

Drive - 150 miles
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