No Cars Go

San Francisco rewards those who walk.

So much of what makes the City special is so much easier to find on foot than in the car. You can’t drive down the neat little staircases that connect certain streets, like those on Macondray Lane, the inspiration for Barbary Lane in Tales of the City.

stairs.jpg

This is not Macondray Lane.

Your car won’t take you down the old concrete slides or into the community gardens. If you drove down Octavia St, you’d likely miss the homemade miniature golf course in Hayes Valley. And in a car, would you ever find the City’s best coffee, served out of an open garage on a narrow one-way street?

Of course, there are times when a SF walk is more of a urine-scented tour of passed out homeless people and assorted human and animal feces. But more often than not, you happen upon something special when you aren’t worried about finding a parking space or the time left in the parking meter.

If I didn’t live walking distance to BiRite Creamery, for instance, I probably would have only tasted one or two of their flavors rather than a whole host of them. And that would be a shame because they don’t always have cinnamon, the malted vanilla doesn’t always have peanut brittle in it, and only once this summer did they have a nectarine ice cream.

If we only went to Delfina Pizzeria once, we may have been discouraged by the wait for a table. But we walk down 18th street often enough to drop in if there are tables available and once, we lucked into a table on a night they were serving meatballs.

If we weren’t on foot, I doubt we’d have found Miette and tried so many of their crazy delicious licorices. And because we’ve made repeat visits to Miette, we got to see the homemade miniature golf course come to life and see Hayes Valley start to feel like a real neighborhood, rather than a cluster of design stores.

I didn’t immediately understand the joy of exploring the City without a car. I thought Mr. WholeHog was nuts when he got rid of his car after only a few months in SF. But he learned the City far faster than I did — even though I’d been here two years before he moved here.

There are times I think this should be a rule: when you move to San Francisco, you must go car-less, at least temporarily. Because if you explore SF without a car, you’re much more likely to fall in love with it. But, of course, the downside is that then you’ll never want to leave it.

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