Daily Archives: May 10, 2010

The Rock…

This morning we left about 9 am headed for prison…

Alcatraz, that is.

By 10 am we were parked at a parking lot right across the street from Pier 33 on The Embarcadero, the street that runs along San Francisco’s waterfront

We were suppose to be in line to board our ferry at 10:30 am and I thought I had allowed plenty of time, but I didn’t count on it taking 20 minutes to pay for our parking.

This was one of those parking lots where your parking spot had a number and you go to an automated machine, enter you spot number, and feed machine cash or a credit card. The problem was that many of the people trying to pay were foreign tourists who apparently didn’t read English very well. And they were having a lot of trouble with the machine. So there was a long line at the machine.

Luckily, since we were right across the street from the dock, we had time for a quick bathroom break before picking up our tickets and getting in line.

Clipper Line

While waiting in line, we could see Coit Tower up the hill behind us. This was neat because we just say Coit Tower in the closing episode of Amazing Race on Sunday night, where the contestants had to climb the side of the tower to get their next clue.

Coit Tower
Our ferry, the Alcatraz Clipper left the dock about 11 am, right on time and headed toward Alcatraz Island, about 2 miles away.

Alcatraz Clipper

Off to our left we could see the Golden Gate Bridge that we had crossed earlier emerging from the fog.

Golden Gate in Fog

And then Alcatraz itself started to become visible.

Alcatraz 1 

The “Indians Welcome” sign is left over from the Indian occupation of Alcatraz in 1969.

Alcatraz Sign

The first thing we noticed was all the lush vegetation around. Lots and lots of flowers, shrubs, and ground covers.

Alcatraz Flowers 1

Alcatraz Flowers 2

We made the quarter-mile, 130 foot vertical climb up to the cellhouse and began our audio tour using headphones, narrated by former guards and inmates.

Here’s the shower room for the inmates. Guess you couldn’t be too shy.

Alcatraz Shower

The three levels of cells.

Alcatraz Cell Block

And here’s a typical cell. 5 feet wide by 9 feet deep by 7 feet high.

Alcatraz Cell

And here’s Jan being locked away in one of the high-security detention cells.

Alcatraz Cell 2

The gouges and holes in the floor were made by grenades dropped into the cell blocks by the US Marines during a botched escape attempt in 1946.

Alcatraz Grenades

Looking back at downtown San Francisco from The Rock.

Alcatraz San Francisco

One of the actual cells that the three inmates used spoons to tunnel thru the concrete and disappear from Alcatraz in 1962. They were never found, nor were their bodies. The FBI concluded they had drowned, but other inmates and guards who were there at the time think they all escaped to South America, since they had all been studying Spanish via correspondence course.

That’s the hole underneath the sink.

Alcatraz Escape

After watching a very good 20 minute film on the history of Alcatraz Island.

The island became Fort Alcatraz in 1858 and remained under direct Army control until 1907 when it officially became an Army prison.

In 1933 the Army closed their prison facilities and transferred the island to the newly-formed Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Then it 1934 it reopened as America’s highest security prison. Over the years, it was home to many famous inmates, like Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelley, Alvin Karpis, and Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz.

On March 21, 1963, Alcatraz was officially closed, and the remaining inmates transferred to other Federal prisons.

We caught the 1:35 pm ferry back to the dock and headed for the car.

Then we headed over to Joe’s Cable Car Diner. We had seen this place on Diner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives and wanted to check it out.

Joes Cable Car

They mainly serve hamburgers, or as they say, “Ground Steak Burgers”. And talk about fresh ground!  They grind your burger from fresh chuck as you order it.

And Joe, the owner, is adamant about his burgers. He was sitting at the next table when got our orders, and when he saw Jan start to put mustard on her burger, he said, loudly, “No, No, No. You must taste it first. Don’t put anything on it before you taste it”

Jan and both agreed this was absolutely the best burger we have ever eaten, bar none.

As we were leaving the restaurant about 3:45 pm, Jan talked to our daughter Brandi as we headed back to the rig.

Getting home about 5 pm, we settled in.

Tomorrow we’re going to take a DUCK Tour of San Francisco, ride the cable cars, and eat at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Another busy day.

More tomorrow…