Wombathon Part II: Retrieving Judy or How Many Clowns can you Fit on a Ferry?

Picking up Judi on Saturday was much less of a Three Stooges routine. For one thing, it was daytime and much easier to distinguish faces without the glare of headlines coming up behind and next to me. Second, Judi had checked baggage so she had to go out on the Arrivals level – no chance for misunderstanding or misdirection from SFO’s bad signage. She called as soon as her plane landed and Lisa and immediately took off to go retrieve the next Wombat ‘package.’

The Queen and I had already been for a nice long walk up to West Portal and it was an unusually warm and sunny day for summer in San Francisco. We were pretty much ready for the Wombathon and now just had to make sure we got Judi checked into her hotel and then all of us down to the ferry in time for the 4;45 departure.

We didn’t see Judi when we reached Frontier’s Arrivals, so Lisa went to go look for her in the baggage claim area and I cruised around the terminals a couple of times. Traffic was light and so was representation by law enforcement officials. My third loop around, Lisa and Judi were waiting curbside, Judi looking exactly like she does in her icon. She greeted me with a big smile and while these might not have been her VERY first words when she got in the car, they were close: “I am ready for that glass of champagne!” My kind of woman. Judi was remarkably fresh and bubbly in appearance and spirits for someone who’d been on a plane as long as she had. I meant to ask for her secret, but got distracted by the need to pay attention to traffic.

We stopped at the Ocean Park Motel, a cute little retro motel four blocks from my house and also the oldest hotel in San Francisco (according to Lisa, who’s stayed there before). If you’re ever vacationing in the City and want a cute, inexpensive place to stay that’s near the beach, the zoo and a Muni line that’ll connect you to any possible public transportation you might need to get around SF, this is a good one.

Okay, promo for neighborhood hotel over.

Judi checked in while Lisa and I waited, studying Judi’s shoes in fascination. Pink suede with what had to have been 4 inch brown heels and a rounded toe, they were the perfect Barbie shoes. I told Judi this and she said, “What do you think one of my nicknames is?” And yes, fellow Wombats, Judi walked in ‘em like a pro. None of the ungainly, weight tipped slightly forward stride for her. She had heels and knew how to use ‘em. Lisa and I both favor flats or lower heels (I’ll go as high as 3 inch heels on very special occasions) watching Judi’s ability to navigate the terrain was akin to a non-dancer watching professional choreography. This was, of course, before the champagne…

(insert ominous music)

We stopped at my house to retrieve Dave and made it to the Ferry Building with 40 minutes to spare, bought our tickets at the kiosk out back by the docks and roamed around the shops inside to kill time. Well, I waited in line for the bathroom for 10 minutes while Lisa, Judi and Dave went exploring. I tracked them down at Book Passage, a more or less ‘literary’ bookstore which did not have a romance section. Judi was understandably not impressed.

We went out to get in line for the ferry. A long line snaked around the grounds and we eyed it in dismay. I went up to the last person in line and asked if this was the line for Sausalito. Happily, it was the line for Larkspur. The line for our ferry was over to the left and had about 15 people in it. We wondered aloud why so many people were going to Larkspur and why not Sausalito. A cute girl with short blonde hair streaked in front with shocking pink explained Larkspur was the hub for most of the ferry lines and all the tourists tooling around the city on rented bikes were now headed back to their cars.

Our ferry, scheduled to leave at 4:45, was late. We weren’t exactly on a deadline, but we knew John and the rest of the ‘bats would be at the Sausalito Yacht Club drinking without us. We also knew we could get beer and wine on the ferry and we were anxious to catch up with the rest of the gang. Judi’s feet hurt, no surprise. Mine hurt too and I was wearing flats. We wanted to sit down and have a drink, dagnabbit!

The ferry finally pulled up around 5:00. People with bikes began dismembarking. Then more. And more…and more…

“I think there’s a black hole i there” said Lisa. “Bicycles are being sucked through from another dimension.”

I swear, it was like a clown car. How many bicycles can fit on a ferry? This went on for 20 minutes. In the meantime, our line grew louder and the crowd more unruly. A group of older Southern women, Sex in the City’d out for the day, were the most vocal. “They’d better give us all free beers after this bullshit,” growled the Kim Cattrell wannabe.

“I think they’re just cycling people around the back for another round,” said Lisa.

Our blonde friend turned out to be a regular fount of knowledge about all things ferry related and entertained us during our wait. Then the topic of tornadoes and their attraction to trailer parks came up; she said it was because they were flat and there wasn’t as much resistance and something else to do with wind and mathematics. I dubbed her ‘Wiki’ for her great store of trivia and facts.

More people with bikes came down the ramp. A young couple looked to be the last ones and everyone cheered as they cleared the walkway. Then another bicycle appeared from the back doorway and everyone groaned. But that was the last and finally we were allowed to board.

The four of us made straight for the bow and scored five prime seats (four for us, one for our new friend Wiki). Dave and Lisa took drink orders and headed to the bar while Judi and I relaxed and took in the gorgeous view of San Francisco Bay. Within five minutes the ferry left the dock and we were on our way to Sausalito and the Wombathon.

(I was going to make my Wombathon story a two-parter, but I’m being called by an outline that needs finishing, so…ONE more day!).

Wombathon Part I: Getting Queen Wombat

I am taking part of an August blog challenge. The glove was thrown by Dani with Blogbooktours Silly me, I picked it up and now have to try and blog as often as possible and bring this blog together in a cohesive manner. So I’ve decided to focus on anything to do with writing, which makes sense as this is a writer’s website. I admit to forgetting that at times and use my blog as more of a personal journal.

I’m going to cheat a bit for my first August post and use something I wrote for my Gather group The Writing Wombats. We had a get-together last Saturday of those Wombats who could convene on the West Coast and it was just a blast. This is the first of my posts about the event, written for the edification of my fellow Wombats and fellow writers.

Friday night Lisa, Queen Wombat, was due in at SFO at 9:30. She was flying Southwest, no carry-on, so Dave and I figured on an easy swoop and grab retrieval around 9:35-9;40 from Terminal 1, arriving back at home by 10:00, easy. I arranged with Lisa to meet her outside at Arrivals, in front of the Southwest baggage claim. “Jerry Brown always wanted to be picked up at Departures,” said Lisa. “He said it was faster.” As I’d never had a problem picking someone up from Arrivals, I thought we should just stick to the original plan. Nothing against Jerry Brown, mind you. I voted for him.

Once we reached SFO, however, the wisdom of Jerry’s words became apparent. The traffic on the right side was flowing freely, not too many cars branching off towards Departures. The traffic to the left, Arrivals, however, was backed up nearly to the freeway off-ramp. “This is what we get for not listening to Jerry Brown,” I said glumly as we crawled along towards Terminal 1.

I looked out for cars trying to merge over into my lane while Dave kept an eye out for Lisa amongst the crowds lining the sidewalk in front of Southwest, Continental and the other Terminal 1 carriers. I pulled over to the curb and he called her cell. Message only. Maybe her plane was late. “Tell her to meet us at Departures! Tell her Jerry was right!”

Dave left the message and we pulled away from the curb before the traffic cops could chase us away. They were out in force for what I could only assume was typical Friday night madness at SFO. We’re talking the little ticket carts, black and whites, and motorcycle cops. I felt guilty just by proximity.

As we inched our way around the rest of the terminals, I worried Lisa wouldn’t get the message. “Maybe we should park and just go look with her. We all have cell phones.” Dave concurred with the wisdom of this new plan and I pulled into a parking lot. We called Lisa, who said she was in front of baggage claim at Continental. “It’s not crowded her at all,” she told us. Hmm, I thought. Maybe her jaded Los Angeles traffic sense had a different notion of crowded. Oh well. We told her we’d see her in five minutes and headed out.

What neither Dave nor I realized until we were riding up to the terminal in the elevator that I’d somehow parked us in International Garage A, which led (logically) to the International Terminal. I also realized I was wearing baggy flannel pajama bottoms, Ugg boots, a GAP Red shirt without a bra and had my hair clipped on top of my head, most of it flopping down on one side of my face. Hey, I wasn’t planning on getting out of the car. Dave looked at me. “Maybe if you take the clip out?” I did and ran a brush through my hair. It helped. A little.

We looked at an airport map and figured out where we were in conjunction with Terminal 1. But translating the points on the map with where we were in the three dimensional world was more difficult. This was another Spinal Tap in Cleveland situation as we rode an escalator down one long hallway and found ourselves surrounded by Japanese tourists. Dave and I were both getting grouchy, so we found an information desk and got what sounded like simple directions from a smiling woman: “Go down this hall, down the escalator, turn right, go out the doors.” Or something like that. We did just that, grousing at each other most of the way about writing collaborations (ours) and peeked out some doors to find nearly empty lanes of traffic. I asked a uniformed guy (I don’t know what kind of uniform, but it looked official so I went for it) where Continental Arrivals were. He pointed to another ‘down’ escalator. We found ourselves in the middle of the baggage claim section for Terminal 1 (Yay us!) and went back outside to scan for Lisa. No sign of her.

We called her again. She was still cheerfully waiting in a mysterious curb with no real traffic. “Could you be at Departures,” I asked.

“Could be! Signage here sucks. I followed the signs that said ‘baggage claim’ and walked straight outside. It’s a nice airport!”


We went back up the escalator and out the door where we’d spoken to Uniformed Dude. It took us all of a minute to spot Queen Wombat and then another five-10 minutes to hike back to International Garage A. Lisa is right. The signage DOES suck at SFO.

We pulled into our driveway in the Outer Sunset at 11:00, an hour later than planned, but not to late to feed the hungry Queen a bowl of gumbo and crack open a bottle of ’05 A. Rafanelli Zinfandel (‘ll spare you the horror of discovering I’d poured some into a glass with Castille soap suds at the bottom and had to toss it out) and then a bottle of nice (but not as spectacular) Pezzi King Zin. Didn’t get to bed till 12:30.

What is the lesson here? Listen to Jerry Brown!

Okay, part two tomorrow!