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San Francisco, California

Our last day in San Francisco today and after only two days Darren and I are both glad to be leaving. The place is so expensive, another day and we would pretty much run out of money.

This morning I had planned to catch the cable car down to Pier 33, killing two birds with one stone, riding the cable car and getting to where we needed to go, however Darren has had no cash on his for a while now as the fees to just get your money out here are ludicrous, $7 - $6, really? So we had to walk, it took about 40 minutes and none of the scenery was at all nice, it was like a dirty version of Cabramatta and the place absolutely stunk! Darren and I both marveled at the fact that San Francisco is actually more expensive than New York, for both tourists and people who live there. Why? Who would actually want to live here over New York? Forget New York, over Chicago? LA? New Orleans? Miami? I don’t get it.

We finally arrived at Pier 33 the landing spot for the Alactraz ferry and exchanged the vouchers I had bought months in advance. We crowded onto the 9:10am ferry with everyone else and went upstairs hoping to see the bridge, no luck it was covered in smog and only the pylons could be seen peeking out from underneath.

We arrived on “the Rock” and were herded to where a ranger was telling everyone the dos and don’ts about being here. One of them was the compulsory audio tour. Ugh, I hate those things, I thought. Walking around with it around your neck like some domesticated animal….to add insult to injury you had to queue for about twenty minutes to even get the audio guide.

To my surprise I actually enjoyed the audio guide, with actually seemed to help space people out around the prison and it was narrated by ex-prisoners and guards. We were taken around the prison and had a look in the cells which were three stories high and tiny, and I mean tiny. I think Nelson Mandela may have had more room in his cell on Robben Island in South Africa. The guide took us to solitary confinement and the prisoner speaking on the guide told us how they would lock them in the small cell, with the lights off in pitch blackness. He would pull a button off his shirt and throw it and spend the time looking for it on the floor in the dark to keep himself occupied. I closed my eyes and imagined myself locked in the tiny room, in the dark, on my own. That last part I found strangely appealing after being around thousands of people for the last five weeks…. I’m so sick of stupid tourists.

We had a look at where the guards lived on the island and the mess hall, which was the most dangerous place on the island. The menus actually looked pretty good and were making me hungry. We exited the mess hall and the prison and as we exited we heard about the closing of the prison by the last prisoner to leave, one who was released. He said he walked out into the city and saw the cars whizzing by, and saw people going about their business and he was envious of them, that they knew how to move in this world, because he had no idea how to move with it, and he was terrified. That. Really got to me.

We got the boat back to San Francisco and went to pier 39 and got corn dogs, we then walked all the way back along the Embercadero to get the cable car up the hill to the Fairmont to collect our hire car for the next leg of our trip. The cable car was fun, but as usual I had some dumb family sitting in front of me who wouldn’t sit down.

We rode all the way to the end and had to walk back up the hill a little bit to the Fairmont. We went to the Hertz desk and were attended too by this strange woman with a lisp. She couldn’t seem to get Darren’s credit card to work for the authorisation. Darren’s phone was flat, so after about 40 minutes of screwing around with chargers and banking apps, we were finally given the keys to a Hyundai Elantra, much to our dismay. We booked a Ford Focus or similar, I know the cars are the same size, but a Ford Focus is hardly similar in quality to a Hyundai of any sort!

We drove out and headed for Lombard Street so that Darren could drive down the steepest road in the city, he was laughing with all the twists and turns. It was then time to head out of the city and head onto Reno….and the Peppermill. I love this place, I stayed there on a work trip and didn’t get to enjoy much of it as I had very limited time. I was so keen for two days of relaxing it wasn’t funny.

We drove about half a mile, and then everything went wrong (well wronger), while Darren was driving up one of the cities terrifying hills (yes I was terrified), the passenger side tyre exploded! I remember Darren saying, “The tyre’s exploded” and me not believing him and then hearing a flapping noise and Darren pulling over. I got out and sure enough the tyre nearest to me was completely flat. Not only that, it was completely bald!! Thanks Hertz! Looked in the boot, no spare. Thanks Hertz! There was only a puncture repair kit, which didn’t work. Thanks Hertz!

None of the numbers on the cars paper work actually connected me to a human being, thanks Hertz! I checked trusty old Google Maps (thank God I have a US SIM) and realised that the Fairmont, where we picked the car up was only 650m away. So I volunteered to walk back as we couldn’t move the car at all. Of course it was up two very large hills, thanks Hertz and then when I got there 3:50pm, the pickup desk and the creepy woman with the lisp was gone. Thanks Hertz!

Luckily there was another number for me to call, where I could speak to someone and tell them what had happened. The lady on the phone advised that a tow truck would arrive in 35 minutes, so I legged it back to Darren and the car, more hills. (Thanks Hertz!) Then proceeded to wait for over an hour for the truck. When the tow truck arrived the AAA guy seemed most surprised that Hertz had advised we would be riding with him in his truck to the Hertz airport depot.

Darren and I go in the truck, me in the uncomfortable middle seat with my bad back, which by that point was almost better! Thanks Hertz! Then proceeded to be driven all the way out to the depot, near the airport in the middle of nowhere to collect another car in the 5pm San Francisco traffic! Thanks Hertz! I managed to get out of the truck with my back killing me, while Darren unloaded all our luggage from the lemon.

I then had to search the depot for an office, which wasn’t in an obvious place and then had to explain to this stupid Filipino woman behind the counter what had happened. No apology, no offer to upgrade us, nothing. Just kept me waiting another 40 minutes in a hard plastic chair, my time at the relaxing Peppermill hotel in Reno, slowly slipping away from me. Thanks Hertz.

We were given another Hyundai Elantra, a silver one this time and I proceeded to navigate us out of San Francisco in the traffic which was now horrendous. Thanks Hertz. With the problem finally solved, thanks to my mad problem solving skills, which I hadn’t planned on using while I was on holiday, (thanks Hertz!) we were finally on our way. It took us four hours to get to Reno in the awful traffic and after we managed to get out of the city, there was literally no food and most of the exits had a clearly marked “No Services” sign on them. I shudder to think what would have become of us if the tyre had waiting until now to explode. We would have been done for. Again, thanks Hertz! We ended up having to wait until we got to Reno to eat, and then the only thing we could get was drive through McDonalds, thanks Hertz. My back was so bad now I couldn’t even get out of the car without screaming. Thanks Hertz!

We finally checked into the Peppermill at 11:30pm, I had planned on being there around 4pm. THANKS HERTZ!

Our room was of course beautiful, massive bad, amazing pool view, giant Jacuzzi in the bedroom and private steam room in the bathroom. Despite the hour, Darren and I decided to have a drink and sit in the Jacuzzi for the next hour, which was divine after the absolutely horrendous day we’d had. I finally went to bed around 1am, basically rolling into bed in complete and absolute agony. Again…thanks Hertz!

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