DAY 107 (9/27/05): Rest Day, Palo Alto, CA.  This
morning, the four of us drove into San Francisco
together.  We parked in the southern part of the city,
and then walked all over the place.  We started at
Union Square and from there walked through China Town
to Coit Tower, which is up at the top of a very steep
hill.  We declined to pay the fee to take an elevator
up to the top of the tower, but we enjoyed the views
of the city from the top of the hill for free.  From
there, we walked down several steep sets of steps
connected by narrow wooden footpaths through a fairly
expensive-looking neighborhood.  A huge variety of
lush tropical plants grew over and around the paths,
making it feel like a little jungle in the middle of
the city.  We also had the amusement of watching a guy
trying to back a big Porshe SUV into a teeny-tiny
little garage of his expensive town-house off of a
very steep street single-handed while talking on his
cellphone.  We then made our way over to the
waterfront and took a look at the very touristy pier
39 area--all the usual clothing and candy shops.  We
caught a ferry there for the day´s highlight: a tour
of Alcatraz.  The ferry only takes about 10 min to get
to the island, which can be clearly seen from the
mainland.  The views of the island, the Golden Gate,
and the city itself were all great.  We took the audio
tour of the prison, which was really interesting,
since it pointed out all sorts of features of the
cellblocks and told the stories of some of the more
famous inmates and escape attempts.  One of the most
striking things to me about the presentation was that
the inmates that were interviewed kept commenting on
how one of the hardest things about being on Alcatraz
is that all the sounds and smells of the city would
reach the island, constantly reminding the inmates
about the freedoms they were missing.  After the
Alcatraz tour, we made a quick stop at the Ghiradeli
factory before catching the Powell-Hyde line of the
famous San Francisco cable-car.  I had expected the
cable-car ride to be just another tourist attraction
(as suggested by the fare!) but it is really quite fun
and worth doing once.  We took it in the dark, which I
think made it especially fun since the steep hills
were even scarier when you couldn´t see them coming. 
Also, there were lots of opportunities to see the city
and the bridges all lit up, providing a different
experience of the city than we had walking around it
during the day.  So, after a very full day of sight
seeing we were almost as exhausted as after a full day
of cycling, and were happy to return to the peace and
quiet of Palo Alto.