When in San Francisco, do as the visitors do - take a ride in the cable car. It's not just a means of transport but a destination in itself, just as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge. During my first trip to San Francisco some years ago, I did it out of curiosity and when I got back again, I just found myself queueing once more for the $5 ride that begins at the intersection of Powell and Market Streets. I was on my way to Fisherman's Wharf which is so conveniently close to the cable car's last stop.
At the Powell and Market turntable, both the gripman and conductor manually turn the car around for the return trip to either Bay Street (Powell-Mason line) or Aquatic Park (Powell-Hyde line), both near Fisherman's Wharf. A third route on the California line goes differently on an east-west direction from the Financial district to Van Ness Avenue.
Once aboard the car, there's an open-sided front section with seats facing outwards and poles from which anyone can hang unto while the rear-half is enclosed with inward-facing seats. It's quite fun hanging on to the poles especially when the car negotiates a steep incline. The gripman alerted me just in time as an oncoming cable car passed by with only inches between me and the "hanging" passenger on the other car!
More than the "fun" aspect of riding, San Francisco's cable cars are in fact historic, having been running on steep streets since 1873. It had its ups and downs, getting damaged during the Great Earthquake of 1906 and was almost shut down by a city mayor in 1947. As the world's last permanently operational manually-operated cable car system, it feels like riding on a moving museum. And with a speed of only 9.5 mph, the cars do hark back to the old days of slow motion.