And there ain't a gott-damb thing you can do about it!
Don't believe the hype spewed by the Liberal Media! They may sound
convincing with their snooty tracts named such as Treatise of
Government and Common Sense, but do not believe their
Constitutionalist lies! These nefarious trolls have missed one key
and essential fact that changes the very equations of our lives, our
fortunes, and our sacred honor! The Monarchy will never die!
That's right, folks, I am indeed moving to London. And that means it's
time for one last Troncon in San Francisco before I go.
One of the reasons that this calling-of-the-tribes occurred is because I
will no longer volunteer for the National Park Service past May. Come
June, I'll be all wrapped up in the move to London, and won't be able
to spend any time on the island. So this is your last chance to get
the super secret behind-the-scenes tour of Alcatraz!
As a volunteer with the National Parks Service, I have the keys to take
folks into areas that the general public don't have access to. This
means that instead of the quick-and-dirty half-hour audio tour of the
cellhouse that most of the "it's Thursday so this must be San Francisco"
crowd get, you'll receive the full red-carpet historical interpretation
of a trained NPS docent.
Allowing for various time constraints, I can take folks into an old US
Civil War-era tunnel, the disused A-block area, the hospital, and
possibly even the old gun gallery. Bring your cameras, because the
photos practically take themselves.
Since I'm doing this as an NPS volunteer, I have to put in a full day's
time even if folks show up for a half-day. However, I recognize that
some people will not be in town until Saturday morning and can't make
the 9:30 ferry. So what we're going to do is a two-staged event.
All Tronconners will need to purchase their own tickets for Saturday,
the 6th of May, 2006. The full-day crowd will buy tickets for the
10:45 ferry, which will likely be met by me on the island dock. The
rest of you will catch the 12:15 ferry at the latest, and will join
the party already in progress.
The link to purchase tickets for the correct date is:
Alas, the Blue and Gold fleet's on-line ticket system only sells
tickets with the audio tour price included. If you want to purchase
a slightly cheaper ferry ticket that does not include the audio tour
rental fee, you will need to call their ticket office on the telephone.
The number for that is (415)705-5555.
If you are going to be on the 12:15 boat, it is your responsibility to
find contact information for someone from the 10:45 group. There are
payphones outside the dock restroom building, and the island has its own
mobile telephone repeater. Barring that, the ranger or volunteer
staffing the dock will have a radio that can reach me. Just tell them
that you're trying to meet up with "an NPS Volunteer named Nick". If
you find yourself woefully tardy, they'll probably send you up to the
top of the hill to meet us outside the cellhouse.
Once again: Purchase a 10:45 or 12:15 ferry ticket for May 6th,
as fits your schedule.
Once you have purchased your ticket, let me know which ferry you will be on.
The site's official rules are simple:
- Eating and drinking are allowed only on the dock area at the bottom
of the hill. The only thing you will be allowed to consume past the
dock will be bottled water.
- You will be required to help preserve the site by not taking any
idiot souvenirs or leaving marks on the site. For criminy's sake, if
you have to have a chunk of the island, they sell Pet Rocks in the
- Don't mess with the seagulls. It's their island. We just visit it.
- Unless I'm explicitly lowering a divider and ushering you through,
don't cross any signs that say things like "restricted area" or
"closed for your safety".
Now, unofficially, I have a few reminders for you. The entire island of
Alcatraz is a National Park. That means it's owned by the National Park
Service, which is under the Department of the Interior. It is Federal
land. The Law Enforcement Rangers and Park Police may look like
rent-a-cops in RCMP hats to you, but once they catch you in the wrong
you'll be stuck in the federal court system (and probably so will I).
So please, leave all the counterculture contraband in San Francisco or
Oakland, where the local constabulary have a history of being more
accomodating to that sort of thing. If I were you, I'd even leave the
booze at home.
This is an important point. Since food and drink are only allowed on
the dock, you'll want to consider two options for your lunch situation:
- If you are on the 10:45 boat, you may wish to pack a lunch that you
can carry around the island. We'll head back to the dock for a
furtive picnic and to wait for the 12:15 folks, dodging seagulls and
pigeons all the while.
- If you're on the 12:15 boat, you will probably want to eat before you
board or on the ride over.
If you're looking for places to pick up food quickly on the way to the
island, I recommend the Boudin bakery by Pier 43 (across a parking lot
or two from Pier 41). But they do sell factory lunchoids on the ferry
(pizzas, stadium nachos with pasticine cheese-product, pretzels, etc) if
you're tight for time.
Pier 41 shares a Muni stop with the tourist trap Pier 39. The most
pleasant way to get there is to take the F line streetcar. The F line
runs down Market Street, and thus intersects BART and Muni Metro
stations neatly. Plan on a charming ride of at least half an hour, and
also plan to show up 15 minutes before your scheduled ferry departure so
that you can find the place and line up.
If you miss a ferry, the standby line is an unpleasant experience, and
you'll need to call someone in the group to let us know you'll be late
by a ferry or two.
From the Airport
If you're coming in on Saturday morning, bear in mind that San Francisco
International Airport isn't even in San Francisco County. It's out in
Millbrae, and while BART does connect via the International terminal, it
will take a while to reach the city proper.
My last bit of advice to you is to ignore anything you think you know
about weather in California. San Francisco in the late Spring/early
Summer is a schizophrenic cycle of calm sunshine and windy fog. And the
weather on Alcatraz is the weather of San Francisco, amplified.
So the wind and fog that glances The City will blast right across The
Rock, and the sunshine reflected off the bay has left me with more than
one sunburn on the underside of my nose. Dress in layers, so that you
can cover up against wind and rain or strip down to your shirtsleeves as
the day requires.
I've never had to find a hotel or other short-term lodgings in San
Francisco, so I'm afraid I can't be of too much help. Some #tronners
may be willing to host guests, but most of those available are likely
One person, however, has come upon the novel idea of staying at the Fort
Mason hostel. I can't speak to the quality of the stay there, but it
has the advantage of being just on the other side of Ghirardelli Square
from the high-numbered piers. It's an easy downhill walk from Fort
Mason to Pier 41 (but leave early), and you have the advantage that it's
the site of the local NPS offices. Heck, it's part of the Golden Gate
National Recreation Area, just like Alcatraz!