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Summer of Muni: What’s in a name, 44-O’Shaughnessy?

A San Francisco dad and his two kids will attempt to ride every Muni line—from terminus to terminus—this summer

Photos by Mc Allen

Inspired by San Francisco Chronicle journalists Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight, who embarked on a the entirety of Muni in a single day, one father and his two kids will ride every Muni line from end to end until the school year starts.

Summer is halfway over, and we are also halfway through the Muni’s many routes. This week we completed four more lines, bringing our total to a whopping 36. Phew.

3-Jackson

We rode the 3-Jackson from the Financial District to Presidio Heights on Sunday, with the goal of visiting the library in Presidio Heights. Of special note, the 3 passes 450 Sutter, one of my favorite downtown buildings, a 26-story Art Deco masterpiece designed by Timothy Pflueger.

Also of note: Be sure to take a seat in the back; when to bus crests Laguna, you can see excellent skyline views. Turning onto Jackson, you will see even more choice views.

Twenty minutes after we boarded, we get off at Presidio and California Steets, and made the short walk to the Presidio Branch Library, another precious gem in the crown of the nation’s top library.

54-Felton

Tuesday we rode the 54-Felton. This is the bus onto which a dog followed the San Francisco Chronicle team during their one-day trek. True to word, we found it to be a particularly canine-friendly line. Onboard we met two adorable pooches, Duchess and Lizi, both accompanied by their humans.

After lapping up the views of Bayview, our operator was due for a break, so we got off where we started at Hudson and crossed Third Street to check out Huli Huli, a great spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—not to mention exceptionally large servings of shaved ice. We spent the afternoon soaking in the sun on the Huli Huli patio and garden, and watching honeybees buzz from poppy to poppy.

During our ride back on the 54, we met an older gentleman named George. He told us about his days as an underage billiards shark, as well as time spent as a photographer plying the tourist scene at Fisherman’s Wharf.

George told me he arrived in San Francisco from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the age eight after the death of his mother. He said he’d lived in the Bayview all that time.

“Except when I was in trouble,” he explained, revealing that he had spent 37 years incarcerated at San Quentin.

“When I got my release date, I was ready,” he said, beaming. “I got into that last room before you leave, and I wasn’t wearing cuffs—I felt crystal clear.”

The time me and my kids spent talking with George was more rewarding than the sunshine, bees, and flowers of the nearby Huli Huli garden. This experience was just part of the community of transit ridership that happens every now and then.

35-Eureka

Wednesday we took the 35-Eureka, a scenic route that links the Glen Park BART Station to Castro and Market. Our bus climbed the city’s infamous inclines (steep enough to drag the frame of the bus against the pavement) through Glen Park up Billy Goat Hill and along Diamond Heights Boulevard before dropping down through Eureka Valley to Castro Street. Our operator then had 10 minutes or so to himself while we waited in front of the Castro Theatre.

We re-boarded the bus determined to make a visit to the Glen Park Library. Around 22nd Street and Eureka, a family with two small children holding smiley-face balloons boarded. Watching these helium heads popping up and peering around the coach was a pleasant departure from the banal and functional interior we are used to seeing on Muni rides.

After deboarding the 35 and a quick visit to the library, my kids petitioned me successfully for a visit at nearby Walter Haas Playground. The playground itself is elaborate, with multiple play structures. While the kids frolicked, I was more than happy to gaze at the skyline for nearly an hour, one of the other benefits this playground provides.

When nature called, I discovered the Walter Haas Playground has no toilets. Alas. Nearby SFFD Fire Station 26 was gracious enough to allow my six-year-old to use their facilities.

44 O’Shaughnessy

We returned to Third Street and Hudson on Friday, this time to catch the 44 O’Shaughnessy. We watched a few buses depart while we waited for another Friday special guest, this time my friend Andrew Sullivan, a longtime activist for the betterment of Muni and occasional contributor for BFF.fm’s Roll Over Easy in a Muni-centric segment called Two and a Quarter. (This episode at the 1.45 hour mark describes the 44 beautifully.)

A little like the 54, the 44 starts by heading east into the Bayview, and then turns east to pass through Silver Terrace, Portola, and the Excelsior. However, the 44 turns north to cross Mission, through Glen Park, and along O’Shaughnessy Boulevard, overlooking Glen Canyon Park, and over the Twin Peaks Tunnel. The line got its name after city engineer Michael O’Shaughnessy, who designed the Twin Peaks tunnel over 100 years ago.

We got off the bus at Lincoln Way to visit the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park where, among the flora, a dozen pianos have been placed throughout the grounds as part of Flower Piano.

After parting ways with Andrew and the dulcet piano sounds, we re-boarded a 44 and completed the final leg of the route through the Inner Richmond ending up at Sixth Avenue and Clement at Green Apple Books, a longtime favorite. Laden with books yet again, the kids and I headed home via the 38-Geary to the 22-Fillmore.

Finally, saving the best for last: Our operator on the Fillmore line called out stops, transfers, and destinations—an uncommon treat greatly appreciated by this transit nerd.