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Summer of Muni: Crossing the finish line, heading off into the Sunset

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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.

28R - 19th Avenue

Delays, equipment issues, and planned maintenance really put a wrench in the works of meeting my goal of riding the entire Muni network this summer.

The kids and I started the week’s final push on the 28R. Why is it that 28R, which begins and ends at different terminuses from the 28, isn’t given it’s own number? The 28 starts at Daly City BART and goes north all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge before continuing east to Fort Mason. Contrast that with the 28R, which starts at Balboa Park and ends with a turn east for 10 blocks of California instead of entering the Presidio. Strange.

This mystifying numbering caused confusion for a tourist on our bus. Unfamiliar with Muni, she knew she needed to board a 28 bus to get to Golden Gate Bridge, but failed to realize that the 28R wouldn’t take her to the noted landmark, who grew more concerned as the bus moved on with nary of glimpse of International Orange in sight.

I gave her the scoop and sent her onward to (hopefully) get to the bridge.

California Street Cable Car

After visiting the Richmond Branch Library, the kids and I hitched ourselves to the 1-California down to Van Ness, ready to ride the length of the California Street Cable Car. While we waited for the world’s only moving national landmark to pick us up, we chatted with a family visiting from “back east” who’d just been to the Computer History Museum. Had they seen the Babbage Machine? They had! And they had a Babbage Machine poster to prove it.

The ride on the California Street cable care was the first with my kids sitting on the outside benches, and although, as a dad, this was nerve-wrecking, they stayed seated for most of the journey.

88 BART Shuttle and the 83X MidMarket Express

The following day we were up and out of the house early to intercept the 88, an early morning commuter bus that runs under 1.5 miles and takes roughly nine minutes to complete. Not the toughest trip of the day.

From the 88 we got on BART at Civic Center, and came up to catch the 83X to Caltrain, another short ride. Heading next to the Embarcadero Station, I realized I had a poorly laid out the itinerary for the day. My plan called for us to ride the 14X back to our car in the Outer Mission. But the 14X runs only south to north in the mornings. Stymied by the 14X, we rode the 14R (not nearly as rapid as the X) all the way back to our starting point to retrieve the vehicle and go home.

Powell Mason Cable Car

In order to stay on-track and finish this epic transit journey, I ordered a taxicab (yes, a classic cab, which is still a thing) to shuttle us north to Bay and Taylor, so that we could complete the three blocks of the Powell Mason line we missed prior.

While on the cable car I spoke with a woman who told me she’d been riding the Powell Mason line for 55 years. She also told me one of the grossest Muni stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing: She claimed that, back in the days before windshield wipers, the cable car grip operator would hang an oilcloth bag filled with used chewing tobacco in front of the front window. The fluids that seeped out from the spit-sack and onto the glass would somehow keep the window view clear. Nasty yet effective.

30X Marina Express

Taking on the last remaining lines, my kids and I headed to the new Transbay Terminal to hitch a ride on the 30X Marina Express. Our 30X turned out to be the most express bus we took this summer, zipping across town in 26 minutes from the east end of Market Street to deepest part of the Marina.h

I saw familiar turf on the 22, which took us home from the Marina, accompanied by an intoxicated guy taking swigs from a bottle of wine. He offered his beverage to everyone in the back of the bus except—much to my relief—my kids. Everyone politely declined the boozy offer.

With four days left before school begins, I had six lines outstanding lines: the 6, the 66, the Ocean Beach side of the 48, the Ocean Beach side of the N, the 14X, and the 29-Sunset.

6-Haight/Parnassus, 14X-Mission, 29-Sunset, 48-Quintara/24th Street, 66 Quintara, N-Judah

The 6, which we began in mid-morning, carried us up Market and Haight, and into Golden Gate Heights. This line ends at the top of a stairway section of Quintara Avenue, with a choice view of the city’s western neighborhoods.

Since the 6 left us near the middle of the 66 line, we began with the scenic inbound leg, and took a lunch break in the Inner Sunset at Ninth and Irving. Afterward, because my kids were complaining about the glacial temperatures, we stopped by San Franpsycho to buy hoodies. Outfitted in warmer attire, and accompanied by a leaner wallet, we extended our lunch break with another visit to the Botanical Gardens before jumping back on the 66.

Exiting the 66 near to Stern Grove, my kids and I walked to the L and rode toward our third line of the day, the 48, which hauled us from Ocean Beach toward the bay, rocketing up over Twin Peaks before dropping us off on our street corner.

Next up, the 14X, which I had to reach via taxicab. After taking ye ole cab, the kids and I waited for the 14X just over the county line in Daly City. The ride was short. Another line crossed off.

The penultimate our line, the N Judah, proved tricky. After a lengthy wait—surprise!—there was a systemwide problem. A signal had failed just beyond the Van Ness Station, and trains were crawling through the subway. Without knowing the magnitude of the delay, we went ahead and boarded the N-Judah train at Embarcadero, which emerged from underground and full hour later.

Ugh.

The second part of the trip went as expected, but the kids and I were so wiped out from the delay that we skipped our plan to visit Trouble Coffee and opted instead to ride back to Church Street, and then onto the 22 Fillmore, which stopped just short of home to switchback, and we had to offboard, and wait yet again for another bus to get home. Et tu, 22?

The final line.

29-Sunset

And now, the final line: the 29-Sunset. One of the longer trips by length, my kids and I were thrilled to savor our triumphant finish, with some comfortable books packed for the road and a Baker Beach frolic waiting for us at the end.

We read to each other while our bus rolled over the sun-drenched hills in Bayview, through John McLaren Park and the Excelsior, and into the fog bank that hangs over the city’s western neighborhoods.

As our bus passed Lake Merced and turned onto Sunset Parkway, we started to congratulate each other. When we stepped off the coach, our final coach in our mission, we gave each other high-fives and posed for victory shots against the bus. After leaving our victory bus, my kids and I walked to Baker Beach with the fog-covered Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

We’ve done it. Every line, end to end, in one unforgettable San Francisco summer. Thank you for riding with us.