Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How Do They Work?

We begin our third installment of the day in San Francisco with Raina and Jesse with a stop at one of Jess' favorite restaurants in the Mission District.

If the claims on a printed sign posted in El Faro ("The Lighthouse") are to be believed, the first San Francisco burrito was sold September 26, 1961. The owner reportedly used two 6-inch tortillas to play the role of what would later become the large single tortilla.

El Faro has been a neighbor-
hood institution for 50 years. We arrived early in the afternoon and had enough time to watch the making of a unique burrito--the El Faro (or "Mission-style") Super Burrito.

"Aren't you going to take my picture?" asked the Super Burrito maker.

Well, of course, I hoped to, and her request removed any hesitation I had in asking for her OK to do just that.

Watching her build the Super, we noticed a unique feature of the San Francisco burrito. It is distin-
guished from a regular burrito partly by the amount of rice and other side dishes included in the package and partly by its sheer size.

The aluminum foil-wrapped Super was cut into four pieces because we had another meal coming up soon. Jess said that he came here often when he lived in this part of San Fran-
cisco and that he ordered one of the Supers every time.

I could maybe eat one half of the Super. It was indeed super--in taste and size.

A short drive around the Mission District, North Beach, and Telegraph Hill, and we were ready for a stop at Alioto's for chowder.

Jess and Raina (below) are free spirits who enjoy new, unusual, and off-beat activities and ideas, so when we requested a stop for a bowl of chowder, the idea of back-to-back meals did not seem at all unusual to them.

Kate described her bowl of Manhattan chowder as being more like cream of tomato soup with clams--good but not true Manhattan chowder.

Jess had the chowder bread bowl (shown here) and Raina and I had simple bowls of clam chowder. I thought that a bit of pork might have made it just a bit better.

After lunch #2, we headed for the Cable Car Museum to learn how the cable cars operate.

This museum was actually the operations center for the city's cable cars. The fact that it's free was surprising; that it's been named one of the "World's Top Ten Free Attractions" was impressive.

Looking around the space, we could see that this was a working center; had it not been Sunday, we would have seen a lot of activity.

At the power-
house, huge winding wheels driven by 510 horsepower electric motors pull cable loops at a constant speed of 9.5 miles per hour.

The large wheels shown above control the cable for each of the four cable car lines by keeping the cable in motion without slipping. To prevent the cable from slipping, three wheels--the driver, idler, (shown in the photo above) and tension wheels--maintain a constant level of tension.

The tension wheel (at the far end of the cable line in the photo above and in the close-up photo on the left) moves forward or backward to maintain that constant level.

Through a slot in the street, the gripman grabs the cable with a big vice-like lever mechanism called a grip. To start the car, the gripman pulls back on the lever which closes the grip around the cable. To stop the car, the gripman releases the grip and applies the brakes.

I still haven't quite figured out how the cable enables the car to turn corners.

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