Driving stick in San Francisco

Petrero Hill

I bought my new car, Sheila, just a month or so before moving to California.

When I got her, I envisioned lots of day trips and road trips along the West Coast. This weekend, I had the chance to show Sheila what San Francisco is all about.

When I began to get serious about moving to California and going to grad school, San Francisco felt like a real possibility. The last time I visited four years ago, I was enamored. Northern California is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

To think that San Francisco is only a five-hour drive away from Los Angeles is kind of mind-boggling to me. You know what else is mind-boggling? How frighteningly steep the hills are—especially when you’re driving stick.

My first car was a stick shift, so I’ve always had an appreciation for the art of getting into first gear. But parallel parking on a steep incline was never part of my training. I might’ve had a mini panic attack over the summer when I was parked between two BMWs on a hill in Runyon Canyon and wasn’t exactly confident that I’d be able to get out of the spot without causing some damage. John gave me a crash course in using the emergency break as a back-up then (and no damage was done), but San Francisco was the real test of my abilities.

There’s something special about zipping around a city as a visitor in your own car. Even though Sheila was embarrassingly filthy (bird poop, bug guts, desert dust, etc.), I was proud to take her around town. We visited Golden Gate Park, drove along the Embarcadero and struggled with directions when we realized you can’t make left turns anywhere. We even parked on one or two of the steepest hills San Francisco has to offer. Though I handed John the keys and let him sweat it out when we parked here.

The weekend went by fast, but knowing the Bay Area is just a few hours away means we won’t go another four years before we visit again, and that’s pretty cool. I’ll share more pictures later this week, when I do my monthly photo roundup.

Do you know how to drive stick? Has anyone ever driven stick in San Francisco?