Fire Hydrants and Friends–my photo hobby

A few years ago I noticed that people will dispose of unwanted stuff next to fire hydrants. These items are never put in the middle of the sidewalk, and only rarely, on a corner without a hydrants.

Chair and frying pan next to a fire hydrant in San Francisco.

I only have a vague theory about why people do this. Not the throwing stuff on the street aspect. It’s clear why that happens: people either put it out on the street convincing themselves it is a somewhat benevolent notion because someone will want it, or, more likely, they’re just dumping it knowing sooner or later the city will pick it up.

Basket and boxes next to a fire hydrant in San Francisco.

But why next to a hydrant? I think it’s because since something is already on the street, i.e. the hydrant, then it is fair game to put other stuff next to it. This theory does not apply to trash cans, as putting trash next to a trash can would appear lazy or redundant.

Cat Tree next to a fire hydrant in San Francisco.

I started taking photos of these objects.

Christmas tree stand next to a fire hydrant in San Francisco.

Occasionally when I’m taking people out on a tour of San Francisco, I notice abandoned semi-junk next to fire hydrants. I will often, usually, ask my guests permission to stop the tour clock for a minute while get out of the MINI and snap the display.

Scooter and raquets next to a fire hydrant in San Francisco.

It is possible that on your private tour of San Francisco, you may have an opportunity to indulge me in my hobby.

Green chair next to a fire hydrant in San Francisco.


Green Apple Books—The Best Used (and New) Bookstore in San Francisco

My apartment is filled with books. What books don’t fit on shelves are stacked next to my bed, my current read (usually on some aspect of San Francisco or California history) within easy reach so I can fill my head with stories and facts before falling asleep. There are also books occupying floor space, and there are a couple of bins in the storeroom filled with books I read and perhaps will one day get rid of but probably not.
There is a Japanese word for acquiring more books than you might get around to reading:Tsundoku. Some dismiss this as little more than book hoarding. They are wrong. Being surrounded by books is different than navigating piles of string too short to throw away and a mountain of broken toaster ovens found on the street.
Most of the books in my tsundoku shrine came from Green Apple books
Green Apple Books--Best Used bookstore in San Francisco
If you like bookstores, and the most best travelers do, Green Apple should be a destination on your visit to San Francisco.
There are three floors of books, connected by a small warren of staircases.
It smells like a bookstore. A bit musty, an olfactory quality from the various ages and conditions of the millions of pages between thousands of covers.
One of the many staircases in Green Apple Books
“Used bookstore smell” should be included in the vocabulary of sommeliers. It would describe a wine I’d buy a case of. But I digress.
More books! Green Apple always has more books to discover.
Speaking of wine, this is a dangerous place for me to visit after a couple of glasses. I always find a book I need, or just want, or just feels right in my hand no matter when I go to Green Apple. But under the influence of a good Malbec or Zin, I discover more books than usual to feed my tsundoku habit.
Green Apple Books is located on Clement St in the Richmond District. This is an overlooked street that should not be overlooked. After wandering the aisles, you can go to The Blue Danube for coffee and read your new acquisitions.  Or go to one of the bars. Few things in life are better than a glass of wine and a good book. Enjoy yourself like a local.
Green Apple Books 506 Clement St. (at 6th Ave) 415-387-2272 Open daily 10am-9pm

My Stupid but Functional Hat

I have a cool car. The convertible Green MINI, which I am proud to say is the only MINI Cooper convertible registered as a commercial vehicle in the United States.

But I wear a really uncool hat.

I don’t like the sun, so of course I created a business where I’m in the sun all day. So I wear my functional but stupid hat.

Reed and the green Mini and a guest. My guest is wearing a fine hat. Mine is stupid.

I try to look nice. I wear a suit and tie on tours. The tie is green, as is my pocket square. My vest has green stripes, and sometimes I wear green shoes. Most tour guides dress like they rolled out of bed and put on the first thing they picked up from the floor. I like to have a little style.

But I haven’t found a cool hat that will keep the sun off. So I wear a ugly functional one.

Me and my stupid hat and my cool guests, next to the San Francisco bay by the Golden Gate Bridge.


Fortunately, my guests don’t seem to mind. That’s because I get to give great San Francisco private tours to fun and interesting people, who overlook my stupid hat.  And, as you can see from this picture, it doesn’t always keep the sun off me.

I really need to get a better hat.

Benefits of having a private, local guide.

If you’re going to the effort and expense of taking a tour, make sure you’re getting a local guide. Someone who lives here, who loves the city, and most important, is always learning new things to share with their guests.

There are a lot of people in the tour business don’t live here. While they love the city, they don’t explore it everyday. They don’t make discoveries locals do. And they don’t know their way around the city like locals do. For most of them being a guide is a gig, a job they like. They’re fine.

But why settle for fine?

Fisherman's Wharf postcard 1930's private tour guide looking at crabs

I found this vintage postcard of Fisherman’s Wharf from the 1930’s. I’m including it because I look like the guy with glasses

I live in San Francisco, and have all of my adult life. Before I started Small Car Big Time Tours, I spent my time reading about and exploring the city. I still do. Every day I’m reading about some aspect of San Francisco, the Wine Country, and California History. Every day I’m out in this city I love.

Being a private tour guide is more than a job for me. It’s what I truly love.

As for why you should hire a private guide? That’s easy. Do you want to spend part of your valuable vacation time dealing with strangers, having to wait for them when you’re ready to leave, listening to them yap when you’d rather hear about about the city and sites? Personally, that sounds like a punishment rather than vacation.

A private, custom tour from a local guide will give you an experience that will be truly memorable.

Avoid the Coronavirus in San Francisco—Take a private tour!

People are cancelling trips to San Francisco or not just showing up at all. But those that are here are a bit nervous about being in crowds. So what is the best way to see the city and avoid coughing tourists?
Avoid the Coronavirus in San Francisco with a Private Tour
Take a custom private tour in a convertible MINI Cooper.
The large tour buses are rolling petri dishes. And they are limited to where they can go. So not only do you miss most of the city, you risk picking up whatever your seat mate brought with them from out of town.
Avoid the Coronavirus in San FranciscoAvoid the Coronavirus in San Francisco with a private tour

I’m sure you don’t want to over react to the Coronavirus, but on the other hand, why take chances? Especially risking your health on a crummy, crowded tour.
Avoid the Coronavirus in San Francisco with a private tour
Sure, you’ll be fine. Sure. Probably. Almost certainly. Mostly.
Like I said, why risk it? You’re on vacation. You’re here to have fun, not spend your time running a fever in the hotel.
A custom private tour of San Francisco in a convertible MINI Cooper is a unique way to see the city. No crowds, and no viruses allowed.


The Homeless, Panhandlers, and your safety in San Francisco

When I’m taking people on a private tour, a frequent question has to with the homeless, panhandlers, and safety.
First thing: you’re safe here. San Francisco is a safe city. No one wants to hurt you. No one wants to mug you. No one wants to hassle you or deliberately make you uncomfortable. (Well, sort of. More on that later.)

Let me address crime. The biggest problem is property theft, and most of that is breaking into cars and stealing what is on the seat. If you’re not driving (and you shouldn’t–it’s a freaking nightmare for newcomers to drive in San Francisco) then nothing will be stolen out of your car.

You do have to be aware of hanging your purse or backpack over a chair in a restaurant. People will take the opportunity to dip into it. Also on a crowded bus or streetcar.

Thieves want your stuff. They don’t want to hurt you–it’s too much trouble, and calls attention to them. Why should they hurt someone when if they’re patient an open back pack will offer an easily picked wallet? If you use common sense, and make it difficult for a thief to take your stuff, they’ll find someone else who’s purse or backpack is temptingly unattended.

San Francisco has homeless people and panhandlers. The homeless, many of whom should be in treatment, are trying to survive on the street. They don’t want to bother you. By the way, know want to know the fastest growing segment of homeless? Female military veterans.

Panhandlers (who are also usually homeless) will ask for spare change. You can ignore them, smile and say “Sorry,” or give them change. But whatever you do, they are not going to hurt you. Don’t be afraid of them.

Occasionally, if you are near Union Square, you might find yourself on or near a sketchy street. There might even be someone who looks like a drug dealer or prostitute. This might make you uncomfortable, and rightly so, but you’re not going to be hurt. They know you don’t want what they’re selling and won’t bother you.

Last year, my wife and I were in Barcelona, made a turn and found ourselves on a sketchy street. The people on the street knew we did not want whatever drug or degridating sex thrill they had to offer. Since we had obviously turned down the wrong aisle, the most we got was an eye-roll. Uncomfortable, sure. Dangerous? Not at all. Same in San Francisco.

So, to sum up, you’re OK here. San Francisco is a city, and has the whole range of city people. Some may be people you don’t experience back home. But honestly, you’re going to be hassled more by a drunk fratboy or a tech bro with an overblown sense of entitlement. They will be openly rude to you, shove you out of the way in the crosswalk, or steal your seat at a bar, and are going to ruin your day more than than some poor panhandler.

She wanted a custom private tour of the North Coast, Russian River, and Wine Country. Of course she got it.

One of the many reasons I love being able to customize tours is that guests will sometimes surprise me with their requests. I rerecently had a great one such experience with a guest, Silvia, a world traveler from Switzerland. After taking her on a 6 hour private tour of San Francisco and Muir Woods, she booked me 2 days later to show her the surrounding Bay Area. Whenever she travels (and she’s been all over the world), she not only likes to see the city, but the nearby countryside as well. By exploring the areas around a city, she says she learns more about the city.  Plus it’s fun. And since she could customize her private tour anyway she wanted, I was at her service.

She wanted to see all the scenic diversity Northern California has to offer. We started by driving up the coast with the Pacific Ocean on our left.  Stopped in Bodega Bay for coffee, and continued to highway 116. There we turned East along the Russian River, and drove through Monte Rio and Guerneville where we were surrounded by redwood trees. Then down through Sebastopol and into the vineyards of Sonoma.

Driving in this beautiful Northern California scenery, ocean and redwoods and vineyards in a convertible is to indulge in the stereotype dream of  California experience.  It is especially indulgent when you have a driver.  Take advantage.

california-coast-highway as seen from the custom private tour of San Francisco