Saturday: My friends James and Grant and I arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly before 8am. As I passed through security I encountered the most interesting set of TSA officers I have ever had the pleasure to deal with. First, the officer who checked my boarding pass and driver’s license noticed my Seahawks hat and Seahawks coat and when she saw that my destination was San Francisco she knew I was heading to the game. Upon highlighting my boarding pass and sending me over to the security checkpoint she said to me “make sure the Seahawks kick their ass” to which I smiled and assured her I’d let them know where I was from. Second, after going through the screener, the officer who waved me through was probably the most attractive TSA official I have ever encountered. Lastly as I was scrambling to get all of my personal effects off of the conveyer belt, a third TSA agent jokingly gave me a hard time about how flustered I seemed based on how fast I was trying to get my things and get out of the way. It was certainly the coolest airport security experience I have ever been through.
After passing through security I grabbed breakfast and we headed towards the gate at the north satellite. Our Alaska Airlines flight was probably the most fun I have ever had on an airplane. Over half of our flight was Seahawks fans heading down for the game and the mood on the flight was excitement with lots of humor and stories being shared around the cabin. About halfway through the flight the flight crew requested at that everybody take out any Seahawks gear they had in the overhead compartments because they wanted to take some pictures of everybody on the plane in their Seahawks gear to post online. This got everybody excited and the flight got really loud. Even the passengers who were not Seahawks fans going to the game seemed to have a fun time or at least I assume so because nobody complained.
Our first stop upon arrival In San Francisco was lunch at In-N-Out burger which was conveniently about a half a mile south of the airport and was directly across the highway from our hotel. We definitely hit the lunch time rush because the entire parking lot was full along with a drive thru line about 20-25 cars long, almost stretching all the way across the parking lot and into the street. In-N-Out is customary to be a tradition upon all of my visits to California and this burger really hit the spot, keeping all of us full and satisfied until dinner time. After lunch we headed across the highway to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza in Burlingame, and checked in but not before being confused by the roads surrounding the hotel, making numerous wrong turns and detours. I dropped my luggage off at my room overlooking the southeast and relaxed for a couple of hours, allowing me to charge my phone and tour the hotel along with the amenities it offered. After this brief rest it was time to head downtown to the ultra-touristy part of San Francisco, the Embarcadero and Pier 39.
We got downtown with about an hour of sunlight left in the day. This allowed us to take pictures of the surrounding views from the back of Pier 39 such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, and various buildings in downtown San Francisco. I definitely came downtown underdressed as the cool breeze from the water added with the chilly air temperature made it feel absolutely freezing. A knit hat would have done a much better job keeping me warm than a visor. Oh well. Let me say this about pier 39, it can be fun to peruse but you run out of things to do and see very quickly. After looking through a few shops and grabbing an utterly terrible cup of coffee from a Mrs. Fields cookie stand, we decided to stand at the front of the pier where a large contingent of Seahawks fans were meeting for a “takeover of San Francisco.” This event was hyped on Facebook but did not really live up to my expectations because there was simply no space inside the Hard Rock Café (the primary meeting place) for all the Seahawks fans to fit. We wound up killing about another 45 minutes of time around Pier 39 before walking north to meet our friend Lauren for dinner at Boudin Bakery.
I was first introduced to Boudin by my friends Josh and Amanda on my trip to San Francisco last October and although I was not a fan of sourdough bread I decided to give Boudin’s sourdough chili bowl the ol’ college try. I was blown away. The chili was amazing and the bread was so fresh and warm that you couldn’t even taste the sourdough flavor that I disliked so much. It was one of my favorite meals on my trip last year so I felt that another visit was in order this year to expose James and Grant to this great restaurant that they too had never visited. After dinner James, Grant, Lauren and I walked through the bitter cold north to Ghirardelli Square. Here we looked through the original Ghirardelli chocolate shop and stopped for James and Grant to split the famous Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae, as Lauren and I enviously watched them devour it. After driving around downtown and dropping Lauren off at home we headed back to the hotel and we decided to head down to the hotel bar to have a drink before calling it a night.
Typically, much like going through security at the airport or your flight experience, having a drink in the hotel bar seems like pretty textbook stuff. You go, you talk, you drink, and you go back to your room. Not on this trip, however. Once again a mundane part of a typical vacation was turned upside down thanks to a group of knucklehead Seahawks fans staying at our hotel. We took a seat in a booth in the hotel bar/restaurant and it took forever to get served by the one server/busser hybrid. Once we got our drinks (and James’s humongous chicken Caesar salad) after a long wait the mayhem really began. The front of the restaurant is lined with glass windows. One end of the front hallway leads to a stairwell and the other end leads towards the elevators and the front desk. All of a sudden we heard some sort of ruckus outside of the restaurant over by the stairwell. Our server and the main bartender ran outside to break up what turned into a fistfight that had been led down the hallway close to the entrance of the restaurant. We turned around to see a struggle between a small group of Seahawks fans and another couple of people. Hotel security is almost immediately on the scene and they make it known that the police have been called. Once the police arrived they started to question each person that was involved in the fight and word started to spread among the guests dining and drinking in the bar that the instigators (the group of Seahawks fans) were going to be arrested, charged with assault, and would spend the night in a San Francisco jail. After about 15 minutes with the police right outside the bar, we decided to close out and head back to our rooms before the scene potentially started to escalate again. It was a really bizarre experience but one we would joke about for the rest of our trip.
I headed back to my room and called it a night. We had a very big day ahead of us on Sunday. My gameday wake-up call was set for 6am.
Sunday: I woke up to a beautiful red sunrise and later we checked out of the hotel and were on our way to the stadium by 8am. What sucks is that we could have afforded to leave a little later than 8. I knew that the parking lot gates to Candlestick Park opened at 9am but with the inevitable traffic that was going to clog the areas around the stadium I was positive that the 9am opening time was simply a plucked time and the gates would be open before 9am. I was dead wrong and it left me scratching my head, flustered, and it required us to figure out how to kill some time. After driving around the outside of the stadium gates we drove through the bad part of San Francisco which neighbors Candlestick Park and we eventually found our way back onto the highway. We drove one exit south and waited in a Radisson hotel parking lot for about a half an hour before making another attempt to park at the stadium. As we were driving south however we saw numerous cars along the shoulder of the highway waiting for 9am to draw closer so they could finish their drive and get into the parking lot. At 9am we headed north on 101 once again and when we got back to Candlestick Park, the parking lot when from a ghost town a half an hour earlier to about halfway full by the time we arrived again. We hit our second snag of the morning when we re-arrived at the stadium. Candlestick Park has three entrances to the main parking lot and each gate had signs stating that the only people allowed to park in the main parking lot were fans that had purchased a pre-paid parking pass through the 49ers. This banished us to the outer gravel parking lots at the “Candlestick recreational area.” After walking back and forth between the car and the RV tailgating lot multiple times (because I forgot the tickets at the car and we could not take any outside alcohol into the Candlestick parking lot (the stupidest rule I have ever encountered on any of my road trips by the way)) we headed to the Northern California Seahawkers “Final Stompin’ at the Stick” tailgate in the northwest corner of the stadium lot. The tailgate was crowded with Seahawks fans but the lack of beer due to the “no-alcohol in the parking lot” rule put a slight damper on my personal pregame plan. Nevertheless I was still excited for the game.
A little more than an hour before kickoff we decided to head into the stadium and made our way to the seats in Section 51, row 1. I sat in the exact same section and row the previous year so I was familiar with how to get to our seats and I had previous familiarity with the view from the inside of the stadium. I will spare details of the game because I’m assuming you already saw it on television but the environment inside the stadium was probably the worst experience I have ever had at Candlestick in regards to the people around me. During a television timeout in the first half, James asked the people sitting behind us if they could take a picture of our group with our backs facing the field. When we posed the entire section booed and cussed at us and one fan through a whole sandwich in our direction. Although the sandwich did not hit any of us, it did hit a 49ers fan seated in the lower part of the bowl about four rows in front of us. The fan continued to look back in my direction for the next few minutes and it was not hard to jump to the conclusion that he thought I had thrown the sandwich just because I was wearing Seahawks gear. He seemed like he wanted to get security involved even though the people next to us and directly behind us signaled to him that we were not the sandwich culprits. Still though, he had a look on his face that he wanted to come up and punch me in the face. I was hit in the head by some other small object when Russell Wilson threw his game-ending interception at the conclusion of the game but it was not big enough of a deal for me to be angry or questioning what had just hit me. Overall the crowd was very hostile and although I stood up and cheered loudly when the Seahawks scored, I felt like it was in my best interest to subdue my cheering to prevent any incidents that could involve me or the rest of the guys I went with. The crowd in San Francisco this year only re-affirms how pleasant other opposing fan bases are to interact with on my previous road trips. Even for a brief moment upon reflecting on the day’s events it crossed my mind that maybe I should not pay another visit to another Seahawks/49ers road game for a few years.
After the game we grabbed one last bite to eat once again at In-N-Out before heading to the airport to conclude our trip. Overall I had a lot of fun on this trip but it is unfortunate we did not get the chance to win the division on our final visit to Candlestick Park. Although the outcome of the game was disappointing, I had lots of fun on another Seahawks road trip with friends and it was definitely a memory making experience.