Photo Of The Day: The Signs Of San Francisco

Over dinner recently, a fellow Gadling blogger, some other travel lovers and I were discussing the merits of San Francisco. We decided that our favorite part about it was that it just has that special amount of “funk” that is hard to find in other cities. It’s hard to describe, but if you have been to San Francisco, you know what I am talking about.

That feeling is perfectly captured in this photo of colorful and slightly seedy signs on a main drag in the city of hills and streetcars. It’s busy, and you get the feeling that behind every sign is a story. Makes me want to go and spend a sunny day exploring.

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[Photo credit: pkorsmok]

FlightCar Makes Peer-To-Peer Rentals More Convenient

If you can get comfortable with the idea of a stranger driving your car – or if you have the capacity to not think about it while the vehicle is out of your sight – it might make sense to rent your wheels while you’re out of town.

But the leading peer-to-peer rental agencies leave a lot of the logistics to the car owner. List your car with a service like Relay Rides, Getaround or Jolly Wheels (available in several major cities), and if you get a taker, you have to arrange to meet the renter somewhere to hand over your keys. That’s inconvenient if you’re heading to the airport. It’s one more thing to do before leaving town and when you return.

FlightCar, a new service in San Francisco, tailors the peer-to-peer thing to air travelers by meeting both listers and renters at the airport. Drive to its lot at the Millbrae BART station, leave your car and a rep will give you a free lift to the terminal (and back, upon your return). The same goes for renters.

Since launching on February 5, some 200 travelers have offered up their chariots to rent, and 80 percent have been rented, according to co-founder Shri Ganeshram. The average rental period is five days. FlightCar, like the other peer-to-peer companies, provides $1 million in free insurance and checks each renter’s driving record.

But is FlightCar’s compensation to car owners worth the worry and the wear and tear?FlightCar pays car owners in gas cards, and only if it rents the vehicle. It also washes every vehicle, whether it rents or not. Compensation ranges from $10 for the entire duration of the rental (for the oldest cars) to $10 per day of rental (for the nicer, newer rides, a rate that Ganeshram says might go up to $20 soon). If the car doesn’t rent, well, you don’t get a gas card, but you’ve scored free parking and a car wash while away. Long-term parking at SFO costs $18 per day, while independent park-and-fly services can save you a few dollars. So at most, you can come away $28 per day to the good.

Owners need to remember that the compensation isn’t all profit because wear and tear on the vehicle carries a cost. Renters can drive the car 90 miles per day. Ganeshram says rental-car companies value wear and tear as high as 15 cents per mile (“I got that number from a rental lease for a 2012 BMW X5”), in which case 90 driven miles would amount to $13.50. Subtract such cost from the value of the gas cards and parking you’d expect to receive each day. (In fairness, Ganeshram points out that many renters don’t reach the 90-mile max, and if they exceed it, FlightCar pays car owners 35 cents per extra mile.)

Ganeshram, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, provided an example to show that the value of the wear and tear doesn’t eat up all of the owner’s profit. It’s too complicated to repeat, but he arrived at the conclusion that the owner of a new $40,000 car should value mileage at 27 cents per mile. (Cheaper and/or older cars would have a lower per-mile valuation.) Say said owner makes the car available for a week and it rents for five days. That person would gain seven days of free parking, valued at $126; $50 in gas; and let’s say $20 for the value of the valet service and the car wash. That comes to $196. If the car is driven 80 miles per day at a wear-and-tear value of 27 cents per mile, that’s $108. Difference: $88.

Enough to hand over your keys?

[Photo credit: bottom, Flickr user Stig Nygaard]

Photo Of The Day: Surfing Near San Francisco

“Sometimes in the morning, when it’s a good surf, I go out there, and I don’t feel like it’s a bad world,” Nobel Prize-winning chemist Kary Mullis famously said.

Today’s Photo of the Day from Flickr user Jason Rodman captures the essence of that quote. Somewhere north of San Francisco, a lone surfer prepares to enter an ocean devoid of worries and distractions. There aren’t any surf-worthy waves, but if you look hard enough you can glimpse the ripple of one on the horizon. It’s a photo filled with hope and possibility; a photo that evokes the spirit of the sport.Do you have any great travel photos? You now have two options to enter your snapshots into the running for Gadling’s Photo of the Day. Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool, or mention @GadlingTravel and use hashtag #gadling in the caption or comments for your post on Instagram. Don’t forget to give us a follow too!

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Jason Rodman]

Video Of The Day: San Francisco Longboarding

The reason I’m fascinated by extreme sport-type videos, like this one, has nothing to do with my own predisposition or lack thereof toward these types of activities. In fact, I don’t longboard at all, let alone longboard like the skater featured in this video, Sean Spees. Rather, I enjoy these videos because, when artfully shot, they excel in staying quiet and letting the shots do the talking. And it just so happens that the shots, more often than not, include great scenery. Such is the case with this video from Original Skateboards. As this speed-demon skater shoots down the steep hills of San Francisco, quality images of the city are captured beautifully. Enjoy – and don’t try this at home.

How San Francisco Got Its Name

San Francisco’s Mobile Eateries: SOMAny Food Trucks, So Little Time

food truck
In a city like San Francisco, there’s so much to love, it’s easy to veer into bad poetic cliche (the fog rolling in on the Golden Gate; how, on unseasonably warm days, the entire city appears to be picnicking on every available patch of green; the dreamy views of the bay from the top of Pacific Heights).

There are other things about SF that rock, however, despite an obvious lack of romanticism. There’s the food truck scene, for example, which in less than five years has become a firmly entrenched part of the city’s culture. Like SF’s ethnic restaurants, the trucks roam the culinary map, from Eritrea and Malaysia to the Philippines, Hawaii, India, the Deep South, Latin America, and even, god help us, dessertlandia (cupcakes have nothing on the crème brûlée truck).

I’ve written before about Off the Grid (OTG), the ginormous, weekly food truck fiesta held down at Fort Mason (there are other, smaller venues and food truck “pods” in SF, the East Bay, South Bay, and Marin County, as well). Featuring over 40 trucks, music, and stellar views of the Bay, it’s become a beloved celebration of all that’s great about life in San Francisco. My favorite vendors include The Chairman (as in Bao), and Gohan.

I’ve been to OTG before, but until last week, I’d never visited its more urban equivalent, SOMA strEAT Food Park. Located just south of Market Street (SOMA), this formerly dumpy, sketchy block has been transformed into an oasis, complete with landscaping, attractive seating areas, music, a beer garden, and an indoor tent for inclement weather. SOMA has long been an up-and-coming ‘hood for hipsters thanks to its bars, cafes, and restaurants, but it’s also convenient to the Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Metreon entertainment complex, Yerba Buena Gardens, Moscone Center and the Union Square shopping district.

Unlike OTG, the Food Park is also open daily. A number of the same vendors work OTG and the Food Park (which has different vendors every day), but others are unique to each location. My favorite at the Food Park is Adam’s Grub Truck, which specializes in Pacific Rim-inflected sandwiches that are the bomb. There’s also Del Popolo, inarguably the most famous – and high-tech – food truck/pizzeria on wheels in the nation. It alone is worth a trip down to SOMA.

Whether you head to OTG for the scene, selection and bayside location, or the strEAT Food Park for a convenient shopping or cultural break, you’ll come away stuffed, satiated and waxing a little poetic about SF, yourself.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Gary Soup]