A Ride in a San Francisco GoCar
I first heard of the GO Car when I was in Miami, but I never got a chance to use it. So when I saw it was also available in San Francisco, I figured I really needed to make this whole “Go Cart on the real road” thing happen.
How Go Car works
So these yellow Go Carts are a bit more advanced than the ones you might find at your local Putt Putt establishment. They seat 1-2 people and are completely street legal (in the cities in which GoCar operates). The whole idea behind the GoCar is to give tourists a “Cure for the Common Tour.” Instead of walking or sitting on a bus while a tour guide speaks into a PA system, tourists can hop into their own GoCar and use one of the programmed tours to get GPS directions and fun facts about the sites piped right into the car’s sound system.
I hate driving, but I really love Go Carts
I have never been a huge fan of driving. I have a terrible sense of direction and I am simply not aggressive enough on the road. I freeze up, panic, and get stressed out when I am in unfamiliar places. I avoid driving in new cities like the plague. Keeping all this in mind, I am sure you are wondering, why the hell would I want to drive a freaking Go Cart on the streets of San Francisco?! I’m going to be completely honest with you.
It was about 50% novelty and 50% pure childlike reckless abandon.
I don’t think I have ever passed up a chance to drive a Go Cart in my life. I love speeding around in those shaky little lawnmowers on steroids. I was not just curious about this whole GoCar business; I was downright pumped. I strapped on my helmet and hopped into that car ready to have a truly magical afternoon. As soon as I got on the road, I spoke out loud to myself,
I’ve made a huge mistake
Here’s the thing guys, normal Go Carts just run around in circles on a closed track. The worst thing that can happen is another Go Cart going about 15 miles an hour might ram you into the bumper-padded wall. Even then, some teenager would then come running over to drag you both out of the mess. You know, like that little cloud guy with a fishing pole in Mario Kart.
This shit was not Mario Kart
I was in a Go Cart that was supposed to be going around 30mph at all times on a road full of cars who are looking to go at least 40mph or faster. I was also in a little toy car, super low to the ground and not always clearly visible to the much larger vehicles speeding around me. I was desperately trying to listen to the GPS while also frantically checking my mirrors and signaling a lane change. I mean, I wanted to see China Town but I also really wanted to arrive alive.
I got lost pretty much immediately
I know, I know, the car comes with a talking GPS, so it sounds pretty absurd that I would get lost so quickly, but hear me out. The thing is, the GPS doesn’t actually kick in until you get to a mapped out part of one of the pre-programmed tours. The GoCar employee had told me to drive out and take a left on some street. What he did not tell me was that street was a really confusing diagonal 5-way intersection. I assume my mind just froze up at the sight of it and told my body to just keep on driving, which is what I did. Before I knew it, I was headed towards a different tour, one that was twice as long as the one I had signed up for. I ended up at some beach and had to park the car to look at the map.
This is what I saw:
What the hell is that garbage?! Who could read that!?
So, I called for help. Once I got a GoCar employee on the phone they were fairly helpful. But then I had to actually get out of my parking spot.
The GoCars don’t actually have the capability to reverse. In order to get out of this spot, I had to hold up a bit of parking lot traffic while I pushed and steered this baby from the outside. That’s when I encountered my next problem.
The hilly city of San Francisco
If you have never been to San Francisco, just know that the hills are even steeper and more numerous than you had previously imagined. The problem was, I was specifically warned not to take the GoCar onto any particularly steep roads. I was not told what would happen if I did, but I assumed it would result in the tiny GoCar engine failing and sending my car careening backwards to a bloody death, or at the very least a very expensive insurance issue.
Two big problems:
1. I am not from San Francisco. How the hell was I supposed to know which streets would be steep?
2. The GPS does not re-route if you make a mistake, so if you miss a turn, you have to try to get back on the route before your GPS savior will reappear. This means making quick decisions and hoping for the best.
Somehow, I still managed to have a bit of fun
As terrifying and frustrating as some of the ordeal was, I did manage to enjoy parts of it. I definitely wished that I would have had someone with me. It was almost impossible to take photos because there were not pedals, the gas and brakes were on the steering handles, making even a one-handed camera maneuver impossible unless I was stopped. It would have been nice to have someone to trade driving duties with.
I think my favorite part was driving along the Embarcadero. It was a rather busy and bustling part of the city, but due to all the bicyclists and pedestrians, the cars seemed to be a lot less freaked out by a tiny yellow car chugging along beside them. Also, it was all one long, straight line so I actually got to enjoy the wind in my hair and the beautiful view.
I also got a lot of smiles and high fives
I guess the GoCar thing must be fairly new in San Francisco, because people really cracked up when they saw me. Random people waved at me and cheered. I even had a guy run up to me at a stoplight to give me a high five. Strange, but enjoyable.
I recommend it, but not for everyone
If you are someone who gets freaked out when driving in a new city, you should only do this with a friend. If you love driving, on the other hand, this might be a totally awesome adventure for you. Just be ready for some stressful last-minute turns and don’t expect to snap many photos unless you want to pull over.