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Wharf Watch

[whitespace] Turbo Ride, Baby

By Jon Roemer

It's after 8pm, Pier 39 is pretty much a ghost town, and you know what? It ain't bad. A few couples linger on the promenade. Baby strollers are left unattended outside storefronts, without trepidation. The deep fryers at Trish's Mini Donuts have cooled for the night, but the smell is still in the air. All the day's smells are still in the air. That's the best thing about evening tide at Pier 39. Like Disneyland after hours, like the Louvre without all the Frenchmen, the evening Wharf gives you the gist without all the grime.

I recently took a pretend date, which, expectationwise, makes good sense for the Wharf. A happenin' babe from the Mission, she was still a Wharf virgin. We locked arms, window-shopped, cuddled against the chilly breeze. Another San Francisco fairy tale in the making.

Which brings us to the first of this week's surprising Wharf discoveries: the dismal lack of hourly lodging in the inner area. We were dismayed to find not one establishment within easy walking distance that offered rooms by the hour.

Which is intriguing, because I had thought this was a romantic destination, that people came here from all over the world to do this very deed. And if not at Fisherman's Wharf, where does one "leave" one's "heart" in San Francisco?

Well, leave it to the good folks at Pier 39. Where you can do all the bumping and grinding you want without ever leaving your seat--all in a clean, family-friendly environment.

Welcome to Pier 39's Turbo Ride, tucked back there at the far end of the pier, behind the merry-go-round. The attraction offers four very brief "film adventures" with synchronized hydraulic seats (10:30am to 8:30pm daily). It's like a traditional theater but with seatbelts and hyperactive hydraulics under each chair.

So when we chose "Dino Island: Get Petrified," we were literally tossed and turned in our seats as we dipped and dived through a digital movie of dinosaurs stampeding across a volcanic island. And then it was over. For eight bucks, the same price you pay for feature-length drivel, you get all the same special effects--enhanced, no less, with a seat that shimmies for you--but without the hassle of a long, involved story.

For the girl from the Mission, it was a thrilling but admittedly brief ride. For me, Turbo Ride is like porn without the non-sex parts. It's a hell of a ride. I screamed, I laughed, I got my hat knocked off. Halfway through it, my pretend-date and I were holding hands. After, we shared a cigarette. But let's not sully the experience with any more details. And don't ask me how pterodactyls suddenly appear on a volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific. It's all part of the magic, folks.

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From the June 29-July 12, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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