Anyone who has spent some time in San Francisco has see the GoCars: tiny, yellow, people-carrying vehicles that troll around telling their riders anecdotes like who donated the gate at the entrance to Chinatown or why Lombard Street curves like it does.
Anyone who grew up with Nintendo 64 has imagined these GoCars racing around the streets with shells on their backs and banana peels ready to be flung at their enemies, hoping to get star power so they can blast invincibly past their competitors.
GoCars and Mario Kart. It’s the 20-something San Franciscan’s dream.
And then one day a friend and I found ourselves with an empty afternoon and a costume box. This is how one of my favorite bucket list activities happened.
While it would’ve been great to get a group all dressed up as each of the Mario Kart characters (apparently no one has ever shown up as Donkey Kong), when there’s only two of you there is an obvious duo to portray: Mario and Luigi. So we donned our overalls (thank you to SF’s costume loving culture, without which our friends would not have overalls just lying around), our green and red tshirts, hats and sunglasses, and our fake mustaches, and set off on a mission to live the Mario Kart GoCar dream.
We looked good, but we brought an additional prop that really elevated our success: a Jambox. On which we played the Super Mario Bros theme song. On repeat. The entire walk to the GoCar store, the entire 1 hour ride around the city, and the entire walk home. That’s about 2 straight hours of the Super Mario Bros theme. It was stuck in my head for a week, but it was so incredibly worth it.
We picked up the car and, after a quick stop to say hi to our friends on Jackson Street (for photographic evidence, of course), we hit all the major tourist spots. We went down Lombard Street, through Chinatown to Union Square, up the Embarcadero and past Fisherman’s Wharf.
The reaction we got from people was amazing. I couldn’t even pretend to count how many pictures of us were taken. People waved at us, laughed, clapped, and even ran up to high five us when we were stopped at a red light. They yelled out “you’re awesome!” and “that’s the way to do it!” People danced along with the song as they crossed the street. My favorite reaction was the SUV that passed us on the Embarcadero, whose driver rolled down his window to wave a banana peel at us.
I am pretty sure I looked like an idiot smiling the entire time. And because I was bopping along to the song – it is pretty catchy. But the whole thing was just so much fun.
Did we learn a lot about San Francisco? The way the tour was meant to teach us, no not really. I can’t tell you all the historic facts that the car lady was trying to tell us; she was pretty much drowned out by the theme song. But I did experience that people in SF are pretty awesome. There’s nowhere else where I would feel totally comfortable and accepted, hell even loved, walking/GoCar-ing around dressed as Mario and Luigi in the middle of the day for no other reason than because we wanted to.
This was one of my bucket list items that I honestly wasn’t sure I would be able to complete, at least the costume part of it. Dream fulfilled.
P.S. Big shout out and thank you to Luigi for entertaining this idea and coming along for the ride.