Winnie and I just returned from a week’s trip to Oakland, California. I was there on business and on this trip Winnie accompanied me, the first time she’s traveled with me on my business travel. It was a nice week together, and gave both of us a bit of vacation. Better yet, I had the chance to do something different; walk the Golden Gate Bridge
I’ve considered San Francisco one of my three favorite America cities ever since my first visit back in 1980. This past year I’ve had the chance to travel there several times which are especially nice because my youngest brother Jeff lives in Oakland. For this trip, the stars aligned just right and Winnie was able to travel with me for her first visit to The City by the Bay.
We flew out on Monday, arriving at our hotel in downtown Oakland late that evening after a dinner stop in San Francisco’s China town district while driving from San Francisco airport. My first few days of this trip were typical 12+ hour work days. While I was at work, Winnie stayed busy exploring the ten block area around the hotel which was on the edge of Oakland’s “China Town” district. Winnie felt right at home there and spent her time checking out the many restaurants, enjoying foods she hadn’t tasted since her last trip to China. We did get out for dinner each evening at a different Chinese restaurant and explored the Oakland/San Francisco neighborhoods.
Thursday wound down my duties, and that evening Winnie and I had dinner with Jeff at a rather interesting Nepal/Tibetan restaurant that Jeff picked. Friday was our chance to do our sight-seeing. I had arraigned our airline tickets to fly out of San Francisco airport Friday evening, giving us all day to explore and play tourist.
As much as San Francisco is one of my favorite American cities, the Golden Gate bridge is absolutely my favorite bridge and one of my top favorite engineering marvels in the world. The one thing I really wanted to do this trip, and share with Winnie, was walking the Golden Gate Bridge. The sad truth is that as a native New Yorker growing up around the non-pedestrian friendly monuments to automobiles built by Robert Moses, I didn’t know anyone could walk across the Golden gate bridge until the late 1990’s, and I had not visited San Francisco since my revelation.
So, Friday morning we checked out of the hotel and headed over to San Francisco. With GPS, finding the Golden Gate Vista park on the northern side of the bridge was easy. We parked, walked around the viewpoint taking photos, then walked the bridge. Some observations:
- The bridge walkways are NOISY! The traffic flow is constant, and the roar of cars and trucks passing by is nearly deafening.
- The bridge walkways are lively with other people walking and riding bicycles. In fact, combined with the noise of traffic which makes it difficult to hear the bicyclists ringing their bells or yelling, the bicyclists are downright dangerous. To be fair, I suspect the bicyclists are not so impressed with people walking in their way…
- The bridge is really high! Even though I’ve passed under the bridge by ship several times, it wasn’t until I walked the bridge that I truly appreciated just how high up over the water it is.
- The bridge shakes from passing traffic. Combined with number 3 above, this shaking of the bridge caused my knees to shake a bit from being so high up. Really. I don’t do heights well.
- From close-up, I was better able to appreciate the engineering beauty of this bridge. The bridge is riveted together, not welded, which shouldn’t have surprised me considering when it was built (same metal technology used to build ships of that era), but I was surprised.
- From close-up, the bridge displays a different side of its beauty. I was able to examine the details not noticeable when zipping across by car. From close-up, the art deco details are impressive, and truly display a level of aesthetics I don’t see in more modern structures.
- The bridge is f’king HUGE! I mean, really huge. BIG. Long. Wide (six vehicle lanes and walkways on both sides). And the towers are really tall. OK, not earth-shaking revelations. But I was impressed.
- There is a safety track on each side of the bridge, at a lower level than the walkways which looks like a small railroad track. I don’t know why this impressed me, but it did. Personally, I couldn’t count high enough to know how much I’d have to get paid to crawl past the walkway and climb around under the bridge trusting my safety line to keep me from falling in the water. See number 4 above.
- People walking on the bridge are eager to help take pictures, and eager to ask someone else the take their pictures. We asked one person to take our picture, and took pictures of three other couples.
Winnie and I only walked about one-third of the way across then back as Winnie was concerned about our flight time. It was enough of a walk. For this trip.
I think I need to add to my list of future travel experiences a bicycling trip across the bridge and back.
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