on October 19, 2010
As much as Alcatraz island is a "must visit" so is a journey down to the iconic Golden Gate. It is one of those sights that are world renowned and I believe is a wondrous one to cast your eyes over. But we didn’t just want to see it – we were in San Francisco so we were determined to walk it. Eve our friend who has a fear of heights was going to step foot on the bridge with the aspiration to walk its length we the rest of us.The four of us set off on our adventure to make our way there on public transport and had thankfully decided against hiring a cycle to "take the scenic route" along the water’s edge. I say thankfully because, due to the immense size of the construction, the distance turned out to be much further than it looked from the tram terminus. It took us a tram and a couple of bus journeys to get there and as bus pulled into park close to the bridge we found ourselves gasping with appreciation.Work began on the bridge back in 1933 and the Chief Engineer, Joseph Strauss, had to deal with some terrible conditions – including high winds, thick fog, ocean waves and strong tidal currents. It’s not surprising that it was over four year before the bridge was ready for use and the first crossing took place on 28th may 1937. Indeed Joseph Strauss wrote a poem (what a multi-talented man) on the bridge’s completion, perhaps an indication of his relief that the bridge had been successfully completed. I guess it says it all:"On its broad decks in rightful pride,The world in swift parade shall ride,Throughout all time to be:Beneath, fleet ships from every port,Vast landlocked bay, historic fort,And dwarfing all the sea."The Bridge spans 4200 feet, has 6450 feet of suspension bridge and the whole construction (including the approaches) is almost 9000 feet long. It stands 745 feet above water and there’s a further 110 feet of tower piers under water giving a maximum height between the bridge and the water of 220 feet. I was surprised to read that there are actually only two main cables and these have a diameter of just over 36 inches and are made up of 27,572 individual cables. In all there are 80,000 miles of cabling weighing in at 24,500 tons and that together with the 83,000 tons of the superstructure makes this a very weighty construction. We were pleased, as we walked the bridge to see evidence of the ongoing painting of the bridge as , to prevent corrosion the steel construction is continuously being painted in its familiar "International orange" colour. We have a saying in England about a job that never seems to end – "it’s like painting the Fourth Bridge". Perhaps in the USA the expression is "it’s like painting the Golden Gate Bridge". If that’s not a current expression, maybe it should be!We spent a bit of time checking out the flora and fauna of the local park – it was beautifully set out with a range of colourful plants – which perfectly complimented the Bridge. A life sized bronzed statue of the architect stood, holding his plans, in perfect harmony with the parkland and the bridge (or should I say His Bridge) over his shoulder. Having had the obligatory tourist photographs with the bridge behind us, we set off. I was surprised that there were six lanes for traffic with a separate pedestrian / cycle lane on the outside of the bridge. It’s worth remembering that this is real popular with cyclists and joggers and they both seem to claim right of way over the slower walkers. The sky was bright blue (so much for all the rumours that we’d heard about grey, foggy and cool days) but perhaps we were fortunate because we had great weather for our stay in San Francisco. The orange of the bridge perfectly set off against the sky with the choppy white waves on the clear blue waters below us acting as a show case for the numerous yachts and speed boats. I’m sure some of them were putting on a performance for us all. And in the distance was the impressive sight of Alcatraz Island, which we’d visited a couple of days ago. I was pleasantly surprised that the bridge was "open to the elements" throughout its length (I’m sure back in the UK it would have been enclosed for "Health and Safety" reasons) as this enabled us to truly feel the magnitude of the setting. A slight breeze wafted across our faces and we noticed the cables steadily vibrating as we got closer to the centre point.Although we didn’t make it fully off the bridge at the other side we made it to the final upright before turning back to our starting position. It was a long walk across the bridge and back but a thoroughly enjoyable bit of exercise. Mind you the weather was perfect and there as plenty to see. We just enjoyed soaking in the atmosphere on this iconic structure. A truly magnificent walk and, in my view, far better than taking the bus across.
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