Thursday, December 31, 2009

Golden Gate Bridge Walk

On New Year's Eve, I picked the kids up from a sleepover at Tonya's, and since they were already so handily in the car, I took them straight to the day's activity. I wasn't quite sure what that would be until we got on the road -- my initial idea of walking the Golden Gate Bridge seemed iffy due to weather, but, most of the time that I take chances against the weather, I win.

And today was one of those times. Overcast, chilly, but no rain and a perfectly fine day to walk across -- and back -- a bridge. I was determined to make it all the way to the other side, and back, as usual underestimating how long it is (1.7 miles).

I grew up within walking distance of the Brooklyn Bridge, and walked or bicycled across it many times in my youth, so I have a long history of bridge-crossing. As a kid I had some snobbery about "my" bridge -- what other bridge could ever be as grand or historic as the Brooklyn Bridge -- but, it turns out, there's plenty of room in my heart for two. And indeed, the Golden Gate Bridge is truly spectacular, no less captivating after living in this area for 20 years. Gabriel has wanted to walk across it at night, but a day trip would have to do.

So, we drove to the city, parked at one of the vista points, looked around a bit, then headed across.

I've never paid much attention to what else is around there, but there's a lot. Fort Point is a Civil War era fort that I think can be toured. That's a definite future visit.

Nice thing about the bridge: it's so noisy from traffic and wind that I couldn't hear Katrina complaining from the stroller!

Not that I needed to. Gabriel pushed the stroller almost the entire way.

At first it was tricky getting him and Julian to stay to the right -- there are a lot of pedestrians near the ends of the bridge and a lot of bicycles. Once we got past the initial crowd, we were among the very very few walkers who went past the first tower; most other bridge-crossers were runners or cyclists.

It warmed up noticeably as we headed north and then crossed the Marin county line. Julian finally took his hood off -- he's driving me crazy with that because I hate how pictures look with that hood on!

It was a really fun walk, and they all loved stopping and looking out at the bay, Alcatraz and the few boats that were out. But it was longer than I expected, and we were all ready for a break when we arrived at the vista point on the north end of the bridge. It completely packed with cars looking for parking, and I was grateful we were not among them.

We sat down on the walls, resting and drinking in the scenery. The kids didn't realize that the city we were looking at was San Francisco.

Gabriel, to my surprise, said he was hungry. He's never hungry! I hadn't planned at all for this. I'm not a big snack-packer anyway, I'd planned to take them to lunch right after our bridge-walk, and it wasn't even really lunchtime yet. But we had a long walk yet back across the bridge.

I spotted some tour buses parking, and overheard their announcements about leaving in 15 minutes. Feeling nervy, I asked a tour bus driver if we could get a ride back across the bridge, but they weren't going that way. Then one of those fake cable-car busses pulled up, and I asked again. This guy was really nice, and said he was in the midst of a 2-hour tour, but for $10 he'd take us all back and drop us close to the parking lot. Cool!

The kids amused themselves while we waited the well-worthwhile 10 minutes.

Then their favorite part of the outing: the bus ride back! It was fun being on an open bench facing out. I suppose I should be a little more freaked-out about my 3-year-old being so exposed and close to traffic, but they were all calm and having a ton of fun.

I was very grateful to the tour bus operator for being so gracious and helpful. Thank you, sir!

When we got back, a demonstration was underway. (The signs say "Free Gaza").

The only counterpoint was safely airborne, towing a banner that reads "Israel: Security Freedom Peace."

There is a small "Bridge Cafe" there, with a small selection of food. Being San Francisco, you can count on some healthier choices amidst the Cheetos and Skittles, and we made do with a fruit salad and grilled chicken sandwich. Katrina was afraid of the pigeons that stalked us, and she shrieked whenever I took her off my lap to get up for any reason.

It was much more crowded when we left than arrived, so I was glad we'd gotten there as early as we did. We took the scenic route back through the city, on the Great Highway. I'm ashamed to say I never knew that San Francisco had so many wonderful and easily accessible beaches! Then again, who wants to go to San Francisco during beach season anyway?

A beautiful walk and a really really fun time. Funny that I moved here largely to be closer to a big city, and that now I rarely visit it. That really should change.


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