Friday, August 31, 2012

US San Francisco : Golden Gate Bridge ( A Breath Taking Walk)

I must apologized for the prolonged silence and delay in continuing my update on my visit to San Francisco. With my impending relocation to Beijing in November, there are lots to do, arrange and to settle. I just got back from Beijing after a week there to confirm the school for our son although our apartment hunting provide futile at this point in time. It looks like I would have to make another trip there in early October else we would be literally sleeping on the streets of Beijing. I had the chance to do a short visit of the Forbidden City and was totally awed by her greatness. More pictures of that in my coming post.

For now, I would like to share with you, an experience and activity that you must do while in San Francisco and that, my dear readers and friends, is to WALK the GOLDEN BRIDGE.
We have all seen, read and heard about the Golden Bridge because it is probably the most photographed and well known suspension bridge in the world. In fact, just like the Statue of Liberty is to the America, so is this orange colored bridge which is one of America's pride and joy.

I was beaming with excitement the morning when I knew that I would be visiting this bridge. For the past few days, I have been watching it from afar from Pier 39. I could see it spanning across the San Francisco Bay and shrouded in a thick fog for most of the day, making her almost invisible. The fog in San Francisco is known to be notoriously unpredictable and I was worried that I would not be able to catch a good glimpse of her and captured some good pictures before I left.

One of the best way to travel around San Francisco (just like around New York and Washington DC) was to grab the Hop On and Hop Off. We took a 48 hours pass with a slight discount and took a ride out to the Golden Gate Bridge. When we arrived at the site, I was totally amazed just looking at her. I was lucky. The skies were clear and the fog, no where to seen. This is IT! A good friend strongly recommended me to walk the bridge which never did occur to me. "Why Not?" I told myself and geared myself for the walk.

We took the bus to cross the bridge and intend to walk back from the Marin County end. The chilling wind was gushing as we drove across the bridge and sitting on the open top deck of the double Decker bus amplified the stunning chill effects on our face. It was COLD but it was also exhilarating. 
Being the one of the most visited suspension bridge of the world, expect this site to be totally crowded. Take extra precaution to wear thicker clothing because it can get very cold even in summer. 
This bridge has quite a history. Construction started on 5th January 1933 and was completed in 19th April 1937. Spanning 8,981 feet (2.7km) end to end with the longest span of 4,200 feet (1.28km), she held the longest main span record till 1964 and today is still the second longest main span suspension bridge in the State. With her tower standing 692 feet (211 meters) above water, the Golden Bridge held the record of having the tallest suspension tower in the world in 1998.
The concept of having the bridge went as far back as 1916 at which time, building a structure of such magnitude across the 6700 feet bay with water as deep as 372 feet in strong current and harsh unpredictable San Francisco fog and weather was considered a near impossible feat. Despite strong objections from various quarters for various commercial or personal reasons and overcoming overwhelming odds, build it they did at US1.3m below budget!

The bridge color is known as International Orange and was intentionally painted that way as a design to go with the landscape and also to make it visible considering the unpredictable weather.
Despite the magnitude of her construction, it came as a surprised that there were only 11 fatalities. However, that cannot be said of the suicide rate that follows. Till today, it remains as a favourite spot for many who choose to end their lives for reasons best known to themselves.

As I read of her construction history, one remarkable thing that I could not help but feeling impressed was the silent contribution of one of her senior engineer, Charles Alton Ellis. A Greek scholar and mathematician, he was the one were contributed largely to the technical and theoretical work to build the bridge, collaboration remotely with Leon Moiseiff, who also designed the Manhattan bridge. Ellis was subsequently fired by the Chief Project Engineer, Joseph Strauss (who took credit for most the work done) for apparently spending too much money in sending telegrams communicating with Moiseiff. Ellis obsessed with the project and unable to secure work during the Great Depression and undeterred, continue to spent up to 70 hours per week unpaid to work on the project and turned in 10 volumes of hand calculations. The contribution of the design project team including Ellis was largely ignored and credit were given to Strauss. It was only 70 years later, that the contribution from Ellis and the team was formerly and officially recognized.
The bridge is opened for cyclist and pedestrians alike and I too would strongly recommend that you do either. Seeing her from afar is one thing. Taking a ride to cross her is another but nothing beats the precious moment and feel when you walk the entire length, taking the time to absorb the remarkable awe of this magnificent creation, and to breathe in the cold chill air of the San Francisco Bay. It is here, that you could stop every once in a while (which you would probably have to do anyway, either to get a better shot or picture, or simply to catch your breath), and cast your eye out over the bay, as far as your eyes can see or simply take another look at the bridge majesty towers from a totally different angle.
We took slightly over an hour to complete the walk, stopping countless times to take pictures and to admire the bridge, the bay or simply the people, whom like us were also there to simply enjoy the experience. I must said that this is simply an experience of a lifetime and simply one of the MUST DO things that warrant a place in our bucket list.
So, if you ever make your way to this beautiful friendly city, do not just drive across the Golden Gate and miss this golden opportunity. Walk it and I guarantee you that she will take your breath away!

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