Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Golden Great Bridge

Time to walk, and walk, and walk around. San Fran is not a tiny little city. It is a huge monsterous beast that stretches out in all directions. And while I think tourist maps would like to forget that the west exists, compressing it to 1:5 while the east gets to live out in all its 1:1 glory, they can not. For it is in the west that that little bridge thing exists.

Tourist maps probably wish they could just trick us and say that the Bay Bridge is the important one (hey, they look the same) but no – it's not orange. And this city isn't going to send people to their doom painting two bridges orange! So out west you need to travel. I suggest the bus – it's a rather long walk from Union Square, and the cute little street cars don't quite make it. At all.

Not wanting to have a day just at a bridge Katherine and I started a few miles south on a pathway known as Lover's Lane (we both just about threw up when we read the name.) It passes through eucalyptus forests, and then tours around some wooden officers houses from wars past. Like many trails in America they almost get it right. You could forget that you were in a large urban city, if not for the fact that you had a road right beside you!

Passing houses that looked as if large men in white suits needed to be sitting on the porch drinking jugs of lemon-aid while beginning each new thought with, “I say,” repeated once or twice for effect, we commented on how different this city would be in the rain – and how much less enjoyable and magical it might seem.

The road led to a cemetery. One that needed to be entered by hopping brick fences, as road construction was keeping the entrance unaccessible. It was here that we saw our first sign for LOG CABIN [arrow]. These signs would haunt us as we made our way through detours, along the bike paths – all of which run beside, or under, six lane highways. The pet cemetery was not visited due to its current status as “construction dumping ground.” Poor Rover.

These log cabin signs were everywhere. I can't imagine what is so special about a cabin, but something was. Although it never seemed to appear. We must have spotted five signs all pointing towards where it supposedly was, but no – nothing.

And then as we walked along highways, and biways, we came to The Bridge.

I don't know why they call it the Golden Gate Bridge. I'd have called it the Goldern GREAT Bridge! Ah-ha-ha-ha! I bet I'm the first person to ever think of that since 1937! Or, you know, at least – the big orange bridge.

Stock up on water before you begin to cross it – if you begin to cross it. There will be no place to buy supplies at the other end. There will be bathrooms though – but no vending machine. Opportunity missed!

As you make your way along the bridge try not to become annoyed with all the bikes dinging their little rented bells at you, as they approach from behind. Try not to stop and spread out your arms, hoping they clip them. Here's the think Bikes – I'm from Toronto, and I hate when you're on the pedestrian path. And now, you're forced onto the pedestrian path. Just because you're allowed here doesn't mean that you get the right of way – no, it's still us walkers, and guess what? I heard you the first six times you rang the bell – the next twenty dings? Did they add anything? No. And being pushed off your bike here, well that's nothing you want to lead towards, as it's a long drop to the waters below.

Which is why this bridge is the number one suicide spot in all the world! Sure they could put fences up like they do at the beginning and end to protect the workers below, but that wouldn't be nearly as pretty. If they spread out four “Help” phones, and small signs indicating how much you have to live for, and that jumping to your doom probably wouldn't be a good idea, that will solve everything.

Katherine contemplated how perfect a dive would need to be to survive the fall. And then squealed seeing a sea lion playing down below. This was watched for some minutes, under the post-noon sun. Pssh – looks like a fur seal I saw in Antarctica, I remarked. I was promptly hit. And rightly so.

Don't you listen to anyone who tells you that you can make this walk in an hour round trip. They are liars. Filthy liars. If you intend to enjoy the walk across, and take some photos, look out at the bay, shoot the city scape and take a moment here and there to calm and not scream at the bikers it will take you an hour. One hour there. The return trip, if you keep moving, forty minutes. And you'll be pulled by the carrot of a snack shop on the other side, which after the two hours (including a brief rest) will seem like heaven with throat parched, and hands sunburned (first time for everything.)

2.99 gets you a large frozen lemon aid ice-creamy sorbety treat. And it is wonderful. The hardest decision – will you get Original Lemon, or Strawberry lemon-aid flavour?

Treats must be hidden as you board the bus. We were going to walk the beach, which extends for some distance, under two miles from the bridge, but instead hopped on the bus to explore Golden Gate Park (this park is a monster running over twenty six city blocks. Good shoes encouraged.)

There we made our way to the Japanese Tea Garden. Seven dollars to get in?! Please Japanese Tea-Garden, please. But wait, if you come Monday, Wednesday, or Friday between the hours of 9 and 10 in the morning, it's free? Why that's tomorrow! We'll see you then!

Back to the bus, and back to Pier 39.

Hey, where's a Klingon's favourite place in San Francisco?
Fisherman's WORF!

Ahh – I'm amazing.

At pier 39 we embarked on three 4D adventures. Ohh! Sponge Bob's quest for the missing pickle, followed by the rescue of Tony the Tyrannosaurus from Dinosaur Island, capped off by a magical log ride through the Himalamazon! I could accept the Sponge Bob one, and the Dinosaur one too – but I could suspend my disbelief only so far for the final ride. Though it was the most enjoyable, they seemed to feel the need to add back story to it – You become a log, as it makes its way through the factory, which is created with super trees to help save the world in 2020. I'm still buying in at this point, but then your log ride takes you through ancient ruins, and alligators snap at you, and at the end there's a banner thanking you for coming. Look – why would they have a banner to thank a log? Are these super trees sentient? And if so – destroying them in this fashion is sick! Why are animals trying to eat these logs? Super beaver crocodiles? I think not. And what sort of irresponsible monster builds a factory through ancient ruins? The same, perhaps, who would build such an elaborate factory, I guess.

The eight year olds behind me really seemed to like it. Apparently they weren't thinking of these things.

On the way out of the adventure ride to hand back my 3D glasses I saw a poster for another movie that they had circulating now and then – an Aliens 4D adventure. My – God! I want to ride that one! It's the only licensed one they had, aside from Sponge Bob. It was real Geiger Aliens style Aliens. Not Space Wars, written like Star Wars, or an Indiana Jones rip off. This was authentic.

And I can only imagine, amazing.

I helped ease my pain at missing out on such a thrill over fish and chips devoured, and helped paid for my a 15% off coupon given to us by the lady who worked in the tourist centre one floor up. You've not seen such disdain on the face of a waiter as we did on this one when we handed over the card. I don't know why he was angry – was he the owner? Would those five dollars break him? We wouldn't have even been eating there did the lady not recommend them. And she probably wouldn't have recommended them if the coupon didn't exist. Ugh – people.

All in all? Fish and chips? Alright – though the slaw was the star of the show for me. Not liking Vinegar slaw, Katherine passed hers over. Success.

On the cable car ride back to Union Square, we discovered another thing about this mode of transport. If they don't get enough speed going around corners, they will stop. The driver had to jump out, but couldn't get it moving by pushing. Kath and I also jumped down to the streets, and added our strength to the pool, starting it up, and giving it enough momentum to make it around the bend. We were the instructed to, “jump back on, jump back on,” before we took off downhill.

Though the cars are kept at a reasonably slow speed these days – when they were the primary mode of transport, I wonder what breakneck pace they followed. All in good fun, I'm sure.

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