Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mountain View to Point Reyes Station

Point Reyes Station, California (via Wikipedia)
San Francisco is a mess. A beautiful mess, splattered with traffic. We spend an hour inching our way from city limits, through Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We pass several gas stations but do not stop. The highway is congested enough that it will be difficult to get back on after refueling. We can buy gas later, right?

The park is a vague sprawl of trees beyond the car in front of ours. We crawl through the MacArthur Tunnel and then onto the freeway that will take us across the bay. Today's high in the city is 67 degrees, and there are few clouds. Most of June is like this, except for scattered freakish days where the temperature jumps into the 80s.

The view from the bridge overwhelms. To our right, Alcatraz and East Bay beyond. To our left, the mouth of the Pacific that stretches west to Japan. The vast ocean whose shores we will hug over the next several days.

Hundreds of people walk across the bridge, but what do they know about it?

The Golden Gate Bridge spans 1.7 miles and rises 220 feet above the bay. Construction began in January 1933 and was completed in May 1937. Eleven men died in the process.

For years, Chief Engineer Joseph P. Strauss received sole credit for this architectural feat. Strauss wrote poems about the bridge, including one titled “The Mighty Task is Done” that begins:

At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.

It continues in this vein for several more stanzas. The man liked his bridge.

His bridge. Yes, about that. The other fellow responsible for designing the Golden Gate Bridge was a University of Illinois professor named Charles Alton Ellis who didn't receive formal credit for his contributions until 70 years after the bridge opened (and 58 years after Ellis died). Seems Strauss and Ellis had a falling out, with Strauss claiming the bridge as his own and writing clumsy verse, and Ellis getting nothing.

After crossing, we return to CA-1 and its serpentine path over the Marin Hills. Each switchback reveals a new view of the bay and points beyond.

The sky is clear enough that we can see San Jose to the southeast. Further west, a peninsula juts out. It's either Santa Cruz or Monterey. The smart money is on Santa Cruz, along the north shore of Monterey Bay, but one never knows.

The road eventually descends toward the coast. Mt. Tamalpais State Park is lush with grass and trees. Bolinas Lagoon is summer home to Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Snowy Egrets.

We are in Coast Miwok country. We are in a land without gas stations.

The plan was to visit Point Reyes National Seashore, but it's a good haul from the highway. Given our gas situation and the late hour, we skip it, stopping instead at nearby Point Reyes Station. Gas costs $4.45 per gallon here, as opposed to $3.87 in San Francisco; it is money gladly spent.

Assuming my calculations are correct, we will reach our destination in about an hour. But you know what they say about assumptions.

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