Golden Gate Bridge

Saturday, October 13, 2012 |

In the Hitchcock film Vertigo, which takes place in San Francisco and was filmed there, the Jimmy Stewart character has a nasty fear of heights (hence the title), and early in the movie there is a scene in which he has a bright idea to progressively get used to heights,just a little at a time. He picks up a short stool, prepares to step onto it, and says to his friend: “I’ll start with this.” His friend incredulously responds: “That?” To which the Stewart character replies: “What do you want me to start with, the Golden Gate Bridge?”

Well, we certainly didn’t start our bridge walking treks with the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB), but now we can add it to the list. It was the GGB that, during a visit to San Francisco three years ago, inspired me to start the bridge walking treks in order to deal with their inherent scariness,and indeed a photo that I took of that bridge has been at the top of this site since the very beginning, 2-1/2 years and some 20 or so bridge walks ago.

The appointed bridge walking hour was a somewhat foggy October morning, temperature in the low 60s, relatively calm winds,and thus a perfectly fine day to walk the GGB. The bridge, which opened in 1937, is some 220 feet above the water, and is a rather long 1.7 miles in length, longer than any of our previous bridge treks, which have topped out at about a mile long.The Golden Gate Bridge is, of course, the icon of picturesque bridges. And that’s viewed from a distance.

As far as walking across it is concerned, its height, length, and very open railings made it an exhilarating walk, albeit rather scary, at least early on. We started from the north vista point, just on the Marin County side,and walked back toward San Francisco. As my very supportive wife, who has walked across bridge after bridge with me,tells the story, she could barely keep up with my walking at the beginning of the Golden Gate Bridge, as I think I just wanted to get across as quickly as possible. Given that I haven’t actually run or jogged since the Bush Administration (that’s the George Herbert Walker Bush Administration), and given how many parts of my body hurt the day after (and how much), I suspect I came as close to a bridge run as I’m going to come. But we took lots of breaks, and I mean lots of breaks.I eventually calmed down and started to accept the height, took more breaks, eventually touched the side rails about two-thirds of the way across, successfully took the picture of a group of tourists who asked me (go figure), and 55 minutes after starting, we crossed the bridge, where the hop-on, hop-off bus awaited us(having stops on both sides).

The walk was on the Sunday past, and then a few days later, to try to confirm my view from the very beginning that if you can walk across a bridge, then you can certainly drive across it, I did rent a car (first checking the fine print for a fear of bridges restriction) and drove it across the bridge and back. Yes, they do make you pay a toll for the privilege (heading into SF), which still seems a bit strange to me, but I could more or less comfortably drive across it. And I recommend the spectacular views of the bridge from the relatively unknown Battery Spencer just above and to the northwest of the bridge in the Marin Headlands.

As far as the scariness rating for walking across the bridge is concerned, the Golden Gate Bridge certainly tops all that we’ve experienced. Using the height, length, and width standard, this one garners a combined 29, with a 9 for height (on a 1-10 scale, with each 25 feet getting a point), a 13 for length (blowing out the 1-10 scale that was calibrated for a mile long bridge being the highest, with diminishing amounts above a mile I guess), and a 7 for its width (relatively low, open railings). The wind was relatively calm, but I think relatively is the key word, so I suppose I could adjust up the scariness rating, but I won’t: this bridge doesn’t need it.

More bridge walks in the future? Sure, why not?