Our Unexpected Golden Gate Bridge Adventure

We’re having the typical spectacular Bay Area fall weather: this is the one time of year it’s sunny, but not to hot (or fogged over), and I love to get into the outdoors. This was one of those weekends with a multitude of fun things to do: the San Benito County Fair, the Morgan Hill Arts Festival, an Italian festival in Willow Glen, a Chinese fair in Cupertino, and a Russian festival in San Francisco were among our many choices. Peter had thought he might have a rare day off from work and be able to join us for, say, Morgan Hill, but his free time fell through, so I decided to take the children on a short hike instead.

I’d originally thought of just a little hike around nearby Almaden Quicksilver Park, but unfortunately, a worthless book I had gave me another idea. It recommended a short easy hike in the San Bruno mountains, where (when it’s not covered in summer fog) you can see both the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and rare butterflies. It was a bit further than our typical hikes, but Peter could get his work done better the longer we were away, and my children are great travellers. Furthermore, all San Mateo County Parks happened to feature free admission this weekend.

Well, the road the book recommended taking did not exist. I knew this as soon as I reached San Francisco County. I took the first exit I could, which put me in the Bayview neighborhood, i.e. one of San Francisco’s reputedly most ghetto neighborhoods. Apparently, it’s now so well reputed as such that no one has left that neighborhood since the 80s. It had P.O.S. 70s cars, dated graffiti, and…boomboxes. It was like being on the set of some crappy early 80s video, in which the hero has to win a breakdancing competition. On the positive side, well, it looked like the crackhouse fad, and weird gangland fashion had passed this place right by. I wasn’t about to ask directions, not with my iPod and satellite radio from the future; who knows when the extras from Thriller were scheduled to show up.

Neil bravely made the best of it and suggested we go to the Bay Area Kids’ Discovery Museum, which had been closed when we visited Marin in August. We were on the ugly traffic side of the bay, but I figured we were close enough–at least we were closer to Marin than we’d been before. So we entered the slow crawl through San Francisco. Judging from the traffic, I think there was a game going on at AT&T park, and I know there was a neo-hippie parade through Civic Center, because we saw it. Even though it was another hour of slow travel, Neil and Kelly never complained.

We finally reached the Bay Area Kids’ Discovery Museum…and found out it was closed for maintenance work. Argh!

By this time, I needed some time out of the car, so I drove over the waterfront, where we could look at the Golden Gate Bridge and the view over the Bay to Alcatraz Island and San Francisco. Bicyclists kept zooming down a hill which let underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, so I decided to take the children exploring.

It turned out the path led right under and around the Golden Gate Bridge to an access point (and visitors center) up above. It was as good a hike as we might have gotten on San Bruno. The views were dramatic:

The visitors’ center was busy, but nice. We ate our lunch there, and Kelly posed with the Lone Sailor:

We went underneath the bridge, but not along it. I’m still uncomfortable with the huge gap between the short little barrier and the bridge surface. You can slip into the Bay from that bridge without being suicidal at all, if you ask me.

But it was a nice little hike. As we returned to our car on the waterfront, Neil noticed a little old building he called an outhouse:

It had a wire running to a pole, though, so maybe it was an old telegraph station. It was just another surprising thing in a surprising day.

The day was altogether surprising in other ways too. Kelly’s favorite television station, Noggin, was off the air, just to encourage toddlers to take a day away from the TV. And since Kelly likes classic music, I often play the Classical Pops station in the car for her (I like classical, too, but I also prefer nonchallenging music, ergo pops.) For some reason, they had veered into bizzaro land for the hour we were listening, and featured an Irish dirge, the London Symphony playing “Whole Lotta Love,” and Gerschwin’s Cuban Overture.

Maybe next weekend will be more normal.

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