if you’re going to San Francisco…

and now for something completely different …

you all know that I can’t keep still and I’ll travel almost anywhere, given the opportunity.
in October, having returned from Ireland just four weeks previously, I flew out to Santa Cruz to visit with some college friends for our Fourth Annual Pi Phi Homecoming. on Saturday, we drove up to San Francisco with the intention of seeing Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghiardelli Square, Pier 39 and the Golden Gate Bridge.
of course, events did not proceed as envisioned and we spent a great deal more time in the car than planned. we drove through the heart of the Castro, which I was pretty excited about. no one else seemed particularly interested (not the least, I’d wager, because several of them hadn’t seen “Milk”), and while I would have enjoyed the opportunity to explore, I was satisfied for the time being with our driving tour.
things took a turn for the frustrating and colorfully-worded when we hit the Embarcadero. turns out, the Saturday we drove into San Francisco was the same day as the Air Show over the Bay. the same Air Show that visits San Diego every fall heads north the following weekend and we pulled up just as things were getting started.

ultimately, after devouring a much celebrated cafe lunch on Geary (in Central Richmond), we agreed that we ought not head back to Santa Cruz without visiting *anything* tourist in San Francisco, and headed back towards the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge. we parked on top of the hill — the road back down under the Bridge to level with the bay was closed off in preparation for the air show. we walked to the Golden Gate Bridge welcome center and saw the tail end of the show, fighter jets flying around the Bridge, over the Bay, past Alcatraz.

before we left, we all climbed up onto a cross-section of cable to take pictures. the piece is 36.5 inches in diameter and contains 27,572 individual wires. these three-yard-thick cables are what holds the bridge up as millions of cars cross it every year. some other fun facts that I have uncovered: the Bridge has only been closed due to weather, namely wind gusts, three times in its history, all in December. in 1951 gusts reached 69mph, in 1982 they topped 70mph, and in 1983 they reached 75mph.
the Bridge is also the most popular place in the U.S. to commit suicide (as well as one of the most popular in the world). since it opened in 1937, there are no solid figures as to the number of people who have jumped, only 26 people are known to have survived the fall and fatality rates are estimated to be 98 percent. there are hotline numbers and phones posted along the span of the bridge (similar to the ones posted along the canals in Galway), and, in addition to the highway patrol, iron workers volunteer their time to talk to or wrestle down suicidal people. the introduction of a safety net or suicide prevention barrier hasn’t gotten far, however, because of cost and vehement public opposition as to how such an addition would change the aesthetic of the Bridge. a year ago, the Bridge’s Board of Directors voted to install a plastic-covered stainless steel net beneath the bridge, extending twenty feet outwards on each side, but funding remains an impediment.