Monday, July 11, 2005

A spectacle called Golden Gate....

A city barely 48 square miles made up of hills. The city which stood up despite the total destruction once by massive earthquake & once by fire. The city which embarrassed liberal look towards the immigrants & resettlers, when other parts of America were gripped in Conservativism. The city which became the laboratory for the world where revolutionary technologies & trends got incubated.

Welcome to San Francisco!

On a cold Sunday afternoon we entered the city. The bus took us over “Bay Bridge” & the view of SFO downtown from there was excellent. Went through the streets of downtown before we stopped at Pier 39.We got down & walked to the cruise, which was about to take us on a ride in the bay. A 24$ ticket and 10 minutes later we occupied the deck of the “Blue & Gold” cruise ship. The entire three floors of ship were packed.

The ship started moving away from the shore & the skyscrapers of San Francisco were looking like a deck of cards on a blue skyline. On the ship, a running commentary about history & milestones of the city was going on. Blue water was all around & the ship was making its way. A bunch of seagulls were following our ship. Few seagulls got very adventurous & started flying at a hand distance height. The seagulls had got attracted by the food packets which people in the cruise were carrying.

Now at a distance in the sea, a thin outline was getting visible and our ship was progressing towards it. The outline slowly grew as “Golden Gate Bridge”, the famous bridge. There was an air of anxiety as the cruise moved towards the famous landmark. All cameras were focused on the orange color bridge. Due to the heavy fog, the Golden Gate looked like a bridge which connects heaven & earth! The two towers on which the whole bridge suspended was lost in the clouds. I started frantically clicking my camera.

When the cruise was barely few feet from the bridge, I noticed that my camera was no longer responding. The battery had exhausted. I literally snatched batteries from one of my friend & continued my photography. It was overwhelming feeling to see the mighty bridge so close & from beneath.

Here is a quick history of Golden Gate Bridge…
Despite the great depression, scarce funds, tons of technical challenges and lots of skepticism, the 1.7 miles long across the San Francisco bay was constructed in 1937 due to the relentless efforts of Joseph Strauss, the architect. One of the most interesting facts was that ‘only’ eleven workers died during construction, a new safety record for that time. ‘Only’ because in the 1930s, bridge builders expected 1 fatality per $1 million in construction costs, and builders expected 35 people to die while building the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the bridge's safety innovations was a net suspended under the floor. This net saved the lives of 19 men during construction, and they are often called the members of the "Half Way to Hell Club”!!


Back to the cruise..
On our way back, we came across Alcatraz. The most infamous federal prison which was the subject of numerous books & movies.
The island prison was the final destination for the hardcore criminals & nobody escaped from the prison live. For several decades it remained a focal pint of curiosity, suspense & rumors. After prison escape attempt in 1963, the prison was closed. The island was then occupied & claimed by native Indians, who were evacuated quickly. Finally the island was declared a monument.

Meanwhile in the cruise, there were interesting people to watch out for. There were two ladies who were in their own world ever since the cruise had started. They were unusually displaying the liking for each other through kissing & hugging. It didn’t take much time in realizing that they were lesbians…

Remembered something which I read somewhere …”San Francisco is known as ‘homosexual’s capital’ and there is a ‘Castro’ street exclusively for them”.

From the cruise, we could see the Bay Bridge, which was elder than Golden Gate Bridge. The bay bridge is one of the longest combination bridges in the world; it is a combination of two suspension bridges and a cantilever bridge.

We were back on the shore after an hour in the cruise and moved to Palace of Fine Arts.This was a temporary palace created in 1915 during the Panama Pacific Exposition. But the structure was so good that they decided to preserve it. The temporary material was replaced by the existing material.

We walked through the park around the palace. I ventured inside the palace which was looking like straight out of old Rome. There were huge columns and rotunda. There was a wedding party photo sessions going on at the palace. The wedding party was dressed in extremely eye-catching color combination, which I captured in the camera.

From there we came back again to our Golden Gate Bridge. I quickly rushed to the bridge & walked across the bridge for a while. I tried taking in my arms the two main cables which pass over the top of towers. The cables were so thick that it couldn’t fit in arms. I later came to know that the cable diameter was 37 inches, there were 27,572 strands of wire, 80,000 miles (129,000 km) of wire in the two main cables, and it took over six months to spin them. Visited the ‘dedication’ on the bridge, which talked about all the engineering genius which resulted in this landmark. Then saluted the statue of Joseph Stroup, the architect for his master creation.
Golden Gate stood there as a mark of determination,hard work,creativity,engineering genius,relentless effort...

We came back to Pier 39, which is also known as “Fisherman’s wharf”. A nice place to shop, dine & roam. Caught a glimpse of sunset across the sea. We did little bit of shopping, little bit of chocolate eating and lots of roaming!

Back to bus and from there to Hotel Merriot, which was our stay for the night. Quickly grabbed my recent favorite Mexican item, Veggie Burreto and went to sleep watching some TV.

There was still more to explore in the City of Golden Gate Bridge...

July 4
American Independence Day. The day started with a visit to Lombardo Street, world’s most crookedest street. The street was at a slope of 47 degree. The roads were in totally zigzag fashion. The flowering plants around the zigzag path gave a unique look. Truly, a crooked street. After Lombardo, we moved to the China town.

This is supposed to be the largest Chinese settlement in North America. The shops & restraunts everything was in Chinese format. Roamed across the streets & it did gave an feeling of India because of the garbage thrown on the streets, people happily walking across the road without caring signals, few people extending their shops to the footpath.

We tasted Almond drink & pop-corn made of some beans, met accidentally another set of TCSers who were also on SFO trip. We got back to bus & left for SFO as we needed to travel atleast 7 hours back to Los Angeles.

While traveling, I was thinking of China Town, Solvang the Danish settlement, our Indian community. US accommodate them all, but still something American is maintained. How do they manage?

Definitely we need to learn something how to progress but still don’t loose our roots..

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