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Monday, June 22, 2015

A Living Magazine - Day 1 - The Golden Gate

The Parting

It took a little longer than I had planned to get going. Sheryl dropped me off at the BART (Bay Area Regional Transit) train station in Dublin at about 4:45 pm. It was a bittersweet parting. She had taken care of me, entertained me and become my first lieutenant in the planning for this journey for the last 4 months. We both had tears in our eyes as I walked away.

Alex and Sheryl
The Iwallk Team

The train was right on time. And, I was speeding out toward San Francisco before I could really even process leaving the Tri Valley region...

Sitting on the BART Blue Line Traveling West to the
Civic Center Station in San Francisco

About 50 minutes later the train pulled up to the Civic Center Station on Market Street in San Francisco.

The First Two Hours

I had a request from a reader before I left to write a detailed impression of the first hour of real walking. I thought it more complete to describe two hours, since the first was simply a matter of walking from the train station, and it was the second that was more interesting. Here it is as best I can remember...

When I stepped out into the late afternoon sun, it was hanging low in the sky. I'd calculated that I should be able to reach the Golden Gate Bridge by sunset. I was filled with the same vitality and deep emotion that I had when leaving Boston on the Manifest Destiny journey.

The City seemed to be in preparation for the coming work week. Traffic was light, and people walked from block to block buying ingredients for dinner, meeting with friends and generally enjoying the evening. I was enjoying it too. San Francisco is a location where I never feel out of place. I can dress any way I want and no one gives a second look. This evening though - and the hours up to the writing of these words - I found that people read my "IWALLK" shirt and appeared to be curious about it.

I walked by a cafe, I saw a young couple drinking coffee outside. From the corner of my eye I saw the woman mouth the word as I passed by. This was really strange feeling for me. I felt I was advertising some kind of "cause." Of course what I'm doing is not a cause, but an effect.

I turned from Market Street on to Van Ness. It was considerably cooler next to the Bay than it had been in the valleys of the East Bay, so I stopped, attached my pant legs and put on a new thick shirt that I had replaced my old blue jacket with. I also had to pee badly. But I knew I could hold it for a while longer. It would be nice if cities had more public bathrooms. The lack of resources for those who choose to walk will be the subject of a future post. I made a sharp turn on to Lombard (moving west away from the famous curvy part of the street.

I reached the Palace of Fine Arts on the edge of the Presidio district, a former military base and park, just before Lombard (aka Route 101) became an on ramp for the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course the sidewalk disappeared and I saw that pedestrians were not allowed to walk there. With no internet, I pulled out the old compass and headed in the direction I saw the freeway bend to the west. Before long, I was walking through the base, west, toward a path that I thought would get me to the bridge. Several times I made the wrong turn and had to readjust my heading. All of the experience from being lost so many times on the Manifest Destiny journey was paying off. I was semi-lost this time, but I felt only a little frustration.

I scoped out places where I might come back to spend the night if I wasn't able to reach the bridge by sun down. Finally, I discovered where cars were pulling in and out of the base, and followed one to the intersection. My spirits rose when I saw this...

The Golden Gate Bridge in a Golden Sunset

Just then, a jogger passed by and I watched her. She was typically California-beautiful, which distracted me like it has repeatedly since being here. But, coming back to reality, I also glimpsed a sign on the path she took. 

Immediately, I moved over to it. It read: "Golden Gate Bridge 1.0 Mile." Nice! I'd found the walker's path that led to the bridge. I was very excited and filled with anticipation at the thought that I might be able to photograph and film my crossing right at sundown. I moved as fast as I could.

The time I'd spent meandering around Presidio had cost me my sunset shots. I wasn't aware yet, of what else it meant. 

Along the path were gorgeous vistas of the land east, across the Bay. To my left, and slightly more distant, sat Angel Island, and to my right was Alcatraz, with it's slowly flashing beacon. The sky was a deep shade of  orange, fading into purple...

Evening on the Bay

I was practically jogging now. I didn't want it to get too dark for pictures when I crossed the bridge. but when I came around a bend in the path, I saw the city itself glowing in the distance. I tried several times to take a clear picture of the view, but this is as the best I could do...

The City of Lights and Flowers

The camera I was using (the Nikon) was not able to focus at night. Sighing loudly, I pulled off the backpack and dug out my my Polaroid (another camera with serious issues). I was getting closer to the bridge, and began to realize I wouldn't be able to meet my deadline. So I slowed a bit and took a couple shots as I approached the iconic landmark, just to make sure the camera would work better than the other...

The Golden Gate Bridge

The path eventually led me to just below a small observation deck. I was unsure where to go or what to do. There were no signs for walkers. And, why wasn't I seeing people up on the bridge? I felt a bit uncomfortable about what I was doing. A buzzing noise up on the deck sounded while I wandered around the area. And, I saw several silhouettes walk up to the edge of the deck and look down at me.

Not knowing what was actually going on, I found the other side of the bridge and saw that the gate was closed to the path on which I stood. Something felt wrong and out of place. Turns out that "something" was me

Frustrated, and realizing that people must not be allowed to cross by foot after dark (it was 9:35 pm already), I just said, "Shit." I turned around and began to walk back down the path toward the observation deck. Before I got there, a tiny half-car-half-motorcycle drove by. the sign on the side read: "Bridge Patrol." He slowed as he passed me. I kept walking. On the level ground below the deck I stopped and began to formulate, good ole plan b, when the Bridge Patrol vehicle returned. Apparently the buzzing noise was an infrared proximity alarm, set off by yours truly. It was all beginning to make sense.

He stopped and rolled down his little window. "Sir..." He called out. I looked over at him. "Do you want to get across?" I told him I did. He told me he could get me a ride and picked up his radio. I told him I couldn't afford a taxi. He laughed, and said that they have special vehicles to take walkers across at night. I almost couldn't believe my luck. What a great service!

He told me to stand down by a convenience store that he pointed out at the bottom of the other side of the observation deck. I complied, having no idea how all this was going to work. When I got there, a younger officer walked up and met me. He carried all the accessories (gun, radio, etc...) of a police officer. He told me that he'd be happy to take me across, but I would have to agree to put my backpack in the trunk of his cruiser and submit to a pat-down search. I thought for a second, but not wanting to appear to be waffling, said, "Sure! No problem." 

The pack went in the trunk and he told me to turn around. He said, do you have any "firearms, bombs or bazookas?" The pat down went fine. He felt my wallet, compass and camera, and...no bazookas. 

Being a bit paranoid, thinking that maybe they had thought I was a domestic terrorist or something and were actually lulling me into a situation where I could be arrested for

Opening the door for me, I climbed in and fit my legs in the tiny spot behind the driver's set. We were on our way. It was a shame that I could not photographic the bridge as a walk-over. But it was my second crossing and the world probably has plenty of pictures of pedestrians crossing. I let that expectation go, and enjoyed my ride.

We  sped along and he asked me where I wanted to be dropped off. I didn't really remember the names of close-by towns, except for Sausalito. So, I asked him to bring me as far as he could. He asked if Marin City was OK. I knew that was past Sausalito, and appreciated that I was making up for lost time. I told him that would great.

We talked about my project and he seemed interested. When we reached the biker/walker path in Marin City, he turned the car around, parked, got out and opened the trunk.

I was on top of the world. I had planned all of this for months and now it was happening. Unlike the first journey, many people seemed like they were really along with me this time. I really felt like it was meant to be; that I wasn't forcing it or doing something that people didn't understand. They may still not understand fully, but at least they have a better idea what I'm trying to do.

The Sleep Spot 

The night was dark, with a small waxing moon. Brilliant Venus and Jupiter were lined up just to the right of the moon. Venus had been the shining companion of many wonderful nights in Livermore over the winter, and she didn't disappoint tonight. I tried to catch what I saw. The stars blended with the lights on the hills giving that impression that... I was walking through space

The moon, Jupiter and Venus Above
and the "Stars" of Marin City's Hills Below.

I watched as my path (the Mill Valley Sausalito Path) slowly brought me further from Route 101--the road I'd planned to follow or walk on, as I headed north through the rest of California. I realized that even though it isn't an interstate highway, actually being on its 8 busy lanes was not realistic. That is a challenge I need to resolve today.

In time, I passed into out of Marin City and into Mill Valley, to an area called Bayfront Park. It was about 10:00 pm. I saw many possibilities for a sleeping spot. I settled into a small, dark area under a couple trees and surrounded on three sides by tall grass, next to a well maintained place for sitting. Here is my rough camp...

Not a Bad Nest

I fell asleep by about 11:00 pm. Unfortunately in another hour I would have a rude awakening, but for now, the night was quite, I was comfortable and I rested feeling satisfied with my first day's progress.

Mill Valley Sleeping Spot

* * * * * * *

Stay tuned for tomorrow's description of today! Thanks for reading and walking with me.
There is a lot more to come! 


  1. I'm no expert, but the aerial shot looks like your first sleeping spot was just outside of a water reclamation facility. Hopefully they left the fart flame burning for you!

  2. Now I know how to let my freak fart fly! :-D