Bends and Bridges - San Francisco
San Francisco, as everyone knows, is hilly! It's famed for it. Many a Hollywood car chase has been set in this city simple because it adds a certain excitement to driving.
You won't see many tourists driving at high speeds in an attempt to be like Steve McQueen, but you will see them queuing up to drive down Lombard Street. The self-styled 'Crookedest Street in the World' (it's not even the 'crookedest in San Francisco), is a wonderful tourist trap. A very hilly and very bendy trap!
My wife and I had just picked up the rental car from near Fisherman's Wharf. Not entirely sure on which way to head, my wife navigated us successfully through the streets of San Francisco, with very few, almost non-existent left turns available in the city, we followed the famous Cable Car route for while knowing that it would pass the top of the street at some point. We knew we were in the right place when there was a small queue waiting to turn into what looks like a normal street.
With cars now backing up behind us there was no time to be hesitant when we took the right turn into Lombard Street. What faces you are 8 tight turns and such a sharp incline that can seem like a cliff face when you are not used to it!
Should you have the confidence to look beyond the surface of the road and in-between calculating the stopping speed of you and the car in front whilst having half an eye on the rear view mirror to ensure you won't be rear ended, the roadside is actually a beautiful scenic photographic opportunity.
The lovely homes that decorate the street are divided into portions at the front and their yards are perfectly manicured with lush greenery and pretty flowers. When you finally reach the bottom a sense of 'hurrah' was felt and I could finally realise what we had just done. Some may drive this road and not be bothered. I however had seen Lombard Street in many films and TV shows. Alfred Hitchcock's character in his film 'Vertigo' lived here and Clint Eastwood had had his very own car chase here in 'Magnum Force'. I may not be 'Dirty Harry' but I felt very chuffed indeed that this road had finally been conquered. I missed out on driving the first time I visited San Francisco so I could now tick this off my list.
With this tackled, photos taken and confidence, we decided to head for the bridge! Hoping to find a left turn at some point!
A wonderful drive through over the hills and past some of the best houses, architecturally speaking, we had ever seen, the Golden Gate Bridge was finally upon us.
A bridge just a famous for suicides as it is for its colour, this 6 lane icon represented to me what I had always thought of when I pictured California in my head as a child.
Stopping at the toll booth to pay the $6 charge, we were then confronted by the wonderful red paint and streams of traffic ahead of us. With cyclists avoiding pedestrians on the sides I picked a lane and made sure I was comfortable enough to enjoy the experience.
My wife Louise was happily snapping pictures with our camera and looking left and right, most likely eyes wide open as there is a lot to take in.
The 1.7 miles went by fairly quickly as it was not rush hour, I hear it can take 15 minutes some days due to the congestion. Passing under both towers which reach 500ft above the road level, I remember looking up for what seemed an eternity.
Pulling into the Vista view point at the end, more photo opportunities are given. With dozens of other tourists and sightseeing coaches, we made use of the wonderful Bay and Bridge views from this point. Once again the city had made us very happy and the driving experiences it gives.