Crossing the Golden Gate

Yesterday I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, something I have done at least one hundred times in my 30+ years living in the Bay Area. Tomorrow is the Bridge’s birthday, so let’s cross it here together.

Heading southbound into San Francisco, there are a total of six lanes that span the bridge for both directions. The number of lanes per direction varies by the time of day and traffic flow.

Commuters driving to San Francisco from the north during the morning rush hours usually have four lanes, as shown in the photo below, on a workday at dawn.

Lanes are managed by a movable barrier system, so the number of lanes in each direction changes numerous times throughout each day, depending on traffic flow.

The movable barrier system is made up of 3,517 interlocking steel and concrete pieces. Called the Road Zipper for its interlocking system that resembles a zipper, it is a yellow machine operated by two people, that adjusts the lanes.

This system creates barriers between the lanes. It was installed in 2015 to prevent head-on collisions and has succeeded.

You can see the bright yellow Road Zipper in the next two photos.

The Golden Gate Bridge first opened to traffic on May 27, 1937.

The toll to cross then was 50 cents per car in each direction. Now, 86 years later, it is $9.75.

More toll info: GGB Highway and Transportation District

More info: Wikipedia Golden Gate Bridge

Many people like to cross on foot or bicycle, there are sidewalks. It’s fun…and costs nothing. It is usually cool or cold, and windy. It is also loud, with the constant and rhythmic thu-dud thu-dud of vehicles.

But it’s completely exhilarating and picturesque.

Standing on the bridge, you are 246 feet (75m) above the water. You are up high.

If it is not foggy, looking east you see the San Francisco Bay with Alcatraz and Angel Islands, and miles and miles of water.

But foggy days are frequent.

Long barges and large ships lumber to and from the shipyards.

Sailboats and yachts abound on a sunny day.

Ferries transport commuters and tourists year-round.

Looking to the west is the vast Pacific Ocean and the ridges and peaks of the Marin Headlands, a part of the Pacific Coast Range mountains.

The span is 1.7 miles (2.7 km). When your southbound drive comes to the bridge’s end, there are eight toll gates. All toll-taking is electronic, and the toll is only collected once, in the south direction.

The bridge clock is perched here too, photo below.

For San Francisco residents of today or yesterday, the Golden Gate Bridge is more than a bridge or a landmark. It is part of living in this city by the bay.

Everyone has a Golden Gate story. I love to hear the stories.

One of my dear friends who was the young child of a San Francisco police officer, for example, tells of when she was treated to the thrilling officials-only elevator ride up in the bridge tower. Another friend who went on the 50th anniversary Bridge Walk talks about the sudden and terrifying jolt when the bridge had too many pedestrians.

Some folks have antique tools or old cable pieces from the bridge, other Bay Area residents paint their homes “international orange” as a salute to the beloved bridge.

Like most people who live here, I love to cruise under the bridge. It’s quiet and serene and the bridge is far more immense than you realize.

My favorite memories are of being on boats cruising under the bridge–bird and wildlife cruises, Fourth of July firework cruises, ferry rides on lunch hours, and more.

Look at how huge this tower base is. The size of surfers, below, gives perspective.

“Born” in 1937, and 86 years later, the Golden Gate Bridge is still a much-loved landmark.

Happy Birthday to one of the world’s most beautiful bridges.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.


55 thoughts on “Crossing the Golden Gate

    • I enjoyed your words, Hien, as always. A good way to know it’s been a long time since you were on the GGB: the toll has more than doubled. I’m glad you’ve been on it. Thank you.

  1. This is a wonderful tribute to the GGB! It’s over 5 years since I last crossed the bridge. It’s always fun to cross it. I love looking up at the towers as I cross it…if I’m not driving. If I am I sneak peeks of the towers, and the view. I surrendered my fasttrak thingie shortly after moving but, the toll wasn’t nearly that high yet. I think it was $6 the last time I crossed it.

    • A lovely question from a musician. I have heard there is a shrieking sound during storms that started after a 2020 retrofit…from the wind…but I have never heard that, fortunately. It’s almost always windy on the bridge, and that blocks a lot of the sounds except traffic. Many thanks, Timothy.

  2. It is a magnificent bridge and achievement. Hard to believe something that extraordinary could have been built 50 years ago. Thank you for the ride across the Golden Gate Bridge 20 years ago and today.

    • Yes, it is a magnificent bridge and achievement. And it was not easy engineering it. It was built 86 years ago. It was a joy sharing the GGB with you, Bill, years ago and today. Love and thanks for your visit today.

  3. Happy birthday indeed to such a beautiful bridge… that I have been fortunate enough to cross on several occasions….each one as exhilarating a the one before.
    Thank you dear Jet…..:)

    • It is indeed exhilarating every time one crosses the GGB, and I am oh so glad you have had that experience several times, Janet. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • Ah, I liked hearing from a Bay Area resident, agreeing that it is always a thrill to go over or under the bridge, even if we’ve done it lots of times. My warm thanks, Jan.

    • Yes, I like that raven too, Walt, cruising by the GG Bridge. I’m glad you found today’s crossing exhilarating. And I always appreciate your kind words and visits, thank you.

  4. I think that it would be impossible not to love the Golden Gate, Jet. And there’s the treat at either end: San Francisco and the Marin Highlands. One of my favorite experiences has been to sail under it. My first trip across would have been in1965 when I went across from Berkeley for a weekend at Stinson Beach. In the late 70s, I had lunch with the man who oversaw the building of it. His company was interested in a light rail system I was marshaling through the political process in Sacramento.

  5. Loved this post and photos, Jet. I have only crossed the Golden Gate Bridge once and was treated to one of the best meals ever in Sausalito. I spent many years traveling the Memphis-Arkansas bridge across the Mississippi River. I gathered with friends for Hands Across America on the bridge – gosh that was a million years ago. I recently walked the Tower Bridge in London several times during a visit. Bridges are such wonderful metaphors. πŸ™‚

    Happy birthday, Golden Gate Bridge!
    Thanks for sharing this landmark with us.

    • It was wonderful to hear about your numerous bridge experiences, LuAnne, and you’re right, they are great metaphors. My warmest thanks for your kind words.

  6. Great fun to read this, and admire the photographs – what a sight and site! Happy Birthday, GGB, here’s to many more years of colour and character!
    Thanks, Jet!

  7. A fine salute to this feat of architecture, Jet, and great photos, Athena. Such an icon! It is interesting to note that with inflation the 50-cent fee today would be $10.53, so it is a bit cheaper than it was in those first days!

    • Yay…you did the inflation factor, Eliza, thanks. Interesting result, too. It is cheaper, too, for folks who have a FasTrak account. Thanks so much for taking an interest in the GG Bridge, my friend, and cheers to you for a sweet Memorial Day weekend.

  8. Thank you, dear Jet, for introducing us to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a masterpiece of architecture and belongs to the bay area as well as the waters of the sea and the mountains. Great pictures by Athena!
    Our dear Master drove across only once about forty years ago but can remember it still. Dina drove across more often.
    Wishing you a happy weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  9. Wonderful tribute to an engineering masterpiece. I’ve only enjoyed it from a distance, and after my toll-road experiences in the East, perhaps that’s best. Do swallows use the underside?

    • I’ve thought about your toll-road experiences, Craig, as I wrote this and pondered tolls, and appreciated your writings. Good question about the swallows. No, I have never seen swallows underneath. And I look for and notice swallows at bridges constantly. I’ve seen ravens, pelicans and gulls around here, but not swallows. My warmest thanks to you.

    • Thanks, Anneli. I agree, the lane management on the GG Bridge is interesting. It’s a narrow bridge for six lanes of traffic, and head-on collisions were a serious problem. The speed limit is only 45 mph and that helps, but I’ve noticed few people adhere to that. Fortunately the lane management system with a bigger barrier between directions has helped. According to the GGB Administration, there have been 0 head-ons since the change. Many thanks.

  10. Great story and photos with your wonderful memories to share
    make this an exciting story to read Jet. How very exciting to experience
    it and still do all of the over traveling you do!

  11. Loved your post, love the Bridge! And loved the bird photo at the end. Had to enlarge it to make sure it wasn’t a UFO!! ;>)

    • Your fun comment gave me a chuckle, Nan. It was a great day when Athena and I watched the raven soaring around the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. Also fun times crossing it with you…many times. My love and thanks, as always.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s