A Glimpse of the Pacific

Today was the day I was to return to Philly. The migration had gone successfully yesterday. I had finished it much ahead of the schedule. I still wasn’t used to S’Frisco time. When I woke up, it was 3:15 AM PST. Way too early to just while off the time before the flight! I had already visited the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday night. So was wondering what to do with all the time till the flight back home. I started looking at the attractions on Google maps and started to wonder if I could hit the Rt. 1 a.k.a the famed Pacific Highway. First I thought I might go down south, but there was quite a bit of driving to get to the coast. I searched for Monterrey bay and found the time to drive there was 2 hours. Way too long to get there and be back on time, I thought. I figured I had about 5 hours to while away. As I was thinking to get to the Golden Gate Bridge and maybe take a walk, I saw some beaches north of the bay. Why not, I thought, drive across the bridge.

The first place I saw on Rt. 1 was Stinson Beach. The drive was about 55 minutes. That was a good drive in the time I had. I had a quick shower and went down to get some cash. The Front desk girl was asleep in the lobby. My walking woke her up. I asked for the ATM and withdrew some cash; she broke the 20 – I needed change for the toll on the Bay Bridge. After leaving some tips for the housekeeper, I packed up. When I got into the car, it should have been around 4:30 AM. It was very dark and being a big city, I could still hear the traffic on Rt. 101. I stopped to get some coffee and croissant at the nearby Starbucks. Now I was all set to drive out. I called Rama and informed her. She was getting started for here center. She thought I was on an adventure given my flight in the afternoon. I convinced her it was just a ‘drive’. She wished me good luck.

As I headed out north on Rt. 101, I could see the lights on the far off bridge. The roads were a contrast to yesterday evening. Thanks to the Garmin, I could get lost and still be back on time. That always gives me much comfort when I travel. It guided me through the Douglas MacArthur tunnel and there I was – driving across the Golden Gate Bridge for the second time in the past 10 hours. Once across, the lights started to dim out. Soon I was onto Rt. 1. The roads here were empty – I was the sole trooper on road.
I thought what Rama would think if I told her what I felt like driving in the utter dark. Added to the darkness, the road started to wind quite a lot. I was turning every 50 or so feet. At about 20 mph, that can be quite unsettling. I knew I was climbing. I could feel one side of the road gouging, waiting to swallow anything that would drop. The other side was lined with tall trees. Visibility was barely 100-200 feet given the curving of the road. It was too dark to tell if the side was a valley or the waters. The road noise kept me from hearing much outside. I don’t remember anyone passing me or behind me for all the 90 minutes I was driving except when I pulled over on a turnout to get a break.

I don’t know if the amount of winding or the air outside – I started to feel light headed when I pulled over on the turnout. About ½ hour past the bridge, I could see the water on the left; it was glimmering in the pale skylight of the oncoming dawn. While I knew I was headed to Stinson Beach, I didn’t have a specific address. I was hoping to find signs to the beach. Bad luck as I passed the Stinson Beach park which was closed. I pulled out Google maps on my Blackberry and checked out some points of interest and beaches.

The faint dawn started bringing on a few cars rapidly zooming by on the road. I parked besides the water on a road I don’t remember. The air outside had a faint smell of Eucalyptus, reminding me of the Nilgiris near Bangalore. I stepped out and ate the fruits from Starbucks watching a beautiful expanse of water slowly flowing down, the waters rippling on its journey, reflecting the faint light. I was probably about fifty feet above the water. I was at last starting to see some daylight. The absolute quietness apart from a streaming car was mesmerizing. As in the past, I thought what a place to live and compared it with Worcester. Just miles out of the city and it was breathtaking nature. Lucky few who lived here! Now I could see I was opposite a few road-side houses. I am not sure how my first picture of this particular outing came out. I made sure to use both low-light w/o flash and also automatic settings to get as much as I could.

My next destination was the beach itself. I figure the ‘Stinson Beach Grille’ should be close to the shore. When I got there, the parking was cordoned off again due to the earliness of the day. I managed to get around the lot. It is when I saw my first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. The roar of the waters hitting the rocks constantly was not to be missed despite the height I was at. Now I was viewing the Pacific Highway in all its glory. It was a tremendous sight – the waters crashing about 250 feet below and the coastline winding all the way for miles! The fog kept me from seeing the Ocean in full – it was extending out as far as the eye could see.

It should have been about 8:15 now; the sunrise is past 7 AM here. I thought I should be heading back to the Bridge and maybe try to get some food before the flight. My next stop, though, was at Muer Beach View. A lone SUV was parked in the parking lot. The young man waved to me – it was good to see a smiling face in the morning. I waved back.

As I started driving back, I made maybe 5-6 stops on the way. Now there was traffic behind me. One truck was bearing on me – the speed limit was 20 or 25 mph maybe. The turnouts were rather short and as I pulled into one to let him pass, he honked. I heard the honk again the second time I pulled in. Now I realized the drivers were thanking me – at least, a better way to look at it! By 8:30, I was on my way back to the bridge. I stopped at the recreational area which is way down at the base of the bridge off Rt. 101 S. You get to see the bridge ‘bottoms up’, so to speak. The far off fog kept the photos from coming out sharp, I guess.

After I cross the bridge back to the city, I made at least 3 wrong turns. This never bothers me anymore as long as I have time. It is the start of another adventure, as Rama would call it. This gave me an opportunity to drive into the parts of downtown San Francisco I never would have otherwise. At some point I was driving by the ‘Pond-side’ – don’t remember the name. By now, there were plenty of morning walkers and their dogs, almost crowded by Worcester standards. Also, plenty of traffic for a Saturday morning.

Finally I wound my way to Mangiere on Old Country Road, grabbed some more breakfast for my lunch. Rama was surprised when I called her at 9:45 and told her I was finishing up my food. When you head to the airport, it is better to turn off the Garmin as you get close to it as the directions to the rental car return facility is clearly marked. I did miss the first time and had to resort to my Garmin again. I was well on-time to catch my flight despite the 5 hours or so of driving. As exciting a morning as one could be!

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