Happy 75th, Golden Gate


May 28, 2012, Washington, DC: As commutes go, this one ain't bad. Any pessimism you may have about the day ahead is easy to shake off as you cross the Golden Gate through the microclimates between San Francisco and Marin. On the morning drive, the bridge's paint color of international orange will give you a jolt stronger than coffee. On the evening ride home, this bridge is the entry back into one of the greatest cities in the world.

It was 75 years ago Sunday that the Golden Gate Bridge first opened, and it's hard to imagine life without it. In many ways, the Golden Gate is a place I grew up.

I associate the Golden Gate with the freedom and opportunity I felt the first time I crossed it as well as with a sense of responsibility that would grow on me there in the months that followed. The first time I crossed it was precisely eleven years ago this weekend, fresh out of college en route to my summer job. The second time was a week or so later when a friend and I took several of these photos out the window, the world at our feet and no plan beyond August. And yet I'd be back there in early September, beginning to traverse the bridge regularly as a commuter. I'd be there driving across the middle of the span on the morning of September 11, 2001, my first official week in the year-round workforce, as a radio reporter declared that America's major landmarks were under attack.

I'd grow up on and around the Golden Gate in other ways, too. I’d pedal across it heading for the path through Mill Valley that would take me to Tiburon, or climb the hill in the headlands toward Hawk Hill and Point Bonita. I'd run beneath it at Fort Point, watching the surfers catching the wave at the mouth of the bay, and gawk at it from Crissy Field and from the window of my apartment on Russian Hill. Just once, I'd take a fishing boat out under the extensive shadow of the bridge into the wide open Pacific beyond.

I wish I'd been in San Francisco last night for the fireworks show celebrating 75 years. I visited the Chronicle's archives this morning, clicking through photos documenting the building of the bridge. The sight of the Golden Gate is repeatedly captivating, whether in international orange or black and white.

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