The dark of the night tinged the bridge's famous cherry color with the darker hues of the wine country to the north. But the cherry red what was I was here to see, what I’d been dreaming of ever since the opening credits of Full House first graced my television screen. I heard the tune in my head:
"Whatever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paperboy, evening T.V.?"
Luckily, the lamps that lined the bridge's sides showed bits and pieces of the unique color that distinguishes the Golden Gate Bridge on any postcard.
As we drove up to pay the toll, I turned to my friend Mario, "You pay to cross the bridge? But it's basically a national monument."
"The city of San Francisco gets it cut from the tourist attraction, for sure," he said, as he forked over a few dollars to the teller.
The streetlights illuminated a white sticker on his dark hoodie. It read, “Google Guest: Mario.” I wore a matching sticker on my jacket with tattoo-like pride, evidence of our afternoon visit to Google's headquarters in Mountain View. After enjoying a free lunch out on the plaza, we’d strolled around the complex in brightly-colored bikes. Larry and Sergey, such good hosts. Me? Not such a good visitor—I may or may not have nearly run a few Googlers over with that old bike.
Despite our exhaustion after a long day of adventure, though, Mario had insisted on adding one more to the day's line-up. "To the Golden Gate we go!"
The toll was a short ways off from the start of the bridge, but the anticipation turned it into miles. I could see the concrete and steel colossus looming over us, stretching as high as the clouds. Or, you know, fog. That's San Francisco for you.
Mario laughed at me, the tourist, pulling out my camera and filming our approach. He’s a native now, and natives don’t take pictures, apparently. The first tower was slow-coming, a mountain whose base never seemed to get closer. I peered up the windshield as long as I could, trying to see to the top as we finally slipped underneath. I looked forward again, to the second tower. This time, the size wasn’t what impressed me—it was the Art Deco style. It reminded me of my copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, the cover a black and white piece of art so very 1920s.
And just like that, it was over. We left the bridge and its towers and lamps and wine red behind us. As we followed the road off the bridge, I realized I'd never considered what lay on the other side.
We made a right turn and stopped at a crowded lookout point to snap some photos. Dozens of tourists milled about. They took photos of each other like schools of fish, gathering and dispersing, gathering and dispersing.
The wind furiously lapped at our faces with a fury, our ears ringing as it whooped around us. I shivered under my sweater, fighting the urge to shove my hands in my jeans and walk back to the car, but one look at the moon convinced me I needed to capture the moment. I ran up to the edge of the lookout point and quickly snapped a photo, without even a look at the camera's viewfinder.
"You can see a lot of the city from here," Mario told me. And he was right. San Francisco sprawled out before our eyes, the moon lighting up the city's hilly surface.
But we hadn't driven all this way to see San Francisco. We'd come to see the bridge. So we hopped back in the car, paid the toll, and experienced the two towers all over again. I could hear the Full House theme song playing again in my head:
"You miss your old familar friends, waiting just around the bend."