When I think of this trip, I am filled with both happy memories and content that fuels my nightmares still! For anyone that doesn’t know me, I am pretty terrified of heights and bridges are possibly the worst things to heighten my fear, pardon the pun. Of course, when you Google San Francisco, what comes up? A humongous shiny red bridge that is a whopping 2.7km long and is held at 220ft above water. Meaning that living here, you have an obligation to travel over said bridge more times than I am comfortable with. It is always the talking point with any new visitors and you are expected to fulfil your duty as a newly appointed San Franciscan, to be a good host and take your guests over this bridge, big whoop.
Having just moved here and feeling the pressures of this obligation, I let my husband stupidly talk me into cycling over the bridge. Not go in a tour bus over it or hire a car and drive over, nope we had to cycle. So when it came, I had told myself it would be fine and had conjured up an image in my head of this lovely, short bridge that would have beautiful views that would conquer my fear and we would all live happily ever after… I wish I could tell you that this is true, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t be much of a story if it was.
We had hired our bikes from Fisherman’s Wharf and my husband being the positive being that he is, told me it would be a short, pleasant cycle to the bridge, which was absolutely not true. As we cycled the treacherous uphill route (I say cycled, I mainly pushed my bike, but the views were incredible) I was just about ready to turn around and go home when we made it to the mouth of the bridge.
As we were quickly jolted onto the side of the bridge, I started to believe that my thoughts might actually be true and it wouldn’t be too bad. I started off, looking around, slightly enjoying the wind in my hair and the knowledge that I was on San Francisco’s most defining landmark. The railings were high and the other cyclists all seemed to share my contentment, this was great! But then, the high railings came to an end and all I could see was the possibility of me somehow managing to hurtle myself off the side and of course, all at once, the realisation of what I was doing all hit me. I was trapped, suspended over the sea with no way of getting off and to not help the situation I could now suddenly see the water below and the distance to it and this was all within the first five minutes. As Adam cycled behind me, having the time of his life I focussed on what I thought was the end of the bridge (disclaimer: when you’re on the bridge, you forget what it looks like from land, i.e. the two huge prominent mounds that make up the bridge), but nope we were only just coming up to the brow of the hill, and with that an outer route around the structure. As it was a particularly windy day, as we began to turn the wind almost knocked you into the side of the structure, making my legs work even harder than they were already to get me off this bridge…only one third completed.
I could hear Adam behind me shouting at the different sites he could see, busy filming videos on his phone while I panicked (but you can’t tell that in the video thank goodness!). When you cycle out of San Francisco, you are kept to the right and are on the left as you return, both on the left hand side of the bridge. So as we were cycling, we had those heading into the city cycling past us, which was another thing that was making this the bike ride from hell. There were groups of people weaving in and out of us and getting incredibly close, all I could think of was ‘I am going to have to cycle back over this bridge when we reach the end’. As my worn out legs peddled their little lives out to the end of the bridge, the smile on Adam’s face was almost as big as that horrible (I no longer think its as awful as I did in this moment) bridge and he turned to me and excitedly said ‘right lets go back!’, to which he was met with a very unimpressed facial expression, which he knew meant no.
I think that if the railing had remained on the side of the bridge throughout, I would have felt a lot safer. I was just not anticipating the total openness and the low barriers. As I’m sure most people do with their fears, when you’re forced to face them, you imagine the worst possible scenario and for me, the image of me somehow flying over the edge just wouldn’t leave me. I managed to convince Adam to cycle into Sausalito and then get the ferry back from there following the bridge fiasco, which was a win win situation as we ended up having a lovely afternoon there.
Since then, I have been driven over the bridge a few times, which were unavoidable but all in all weren’t too bad. I know that I will get the courage to maybe walk over the bridge at some point, but for now I think I’ll be cycling in the city only.