The last time I was in San Francisco, I was determined to make my way out to spend time on the Golden Gate Bridge. I had driven over the bridge before, and I had seen it from afar, but I had never walked out on it.
This visit to the West Coast was brief, and the last day of the trip showed up suddenly. I was staying with a friend who lived a little ways south (and who was working), so I decided to take the train into the city by myself and figure out how to get over to the bridge, even if it meant walking a few miles to get there. I consulted one of those guide books, which said, in clear language, don’t try to get there on foot or by public transportation; take a cab or rent a bike. But I’ve never been very good at following someone else’s script.
Before I left the house, I practiced a form of divination I learned from a friend. A repeated coin-toss, asking a series of questions. Should I go to the Golden Gate Bridge? Yes. Will I get some great pictures? No. Should I go anyway? Yes. Should I head toward the beach? Yes. And so on. So I went.
I took Caltrain into the city, and studied the Muni map. It seemed I could take Muni in the direction of the bridge, and at least get close enough to walk the rest of the way. I walked to the nearest Muni stop and headed west. The stop announcements sounded like Charlie Brown grownups talking. At one point, I heard one that sounded like it said “Mwah mwah Fort mwah mwah mwah Golden Gate.” I got off, and crossed the street.
When the bus pulled up, the destination sign said nothing about Golden Gate, so I asked the driver, “Does this bus go to the Golden Gate Bridge?” He didn’t speak, but his head tilted back and his eyes rolled back in their sockets, and his whole body told me that if he got asked that question one more time, he might have an aneurism. I got on.
And the next thing I knew, we were right there. In minutes. For a three-buck Muni fare. And it was a gorgeous, sunny day with great temps, blue sky, and the famous fog nowhere in sight. The bridge was stunning. I took two pictures, and then I asked a stranger to take my picture in front of the bridge. And in broken English he said something was wrong with the camera. What?! I had forgotten to charge it. I thought about the coin toss and laughed. Great pictures? No. Go anyway? Yes.
This was October 2010, and I hadn’t yet joined the smartphone world. Before the trip I had bought an iPod mini (5th gen) on an impulse. I had remembered to charge that, so I used it to shoot a bunch of short video clips.
My advice is to go, and don’t worry too much about what the books say. Go where you want to go, find your way, and worry about the details as you go.