Let me forecast this story as something that’s pretty corny. But seeing as I’ve rarely been inspired to actively blog, I have to say that this was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.
For a brief backstory, I began to enjoy running over the summer. I was working longer hours over the summertime for my job, so a lot of my stress relief was dictated through forms of exercise–whether it be dancing, running, or lifting. Eventually, I had run so far that I decided to run in the Seattle Half-Marathon for my first road race. (If you’re asking “why so far away from VA?”, the answer is that I also had a lot of vacation time saved up from the year!). The half marathon in itself is another story–I smashed my race goal–but basically I traveled to Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco for a 9-day “tour of awesome” (as described by a couple of locals I met in Portland).
The only problem was that rain was forecasted on my solo vacation trip to San Francisco…for the whole time that I was going to be there! My flight from Portland was actually delayed about three hours due to the weather. Forecasts of bad weather are probably one of the more devastating things to hear for a traveler, especially as I like to walk around and see the city by foot. I feel like that’s the best way to truly experience the city and its culture (as well as saving some money and getting some exercise). The rain was going to make that quite difficult; the hilly terrain of SF did not aid the cause either.
So the first day I decided to go around the Mission District for a lot of Mexican food and a lot of shopping, followed by the SF Museum of Modern Art at night. The second day, I knew I needed to see the Golden Gate Bridge. I had seen it at night from a distance while walking on the Pier/Fisherman’s Wharf on my first night, but it’s not quite the same — and I couldn’t just come back from San Francisco without having seen the bridge up close.
Unfortunately, the rain forecast stood pretty standard from the time I got off the plane. The forecasts were for 100% chance of precipitation through my stay. Regardless, I only had one day left, and the bridge actually closes to pedestrians every day at 5:30PM. So Friday (my second and last full day in SF), I made it my goal to go see the bridge and do the obligatory walk across.
My hostel was decently far (4 miles or so from the bridge and sandwiched between the Financial District/Chinatown), so I needed to take 2 buses from the city to get there. So I got on the first bus…and then realized I was going the wrong way! So then I had to get off at the very first stop (embarrassing) and then walk all the way to back to the bus stop I got on from (since it was going down a one way street). Fortunately the SF bus system is forgiving, and I didn’t have to buy another ticket as I was able to “transfer”. I switched buses with no problem. Twenty minutes or so later, I was finally near the entrance of the bridge.
The only problem was that it was actively pouring at this point. The early showers that had developed in the morning turned into full fledged heavy rain. But no matter — I was already here. I might as well walk across the bridge and back, just like I had initially planned.
Here’s how it looked in the beginning:
As I approached the bridge, the rain got even heavier. I saw a couple walk towards the bridge–with presumably the same idea to walk across it–but they turned back about 10 steps in. I kept going, and but then quickly thought that the couple had the right idea.
At this point, I was reminded of Forrest Gump when Forrest was describing the rain during his time in the war. Although I certainly wasn’t in any war, it was definitely raining hard and it felt like it was raining sideways and upside down. My pants were completely soaked on the left side and my shoes/socks became drenched (worst feeling!). My umbrella turned inside out multiple times from the howling winds. The orange paint covering the bridge — supposedly the most visible color in the fog — simply appeared as just a faded shade of rust. I figured the cars driving on the bridge thought that I was some sort of idiot. The fact that I passed only 2 people on the bridge the entire time gave a slight affirmation to that notion.
At last, I had reached the other side of the bridge. I was hoping on the north end for there to be some sort of visitor’s center, or anything that would have warmth and protection from the rain. Instead, all I found were open-doored structures of public bathrooms. So I stood there in the men’s bathroom, gaining what little warmth I could to muster the motivation to return to the other side of the bridge. But either way, I had no choice — there wasn’t really any other viable option to get back. After about five minutes, I decided to move onwards.
However, on the way back, I noticed that the rain had gotten much lighter. In fact, it was just extremely windy at this point. There was still a bit of mist from the cars passing by, but at this point I didn’t even need to use my umbrella anymore!
…the city that had been so densely covered in fog began to unfold itself. It’s not terribly visible in the picture, but there was a small opening in the clouds where the city began to show a slight highlight from the sun…
…blue skies began to appear on my right side of the bridge. A cloud here was just wafting over the hills…
…at last, the bridge had begun to show it’s shine, and I could really appreciate it for what it was.
And then…I turned around and saw this:
It was the absolute biggest rainbow I’d ever seen. The picture doesn’t even do it justice! Click on the photo to see the full-size! You can see it relative to the car in scale for just how big it was!
Beyond that, it had grew to be a small double rainbow! I have no picture of that (unfortunately) but it was stellar to see.
I was also somewhat sad to see there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…(this was also the first time I could ever see the end of the rainbow)
And just like that, the rainbow disappeared. Still, the weather became a lot nicer. It actually didn’t rain for the rest of the day. Look how different the below picture is to the first one. I could not help but to hold a smile on my face for the next hour (and pretty much the rest of my trip).
Thematically–and this is where the corny part comes in–I realized that my entire experience on the bridge (as well as my entire vacation and the half-marathon I ran to start my vacation) had a strong parallel to a major life lesson. The journey is often difficult, but it can make the destination that much more rewarding. We experience many hard times. But whether you are hard at work, running or doing a sport, going through a tough time, striving to achieve a goal, or merely just walking across a bridge on a rainy day– you’ll find that once you achieve your goal, the journey often feels so worth it.
(Of course, I could have “worked” smarter and not harder and gotten shelter and stayed dry the whole time until the rain let up and still see the rainbow. But there’s no fun in blogging that.)