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The Golden Gate gear test

October 20, 2009

This week finds me locked in a third floor conference room in the Sierra Club fortress on Second Street in San Francisco.  Knowing that would be my fate, I planned to arrive early last Monday in order to indulge myself in a little fun ritual I try to observe every time I’m in this town.  That is walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and then taking the cable car out to Fisherman’s Wharf to have the most unhealthy meal I can find — a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a Coke at Johnny Rockets.  But Monday was different.  It turned into an impromptu gear test.

I got the Bridge in fine order, and the clouds were only a bit dark, the wind off the Pacific wasn’t too strong.  So it was a go; my Helly Hansen windbreaker should be sufficient.  Four hours later I was sitting in my room in the Chancellor Hotel on Powell Street drying out slowly – clothes, boots, cash, wallet, belt, and everything else.

As one can  infer, I ended up doing my Bridge walk in a pouring rain.  As I said, it started out okay, overcast and windy, just a squall sitting off the harbor entrance, and I honestly did figure, “what-the-hey, what’s a little mist? ”
However, by the time I reached the first bridge tower, things were past mist and well into, gale driven, drenching rain, which continued off and on as I crossed to the Marin County side.  Everyone on the bridge looked miserable.  I gutted it out, hoping it would get better, but by the time I’d returned to the toll plaza bus stop, it was pouring rain harder than ever.

The No. 28 bus appeared and was promptly filled by a bunch of soaked, half-drown wretches.  The windows fogged over immediately and we all sat and dripped, listening to the water in our shoes squish.  At Lombard Street the little bastard driver stopped and started screaming, “Everyone off my bus!  Go take other buses!  This bus no go downtown!  Get off my bus!”  We signaled our appreciation for his concern as we all exited the bus, back into the pouring rain.  Suffice to say I caught another bus that dropped me at Union Square, about a block from my hotel.  At least I got some good pictures of Alcatraz and the Bridge before they started to fill the pool – and oddly enough, I was able to snap a picture of a rainbow next to the Bridge when I was about half way across. 

So as to my gear’s ability:  The Helly Hansen is a better windbreaker than rain jacket; it may have some water resistant capabilities, but this Bay rainstorm overwhelmed it completely.  The Vasque cross-trainers — well, I sat them in the bath-tub to drain; they were still wet Tuesday morning.  Unfortunately, soaking wet they were able to raise a large blister in short order.  My Cabela’s heavy cotton hiking pants proved remarkably absorbent.  This is a small room and I hung them in the closet immediately upon returning Monday afternoon. It’s been 30 hours now and the waist area is still damp to the touch.

So, the morale to the story: I have learned to always wear my hiking boots for this adventure; and if it looks like there’s any kind of moisture in the area, don’t go without Gortex and a Filson tin cap.  I’d have been a lot more comfortable if I hadn’t been so dumb.

— Jim Margadant

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 21, 2009 6:40 am

    Some things are worth suffering for. I know a couple of lads who have forgone automobiles altogether and bicycle. One in lives in Duluth, Minnesota – yeah, year round commuting on a bike. Neither are not fans of Gore-Tex. With the exertion of cycling they get wet anyway. Both do wear “breathable” outwear over layers of wool or man-mades that still give warm when damp.

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