Stepping out of San Francisco’s Historic Ferry Building and into the brilliant sunlight, we glimpse the Golden Gate Flyer, a majestic beacon rising from Treasure Island and seemingly from San Francisco Bay, itself. The wonderful, pristine and almost crystalline white delicate tracery of the structure offers a sense of weightlessness; a floating portal from a future time, hinting at a promise of new knowledge, of discovery and a singular experience.
Shimmering in the near distance, the gleaming ring seems so completely a part of the skyline…as though it has always been there.
As our ferry, the Golden Gate Flyer Express, skims across the bay, the once distant wheel grows larger and larger…welcoming…approachable.
We step onto the Island and are captivated at the sight of the Flyer; slowly turning with the passenger capsules seemingly carried aloft by the currents of summer air, transporting her guests into the sky.
Our walk to the Flyer takes us along California and Clipper Cove Avenues, where we experience clean, grass-lined walkways, open air cafés and kiosks, the sounds of laughter in the distance while seagulls call from overhead…
Strolling past the boats moored along Clipper Cove, passing beneath the outstretched Clipper Spar, we see couples, families and office workers enjoying the weather as they picnic together; this scene is, already, iconic San Francisco.
Looking up into the architecture of the Flyer, the solidity and gracefulness are a powerful yin and yang of peaceful, elegant imagery and exuding a silent energy. The legs of the structure are akin to taught mooring lines, tethering this wheel to the earth.
Turning the corner; before us rises a beautifully-articulated tapestry of pathways and stairways, a ramp ascending around a water garden and behind a waterfall, clusters of trees and green coves of flowers and grass with random sculptures for touching and exploring.
Benches and berms abound, offering opportunity to sit and contemplate this protected surrounding for a moment before proceeding calmly upward, past a grassy amphitheater to the welcoming concourse and enter the sparkling glass Atrium.
The space is breathtaking.
Looking up, toward the high reaches of the space, one sees the massive spectacle of the wheel as it towers overhead, moving with the barest, most grand of perceptibility as the capsules are borne aloft toward the crest of the experience in which we have come to enjoy.
We quietly gasp at the brilliance of the white marble. Flashes of color appear throughout the space as people move across the floor, and we hear the the enthusiastic sounds of pleased anticipation as they collect their Boarding Passes.
Following the ramps and stairways down to the main floor, we are drawn deeper into the Exposition Hall. As we explore, the space opens up even more and we enter the Discovery Way to find a compelling array of displays of inventions, machines and marvels of engineering and technology, icons and artifacts to touch and explore. What to see, first…?
A massive, holographic wall tells the story of San Francisco and the Bay from Discovery to Today; as we pass along the wall, we witness the establishment of the Barbary Coast, the growth of the Wharf and Downtown, the construction of City Hall and, most appropriately, the creation of Treasure Island…the island on which we now stand.
We watch and learn as a holographic animation of the Golden Gate Exposition rises in the midst of the Bay, we hear the story of the Mayor’s Angelo Rossi’s iron determination to complete this new, World’s Fairground on time; as the entire world had been invited to San Francisco to experience this truly new, truly modern City of the West, this “City That Knows How.”
Continuing onward, we are presented with the crucial role this island has played in the history of San Francisco and of California; thus of this country. From World’s Fair site to Naval Base, from City Airport to bay-wrapped neighborhood, from what it was to what it has now become; a new haven of affordable housing for the residents of Everyone’s 2nd Favorite City…
…watched over by the world’s tallest and most graceful Observation Wheel; the Golden Gate Flyer.
As we continue our exploration of Discovery Way, we encounter an area that shows and shares all about the building of the actual Wheel. We can walk through a section of the gargantuan legs that hold up this towering wonder. We can balance on a piece of the cable, mounted a full foot off the floor to experience the scale at which the Flyer exists.
A time-lapse movie shows the building of the wheel; a two-year project shown in one minute.
The pathway through all this excitement and discovery twists and turns as Moment after Milestone is articulated and shown. Imperceptibly, the hallways narrow and the ceilings lower to subliminally inform the guests and give a them each a sense of being deep under ground.
Then, finally, we turn a corner and stand before the 4D 'Experience Theatre' for this film of which we’ve heard so much; “BayFlight,” the powerful film that creates for us the Penultimate Moment before we Take Flight.
We soar on the shoulders of a high-flying eagle to discover the wondrous nature and mankind-challenging architectural and engineering accomplishments that encircle the Bay and Treasure Island; from Napa Valley to Silicon Valley, and all points in between…
Exiting the theatre, our guests are suddenly presented with the Wheel, inexorably moving directly in front of them, not ten feet away. Entering the Flight Pavilion, we are in the final queue, that could be our capsule, right there!
And then it happens.
We step into our capsule and begin to climb. As though being carried by the gentlest of angels we rise toward the Bay Bridge; alive with cars zipping toward San Francisco and Oakland. Looking down, we see people arriving; becoming tiny and tinier with each passing minute as we climb up, up to 700 feet; the tallest Observation Wheel in the world.
Rising, rising, above the level of the Bay Bridge and still rising… The astonishing vistas stretch before us:
Eastward to Oakland and the Berkeley Hills, home to the birth of many a Legend and Thought Leader, myriad Cultural and Political Movements and the site of Patty Hearst’s guerrilla career. Beyond Berkeley, Contra Costa County and the legendary Mount Diablo; from the summit of which a climber is rewarded with one of the most vast horizons of anywhere on this Earth.
South, over the crest of Yerba Buena Island and on toward Silicon Valley, San Jose, the Garlic fields of Gilroy and on toward Monterey…and West.
San Francisco. The City. Gold Rush, Levi’s, Sally Stanford, Emperor Norton, Fog, Dreamers and Seekers of generation upon generation have come to these Hills to find their dreams and find themselves; Sourdough Bread, Baghdad by the Bay, Ghirardelli Chocolate, North Beach Cioppino, Italians, Chinese, Irish, Everyone; Hippies with Flowers in their Hair in the Haight, Gays with Pride and Flags in the Castro, Art and Artful Architecture everywhere. “Go West…” our young men and women were told and this is where they came.
Shunned elsewhere; welcomed Home, here.
San Francisco Skyline circa 2020
This is the City to which we were called.
We are at the top, the arc crests and we are riveted by the skyline of San Francisco. Lush fog pours over the edges of Twin Peaks as the sun begins to set; offering a gilded view of … well, of everything we can see.
This is the City of Cities from the vantage point of an eagle.
As we circle down from the apex, our eyes are directed Northward to Angel Island, Belvedere and the sleeping maiden of Mount Tamalpais as our narrative host directs our attention to the specific history and future plans and potential for Treasure Island, itself.
San Francisco is for everyone; and everyone deserves the possibility of living here.
Walking away from the Flyer, we turn at the dock and look back at this marvel; now sparkling with lights in complement to the iconic light art on the Bay Bridge. All of a beautiful piece, the lights beckon; pointing the way to San Francisco.
We board our waiting ferry to return to The City. As we depart, watching this wonder of engineering embrace it’s natural place in the skyline. Now wrapped with personal, exhilarating memories and inspiring in us new aspirations to create, to be our better selves, we vow to return again…and again.