Posts Tagged ‘VA’

From the moment I reached the San Francisco County line on the Golden Gate Bridge, the fog was dense and consistent. There would be no trace of sun for six hours, until I reached that spot again. My destination, the VA hospital at Fort Miley above the Cliff House, would be in perpetual and chilling gray all day.

My last passenger would be a woman in the women’s naval corps during Korea. Her health had taken a turn a few years back, and now she was frail with hands so unsteady that she needed to rest one hand on the other’s wrist while she used the joy stick to guide her motorized wheelchair. It was one of the deluxe models, with six wheels – the big ones being the two in the center so it could pivot in place. It could recline, raise her up, and dip at the front for when she needed to get off of it.

Her eyes were bright and belied her physical status. We would have a lot to talk about en route, but first we headed south near where 280 and 19th Avenue merge to drop off my only other passenger, a dialysis patient that I see a lot of. He was trying to ween himself off of his wheelchair, and chose to use the steps rather than the lift to get off. His daughter who greeted him, herself in her 50s, was as always apprehensive about his risky choice. But getting back to a vertical routine for him was important on many levels, and she had to go with it.

After a surprisingly quick traverse of 19th Avenue heading north to Yountville and the VA’s retirement home in the Napa Valley, we were getting onto the Golden Gate in seemingly relentless monochrome. I told her that half way across that would all change, and sure enough it did.

A small pocket of clarity appeared to our lower right, providing a momentary glimpse of part of Angel Island bathed in gold with a sliver of bay behind it. It quickly disappeared. Scarce tourists huddled together on the walkway. Hopefully they hadn’t given up too soon, because they were only 100 yards from an incredible show.

Just before reaching the north tower, the world opened up in staggering fashion. To our left, the fog was being pushed along the steep contours of the northern mouth of the bay. It curved around a nearly vertical ridge and thrust out at us, dissipating quickly like a ghost in the night.

Beyond the tower, we were able to look steeply up at the fog tumbling down ferociously towards us, it’s very crest lit by the low sun. My passenger had her chair in full recline, so she had the optimum vantage point and enough glass above her to see it all.

As we approached the ridge cut in half leading to the Waldo Tunnel, the fog was even faster as it thrust downward, staying less than 30 feet from the dried grass and scrub brush it rushed over. When it reached that cut in the hills it swirled up again, twisting and expanding, looking like cotton candy in its moment of creation. Seconds later we were again in the thick of it – literally.

It was easy to pick out the one tourist on the road. He slowed down to 40 while all the Marin County commuters kept it at 60 heading for the tunnel.

Halfway through it the fog was gone, with sunlit homes along a high ridge in Sausalito visible through the end of it. The two curves at the other side prevented any wandering eyes for me, and the by crest and the overpass to Wolfback Ridge Road all traces of fog were nearly gone. The ridges were too high, and the fog hadn’t welled up behind them enough to get to that point near the crest where clumps get caught in the wind and get thrown over the side.

It had been a whirlwind of motion and awe that lasted about a minute. But I can close my eyes right now and relive that moment when white frosting flowed over dark shadow, lunging towards us like a child ready to reach for his daddy.


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