An A to Zed of the USA by a European Nomad – G & H

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Golden Gate Bridge

One of the first picture books I wrote was about two biker chicks (the fluffy kind) crossing the Golden Gate from Marin County for an adventure in the city. I saw it on my first visit to San Francisco in 2011, and the tingly awe I felt has remained with me. Bridges are so much more than just a functional entity —they are symbols in our skylines, historical landmarks, and architectural marvels. Better yet, they have the power to bring us together for shared experiences. Whether it’s a romantic stroll or an adventurous trek, ultimately bridges connect people.

While the Rialto bridge in Venice inspires romance and the Ponto Vecchio bridge in Florence speaks to me of (Medici) power, The Golden Gate with its signature rusty red finish and its iconic image of California and the American West Coast evokes adventure and freedom. Even when shrouded in summer fog, the Golden Gate raises goose bumps when I behold it. It spans that tension I feel between my love of throbbing cultural urban hubs and that of seascape solitude or mountain vistas such as Point Reyes and Mount Tam.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Written by Joseph P. Strauss, Chief Engineer, Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District

Written upon completion of the Bridge sometime in 1937

I am the thing that men denied,
The right to be, the urge to live;
And I am that which men defied,
Yet I ask naught for what I give.

My arms are flung across the deep,
Into the clouds my towers soar,
And where the waters never sleep,
I guard the California shore.

Above the fogs of scorn and doubt,
Triumphant gleams my web of steel;
Still shall I ride the wild storms out,
And still the thrill of conquest feel.

The passing world may never know
The epic of my grim travail;
It matters not, nor friend or foe –
My place to serve and none to fail.

My being cradled in despair,
Now grown so wondrous fair and strong,
And glorified beyond compare,
Rebukes the error and the wrong.

Vast shafts of steel, wave-battered pier,
And all the splendor meant to be;
Wind-swept and free, these, year on year,
Shall chant my hymm of Victory!


I have been in the US almost six years and have thus far visited 29 states. My favorite way to visit any country is to spend time staying with local people because you get a feel and a flavor for the place you cannot get in a hotel. I have just done a quick tally and in that time I have stayed with at least 58 different folk (and I am sure I have missed some names.) Apart from 2 Brits, 1 Brazilian, 1 Argentinian, 1 Dutch woman, 1 Lebanese couple and 3 French folk, they have all been Americans, and the aforementioned peeps are almost all married to Americans and/or been here 10-20 years. MOST of these people I hadn’t met in person before I stayed with them. Every single experience was super positive.

From San Diego to Portland Maine, from Seattle to Virginia Beach, from Fort Collins to Harrisburg, PA, from Martha’s Vineyard to Asheville, NC. I have encountered generous, warm, genuinely hospitable welcomes everywhere. No exceptions. You have gathered me around your fire pits in summer and wood burning stoves in winter. You have included me in family gatherings, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. You have shared bounty from your garden with me, and bottles from your cellars. You have shown me your favorite hikes and shared your favorite dives, you have taken me to baseball games and 4th of July parades. Much more than offering me a bed and a meal, you have included me into your lives and hearts. And I am so grateful for this bountiful American gift and experience. 

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2 Responses to An A to Zed of the USA by a European Nomad – G & H

  1. What a lovely tribute to all of the friends you’ve made in your travels. You’ve had an interesting life traveling the county and world. I’m sorry that you haven’t visited me in Ohio. Love the poem about the Golden Gate Bridge. 🙂

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