Embarcadero Freeway Drive

Ahh, the late, unlamented Embarcadero Freeway.  Click on that link to get a good history of its short but sordid life, as it was widely reviled from the moment it went up by most folks except North Beach/Chinatown merchants.  What a joy, thanks to God and the San Andreas fault, that it’s gone, a victim of the Loma Prieta earthquake and the determination of the citizenry to not rebuild it.  Once again, we have an unobstructed waterfront, at least until real estate developers find a way to erect a wall of Miami-style high rises along it, their effort thwarted only last year by our glorious Prop B.

But still, nobody to my knowledge has ever reported on the one great joy that freeway provided, so as yet another in my long tradition of public services, i’ll describe that wonderful function.

After you’ve come staggering out of a huge South of Market orgy with your boyfriend Fletcher, tired and spent but completely sober, you get in your car, an early Honda CRX with new Michelin radials and excellent handling.  And you turn up onto 101 northbound headed toward the Bay Bridge and take the left exit onto the Embarcadero Freeway to give Fletcher his reward for being a good boy.

It’s four in the morning, the drunks are off the freeway by now and the cops are taking a well deserved coffee break, so there’s no need to pay attention to the speed limits and you’re doing 70 or so as you plunge into the freeway’s maw.

Well yes, the maw.  It’s a two-lane, elevated, two-level freeway, and the westbound traffic is on the lower level, so the support columns on either side are whipping by fast and heightening the impression of speed even though in such a well engineered, well shod vehicle you’re absolutely safe as you whiz around the gentle curve along the Embarcadero.

Alas, the pleasure of shooting through this tunnel of concrete posts lasts only a minute or so at warp speed, the Ferry Building whips past in a blur, and then you’re approaching a sharper curve to the left at the end of the freeway at Broadway as you downshift to 4th.

You take the 45 degree turn to the left onto Battery Street as you downshift to 3rd.  By now you’re going only about 50, so there’s no need to slow down as you reach the end of the block and turn right onto Pacific, it being two lanes one way and you having a flashing yellow light.  And at the end of the block there’s another flashing yellow light that you can blast through as you turn right onto the two lanes of Sansome and head back up the grade to Broadway.

At Broadway, you have a flashing red light that traditionally means you should stop, but luckily you also have an unobstructed view to the left for half a block down Broadway, and at 4:10 AM there’s almost never anyone coming to have to slow down for, so you can keep your speed as you turn right onto the freeway on ramp and accelerate briskly for the return trip on the upper level.

The views are so spectacular that you almost feel like slowing down to prolong them, but that would degrade the experience.

As you shoot back through the maze onto 101 southbound and slow down to roughly legal speeds, Fletcher speaks, for the first time since the journey started:  “You sure do like to drive.”

Well, he worked my nerves sometimes, too.

Since we’re down by the Embarcadero, here’s a recent shot of Pier 26.

Pier 26


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