October 2, 2007 By Chad Vander Veen
Over the summer, my wife and I had to make a trip from Sacramento to San Francisco. She was forcibly dragging me to her high-school reunion - though it turned out to be slightly less miserable than I was anticipating.
I've made the 90-mile drive more times than I can count, yet stupidly chose to take the most direct route - Interstate 80. It was a Saturday afternoon, I said to myself, "How many people could possibly be on the road?" Sadly as we approached the aptly nicknamed "Berkeley Crawl" - a section of "freeway" that leads to Oakland and the Bay Bridge - I realized my costly mistake. I hadn't anticipated the thousands of people battling to get to downtown San Francisco in hopes of seeing Barry Bonds inject himself into baseball's record books.
The Berkeley Crawl is a hellish bit of interstate. It always works the same way. When approaching from the east, traffic is light and all seems well. One is lulled into a sense that this time, finally, there won't be the sort of soul-crushing gridlock there was on the previous trip. The freeway gently slopes upward and swoops to the left, affording grand views of the bay.
Upon cresting the hill, however, I was confronted with a nightmarish vision of things to come. Laid out before me was what seemed like millions of cars crammed together in some parking lot designed by Satan himself. I felt as though I was looking directly into the eyes of madness.
For 90 minutes we inched along in our metal coffin, the Bay Bridge a mere mile away. I could clearly see the great span, our salvation, beckoning in the afternoon sun. But I could not reach it. I calculated our average speed as somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.7 mph. My mood deteriorated quickly. The fact that we were headed somewhere I didn't want to go in the first place made being part of this slowly, snaking steel conduit even more unbearable.
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