SAN FRANCISCO — When I set out on my trip along the Lincoln Highway from the East Coast to California, my goal was to make it to the California Palace of the Legion of Honor by the time the Lincoln Highway Association‘s western auto tour was going to depart for the highway’s 100th anniversary celebrations in Kearney, Neb.
Just as I was wrapping up my transcontinental journey, I wanted to see these Lincoln Highway enthusiasts off. It was early on this Sunday morning in mid to late June and San Francisco was shrouded in fog, as it apt to happen.
To reach the end point of the Lincoln Highway at the Pacific Ocean — my ultimate destination for this trip — I decided to drive along the Embarcadero from the Bay Bridge up toward the Marina District, cut south and eventually make my out through the Inner Richmond District via California Street to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, which sits within Lincoln Park, where the highway terminates.
Although I had been in San Francisco one time before for a work trip more than a decade ago, this was my first time as a driver in the city itself. But in any regard, San Francisco is built mostly on a grid — in my youth, I loved studying my fold-out map of San Francisco — so, how hard could it be?
Well, to make a long story somewhat shorter, I got caught up in the hills of Pacific Heights, on the edge of the Presidio, where the street grid is interrupted, and I had to doubleback to Divisadero Street.
This slower route, plus countless four-way stops, ended up costing me 15 to 20 minutes longer than I had anticipated. So just as I was driving up El Camino Del Mar from Sea Cliff, I saw a couple of vintage automobiles with Lincoln Highway Association placards driving away from the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Had I missed the departure of the auto tour?
I parked just down the hill from the plaza outside the large French neoclassical building, a memorial to soldiers who died during World War I which is part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and was modeled after the original Palace of the Legion of Honor in Paris.
As I stepped out of the car, I could feel the strong breeze from the Pacific. I could hear the ocean break on the rocks. But I couldn’t actually see the ocean in the sea of grey that surrounded me. It was OK, since I had already seen the Pacific earlier this winter at Waikiki, Kailua or the North Shore on Oahu.
Not being able to establish visual contact with the ocean, but being able to still know it was there, actually made this moment for more interesting, moody and mysterious.
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By the time I walked up to the Palace of the Legion of Honor’s plaza where the auto caravan had gathered, there were only a few cars left. And those final holdouts soon departed into the fog for their long journey east to the middle of the continent. So I had essentially missed them, but made it just in time to snap a few quick photos of a few cars disappearing into the fog.
I was momentarily let down that I had more or less missed the Lincoln Highway Association auto caravan, but then something suddenly clicked.
I had made it to the Pacific! At long last, after driving thousands of miles, across the mountains, plains, forests and deserts, I realized I had accomplished my mission to drive the Lincoln Highway across the continent.
Now, I just had to make my way back east.