One of the most viewed posts on my blog is this article about Interstate 280 on the San Francisco Peninsula: The World’s Most Beautiful Freeway. It’s about the beauty of this freeway which runs from San Francisco south to San Jose.
For whatever reason, the site selection for this freeway was masterful as it routes through a truly beautiful section of the Peninsula passing by Crystal Springs Reservoir and a lot of rolling land that will never be further developed.
Perhaps the most complex interchange on this highway is where California Highway 92 crosses Interstate 280 in San Mateo County. Highway 92 comes southwest up the hill from the bay side as it heads up to Skyline Drive and then down into Half Moon Bay. The interchange itself has both overpasses as well as a tunnel connecting the various roadways.
This interchange is well designed and rarely a problem – except on those beautiful beach days when the weather in Half Moon Bay is warm and the usual foggy skies have rolled back. Then the traffic heading west on 92 can back up as that section is only single lane in each direction going over Skyline.
This morning I went looking for an image of the interchange and found this one on WikiMedia:
Unfortunately, the image is blurry and while it shows the overall design just fine the details are not really discernable. So I decided to try making up the design using one of the AI image generators. This one – from Microsoft’s Bing Image Creator – was my favorite:
Beautiful sweeping design with a few roads to nowhere! Looking closely at the image, it reminds me of the kinds of errors that these AI image creators often seem to make with hands and fingers. If you don’t examine them closely, they look just fine – until you do! So consider this a dreamy version of that interchange at Interstate 280 and Highway 92 in San Mateo County, California!
A few years ago when I stopped working full time I got interested in exploring the history of “the world’s most beautiful freeway” – I-280 that runs up and down the central portion of the San Francisco Peninsula.
At one point, a friend of mine and I were walking in San Francisco where we went into the main library which has a great history department. I spoke to one of the librarians in the history department who was quite encouraging about the resources they might have available that might assist in pulling together more of that history. But life intervened and I dropped the idea, not pursuing it any further. But it’s always been lingering in the back of my mind as something that might be “fun”.
A few weeks back, when I was exploring ChatGPT, I wondered how it might be helpful to me in thinking about writing such a history. So I asked it the following:
I’m writing a book on the history of the development of interstate 280 on the San Francisco peninsula. I would like an initial outline for the book including special emphasis on any especially interesting stories about people who were involved in its development or in fighting to prevent its development.
Certainly, here is an initial outline for your book on the history of Interstate 280 on the San Francisco peninsula:
A. Brief history of the San Francisco peninsula
B. Importance of transportation infrastructure
C. Overview of the development of Interstate 280
II. Early Planning and Development of Interstate 280
A. Planning and proposals for the freeway
B. Design and construction challenges
C. Environmental and community concerns
III. The People Involved in the Development of Interstate 280
A. Key players in the development of the freeway
B. Their backgrounds and motivations
C. Challenges they faced and how they overcame them
IV. The Impact of Interstate 280 on the San Francisco Peninsula
A. Economic impact on the region
B. Changes in land use and development patterns
C. Impact on local communities
V. Opposition to Interstate 280
A. Environmental and community groups
B. Their concerns and arguments against the freeway
C. Strategies for opposing the development of the freeway
VI. Interesting Stories of the Development of Interstate 280
A. Personal stories of those involved in the development or opposition of the freeway
B. Unique challenges faced during the construction and development of the freeway
C. Anecdotes and interesting facts related to the development of the freeway
A. Summary of key points
B. Reflection on the legacy of Interstate 280
C. Future of transportation infrastructure on the San Francisco peninsula
This outline should provide a good foundation for your book, with a focus on the people involved in the development of Interstate 280 and their stories. You can expand on each section and add more details as you conduct research and gather information. Good luck with your book!
Wow! ChatGPT just gave me a wonderful outline to just stimulate my further thinking about compiling such a history. Curious to learn more, I asked ChatGPT:
Tell me more about the key players involved in the development of interstate 280.
Certainly! Here’s some information about some of the key players involved in the development of Interstate 280 on the San Francisco peninsula:
Othmar H. Ammann: A Swiss-American civil engineer who designed many notable bridges and highways in the United States, including the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bayonne Bridge in New Jersey. Ammann was a key player in the design and engineering of Interstate 280.
Robert Moses: An urban planner and political figure in New York who also worked on infrastructure projects in other parts of the country, including California. Moses was an advocate for highways and was instrumental in the development of the Interstate Highway System, including Interstate 280.
James Rolph Jr.: A former mayor of San Francisco who later served as Governor of California. Rolph was a strong supporter of infrastructure projects, including the construction of Interstate 280.
William E. Kent: An environmentalist and politician who opposed the development of Interstate 280. Kent was instrumental in creating the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and worked to protect the natural areas on the San Francisco peninsula from development.
Dorothy Erskine: A journalist and environmentalist who founded the grassroots organization Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks. Erskine was a vocal opponent of the development of Interstate 280 and worked to raise awareness of its potential impact on the environment and communities on the peninsula.
These are just a few of the key players involved in the development of Interstate 280, but there were many others, including politicians, engineers, and community leaders who played important roles in the planning, design, and construction of the freeway.
I pushed onward – asking:
Who was responsible for the selection of the route for interstate 280?
The selection of the route for Interstate 280 was a collaborative effort involving multiple parties, including federal and state transportation agencies, local governments, and community organizations.
The planning for Interstate 280 began in the 1950s, when the California Division of Highways (now Caltrans) began studying potential freeway routes in the San Francisco peninsula region. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority and San Mateo County Transit District were also involved in the planning process.
A number of route options were considered, including one that would have followed El Camino Real, a historic road that runs through the heart of the peninsula. However, this option was ultimately rejected due to concerns about traffic congestion and the impact on local businesses.
Instead, the final route for Interstate 280 was selected in 1956 and ran parallel to, but west of, El Camino Real. The route was chosen based on a number of factors, including the availability of right-of-way, terrain and geological considerations, and traffic patterns. It was also designed to connect with other freeways in the region, such as Interstate 880 and State Route 92.
Overall, the selection of the route for Interstate 280 was a complex process that involved multiple stakeholders and took into account a variety of factors related to transportation and community impact.
Then I asked:
Interstate 280 has been called the world’s most beautiful freeway. who suggested that?
ChatGPT told me:
The phrase “the world’s most beautiful freeway” is often used to describe Interstate 280 on the San Francisco peninsula, and it is attributed to several sources.
One of the earliest known uses of the phrase was in a 1967 article in Sunset Magazine, a popular lifestyle publication that covers the western United States. In the article, the author, who is not identified, referred to Interstate 280 as “a modern and scenic boulevard, perhaps the world’s most beautiful freeway.”
The phrase has since been used by numerous journalists, authors, and travel writers to describe the freeway’s winding curves, stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, and scenic landscapes of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
It is unclear who first coined the phrase “the world’s most beautiful freeway,” as it has been used in various contexts and by multiple sources over the years. However, it is widely recognized as a descriptor for Interstate 280 and has helped to promote the freeway as a tourist attraction in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The world’s most beautiful freeway indeed! There used to be a sign in the median of I-280 as it climbs out of the flat land of Cupertino into the foothills of the Peninsula. It’s no longer there – having been removed sometime in the last few years. You can find a photo of it here in this blog post from 2011.
Another one of my favorite photographs of I-280 is titled 280 Sunrise by Montara-based photographer Robert Buelteman – “an image of the emerging sun with the Interstate freeway in the foreground.” You can find that image in this article profiling Buelteman and his wonderful book The Unseen Peninsula. Buelteman grew up in Woodside and his book explores the Peninsula Watershed, a large piece of property that is owned by the San Francisco Water Department and not open to the public.
As for the book about this history of I-280, it’s still floating around in the back of my mind. It’s something that I continue to explore from time to time, looking for a story or three that might provide some interesting ways into telling the story of this beautiful freeway.
We’ve had one rough winter in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not rough in the sense that many have living in much more extreme winter conditions. But rough for us.
It seems like we’ve been waiting and waiting for spring to arrive and every time we thought it might be around the corner we took another jag into either an atmospheric river bringing heavy rains and wind from Hawaii to a spin-off low making its way down from Alaska bringing more cold air.
Then suddenly it changed. Yesterday was the first truly glorious spring day with bright sun and temperatures approaching 80 degrees. It took a long time but it seems spring has finally arrived!
And all of this winter’s rain seems to have finally dented California’s multi year drought problem. That’s a good thing!
No, I didn’t have a blue checkmark on Twitter – so I didn’t lose anything when Elon decided to take them away from non-Blue users. Who wants to be a Blue user anyway?
Meanwhile, I’ve been having fun playing with Google Bard, using it much more than ChatGPT recently. This morning I got the weekly email from Santa Fe Photographic Workshops about their upcoming workshops. One of them caught my eye: Ax for the Frozen Sea: An Introduction to Creative Writing by Matthew Siegel.
The course description included the following:
We delve into texts related to craft and practice, as well as creative works, from authors including James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Marc Doty, Jhumpa Lahiri, Li-Young Lee, and Cheryl Strayed, among others.
That got me interested in seeing what Google Bard might educate me about these authors – so I asked Bard:
Let’s pretend I’m attending a writing workshop. The instructor suggests we delve into texts related to craft and practice, as well as creative works, from authors including James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Marc Doty, Jhumpa Lahiri, Li-Young Lee, and Cheryl Strayed, among others.
Bard came back immediately with this great reply:
That’s a great list of authors! Here are some of my favorite books by each of them:
James Baldwin: “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Another Country,” “The Fire Next Time”
Joan Didion: “The White Album,” “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” “The Year of Magical Thinking”
Marc Doty: “My Alexandria,” “What Matters,” “Firebird”
Jhumpa Lahiri: “The Namesake,” “Interpreter of Maladies,” “The Lowland”
Li-Young Lee: “The City in Which I Love You,” “Rose,” “Behind My Eyes”
These authors are all masters of their craft, and their work can teach you a lot about writing. They are also all very different writers, so you’re sure to find something you like in their work.
Here are some specific things you can learn from these authors:
James Baldwin: Baldwin was a master of the essay, and his work is full of insight and wisdom. He was also a gifted storyteller, and his novels are powerful and moving.
Joan Didion: Didion was a master of the observation, and her work is full of sharp insights into the human condition. She was also a gifted stylist, and her writing is clear, concise, and elegant.
Marc Doty: Doty is a master of the lyric poem, and his work is full of beauty and emotion. He is also a gifted storyteller, and his poems often have a narrative arc.
Jhumpa Lahiri: Lahiri is a master of the short story, and her work is full of insight and compassion. She is also a gifted stylist, and her stories are beautifully written.
Li-Young Lee: Lee is a master of the lyric poem, and his work is full of beauty and emotion. He is also a gifted storyteller, and his poems often have a spiritual dimension.
Cheryl Strayed: Strayed is a master of the memoir, and her work is full of honesty and courage. She is also a gifted storyteller, and her memoirs are both moving and inspiring.
I hope you enjoy reading these authors as much as I do!
Great stuff – thanks Bard! By the way, Bard provides three different draft answers. The first one was good but this one – the third – was much better. I’ve learned that it pays to look at the three drafts it provides – sometimes one stands out above the others.
Lots of fun continuing with Bard. Yesterday I got into a conversation with it about the Hungry i in San Francisco and another coffee house of that era called Coffee and Confusion. I also asked it to pretend it was the DJ Tom Donahue opening his evening show on KMPX in the late 1960’s. I asked it how it would open and what he would play:
Sure, I can do that. Here’s how I would open my evening show on KMPX in the late 1960s:
“Good evening, San Francisco! This is Tom Donahue, and you’re listening to the best rock and roll on the radio. Tonight, we’ve got a great show for you, with music from some of the biggest names in the business. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!”
plays “Light My Fire” by The Doors *
I would then go on to play a variety of other rock and roll songs, from the classics to the new releases. I would also take requests from listeners, and I would chat with them about the music and the latest news.
I would want my show to be a fun and informative experience for listeners. I would want them to hear great music, learn about new bands, and connect with other people who love rock and roll.
I would also want my show to be a reflection of the time period. The late 1960s was a time of great change and upheaval, and I would want my show to capture the spirit of the times. I would want to play music that reflected the hopes, dreams, and fears of young people at the time.
I hope you enjoy my show!
Then I asked it to generate a playlist for another 10 songs:
Sure, here is another 10-song playlist:
“Hey Jude” by The Beatles
“Respect” by Aretha Franklin
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
“Imagine” by John Lennon
“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf
“Light My Fire” by The Doors
“Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix
“Hey Joe” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
These are just a few of my favorite songs from the 1960s. There are many other great songs from this era, so I encourage you to explore and find your own favorites.
Great stuff! Perhaps not better than talking to a friend – although I must say that Bard seems to have a much better memory than most of my friends – and much better than mine!
For many years, I met my good friend and photo buddy Doug Kaye almost every week on Fridays in San Francisco. We’d meet at the Ferry Building and head out walking from there – exploring the streets of San Francisco in a most leisurely way. Taking our time when we saw something that captured our interest, a scene that seemed particularly interesting.
As our tastes evolved, we became increasingly drawn to finding places with the best light, the most interesting light. Chasing the best, most interesting light and then slowing down to capture slices of time – as people would pass through while we watched and waited.
After a couple of hours walking the streets, we’d find one of our favorite places for lunch, kick back a bit and take a breather, perhaps do a quick review of the images we’d captured, and enjoy each other’s company over a shared table.
Then Covid hit… and everything changed. Those walks on the streets of San Francisco just stopped. Our photography interests changed during Covid – they had to change! The circumstances forced our hands – we had to abandon our love of street photography. We no longer had our favorites streets to walk. The people were gone. You know the feeling…
Last week we reinvigorated some of those old memories – meeting up in San Francisco again after over two years of being absent. We traveled light – no heavy camera gear – and we did do a lot of street walking. We stayed along The Embarcadero, shared lunch outdoors at Waterbar and went to see the new exhibition that’s just opened at Pier 24. We had a great time – it brought back memories of those years we’d walked the streets.
Doug summed our time up nicely:
Yeah, it was a great day. Good weather, good food, good friends. Hard to beat.
Here are a few images from our time in San Francisco – all taken with my iPhone 13 Pro Max.
For the first time since January 2020 (15 months ago) I met my good friend Doug Kaye on the streets of San Francisco. It was a glorious day around the Bay and lovely to be back out if only for an hour or two. We have both been vaccinated a while back and it finally seemed like a good time to do this.
We had a delicious pizza lunch at A16 on Chestnut Street and then headed over to The Palace of Fine Arts for a quick walk around. We both reminisced that the last time either of us had visited this wonderful old place was a few years ago when we also did it together.
Doug had a new gadget (a digital back for his Hasselblad) and I had my trusty iPhone 12 Pro Max. While Doug explored with his big camera I played tourist and snapped a few snapshots to remember the day.
After so long avoiding public places like the streets of San Francisco during the pandemic it was great to get out in the fresh air and bright sun in the City!
I didn’t start a blog because I had something to say, I started a blog to find something to say.
Most writers don’t write to express what they think. They write to figure out what they think. Writing is a process of discovery.
I started this version of my blog on November 24, 2001. Ironically, it’s a link to a San Francisco Chronicle story about why writers enjoy living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
So why is it authors multiply here like cheap noodle restaurants?One reason the Bay Area is such a good place for writers may be the same reason it’s such a good place for arbitration lawyers and podiatrists – it’s a terrific place to live.
So much has changed in the almost twenty years since that article was written. Local bookstores, great restaurants, group events, …
After the last few weeks of fires, heat, etc., recent articles seem to talk much more about the problems – asking “why bother living in San Francisco (or California)?”
The cityscape resembles the surface of a distant planet, populated by a masked alien culture. The air, choked with blown ash, is difficult to breathe.
There is the Golden Gate Bridge, looming in the distance through a drift-smoke haze, and the Salesforce Tower, which against the blood-orange sky appears as a colossal spaceship in a doomsday film.
San Francisco, and much of California, has never been like this.
California has become a warming, burning, epidemic-challenged and expensive state, with many who live in sophisticated cities, idyllic oceanfront towns and windblown mountain communities thinking hard about the viability of a place they have called home forever. For the first time in a decade, more people left California last year for other states than arrived.
Indeed. Life is so rich…it’s all about finding something to say.
Last Tuesday morning I enjoyed walking with my friends Doug Kaye and Steve Disenhof south of Market Street in San Francisco. After strolling along The Embarcadero from the Ferry Building, we headed over a couple of blocks to Spear Street and did what we usually do – walked towards the good light!
There are a couple of nice courtyards along Spear Street adjacent to office buildings – including one at 201 Spear Street. This statue of a photographer by sculpture Seward Johnson (named “Smile”) is one of my favorites. I made this image using my iPhone 11 Pro Max in Portrait mode and proceeded it into black and white.
San Francisco International Airport has just opened SkyTerrace – an outdoor viewing platform above Terminal 2 – and which can be accessed from outside of the security screening area which means anyone can visit.
Yesterday I took advantage of the free weekend parking at BART’s Millbrae and caught the BART train for a quick trip over to SFO. BART arrives at SFO inside the G area of the International Terminal. One flight up from the BART platform is AirTrain – the inter-terminal shuttle trains that make it easy to move between terminals. Terminal 2 is two stops away on the Red Line (which runs clockwise around the airport) and the free AirTrains run every four minutes or so.
Exiting the AirTrain platform upon arriving at Terminal 2, I took the elevator down to the Departures level and then looked for the signs to SkyTerrace which is located to the left of the security screening area. There’s an elevator which goes up to Level 4 where SkyTerrace is located and you enter immediately into that area upon exiting the elevator. There’s a quick security screening and then you can head outside to the window-enclosed but roofless patio area where you have a great view of the airport – particularly for departures on Runways 28.
Photographers can take tripods into SkyTerrace – and there were a couple of photographers there when I arrived Saturday afternoon using their tripods and very long lenses to capture some airplane images.
Heading out from SkyTerrace, I took the photo of the SFO Control Tower from the end of the AirTrain platform at Terminal 2. That spot provides a very nice angle for taking that image.
Heading back, I took the Red Line AirTrain again to the Grand Hyatt Hotel exit. This new airport hotel opened a recently and I hadn’t seen what it looked like. The most stunning feature was the beautiful stained glass treatment along the walls as you come down into the hotel lobby from the AirTrain platform.
All of these images were taken with my iPhone 11 Pro Max. I had two of my big cameras along in my camera bag but didn’t bother to take them out – something that’s happening more and more frequently these days given the capabilities of the camera system in the iPhone 11 Pro Max!
Here are a couple of iPhone 11 Pro Max images from yesterday’s first photo walk of 2020 San Francisco.
The glow of the sun on the columns of the Union Bank building on California Street made a compelling subject. We stood across the street and waited. This woman seemed to see me and started to run as I was taking her photo!
In Chinatown there’s a seemingly endless project for the new subway station. These workers were up on a wall of re-bar making for an interesting subject!
Before heading home, we had lunch at one of our favorite spots in San Francisco – Tadich Grill on California Street. The ahi tuna salad special was a treat for me today!
So much for our first day in 2020 back on the streets of San Francisco. I had a larger camera along in my shoulder bag but didn’t pull it out – increasingly the iPhone 11 Pro Max camera system is meeting my needs for street photography. I recently got the newly released Smart Battery Case for it – which includes a nifty new recessed button for quickly accessing the Camera app making it an even better street photography camera!