I have acrophobia, too (see “Hidden Beauty” from March 2012) and I would like to think that I am working on overcoming it (see “Leap Day” from February 2012). Nevertheless, crossing bridges that exceed a reasonable height from which a person could accidentally drive over the side and survive envelopes me in trepidation. My sight line barely wavers from the painted lines on the pavement, which is disappointing considering the view over the edge is most likely spectacular, and at the very least, grand. Monitoring the correct travel lanes dominated my focus on the Bay Bridge and I missed out on the Chesapeake Bay. Focusing on taking a few glimpses of the remarkable scenery bridges afford has become one of the goals of my travels.
Like most of my shortcomings, I blame my parents when they laughed at my concerns while crossing Royal Gorge. Skip the Google, here are the highlights: built in 1929 for only $350,000, its wooden walkway allows pedestrians to look down the nearly 1,000 feet to the Arkansas River between the slats of wood. As a suspension bridge, it sways in the wind and bounces as cars drive over it, so the height coupled with the movement did not appeal to me as a child. Rather than educate me about the structure’s magnificent architecture, the geologic development of the canyon, or the benefits the span brought to its earliest passengers once completed, my parents laughed at me. Hmm, I wonder what Dr. Spock would have said about that.
I Still Love Them
Despite my anxiety, I do love bridges. When driving, if I catch a glimpse of one in the distance, I eagerly drive toward it (see “Jumping Off Point” from January 2012). I like to know what waterway passes under it and when horses or pedestrians or automobiles first crossed it. If there is a vantage point before or after its approach, it’s a safe bet that I will stop for photos. Some bridges are boring along the span, but their height will take your breath away, like the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on US Highway 64 west of Taos, New Mexico. Others have artistic symmetry, and on a beautiful day, contrast a bright blue Florida sky, like the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay. And with some bridges, size matters, just ask any Michigander taking a gander at Big Mac, which might be more aptly named, Long Mac, since its ability to stretch across the Straits of Mackinac ranks it the third longest suspension bridge in the world. Of course, it’s not as catchy of a name, as pop-cultured, or covered in sesame seeds.
Even in their meagerness, simple bridges inspire me, too. In the quiet town of Philippi, West Virginia, hidden between ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, across the Tygart Valley River a simple covered bridge might seem expected, but with two lanes and
roots dating before the Civil War, this roofed street certainly bears crossing; and as the only covered bridge on a US Highway (US 250, also known as Main Street), it earns noteworthy acclaim to a bridge aficionado like me. Driving across a flat stretch of Interstate 10, hovering above the Mississippi swamps north of Pascagoula Bay amazes me as I consider the time this simple crossing might have taken a hundred years before me. And no matter how many times I traverse US Highway 67 over the Mississippi River above the locks at Alton, Illinois, I never tire from crossing these spans because I still love them, even if they scare me.