I recently went on a vacation that took me East. First to Cape Cod, then Providence, Rhode Island, then Newport, Rhode Island, and then finally to the Hudson River Valley. When you’re traveling over a lot of water you tend to travel over a lot of bridges. Now, I like bridges as a rule. I like looking at them and taking pictures. I like that someone thought of them one day. I love their functionality and how they get you from one place to another. But, I am afraid of heights, so I don’t always love going over them. This is about a few of the bridges I had the pleasure (or displeasure as the case my be) to travel over.
Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.
As I was driving into Newport I caught a glimpse of this thing in this distance and silently hoped that I wouldn’t have to cross it. I mean, the thing really looms out in the distance from miles around, humping in the middle so high that driving on it makes you feel like you’re traveling at about a forty degree angle. I was relatively in luck, I didn’t have to cross over it to get to Bellevue Avenue and its mansions, which was where I was heading. Until, of course, I made a wrong turn and found myself on a road that evidently lead to Jamestown. No big deal, I thought, I’ll just turn around the next time I have a chance. Sure, it looked a little like a highway and there weren’t many places to do so, but I was only mildly concerned about the sign that told me there was a toll bridge on this particular road. There had to be a way to turn around before it, right? Right? No. There was nowhere to turn around and suddenly I found myself pitched upward traveling over the beginnings of the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge. I tightened my hands around the steering wheel and tried to breathe. Okay, yes, there were trucks speeding past me and this thing didn’t seem to level out at any point. And, oh there’s a little island in the middle and oh my god where the hell is land, how is Rhode Island shaped this way. I have practically an aerial view and it looks like someone took a bunch of land and cut little pieces off to hang into the ocean. Am I actually over the ocean right now? No, just the Narragansett Bay. I reached the highest point and started to descend. Pretty soon my heart rate back to normal and I was deposited on the other side of the Bay. But then, of course, I needed to go back to where I came from, wrong turn and all. So, it was back onto the bridge again. I figured it would be easier this time. I’d done it once already, after all. But this time as I climbed higher and higher I started to realize that my breathing was becoming more and more shallow. I knew I was scared but now I was actually hyperventilating. Suddenly, just after the highest peak, I became lightheaded. Everything started spinning and I felt as if I’d just taken a huge toke off a bowl of premium hash. In other words, not capable of driving. But what other choice did I have? I was in the middle of this freaking bridge. I slowed as much as I could and about the same time I hit the ground my head cleared. The best part, clearly, was that the toll on this monstrosity was four dollars each way. One wrong turn and I had the privilege of paying eight dollars to be scared out of my mind. A friend of mine, after hearing this story, said my life sometimes reminded him of a Wes Anderson movie. I’ll take that as a compliment. I read later that at it’s highest point the Pell Bridge is 400 feet.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge.
While going up and down the Hudson River Valley I stayed on the side of the river that’s not as cool. As in, there is no view of the Catskills so when people built impressive houses they build them on the east side. I was staying in the hamlet of Highland just across the river from Poughkeepsie, which meant that I had the pleasure of traveling the Mid-Hudson Bridge at least twice a day. Now, the nice thing about New York is that they charge to travel over their Hudson bridges once, going east, westbound is free, making me less annoyed to be forking over my dollar fifty. It’s a suspension bridge, giving that old fashioned (it was built in 1930) sweeping look that I love, is 135 feet high, and is pretty much straight across. I loved this bridge. I think that if I were to design a bridge it would be this one. Short, sweet, and comfortable enough to check out your surrounds.
Tappan Zee Bridge.
In 1609 Henry Hudson started his journey north on the Half Moon looking for the Northwest Passage. When he reached the Tappan Zee (named for the Tappan Native American tribe and the Dutch word for sea), a natural widening of the river between Westchester and Rockland Counties, he thought he’d reached it. He was… just slightly South of that, clearly. The Tappan Zee Bridge runs between Nyack and Tarrytown and is, for no foreseeable reason, curved. It makes a sort of loose S shape crossing the river. After hearing my tale of woe involving the Pell Bridge, my friend, A, who I was visiting while in the area commented that I was going to hate the Tappan Zee Bridge because it’s long already and then longer because of this bizarre curvature (which she explained as being credited to organized crime’s involvement in the building and wanting to prolong the project). I didn’t hate it. I don’t know exactly why I didn’t hate it. One would think when there are signs telling me that Life is Worth Living I might be a little freaked out, but I wasn’t. Mainly, I think, the reason is due to the same reason I wasn’t terrified of the Seven Mile Bridge in Florida. The Tappan Zee Bridge does have a part that curves upward, presumably to allow boat passage, but the majority of it is quite low to the water, just three feet higher than the Mid-Hudson.