Saturday, September 20, 2008
When I was a child I had nightmares about bridges. Not screaming and waking in a panicked sweat sorts of nightmares, but vivid enough to stick with me after all these years. In those dreams, and they weren't all the same, more like variations on a theme, we would be driving along, usually in the Volkswagen camper my dad used to own, and in which we took many a family road trip, over a long bridge with many ups and downs and the bridge would suddenly end, sending us plummeting into the water below. In the less extreme version, we would come to a point where the bridge would slope gently down into the water, keeping us from going forward, and we would turn around only to find that our way back was blocked.

I'm not sure why bridges have played such a prominent role in the landscape of my dreams. In my waking life I have sort of a love-hate relationship with them. As I drive over a long bridge I find myself gripping the wheel with white knuckles as my overactive imagination, like that of Odd Thomas, is prone to providing me with images of worst case scenarios and unlikely demises. Yet they also fascinate me, and I find myself looking forward to the big ones, to flying across a span with water on all sides. I guess it's akin to my love of roller coasters, even though I know I will regret my decision to ride for a split second at the apex of the highest drop just before my stomach leaps into my throat and the screaming begins. But don't get me wrong, I don't consider it a phobia by any means, just a little thrill of fear that adds spice to the experience.

Last night I finally got to ride over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the longest single span entirely over water in the country at 23.87 miles long. Mike was driving and, though I was supposed to be sleeping, I couldn't miss the opportunity. It was like riding a lit ribbon through endless darkness, the lights of the shore were so far away they seemed like distant stars. The joints of the bridge made a sound as we passed over them, tha-dump, tha-dump, tha-dump, like an accelerated heart beat. It seemed to go on forever. As usual, my mind provided me with all the scary "what-if"s. I couldn't help but to point out to myself that 77,000 lbs moving at 65 miles per hour would break through that tiny concrete rail as if it were made of paper mache. A blow-out on a steer tire could send us veering through it to a watery demise in the lake below. But, despite the macabre turn my imagination tends to take, or perhaps because of it and the accompanying jolt of adrenaline, I enjoyed the experience.

There are several large, famous bridges in his country. I have been over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, another 23 mile span that only misses out on the title of longest by less than a mile, and because of it's most unique feature - two tunnels that break up the span by plunging the roadway deep beneath the bay to keep the channel open for navigation by large ships. And I've crossed the George Washington Bridge, the suspended perpetual two level traffic jam that is one of the main arteries into New York City. There are three more that I want to experience, but have not yet had the chance: The Golden Gate Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge, and the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, which holds the title of highest bridge in the country.

We passed through New Orleans and the bayou back-country in the dark down to Houma, LA. It wasn't until after we delivered and were on our way to Baton Rouge for our next load that the watery grey light of a rainy day illuminated the lingering damage from the storms that have hit that area so hard. Trailers lay smashed beneath fallen trees, and many rooftops sported blue tarps. Brush and limbs lay scattered everywhere, and great piles of rubbish from the clean-up effort lined the narrow roads waiting to be picked up. But they are rebuilding. Cajuns are hearty people, and they seem to be facing their hardship with the grace and strength of will of a people used to weathering such storms, both literal and metaphorical.

We picked up our next load, and headed west on I-10 to California. Passing through Houston and the area just east of Huston showed us more of the devastating power of mother nature. We saw trees and poles snapped like toothpicks, piles of limbs and leaves that had been scraped from the highway to allow traffic to pass, missing roofs and twisted metal, and so many homes and businesses without power. That area will be a long time recovering.

But now we are on our way to sunny California - the trucker's bane. Tune in next time to see if we manage to survive L.A. traffic.

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I'm a 34 year old wife, truck driver, writer, and photographer with a love of adventure and travel. I am a Libertarian, and a total sci-fi geek. I studied archaeology at Auburn University.

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