As a beach girl, I will admit that I have a fascination/fear relationship with water, especially storm water. In a related way, I have a love/hate relationship with bridges. Perhaps it is not so much hatred of bridges, as it is a fear, or wariness of them.
I don’t think there is anywhere one can travel without having to cross bridges of one sort or another, though I would be happy to simply travel on good old fashioned flat land. My love/hate relationship with bridges also extends to highway overpasses. I tend to look up briefly, before I drive under them. Call me neurotic, it’s been done before; call me “Chicken Little” though it’s not worry about the sky falling that makes me look up.
I saw and loved bridges, before I ever learned to fear them, or more appropriately fear being on them. The three bridges that cross the Cape Cod Canal (more later) and the Old Stone Bridge that crosses the water between Point Independence and Onset were the backdrop of my every day life growing up. Those bridges spell home to my heart, in ways that are both profound and mysterious to me.
My first lesson in fear, came late one night, in the back seat of a 1954 Chevy Belair, where I was supposed to be sleeping. (This was decades before seat belts, car seats and other such safety measures). My mother was driving us to New York, or Baltimore, I am not sure and my brother was in the front passenger seat. He was about 12 (plus or minus) and I was 6 (plus or minus). We were crossing the George Washington Bridge. My brother raised a question I never wanted to think about, ‘What happens if the bridge collapses?” “Oh, Steve,” my mother said, “we’d be killed.”
Thanks! A lot!
Not all bridges inspired that kind of fear in me. When making the trip to Baltimore from Massachusetts, the approach to and crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge was always a welcome sight. On the way to Baltimore, it meant we were getting closer to seeing family. On the way back from Baltimore, it meant our journey home was underway.
And then, there is “Dummy Bridge” in Onset that had a message all it’s own, although it was more like a song. It was an open grate bridge, that has since been replaced with normal road material. But I loved the sound the bridge made when the car passed over the grates, a humming, whirring sound that I assume was a combination of the speed of the car, the tires, the air through the grates. It was a short bridge, so it was a short song.
Residents of Towanda, Pennsylvania may, on any given day, cross two different bridges to cross the Susquehanna River, a winding river to be sure. The Route 6 Bridge, that joins Towanda with the “Golden Mile” of Wysox is heavily traveled. It is not unusual to be stuck on the bridge, waiting for the traffic light to change. We haven’t lived in Towanda for many years; but, I always found the vibrations caused by the traffic moving in the opposite direction slightly unnerving.
The Bridge that cemented my experience of fear (I could say no pun intended, but that would be a lie, all of my puns are intended) was the (almost) 24 mile bridge that crosses Lake Pontchartrain in Louisana, from New Orleans, to the other side of the lake. Here is an official link of information. https://www.thecauseway.us/ I was traveling with a friend’s two sisters, we were going to a retreat on prayer. Perhaps the real retreat happened on the bridge.
The driver missed her turn to the retreat center, or we would not have even ended up in New Orleans, let alone had to take that bridge. But we did. And it was dark, and my friend’s sister who was not driving, was hysterical. “What if a barge has knocked into a section of the bridge and we end up in the lake?” “We’re going to die!” Not once, but over and over through all twenty four miles.
I admit, she had me convinced or at least unnerved. In truth, I wasn’t sure if I should cover my eyes, or my ears. I shut my eyes, could not have seen anything happen anyway, and prayed. For all twenty four miles. Before you ask, this was decades, decades before people knew about a thing called a G.P.S.
So with this history of fear of bridges, or at least a disdain of them, imagine my surprise in 2018, when I caught my first glimpse of the Sagamore Bridge, that crosses the Cape Cod Canal near the mouth of the canal that opens out to the Bay. My heart seemingly leapt to my throat, I was pretty sure that is what that lump in my throat was; salt water spilled from my eyes.
Everything in me wanted to stop, and I could not. There was traffic behind me, there was no place to pull over, it was raining, my poor confused husband was sitting in the passenger seat, no doubt thinking, “What the____?” I could not speak. Because it seemed as though the bridge was speaking, and it said one word. “Home.”
Even writing this, the salt water brims in my eyes.
I had much the same reaction, a few miles down the road, when I passed it’s twin, The Bourne Bridge and still had to keep pressing on. I drove on past the amazing railroad bridge, a very special elevated train bridge that crosses the canal.
I passed the new to me, entrance to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. We were heading to Onset, with little time to spare, and then on to Middleboro to check into our hotel.
I am not alone in my love of the Canal and it’s bridges. One of the many things I have come to appreciate about my classmates as I get to know them in a whole new way, is that many of them also bear a deep appreciation and fondness for home and the many riches of life near or on the Cape, including the sights and sounds of home.
One friend introduced me to a Facebook page titled, “Bourne Photography” where many local photographers post amazing and sometimes daring photos of the canal, the boats that pass through it, the bridges, at all times of day, colorful, gorgeous pictures. There are other pictures as well, and not just bridges, so if you are on Facebook, give it a “look see.”
Much to my regret, there was not enough time to return to the canal that trip, and it was rainy much of that day and the next. I had to hope that I could come back sometime. When I was able to return home to Onset in 2019, for a much longer visit, I went to the Canal every chance I got. Once again, it was as if the bridges could talk, this time it was The Bourne Bridge. And what did it seem to say? “We are a part of you too!” Ah, sentiment!
You probably could not tell, but I cannot wait to go back and am hoping, maybe against hope, that I will still be able to go this year. If not, I certainly hope for one more trip, at least. I do not know how much longer I will be able to make the trip, afford the trip, or feel physically up to the journey. But I feel a little like a homing pigeon at this point, or some creature with a homing beacon planted firmly in its breast.
What happens when the time comes that I am not longer able to make the trip? I hope I will have enough pictures and stored memories to last my lifetime, but I do not know how I will feel. I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
Not holding back the tide,
Copyright 2020 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com