The Suitcase Lady


August 24, 2010, 8:19 pm

I am a lover of bridges, both the mighty and the minute. Going up and over and getting a lovely view gives much pleasure.

As a historic preservation Commissioner, I quickly learned that bridges, unlike buildings, get beaten up all the time and have finite lives. Even die hard preservationists can’t save aging, albeit beautiful, bridges.

Luckily, my husband shares my fondness for fine bridges, and we frequently drive miles out of our way to cross one. The tip of  Illinois at Cairo is bridge heaven. We happily drove back and forth several times over the Mississippi and Ohio River bridges only stopping to change drivers so the other person could enjoy the views.

An efficient bypass around Tampa saves drivers from going over Tampa on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We definitely turned that option down and were rewarded with spectacular vistas of both the bridge and the bay.

Five hours from our house is the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere. It joins the upper and lower parts of Michigan in fact, if not in culture. Like the denizens of the Conch Republic, a.k.a. Key West, Yuppers seem to enjoy being a breed apart. Bridges can do that to you.

Small bridges have charm as well. My favorite is the 98 year old Spruce Street pedestrian suspension bridge in San Diego. It was originally built to allow disembarking streetcar passengers access to their homes on the far side of the ravine. If no one else is on it, we love to go out to the middle and get it swinging. This activity is not for the faint of stomach.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge just north of Taos, New Mexico, is an absolutely flat bridge which doesn’t give away its secret until you are on it. Look down, and down is forever which proves that rivers are the best stone carvers of all time.

The bridge nearest our home is the Fischer Creek Bridge beside Lake Michigan. Like many bridges, it is a homage to the triangle, that tough shape that puts the strength into our buildings and bridges. Rectangles aren’t up to the job: they squish too easily.

I’ll cast my vote for bridges anytime. They are infinitely better than walls.

To view a delightful and surprising adaptive reuse of an old trolley bridge, click here.

6 Comments for this entry

  • evie

    Mary–I know you’re familiar with the bridge in Sturgeon Bay. (Not the new one.)The Michigan Ave. one, I believe it’s called. As children, my brothers & I loved when our dad drove us over it. I remember asking him “Dad, is this the longest bridge in the world?” He smiled sheepishly–he never really could lie–and said “Maybe.” We were so impressed. Because it was bigger than Kewaunee’s bridge, of course. love, evie

  • Ziler Pell

    Mackinac Bridge is one of my favorite bridges. Thanks for the article.

  • Carol Langkabel

    Hi Mary,
    Thanks for introducing me to some new bridges. I also think they are magnificent structures. I just returned from the Oregon coast and have a couple of pictures of bridges for my own collection.

  • Marilyn

    I share your love of bridges only my favorites are abandoned ones like the Fischer Creek bridge. I wonder what has become of the life and lives that once crossed them… the way of life that is gone.

    I also get that same feeling from abandoned cemeteries.

  • Krista

    Hi Mary,

    I have an anxiety attack just reading this. Although I have a fear of heights and bridges, I appreciate them and would love to experience them for myself. Your writing is amazing and brought a grand appreciation for bridges to me.

  • Mary

    Yes, some bridges can be a bit scary, but I bet you could overcome that with practice! I believe that there is a new bridge in France that is almost a fifth of a mile high…..that would be a challenge! Don’t start there!