Really scary bridges

While I was out running the other day it occurred to me that I would have two opportunities (going and returning) to examine the REALLY SCARY bridge that gave me so much trouble on my last bike ride. I thought that perhaps if I stopped and studied it, I might be able to overcome my irrational fear of crashing into the rail while attempting to ride across it. After all, this bridge is no big deal while running!

What I found is that there are several things going on that make this particular bridge so scary. Approaching from the west, it is a nice straight shot from a broad asphalt parking area — and in fact I’d handled it just fine when going that direction on my bike. Approaching from the east, it’s a different story.

The waterfront trail that I run most frequently is paved for most of its length. It’s a soft, thin chip-seal, which makes for a comfortable and pleasant running surface. Just east of this bridge, however, the trail makes a “temporary detour” around an old mill that closed about 15 years ago. Because this section is “temporary” pending final cleanup of the mill site (which may happen sometime this century), it has been left unpaved. Approaching the bridge from the east side, the trail is a combination of loose gravel and mud. It winds downhill and then makes a hard downhill left turn just a few yards from the bridge.

EXHIBIT A: Downhill left turn on gravel, approaching really scary bridge

So here I am, pedaling along, focusing really hard on simply trying to stay upright, because I haven’t done much bike riding in the last 30 years or more. I approach the turn, hit the brakes, try not to slide on the gravel, and hope I’ve got myself straightened out for the very short approach to the bridge. The bridge itself also runs downhill, and is only about 7 feet wide.

EXHIBIT B: The gaping maw of the REALLY SCARY bridge

I ask you: is that not REALLY SCARY?

But the funny thing is, once you are out on the middle of the bridge, if you take the time to stop (or if you find yourself coming to a screeching halt) and then look around, this is truly a beautiful place. This is Ennis Creek. Several years ago I was on a team that monitored water quality on this creek and another one nearer my house. I’ve scrambled around in the water at this location many times. This is NOT a scary place at all. I actually love this place.

EXHIBIT C: Ennis Creek from the bridge

Now that I have studied the bridge and understood the elements that make it so scary from my bike-riding vantage point, I’m hopeful that the next time I try it on my bike, I’ll sail right through. Or at least I’ll be able to laugh at myself for my obstinate, persistent irrationality.

There is a life lesson in this, of course. A really scary bridge is just a metaphor for all those really scary crossings that I have had to make over the past two years. A cancer diagnosis in one’s dearest loved one is a really scary thing. Watching helplessly as he endured one complication, one indignity, one setback after another was really scary. Realizing that I was going to have to get through the hardest parts, Kurt’s final weeks and days, without him being “there” to cheer me on as he had always done for me when the going got tough, was really scary. Saying goodbye to someone who was beyond responding was really scary. Finding myself alone was really, really scary.

He’s now been gone for almost a year. I can look back and know that I did everything as well as I possibly could have. I have crossed one bridge after another. I have learned to enjoy the view. Sometimes I still feel really scared, but I’m learning that I have so much life still to live, so many new adventures that I never thought would be within my reach, and a growing community of new friends who are encouraging me to cross new bridges.

I’ll get over this bridge, and others beyond it. Life does go on, and there is joy in the journey.

One step at a time!

Posted on May 3, 2012, in Biking, grief, Learning, LIfe_goes_on, Place and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Your stories move me, Lori. Whether you mention Kurt or not in your posts I’m always aware that you’re moving forward on your own…and that your “new paths” are a part of grabbing the life you do have left to live, and making it your own. Reminding us that it’s been almost a year brings your bridge-crossing metaphors into very sharp focus. You’ve been crossing, and hurdling, and running through…so many ways you’ve crossed new thresholds. The really scary bridge in your photos here is really quite beautiful. That creek below would be my reason to stand in the middle of the bridge! I’m totally sure that you have days that still hit you like a tsunami of sadness and certainly must feel overwhelmed, but the highlights you share with us do show resilience and convey a lot about your strong spirit. I think seeing that bridge as a marker for all that you’ve been through and the way you’ll navigate new paths is just perfect! I think I’d take one of those great pictures, blow it up and frame it! I like tokens…this would be a good one to look at every day! 🙂 Have a good “active” weekend…Debra

  2. Lovely post bringing together your journey and your running. I don’t get on my bike that often (and I still have, but don’t use the yellow 10 speed from college), but perhaps because I do so a few times a year, it’s not a strange thing to me. Is this bridge an old railroad bridge? It looks awfully sturdy for a bike trail.

    • Colleen,
      Much of the trail (including this portion, I believe) does follow the old railroad bed, and there are several old railroad bridges along the way. This particular bridge is not one of those. It would be wider if it was a railroad bridge! But this is a modern bridge and very typical of bridges over small streams around here.
      Perhaps I’ll post a photo of one of the actual railroad bridges soon; they are pretty cool.

  3. Ellen dearinger

    Lori, Bridges always remind me of Kurt who told hewas afraid of bridges. Growing up here in Port Angeles, every where you go you are crossing some kind of bridge or another. I grew up [ there are people who would debate that statment ] crossing the one lane bridge [ across the elwha ] pretty much every day. I never once thought about it being scary,but when they put in the new one with two lanes I did’nt cross the old one for a long time,but when I did, I for the first time realized just how crazy scary that bridge was. But I admit to giving Kurt a pretty bad time about his fear of bridges. I am so happy to hear that you destroyed that dragon of fear in your life concerning that narrow bridge, [ and it seems that you have slain alot of other dragons along the path of life ,that have made you a stronger, and much healthier human bean. I,m proud of you. [and I know Kurt would be also ] Keep reaching for the mountain top and you will reach the stars!!!

    • Ellen,

      I wasn’t thinking about Kurt’s fear of heights when I first wrote that post, but afterward I realized how frightened he would have been of some of the things I’ve tried lately. I have very little fear of heights, personally, but it seems I do have a fear of crashing into bridge rails! Spending time with a fear, studying it, and writing about it seem to help me come to terms with it, but that’s just how I learn.

      Lots of people, including me, gave Kurt a bad time about his fear of bridges and heights. Nothing anybody said or did was going to change that; it was just part of who he was. I think he would be proud of me for going on with my life, but I suspect he’d secretly prefer that I stay on flat, solid ground as much as possible.


  4. Brava, Lori, for crossing a real bridge and the metaphorical one! Keep plodding through…loved that you stopped to see what was causing the fear of crossing. Hugs, Geri

    • Geri,

      As I replied to Ellen, I learn by spending time with something (a book, an experience, a concept), studying it, reflecting on it, and writing about it. I don’t know what will happen the next time I try to ride my bike over that bridge, but if I’m still scared at least I’ll know why!


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