Saturday, March 1, 2008

Unable to Illustrate

The car club took a road trip to a bridge. This bridge spanned two halves of a town, crossing a narrow but deep and turbulent part of the river between two rock-cliff shores. The span was not long but was so important to the people on either side, they had been perpetually improving and 'fancy-ing' it up for well over 100 years.

The traffic span above was an overbuilt, boxed girder design hanging just above the churn of the river. The mostly-submerged pedestrian span was still the original wood structure. Built entirely on land, then lowered into the river beneath the traffic lanes, it's still never leaked; the wood being partially preserved by the cold water.

The lower pedestrian crossing was more that just a walkway, it included a museum dedicated to the efforts to build the bridge and unite the region. The interior lacquer was still shiny and the wood details were still tight, even around the windows. The whole thing creaked a bit but in a charming way as opposed to a scary way. It was like being in the lower decks of a large wooden sailing ship.

In the middle of the submerged wooden span, the passageway opened to a wide column that extended down nearly to the river bed. In that space was a multi-level, vertical structure that rotated slowly, powered by the river's current. Visitors descended the four levels of the drum-like structure via a staircase that wrapped around the outside. Once inside, random flights of stairs between exhibits returned people back to the top level. This rotating drum housed most of the exhibits and, for all the engineering and construction achievement, the single most impressive (and quite unexplainable) feature was the lowest level. This section was filled with body-temperature water that was breathable by humans but did not restrict movement. Being submerged was much like being bathed in a warm light, yet is was liquid floor to ceiling. By the time you climbed the back to the top, you were dry.

At first, the layout was very confusing but, after realizing I had left a personal item in a lower level, I was able to find my way around like I'd been there before. All through the various sections, there were all manner of visitors. Some people were just going through the motions like it was their 15th visit to Mount Rushmore. Others were lingering and having longer discussions, treating it like it was a community center. There were people there from other nations and some of them physically succumbed to the experience. Something about the experience hit them in an adverse way.

I wasn't even looking for a car club that day. The car I was driving wasn't mine as it was somewhat ratty around the edges. In spite of the off-chance of how it unfolded, now I can't wait for the chance to get back to the bridge.

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