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Feb 21, 2012
You’ve got to admit a road trip has its benefits.
Yes, it’s a fantastic way to see a country, explore places, relax, enjoy hours of your favorite music, spend time with your significant other, your kids or just your thoughts and save hundreds of dollars on travel, when you have the luxury of time on your side.
A few years ago, I discovered another bonus benefit to road trips. And something about the journey being the destination rang true.
As someone who was new to the country at the time, my extent of knowledge of bridges in America, started and ended with the Golden Gate Bridge. I hadn’t yet heard of the Chesapeake Bay bridge or the New River Gorge. So, I was quite pleasantly surprised to stumble upon these magnificent bridges along the way on some of my road trips.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
“Bridge? Tunnel? Bridge! Tunnel!” was what was going through my mind as we drove over (under?) this engineering marvel. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel connects Virginia's Eastern Shore with the Virginia mainland at Virginia Beach near Norfolk. We were on our way to the Outer Banks in North Carolina when we just had to take a quick detour and stop to marvel at this extraordinary man-made creation stretching across the Chesapeake Bay-Atlantic Ocean waters for about 18 miles. The restaurant, gift shop and the scenic overlooks offer plenty of gorgeous views, but the most thrilling of them all is the one from your vehicle as you realize one minute you’re over the water, and the next, you’re under it!
New River Gorge Bridge
This spectacular bridge on Route 19 in West Virgina has a special place in my heart as it was one that left me awestruck each time. I drove over it every time I traveled to the Niagara Falls and other places up north from my little town in North Carolina. But it would be at least a couple of years before I actually got out of the car to check out the bridge itself. Once considered the world’s largest single arch bridge, the New River Gorge bridge is also fondly known as the ‘big bridge’ in the area. With an arch 1,700 feet (518 m) long, the bridge cut travel time from one side of the gorge to the other from about 45 minutes to 45 seconds. Of course, it takes a lot longer than 45 seconds to fully enjoy the bridge and everything it has to offer. Whether it’s white water rafting, hiking, picnicking, mountain biking, rock climbing or just sight seeing you have in mind, the bridge will exceed your expectation in every respect. I particularly enjoyed driving down to the bottom and looking up at it from the ‘little bridge’ down below.
Another bridge that I’ve stopped to admire several times is the Blue Ridge Parkway Viaduct or Linn Cove Viaduct near Grandfather Mountain. Although only about a quarter mile long, the viaduct is considered the most popular section of the 470-mile long Blue Ridge Parkway. It was built to protect the land underneath and preserve the ecological balance of the Black Rock section of Grandfather Mountain. You've just got to get out of the car at this overlook and enjoy the magnificent views of the mountain from here.
The connecting factor
What strikes me about these bridges is that they aren’t just there to connect one point to another, to take you over a river, a gorge or to the other side of the mountain. They stand testimony to time and to all the people whose lives they’ve made easier. They are as much a part of history of the place as they are of its geography.
Each bridge I’ve come across has taught me to pay a little more attention to where I am and where I’m headed when I’m on the road. Each bridge has a story to tell and is a tribute to its makers - the thousands of human beings who designed, planned and built each one of them brick by brick so you and I may get to wherever we’re going, faster. Oddly enough, it’s the very same bridges that always remind me to slow down and enjoy the journey.
Do you have a favorite bridge?