Cross That Bridge
By: Lynn Bolster
So who out there likes driving across bridges – show of hands? I know, right? Bridges are a necessary part of life, especially in trucking, but absolutely intimidating! When driving a semi, not only is the center of gravity elevated, you are sitting in an air seat way up above other vehicles so when crossing a bridge it can feel like you’re flying an airplane!
Take for instance the Key Bridge in Baltimore Maryland. The crosswinds on any bridge can be wicked but this bridge is a doozie. We were pulling an empty high cube container out of the piers one very windy day. High cubes are only about a foot higher than a regular box but when the wind catches it, especially empty, it feels like you will be over the guardrail pronto. This bridge is often closed to truck traffic when the winds are super high. Or as Merle Haggard sang ‘it takes a steady hand to pull the load behind.’ So true!
Next up for a spine-tingling crossing is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. There is actually an escort service available for car drivers that are petrified to cross it themselves. Truckers don’t have this luxury so nothin’ to it but to do it! When I have driven the Bay Bridge there is a point once you have passed the initial ‘climb’ and are entering the elevation stage where, for a split second, the bridge disappears beneath you and it appears you will drive off the edge directly into the bay. If I can make it past that point, I am fine, but my spidey senses know it is coming as my heart beats out of my chest in anticipation.
Crossing any bridge in fog is risky business. When I was learning to drive a truck, I was crossing the Conowingo Bridge in Maryland in the fog. I didn’t want to overdrive my vision, but it appeared like I had no headlights on as I kept a white-knuckle grip on that wheel. I drove so slow that the pace was like a herd of turtles. I kept my eye pinned on that side edge line knowing one false move would indeed throw me into the drink. And that is actually what the experts tell you to do, keep your eye on that sideline. When crossing a bridge, you aren’t there to sightsee. You are there to cross and that is it. It is still a road, and we drive roads all the time. It’s just that it is up in the air.
When I was working out of Steelton, Pennsylvania, I had to cross the Susquehanna River Bridge. Crosswinds rocked me back and forth daily. Repeating the words that I am positive were directly from God: “I’ve got you,” is what kept me centered. I have learned that God will not put you in a job without giving you the skills to do it, so rely on Him, I did.
One night about 2 a.m., Bill and I were lost looking for a lumber yard in North Carolina. Our load of lumber was due in a few hours, overweight, and how we got turned around, who knows. No GPS back then, just good old maps and a compass. All of a sudden we were facing the rickiest bridge we’d ever seen. It put you in the mind of a rope bridge, and it was pretty long too. In the pitch black of night, we stared at each other and realized we had to cross it, there was no backing out of the winding road we had just traversed getting there. This experience reminded me of the saying: “well, well, well if it isn’t the bridge I said I’d cross when I came to it!” We came to it alright, our fate was in the crossing. Bill, the gambler that he was, decided he was going for it and put old Kenworth in gear. Weighing my options, being too chicken to sit through the trip, I jumped out and walked across, meeting him on the other side. I could barely see my steps in the headlight’s glow as I gingerly made my way over. He gave her some fuel and crept across, with boards creaking and cracking all the way. Bystander that I was, I knew there would be nothing I could do if it collapsed beneath him. Thankfully the crossing was a success, and we were off to the sawmill.
Some bridges in life are like that. Rickety and scary while others are strong and sturdy. Crossing is a chance you take, but there are times when risk is necessary and worth it. Sometimes there is light from burning a bridge. Often mistakes can be the bridge between inexperience and wisdom. But the most important bridge is our faith because it is the one between ourselves and God.