Tom Germond is Tampa Bay Newspapers' Executive Editor.
The Aerial LIft Bridge in Duluth, Minn., in May 1996.
I have a love-hate relationship with bridges.
The panoramic view of meandering rivers and restless seas from the tops of bridges makes memories.
Being stuck on a bridge with a full bladder makes nightmares.
My boss told me that he recently was held up on the bridge at John’s Pass twice on the same trip – to and from his destination.
I can top that. Before the bridge was rebuilt, I was also held up on it twice on the same trip – but both times on the way back. Must have taken me 35 minutes to get to the Madeira side.
There were more mariners passing through the spans that February afternoon than there were boats evacuating Dunkirk in World War II.
Trust me on this. I had plenty of time to count them.
Though I think that our transportation planners sometimes come up with a BAD idea – Build Another Drawbridge – I recognize that for some places there are few alternatives, such as at John’s Pass. And I prefer a drawbridge over a ferry any day.
You don’t want to be on a ferry in Lake Superior in the winter, which explains why the Aerial Lift Bridge was built in Duluth, Minn. It was one of the first bridges I’ve ever crossed as a boy growing up in northern Wisconsin and remains one of my favorites.
The bridge was built in 1905 and upgraded in 1929 to its current “lifting” design – meaning straight up – as it operates today. It’s probably Duluth’s most famous and beloved piece of architecture, even though it looks as if were built from an Erector Set.
The last time I crossed that bridge was when I was on vacation in 2004, just for the heck of it. The bridge takes you from the mainland in Duluth to Minnesota Point, a seven-mile narrow sand spit that leads to nowhere.
The next time I make a decision to take the Aerial Lift Bridge just for the heck of it, I’ll forgo having two Leinenkugel beers at nearby Grandma’s restaurant. As you are waiting for the lift to come down, it’s kind of hard to enjoy the bridge’s distinct operating mechanisms when the most prevalent thought running through your head is where’s the nearest bathroom.
Have a favorite name of a bridge? Mine is the Bridge of Gods, a span in the magnificent Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington. In deference to Manito, the Great Spirit, I won’t butcher the story here of how the bridge got its name, but you can find out more about it at www.portofcascadelocks.org/bridge.
Or just go there, enjoy the scenery and surroundings and learn about Sam Hill, a famous innovator in the Pacific Northwest.
Closer to home, I enjoy the view of brawny Jacksonville from the bridge on I-95 over the St. John’s River. I didn’t enjoy the view decades ago when you had to pay a toll on the bridge to cross the river.
And what the Sam Hill is up with the proposal to convert the Howard Frankland Bridge into a toll bridge? (You knew I’d work Sam Hill in somehow). Not sure who’s the brainless bureaucrat that decided that would be a good idea, but he probably runs with the same crowd that decided we need a state university in Lakeland.
The Howard Frankland is my least favorite bridge. I’m never sure on how much time to allot for a trip to Tampa International Airport because of the traffic frenzy, which is akin to the running of the wildebeasts across the Maui River.
Might be easier to leave your car at St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport and book a flight to Tampa International.