As a child, I was terrified of the bridges in Cleveland. I have a hunch why. They must have loomed into my subconscious during our family's regular drives from the suburban flatlands of the West Side to the industrial East Side to visit my grandmother. As we drove across them, they vectored out in all directions, the city a vista of factories and steelwork and smokestacks, with no comforting ground in sight. I would have nightmares about these bridges: me, lying sprawled face down on the deck of a bridge, without guardrails, as it quickly lowered like the elevator of an aircraft carrier. They were so scary I remembered them for the rest of my life.
Maybe it was because there are so many Cleveland bridges: more than 100 within Cleveland proper. And Cleveland bridges are enormous. The city sits on a series of bluffs that rise steeply from the lakeshore, requiring bridges that can span a half mile, a mile, or longer.
|View from the Veterans Memorial Bridge|
Chicago bridges are puny by comparison, as dictated by the easy hop from one sandy bank, over the trickle of a Chicago River, to the marshland on the other side, barely above the water itself. The Wabash Avenue Bridge is 345 feet across.
Compare that to Cleveland's Main Avenue Bridge, running a mile and a half—8,000 feet across. Chicago bridges are mainly bascule bridges—bisected stubs that open and close—while Cleveland's are high fixed spans, huge multi-deck concrete viaducts, steel edifices, along with lift bridges with their massive superstructures.
I was covering the convention last week, not studying bridges. Though of course I saw them, and thought about my unease about them. Then suddenly, at one point, Wednesday night, before dinner, I found myself standing at the foot of the Veterans Memorial Bridge at sunset and, sensing my opportunity, impulsively decided to walk to the other side, a journey of some 3/4 of a mile.
It was not stressful. A lovely summer evening stroll. There was little traffic—you'd have to be insane to drive into downtown at that point—and I easily scampered across the four lanes to see the view from the other side. It wasn't isolated though—other pedestrians and bicyclists were there as well. I was rewarded with beautiful views of the city on both sides.
The Veterans Memorial Bridge's steel span is 591 feet long, and contains 4250 tons of steel, the work all fabricated by the King Bridge Co. of Cleveland, founded in 1858, which built three of Chicago's earliest bridges, which no longer exist.
|Hope Memorial Bridge|
There was nothing scary about the walk across the bridge, no sense of vertigo, no fear of the railings. I felt I was finally making my peace with Cleveland bridges, and that they'd trouble me no more.
That really is the only way: address what frightens you, overcome it. Had I just stood there and stared, trembling, at the bridge and not crossed it, had I fled in fear, were this were a screed, railing ignorantly against the scariness of bridges, cataloguing their proven dangers, that would be, well, in a word, stupid.
The next day, I found myself on a march across the even more beautiful Hope Memorial Bridge—named for Bob Hope's father, a stone mason in Cleveland., I considered my trek across Hope Memorial as a kind of reward for conquering my fears. Then again, there is usually a reward in overcoming your baseless anxieties toward unobjectionable entities like bridges. I only wish the people at the Quicken Loans Arena could figure that one out.