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I should have known. I had warnings. Cousin Jack had a tale on these very same pages which included a tale of him and his beloved Red crossing the high winded bridge over the waves below. But like a moth to a flame, I approached it. With a swagger and a meticulous planner’s nonchalance – it made sense to the ride plan and we would do it. I checked Google Maps MANY times after I made the plan - often switching to “satellite” view. Like a kid that just caught a snake in box, always peeking. Eager to come "in touch” with my decision, but wary of the consequences.

Why the trepidation? Those that suffer from a fear of heights will understand. Those that thrill to the floating pitches and jerks of roller coasters may understand. Those that have yet to travel my roads or have that remarkable fearlessness of heights in wide open space may not understand (like my wife) – they will love every minute and want to go back for more. Truth be told – in the end – I will go back one day for more as well. But, alas, we ran out of time for further thrills this ride. Once, was enough.

This particular ride came near the end of a day. We had checked out of Coos Bay, Oregon (about 232 miles south) in the morning and rode the foggy and cool Oregon coast. Many of our “sights” were unseen through fog. Others were phantasmagorical as we rode through fog banks and then crested hilltops to look over the fog once again. As we rode north the warnings of heat began to become reality. A day ridden mostly on the 50’s and cool started into the 70’s and humid.

Near the end of the Oregon coast we dipped in to visit Fort Clatsop. It was a brief visit with the ghosts of the history that made us – “US”. But that is a story for another time. We pressed on at about 7 pm.

The GPS began to go a little haywire – or maybe it was its owner – or maybe it was telling me something. The GPS roads seemed out of sync with the street signs. It seemed I was heading inland instead of towards my battle. A bicyclist stopped to help. “Lost?” he panted. Well, we’re looking for the Astoria Bridge but can’t seem to find the way. I see a long bridge there…. “Oh, that’s not Astoria….” After some instructions I reprogrammed the GPS for points opposite the Oregon shore of the Columbia River. From then on, the GPS followed the cyclist’s instructions amazingly accurately. A couple of rotaries and a swing around a corner later – there it was.

The shock did not set in immediately and there was not time to think it over. As the light changed I led through – and onto “the ramp”. It is almost a shame I have no pictures of it but my beloved in the back seat was saving the start of the film for what she viewed as the start of the bridge – 200 feet in the air. But to be fair you need to envision 1500 pounds of man and machine and gear on seemingly a 45 degree angle headed for the sky – literally. The ramp doglegs left at the top so you get a sense of being on ramp to the clouds. About ¾ of the way up “this was a BAD idea” crossed my mind. Quickly followed by – “well, you can’t turn around now you dope – no room and WAY too dangerous”. So onward I pressed. While “up there” I managed to look upstream to see a small dot – that was a Cargo freighter heading up the Columbia – cool. And I managed to look towards the vastness of the Pacific Ocean – also cool. But I mostly looked straight ahead for now.

It is actually funny what can flash through your mind when under “fight or flight” type stress. My wife knew of my fear of heights prior to this moment – she never said a word. Anyone ever see the movie “The Replacements” – about a strike season football team picked to play out the season while the players and league settled their differences? Not the best movie – but one of my favorites anyway. There is a team meeting scene in the locker room where they talk about what scares them. Coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) says “A real man admits his fears.” And after they all “share”…he says “… But now our fear is shared. And we can overcome it...together”. I gripped those handlebars with my Honey in tow (filming and giggling the whole way) and rode the monster – saying all the while “Face your fears, face your fears, face your fears…) - then the bottom fell out. Like an over loaded motorcycle on the Olympic ski jump we hurled towards the water.

Oddly – that is (or once was) my thing. A little speed and water. A former swimmer, rowing athlete, kayaker, water skier and salt water fly fisherman – water was my life. I always loved the water – no fear there. I went from 35mph on the 200 foot high span to 80 quickly – before I realized how fast I was going and backed off.

Then we skimmed the waterline for most of the rest of the length of the 4.1 mile long Astoria Bridge. That’s right – over four miles. Some internet research reveals that at the time of its completion in 1966 - it was the longest “Continuous Truss Bridge” in North America. I have been on the famous “Seven Mile Bridge” in the Florida Keys - also amazing for many other reasons. But this – was over a river, a vast expanse of river that meets the ocean – amazing. When I think of the Corps of Discovery flailing about – in canoes – I am in awe of what a sight it must have been. Maybe not to the Indian of the day – but rather to someone like me who has seen what water going vessels have become. Canoes across the continent without roads – can you imagine? These thoughts also cross my mind enroute.

Anyway, as we rode the waterline you could see halves of birds every so often in the pavement. Misjudging approaching vehicle speeds and wind currents over the bridge apparently happens only once for the fowl of the area. As we neared the Washington girders of the bridge I passed a seagull and laughed. Envisioning myself embroiled in a John Travolta/”Wild Hogs” scene of “eating crow” – LOL We turned at the light and headed east on the Washington shore of the Columbia. We were constantly in awe of the river – and I, smiling at my accomplishment. Facing my fear indeed was a kick. One I would face again later in full humor “Going to the Sun” in Glacier National Park.

Below is a 5+ minute video of our Astoria Bridge Crossing if you are interested in a “motorcycle view”. There is a lot of wind noise so you may want to have your speaker low or off.

Our Ride on Astoria Bridge:

[flash=425,344]http://www.youtube.com/v/LhMn0dYAgqs&hl=en&fs=1[/flash]


Astoria Bridge Pictures from the Internet






 

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Great story,,,,,,, thanks for sharing it. And I'm glad for you to be able to face your fear head on.

I too, do not do all that well with hieghts all the time. I remember when I first got into the Rocky Mountains and the road side turned to sheer cliff edge. I actually took that little gasp of air like we do when our fear is right there in our face. But the beauty of it was no match,,,,,,,,,, I needed more. And the more of it I got, the breath taking it was. But it was a "good" breath taken.

This is a pic taken at the Black Canyons just outside of Montrose Co. I met a nice couple there, and the girl was kinda freaking out when she took the pic for me. I told her I may never be here again and I'm living the moment NOW.

http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii35/winger77/Trip%20to%20Colorado/100_1443.jpg
 

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Winger77 wrote:
Great story,,,,,,, thanks for sharing it. And I'm glad for you to be able to face your fear head on.

I too, do not do all that well with hieghts all the time. I remember when I first got into the Rocky Mountains and the road side turned to sheer cliff edge. I actually took that little gasp of air like we do when our fear is right there in our face. But the beauty of it was no match,,,,,,,,,, I needed more. And the more of it I got, the breath taking it was. But it was a "good" breath taken.

This is a pic taken at the Black Canyons just outside of Montrose Co. I met a nice couple there, and the girl was kinda freaking out when she took the pic for me. I told her I may never be here again and I'm living the moment NOW.

http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii35/winger77/Trip%20to%20Colorado/100_1443.jpg
WOW - great pic! Yep - I'm glad to be living in the digital age where we can record these things (so we don't have to do them everyday!! LOL) :gunhead:



Funny thing is I do not remember a heights thing growing up - seems worse the last few years. Maybe my feeble body knows its limitations and I should listen :cheeky1:
 

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Kudos to you Blackdog. I also have a height issue. Have to take some of the bridges on a one-at-a-time basis. Some I can cross, others I can't. No big deal, just see more scenery on this side of the river until I find a place I can cross.

The bridges that make me nervous are those with the open grating in the middle spans. Height and can see straight down - not a good combination in my book!

Great photos - I think I will stay away from that one for a while yet.
 

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Fear of heights is a very real thing. I remember as a teen being unable to look over the side of a very tall building. Those outside, glass elevators? Uh, no way in Sam Hill would I use one.

Then I did a stupid thing, I learned to fly an airplane. It was weird, as long as I was at the controls of that airplane, it did not matter how high I was. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the planet below me.

Then my job required me to climb towers. Little ones, like 1,570 feet tall. I learned to never look down. Only horizontal or up at what I was working on.

I never became comfortable to being on something tall and looking down. Airplanes, I'm fine. buildings and towers, nope I'm not.
 

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Wonderful post, Black Dog, just wonderful.......
 

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Been over that bridge several times, always a little glitch in the old butterfly maker. Deep breath, and enjoy the experience. Wife really gets squeemish, but she is a trooper too.
 

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Actually that bridge would be no problem for me crossing it from the same direction you did.

Now the new bridge they built over Tampa Bay Florida is another story in it's self as that sucker is HUGE!! I rode over the old one over 20 years ago when the new one was under construction in a car and it was all I could do to ride over the old one. No way I could do the new one, I'll just go around the bay on good old dirt.

I'd love to ride the new 7-mile bridge in the Florida Keys. I rode the old one back in the early 70's when I was stationed at Boca Chica Naval Air Station and it was a challenge because it was so narrow and hairy when passing 18-wheelers on it. They only allowed mobile homes down the Keys on US-1 from Midnight to 6 am because of most of the bridges being so narrow.
 

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Great read great video.I enjoyed this,I'm a little nervous on some bridges to. Nice to know I'm not the only one.
 

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I have to admit, I used to get real queasy looking over edges with seamingly no bottom. I can vivedly remembering driving in Virginia on the mountains as a kid and being scared to death.......... It's not as bad as it used to be just one of those things I taught myself to overcome. Like John, put me in aplane and I get a stupid grin on my face, always have and still do. When (if) I get my pilots licesnse I want to take aerobatics.. nothing like being out of control but in total control and pulling G's......

I also am a bit claustrophobic, don't like big crowds and if there is a hint of the sardine affect, so long, I won't stay around.......

We all have our fears and we have to learn to overcome them......
 

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Two bridges have absolutely scared me spitless: The Mackinac Bridge, Michigan, because of height and high, very high winds.....they closed it right after we'd crossed; and the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, height and heavy, heavy traffic......
 

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I'm not great with heights but it seems I feel pretty solid on my bike or in a cage. I've not been over that bridge though. It sure would be fun.
 

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I have had this one on my mind for about 2 years now. The "Bridge to Nowhere". Bridge on part Tunnel on the other. I know riders in Sweden and my wife has family there. I have family I've never met in eastern Europe. One day we will go - and ride this bridge-tunnel-scary monster...LOL The day I do this my fears will be completely conquered - :action: Man, what a ride...

Here is a fascinating National Geographic Video of the story of the bridge for anyone interested:

Part 1 (10 min) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQrWIRYIk5A
Part 2 (10 min) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr8Lk9U5VoU&NR=1

Part 3 (10 Min) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9Fg0yUk3-Y&NR=1
Part 4 (10 Min)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXjtdVMZXh4&NR=1
Part 5 (7+ min) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3D3nX42cmg4&NR=1













 

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That bridge was sure a boon to travlers on 101. When I was a kid living in Seaview not far from Megler which is the South terminus of the bridge, we had to cross the river in old wooden Army surplus ferries. It took an hour for the crossing and those old boats used to pitch and roll enough to scare you. The snack bar had rails (fiddles) around the counter so coffee cups wouldn't dump in patrons laps. The bridge originally had a toll but the traffic soon paid of the cost and the toll was removed.
 

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My father in law is so bad about heights that if he is watching television and a scene comes up showing a drop off or such he instantly locks up and has to shut his eye. Pretty commical really, good thing he doesn't ride. Funny thing is he fly small prop jobs for years and had the problem then as well. Must have bben tough to land.
 

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After watching that video...I wanna go there!!! And I was so close last fall riding the coast south from Tillamook!!
I am not a thrill seeker by any stretch of the imagination, but heights dont bother me much. As long as there is something solid under me anyway!
 

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Well done Blackdog. I also have a fear of heights and when crossing high bridges I usually just look straight ahead and hope the other end comes up soon. Crossed the Bay Bridge in Maryland and don't remember ever looking down, but did make it across. Just trusting bridges that are 35 to 50 years old gives me the willies. Ride on!!!:action:
 

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never been across the mitey mac in mi on a scoot, lived here all my life and always caged across it , don't like that metal grating , and some times ya have to ride on it , maybe 1 day i will do the crossing on the wing when the wind is nill and i got some good meds in me , don't like being high on a bridge or building , just call me chichen chit
 

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I crossed the Mackinaw bridge in June of 1972, on my way home from college for the summer (Michigan Tech in Houghton, MI). I did this on my 1971 Yamaha 175 Enduro!

Never thought about it much until you guys started talking about it, but I was almost 19 and did not know about things like fear! What I wouldn't give for a digital camera back then!:dude:
 
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