I took this photo of the Fremont Bridge in mid-October, from the Northwest Hills up above our apartment when we went looking at fall foliage. It's a beautiful bridge, even if the bottom deck is 175 feet in the air.
Until we moved from Southeast Portland to the Northwest Hills in October, 2006, I figured I'd never, ever have to drive over the Fremont Bridge. I admired the beautiful, soaring bridge from afar, with a slight change in my breathing from just looking.
I can't even remember what month it was that I planned a trip to Vancouver, Washington, for Mama and me, to a Wal-Mart Supercenter. I needed the generic Claritin D for my stopped-up ears, and you cannot buy the D of anything in Oregon without a prescription--a new law that took effect in the summer of 2006, aimed at thwarting meth-makers; I don't know why they aren't just driving over the Columbia River to Washington like I did to get my box of 10 pills. Sorry. I digress.
To prepare for the trip, I got online, wrote down the directions to one of the two supercenters in Vancouver, and we seatbelted ourselves into the Buick. Mama's job--to read the directions as we went, first straight down Everett, over the 405, then turn left, then left again onto Highway 30, and so on. Piece of cake.
As I took that first left, I glimpsed the two decks of the Fremont Bridge straight ahead. Nothing registered for about twenty feet, then it hit me. "Oh, no, Mama," I wailed. "We're fixin' to go over that scary bridge!" and I turned left onto the approach because there was no where else I could go.
Taking a deep breath, I drove into the center lane, looking straight ahead, glancing in the rear and sideview mirrors. Mama happily sat beside me, bubbling about seeing this and seeing that, pointing every which way. I had to ask her to be still so that I wouldn't be distracted from my goal--getting off the bridge properly, not irrationally. We climbed steadily until we were high over the river, an eternity before I saw my deliverance, the Interstate 5 Seattle sign. Whew. I made it. And if you start at the right edge of the photo and follow the bridge from there, on the lower deck, you'll go where we went.
I bought those decongestants and drove right back home the same way--you know, sort of like that fall-off-the-horse, get-right-back-on school of thought. Besides, I had no idea of any other way to get home from Washington. I drove right over the top of the Fremont Bridge which, naturally, is even higher. Plus I didn't have the comforting prescence of the upper deck above me, making me feel enclosed and less fearful. You can see what I mean about feeling on this photo that I also took on Oct. 13, from an overlook near the Vista Bridge. It's such a beautiful bridge.
Since that first accidental trip over the Fremont Bridge, I've driven back and forth four more times, and I've ridden over it when my son Leland was driving, twice. I still feel symptoms of gephyrophoia, lesser symptoms. I am not paralyzed.
Wikipedia: The Fremont Bridge is a steel tied arch bridge over the Willamette River located in Portland, Oregon. It carries Interstate 405 and US 30 traffic between downtown and North Portland where it intersects with I-5. It has the longest main span of any bridge in Oregon and is the second longest tied arch bridge in the world (after Caiyuanba Bridge across the Yangtze River, China). ... In October of 1971, while still under construction, a crack was found on the west span girder that required a $5.5 million redesign and repair. The main span of the bridge was built in California then assembled at Swan Island, 1.7 miles downstream. After completion it was floated in place on a barge. On March 16, 1973 the 6,000 ton steel arch span was lifted 170 ft. (51.8 m) using 32 hydraulic jacks. At the time, it was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest lift ever completed. The bridge was open on November 11, 1973 at a final cost of $82 million, most of which was financed by the Federal Highway Administration. ... The bridge has two decks carrying vehicular traffic, each with four lanes. The upper deck is signed westbound on US-30 and southbound on I-405. The lower deck is signed eastbound on US-30 and northbound on I-405. The Fremont Bridge was also the 26th Peregrine falcon nest site designated in Oregon after the raptor was placed on the U.S. Threatened and Endangered Species list in 1970.