Last Wednesday I set out on the drive to my summer camp. The idea was that I would drive a couple hundred miles up I-5 to Redding, arriving in time to get some good shots of Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge in the afternoon, stay overnight and take some night shots, and then take some morning shots before I set out for Saratoga Springs via a scenic route due west of Redding to US-101 and then down to the cutoff for camp. A fine plan, but not thought through.
Unfortunately, I didn’t put enough effort into thinking through my packing. So about halfway up I-5 I started thinking of things I’d forgotten, and thought of more and more as I pushed on northwards at 74 and 3/8ths MPH. I mean, surely they wouldn’t give a ticket for less than 75, especially to a vehicle as public-spirited and essentially innocent as the Prius.
So I got to Redding, parked in the bridge lot, rolled the Segway out the back, and spent an hour taking pics from every angle, including from underneath, which provided some entertainment to a bunch of guys drinking beer under an umbrella at a little table about fifteen yards frun a dirt embankment of which I was rolling back and forth along the edge, looking for a route down that would combine the least possible slope with the minimum loose gravel, which was what it seemed to mostly consist of.
Even at that distance, I could tell from their body language they were on my side. They were rooting for me. They wanted me to succeed. And somehow I also knew that they, like me, clearly understood that failure was a very real possibility and that if Fate (or lack of skill) so willed it, they really did want to be watching when the wipeout occurred and the Segway and I slid, perhaps even tumbling dramatically over and over each other, until finally we came to rest at the bottom and they could make their way cautiously down as the dust cleared and either render aid or, I being beyond aid, put me out of my misery and make off with the Segway.
So I picked my spot, eased over the edge…. and started losing traction immediately. So I had no choice but to increase the speed of the descent, limiting the increase as much as possible in hope of attaining the bottom in an upright position. Knuckles were white. My audience permitted itself a mild murmur of what I took to be approval when I finally came to a stop on the flat, dismounted, and took a few deep, thanksgiving breaths.
After taking a few pics of the underside of the bridge on this shore, I was ready to attempt the ascent back up the embankment. This time, of course, I needed to be going as fast as possible when I hit the incline so that I could decrease speed as I started losing traction. By the time I made it to the top, I was barely moving, and on the ascent I was no longer quite so sure that all of the observers were wishing me success since a loss of control near the top had such high entertainment potential.
So then I rode over the bridge and down around the smooth concrete ramp beneath the other end, taking pics all along. The glory of this bridge is that just about anywhere the camera happens to be pointing, you’re going to get a good shot. Actually, after seeing this bridge, the phrase “amazing grace” has new meaning for me. That bridge enraptures me. It just jumps in front of the camera and exposes itself.
After basking in the glow of this awesome engineering and precise beauty for an hour, I had to turn around and blast back down I-5 home so that I could get a good night’s sleep and pack the car with everything I’d forgotten before I set out up 101 to camp Thursday morning.
Oh yeah, camp turned out to be great fun, as always.
Late note: To see an expanded version of this post that includes a bunch more shots of the bridge, click here.