The Pat Tillman Bridge

One of the mixed joys of motor travel in less populated areas is trying to find something listenable on the car radio, but sometimes there are miracles. This morning as i headed west on I-40, i tuned in a Flagstaff FM station and caught one of the more exciting performances in recent memory. It was Avi Avital playing Bach’s Concerto for Harpsichord, Strings, and Continuo No.1 in D minor, BWV 1052, adapted for mandolin and orchestra by the performer.

I have loved this concerto for fifty years, and don’t recall ever having been more excited by a performance of it. Sorry about that, Trevor Pinnock, but yours comes in second. I’m think i’m gonna buy Mr. Avital’s recording. And click on the clip in that link, folks, to hear tantalizing passages of the BWV 1052 in the background.

And before we get to the bridge, here’s a landscape shot i took yesterday in northeastern Arizona headed toward the Grand Canyon.

Arizona landscape

And OK, it’s not all gorgeous rocks:

Standard Oil

And now, the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tilman Memorial Bridge . I’ve been fascinated by this bridge since i read about it during its construction. And then when they named it after Pat Tillman, that upped the ante considerably, since i’d followed the Tillman family’s exposure of the Army’s cover-up of the actual circumstances of Tillman’s death so they could use him as a propaganda pawn. Jon Krakauer, whose Into the Wild i greatly admired, published a book about the whole sordid affair, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, which i’ve put on my list to read.

But yes, the bridge. Turns out you can’t miss it if you’re headed north by northwest toward Las Vegas on US 93 from Kingman because the old route over Hoover Dam has been closed and all traffic has been routed over the new bridge. You get a glimpse of the bridge as you approach it, but i saw no place to pull over and take a photograph.

And then once you’re on the bridge you can’t see anything because there are such high walls lining the roadway that only sky is visible on both sides. Yes, i understand that the walls were installed to prevent drivers from diverting their attention to the scenery rather than the vehicles ahead of them, but still. I mean, after all, we let drivers cross the Golden Gate Bridge without barriers to prevent them from glancing to the side.

Over the bridge and into Nevada, you get a chance to turn onto the old highway that is now the dam access road, and the narrow road with its steep grades and tight turns reminded me of just how necessary it had become to reroute through traffic over a new bridge.

And then i got to the Homeland Security roadblock and inspection zone. I guess i didn’t look suspicious enough, as i was waved through before i’d come to a complete stop. Yes, i recognize that the dam is one of America’s most iconic structures, which would naturally make it a target for terrorists, but then i wonder whether it could be destroyed by a car bomb. And then i realize that like much of our security, the security inspection here is set up mainly because it’s feasible. After all, the Golden Gate Bridge is, if anything, more iconic, but it’s just not practical to force traffic over it into a single file and stop every vehicle. So it gets no visible security.

So what the security check at Hoover Dam really is, is Heimat Sicherheit propaganda where they show what good care they’re taking of us. Terrorist threat level Magenta, folks, so line up for another loyalty test.

And then there’s the parking lot for pedestrian access to the bridge, and i pull into that. I look at the hillside at the edge of the lot and see inclined ramps switchbacking up the hill and am about to pull the Segway out of the car when i notice the stairs. Oh damn. It’s clearly a combination of stairs and ramps, which makes it impossible for me.

Crushed, i drive across the dam to a parking lot on the far side, where i can stop and take this shot of the bridge, the best angle i could find.


Of course i should have taken the Segway out, ridden back onto top of the dam, and photographed the bridge against the sky from there, but i was so discouraged over not being able to ride the Segway onto the bridge that it didn’t even occur to me that i could at least ride it onto the dam. So i just got back in the car and drove back across the dam, taking this shot out the window as i wound up the hill on the Nevada side:

And then realized that what i really wanted to do after all that disappointment was strike out for home on the quickest route rather than spending the night somewhere in the desert east of the Sierra Nevada and then crossing it at the first open pass tomorrow. So i took I-15 down to Barstow, US-58 over to Bakersfield, up US-99 to Maneca, and CA 120 over to I-580 and home.

And along about Fresno the rain hit and i realized that it would be turning to snow in the Sierra, where it would have seriously complicated my attempt to get home tomorrow with no chains, so it’s a good thing i bailed.

I think next trip i’ll actually do some prior planning and research.

Late Note: When i got home and was searching around for links to put into this account, i read that access to the pedestrian walkway across the bridge is provided for the handicapped, so those stairs and ramps i saw on the hillside must be part of separate access systems. Sigh. Definitely need to do some preliminary research for the trip north i’m thinking of taking next summer.

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