All these photos come from several days ago, but connectivity has been iffy where we are now.
We drove into parts of the continent where there are trees, and then also visible water:
My daughter took a photo of what she considered an unusual load, and it struck me that because of where and when I grew up a pile of hay on a semi looks totally normal . . . all a matter of experience and perspective:
I did notice that between trucks and trains, a lot of raw materials were moving around along the Columbia River corridor. The tracks parallel the highway, and there were a lot of cars piled with lumber on this train:
The farther west we got, the more green our surroundings became. The contrast with the parts of Utah and Idaho that we passed through is astonishing:
We ended up crossing some coastal mountains on a winding, two-lane highway. It was beautiful, but if I’d know the navigator (in the right-hand seat) was going to send us this way, I would have filled the gas tank before we turned off the main road. We made it to the other side and stopped at the first station we saw. It was a gorgeous digression from the limited access roads. Well, limited access in a different way than this. . . .
Some of us still found the travel boring. . . .
When we came to the bridge across the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon, I was struck by what astonishing engineering feats structures like these are.
Coming from the south toward the north, the first part of the bridge (above) is elevated to let ships pass through. The second part is lower, like the Hood Canal Bridge, which I used to cross frequently when I lived on the Olympic Peninsula (its official name isn’t Hood Canal Bridge, but I’d never heard it called anything else until I just looked it up).
There’s a different view of the Astoria bridge here. According to Wikipedia, the bridge is 4.1 miles (6.5 km) long, and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. It was also the final piece of coastal highway 101 to be constructed, started in 1962 and completed in 1966.
After I’d moved from the area, the Hood Canal Bridge was broken by a storm. Ferries replaced it (and ferries crossed the stretch of the Columbia, above, from 1926 until the Astoria-Megler bridge was built). That bridge was a different structural type, was subjected to sustained storm winds of 85 mph with gusts of 120 mph, and took a long time to replace. The Astoria bridge was built to withstand winds of 150 mph.
Things like this make me think of what humans are capable of on a grand scale . . . some good, some bad. ("If we can put a man on the moon" is the usual comparison, but that doesn’t have the same effect for me as a big bridge.)
I normally focus on small-scale capacities that build to become larger projects: the simple twisting together of fibers that can then be turned to so many uses, like shelter, clothing, and increased ability to obtain food. When I see mammoth projects like this, I wonder why we aren’t putting similar ingenuity and vision to work to solve problems like energy use, hunger, and war.
If people can build things like these bridges (even when they sometimes may need to be rebuilt), and it’s obvious that we can, we really can do amazing things. We do need to be able to perceive that the problems can be solved, the determination to persist with idea-generation until we come up with solutions that won’t harm the environment (which many past projects didn’t take into account adequately), leadership to coordinate the work, and the ability to muster the resources.