Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Seven Mile Bridge Memorial

I read in the Citizen today that this is the anniversary of March 2nd, 1981 explosion on the Old Seven Mile Bridge that killed the tender in his booth. The top of the new bridge (built a year later) has a memorial plaque for anyone driving slow enough to spot it. For those who don't drive slow enough I took this picture:The old bridge had a lift section to allow boats through and the story goes an aqueduct truck with a back hoe on the bed passed under the booth and wrecked the propane tank which supplied the bridge tender with gas. The explosion blew a hole in the old Seven Mile Bridge which was filled only temporarily until the new bridge was built a year later.The old bridge, built by Flagler's engineers still serves the trolley that runs to Pigeon Key from Marathon, and the southern piece is now a fishing pier. I rode the old bridge in 1981 but as I was on two wheels it was not all scary as it was for many drivers, and trucks were required to fold their mirrors so they could pass each other on the narrow roadway built over the original rail tracks in 1938. So the next time your drive the famous bridge you might want to spare a passing thought for the late Peter Fancher who died a grotesquely unfortunate death 30 years ago today.

For my complete essay on the Seven Mile Bridge from three years ago:

Niles Channel

My own skiff is in mothballs this time of year as my wife and I use the boat at our dock to get out on the water and swim. Our motorized platform is a lot less fancy than this center console:Visitors don't find the local waters too cold for swimming and fishing is high on many people's urgent vacation agendas.
Cheyenne was restless so I took her for a short walk close to home that ended up burning an hour of our time and a few more camera pixels on one more lovely summery evening last week.
This ketch lives at anchor south of the Niles Channel bridge and manages to stay looking trim and ready to travel despite never moving.
Soon we will switch to summer time (March 13th) and sunsets will get considerably later, and that is fine by me. Morning rides home from work will get darker but long evenings will be a reminder of the imminence of summer.
Let's not exaggerate here: at twenty four degrees north latitude we are close enough to the equator to mean the lengths of days versus nights is never very different, but with the change to daylight savings sunset will come after 8:30 in June and July and that will be a treat.
While I am clearly not one of those adapted to life in the frigid north, I am like most people who live in temperate climes fascinated by the life of those that deal with long winter nights and long summer days. I cannot imagine five hours of daylight nor yet living where darkness hardly falls at all. In human mythology Paradise in all it's various cultural forms is represented by continuity, the sameness of Eternity. I think it must be in response to the wildly varying annual climate change in those places where most humans have lived traditionally. Yet here is the sameness of Paradise and the comment I get most often is that people like their seasons. Is this sloop at anchor in summer or winter? Who can tell? Cheyenne got away from me for a while sniffing around in the bushes at the end of the Flagler Bridge that does retirement duty as a fishing pier. I strolled to the parapet and looked down. I was glad to see that some kind soul had plunked what appears to be a bicycle wheel into the crystal clear waters, giving me something to photograph. If people didn't dump their trash there would be nothing to look at. Before anyone forgets that Irony is my middle name, here's something I prefer to look at if I have to look at human intervention in the natural world.
Fish killers wandering home on a February evening that looks like an February evening in the mythical hereafter. Eternal fishing will be Heaven for some, and damp heaving smelly hell for me.
We humans do love our geometrical shapes, don't we? The modern Niles Channel bridge has a certain flair about it arching up into the sky, where the old Flagler Bridge, solid as a rock after a hundred years looks rather...pedestrian.
No snow covered peaks here, just the western shore of Ramrod Key, privately owned, and thus mysterious.
The local pigeons are fearless. They hopped slowly out of Cheyenne's way but I think she hardly even noticed them.
Two anglers caught my eye, too busy fishing to say hello and mutter platitudes about the weather as one does in the Keys, (I am still trying to be nice to strangers though the game hardly seems worth the candle). They spent a lot of time leaning over the bridge like this and I wanted to tell them that fish don't, as a general rule, speak very intelligible English but she was wearing pink Crocs so I gave her some slack. I wondered if any fish shouted anything back but it was clear they were caught up in their world. As I walked back he was doing the same thing, leaning over the side peering down at the water. I sat down on the parapet to enjoy the view and tried looking down to talk to the fish. All I saw were my feet...
...and some cormorants holding a club meeting.It was all too gorgeous.
I snapped the photo above almost by accident but it illuminated the scene, looking west to Summerland Key so I chose not to erase it. The picture below I took as I dangled my feet over the parapet. I fancied I could see the curvature of the Earth looking toward the southwestern tip of Ramrod Key.Cheyenne really likes bridge walking for some reason and she tired herself enough, running back and forth that she took a rest in the shade of the parapet next to me.
By the time we walked back to the car the sun was much lower on the horizon and everything including this Ducati was bathed in the golden glow.
Or this V-twin of the usual Harley Davidson sort.
While Cheyenne sat by the car watching the world go by...
...I burned a few pixels watching one more Florida Keys sunset.
And in fact by the time we had driven the five minutes back home the globe had just about disappeared as I pointed the camera due west from my deck.
And that I think would be another wrap, from Ramrod Key.