Sunday, August 16, 2009

How to walk the Marquam Bridge, or part of it, and hopefully not die

Downtown Portland from Marquam Bridge


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Marquam Bridge, Portland Bridge Pedal

Marquam Bridge, Portland Bridge Pedal

If you read this humble blog semi-regularly, you might've noticed I keep inflicting this goofy bridge-walking project on you. I've already done one post about the Marquam Bridge, but it didn't involve any footwork, so I couldn't really count it as "done", because them's the rules. The Marquam carries I-5 over the Willamette, and it's normally a vehicles-only bridge except for one Sunday morning each year when they close it for the Portland Bridge Pedal. I didn't quite do last year's event, and I almost didn't do this one either. As I explain rather relentlessly here, I'm not much of a joiner, and I don't usually go for collective tribal undertakings like this. But I had a project to complete, and I figured I could use it (or abuse it) for my own ends.

In my St. Johns Bridge post, about a year ago, I said, and I quote:

This whole bridge series is kind of a silly idea, the more I think about it. Just a few days before my incredible St. Johns adventure, the bridge was part of the huge Portland Bridge Pedal, in which tens of thousands of people biked or walked across it and most of the other bridges around town. Which rather puts a damper on my usual shtick about how weird and unusual it is to walk across the bridge. I actually considered signing up for the non-pedaling version of the bridge pedal, for the unusual opportunity to walk across the Fremont & Marquam, presumably without dying, but I didn't get to it. As I've mentioned before, I'm not much of a joiner, really, and I don't usually go for big group activities like that. Plus it involves getting up wayyy too early on a Sunday morning, which is another thing I'm not real big on. So maybe next year, or not.


This year I signed up for the non-pedaling version. And yes, the whole project is still kind of a silly idea, and no, I'm quite certain I don't want to know how many bridge posts I've done since I said that the first time. For those who haven't been following the score on the ongoing bridge project, which would be basically all of you, I expect, I've already covered all the other Willamette bridges, so I was really only interested in the Fremont and the Marquam, the two that aren't open to foot traffic any other time.

Downtown Portland from Marquam Bridge

The one complication with the non-pedaling version is that the Marquam wasn't on the official menu. The plan was strictly across the Fremont, and back across the Steel, and the return leg didn't really interest me. I live and work downtown, I can pop across the Steel anytime I want. So when the crowd got to the Steel, I turned aside and moseyed down the Esplanade instead. I figured that to check off the Marquam I'd have to improvise a little. So I wandered down to the Central Eastside exit ramp where riders were getting off the bridge, put the big lens on the camera, and just walked up the bridge the "wrong" way like I was supposed to be there and knew what I was doing. Nobody batted an eye. Carrying a fancy-looking camera is a fantastic way to bluff your way into stuff. It's right up there with wearing a suit -- although the two aren't interchangeable. Wandering up onto the Marquam in serious business attire would get you a lot of weird looks, I expect.

Marquam Bridge, Portland Bridge Pedal

The one downside is that I got there about the time they were trying to wrap things up. I was part of the way across when a couple of cop cars drove by, making sure everyone was either off or heading toward the exit. I figured that was a good time to turn around, although they didn't actually say anything to me. Possibly they too assumed I was supposed to be there. Possibly they figured I had a walkie talkie and would know when they were about to open the thing back up to cars and semis and whatever. Maybe I could've kept going, or at least stayed until someone actually shooed me off the bridge, but that wasn't really the point. I took some unusual photos of the bridge, and from the bridge, that I couldn't have taken any other way, and I think I basically got the flavor of the thing, if you can call it that. So I'm going to go ahead and declare Mission Accomplished on this baby. Having a vast swath of the bridge all to myself for a few minutes, that was an unexpected and rather eerie bonus. I've seen more than my share of post-apocalyptic B movies. An empty freeway is usually a sign that a zombie apocalypse is underway. Or if not that, the there's been a global nuclear war, and gangs of maniacal Australian punk rocker / biker types are fighting over the ruins. Looking at the Marquam, both of these seem entirely plausible. The best outcome would be if the punks and zombies showed up at the same time and decided to fight it out, giving you an opportunity to slip away unnoticed.

Downtown Portland from Marquam Bridge

Marquam Bridge, Portland Bridge Pedal

Marquam Bridge, Portland Bridge Pedal

Marquam Bridge, Portland Bridge Pedal

Blackberries, Marquam Bridge

1 comment :

dave said...

Congrats on a mission accomplished - I was wondering how you'd pull off the Marquam!