Note: First published on Blogger on June 4, 2006
Unfolding the Map
Today's journey for the Littourati, as we continue following Sal Paradise's travels On the Road, is to the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. As usual, click on the image to go to the Google Map.
"Five scattered rides took me to the desired Bear Mountain Bridge, where Route 6 arched in from New England. ...Not only was there no traffic, but the rain came down in buckets and I had no shelter. ...I began crying and swearing and socking myself on the head for being such a damn fool."
Bear Mountain Bridge
Sal comes to Bear Mountain Bridge because he has an idea that taking Route 6, which crosses the bridge into the Bear Mountain wilderness and beyond, is the way to take west. He has romanticized the road a bit. But, he is thwarted in his plans by weather and circumstance, particularly no cars. At points like these, all of us can wonder why we chose to do what we did.
I had a similar experience while traveling in Ireland in the mid-90s. I was traveling with a group of Germans and I and three others decided to split off from the group and hitchhike down the west coast of Ireland, from Sligo to Galway. It seemed like a great and romantic thing to do. We set out on a sunny day from Belfast, and took the bus over to Sligo. At Sligo, where we should have stopped to visit Yeats' Grave but didn't, we set out on the road, in pairs, some ways apart so we would be sure to get a ride. Anita and I got a ride relatively quickly, but we realized very soon that anyone who gave us a ride would only be going a short distance, as they were locals and going only small distances.
However, we managed to get a series of three or four rides, until we hit an impasse. At one point, we sat for hours outside a lonely house on the coast. A young man came out to talk to us, and at one point offered us a place to stay if we really needed it. It was dark, getting cold, and we both were a bit frustrated. I was pretty sure that we had to give up when a truck came by. By this time I was hiding because people were okay about picking up a lone woman, but not with a guy. Anita persuaded the guy to let us in, and as luck happened, we were able to ride with him all the way into Galway, arriving just after midnight. Our friends ended up taking a bus the next day, as they weren't able to get a ride at all.
Unlike Sal then, we got a ride, but purely by chance. What might have happened had we put ourself on the kindness of the stranger in the house? I really don't know. However, despite being with Anita, after a few hours on that beautiful coastline, outside that house in the middle of nowhere, I felt pretty lonely, as I imagine Sal felt out there on the edge of the wilderness, and I'm pretty sure I cursed myself for a damn fool as well.
More information on the Bear Mountain Bridge and Wilderness
Fun fact: The Bear Mountain Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was completed in 1924.