The forecast was for cloudy. I was so thankful after days of torrential rain. The day started out with drizzle, which is nothing compared to what we’ve been having. I didn’t want to head up the coast to see 10 bridges with 10 stops and have everyone getting drenched at each stop.
I arrived 30 minutes early and parked near where the bus was parked in the LCC parking lot and right away the bus driver walked up with the mobile PA system. Within another 15 minutes everyone had arrived and was onboard.
I greeted folks and passed out the schedule as they climbed onboard. The schedule also included a glossary of bridge terminology. By the end of the day, folks would know the difference between pylon and piling and new meanings for bent and dolphin.
The trip was full—every seat taken. I got the mic working and did my official greeting and went over who McCullough was and his importance to the bridges. Then I went over the schedule and emphasized that while it wasn’t set in stone, it was the best way to fit everything in and get back by 4 p.m. And I noticed that at least two couples had brought along The Crossings Guide. My kind of folks!
I also had a script to go over explaining cathodic protection. McCullough and cathodic protection pertain to all the historic bridges, so I wanted to get those in first. I had notecards to go with each individual bridge to nudge my memory. My plan was to go over the important points I wanted to make while still on the bus before each bridge stop. Once off the bus folks scatter and can’t all hear me. That’s what I want. I don’t want to have 14 people following me everywhere; I’d feel like a mother duck.
When I was doing the cathodic protection while the bus was moving, I was trying to use the mobile PA system. I have to hold the mic a certain way and quite close to my mouth and move it with my head while reading my script. My hand started shaking holding the mic, and I couldn’t get it to stop. Then I started getting annoying feedback from the PA system. So within the first 10 minutes on the road, I quit the PA system and just spoke loudly. It’s a small bus and I sit on one of the side seats almost in the middle of the bus. Everyone seemed to hear me fine. I didn’t stand cause it’s too hard to keep your balance.
We drove slowly through Big Creek and Ten Mile Creek Bridges. Those were the only ones where we didn’t get off the bus. Our first stop was Cummins Creek Bridge, where you have to drive down into Neptune State Park and walk a short distance to see the bridge.
Next was the Historic Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center. Mary Davis, who has been there as long as I’ve known about it, was still on duty training one of her new replacements. So she gave a brief overview of the Center. It is like a museum to the bridges of the coast and even has a replica office of McCullough, which is filled with his stuff. The Center has a model of the old Alsea Bay Bridge and a film of the building of the new Alsea Bay Bridge. I also dropped off more copies of my books that they had ordered a few days before. It goes without saying that this is one of my favorite places on the coast.
They used to sell cups that show the old Alsea Bay Bridge and when filled with a hot liquid will also show the new bridge. Well, I didn’t know about them, but one of the folks on the tour did. He asked her if she had any and she brought out one, explaining that it was their last one and they were unable to get any more. He cajoled her into giving it to me as The Bridge Lady. She did. Realizing that she had been put on the spot, I promised to take her out to lunch. I was also really tickled to have the cup.
Then onto Yaquina Bay Bridge. We admired the stairs and walked up them onto the bridge but didn’t walk along the sidewalk. It is narrow and the cars are very close. I didn’t feel comfortable taking the group there. We did cross the road under the bridge, which has hardly any traffic, and walked over to a good viewpoint. The only rain shower we got caught in on the whole trip was to the viewpoint and back.
We stopped at Beverly Beach State Park to see Spencer Creek Bridge. It’s one of the newer bridges built during the past 12 years or so and shows a return to elegance that I think McCullough would’ve appreciated. It is also very sturdy and built to last 120 years and to withstand a sizable tsunami.
By the time we got to Depoe Bay, the sun was shining and the clouds were dissipating. Our bus driver was able to find a spot and park along the highway really close to our lunch spot—Tidal Raves. We arrived right at noon, our scheduled time, and they had two large tables set up for us. As usual, the food and service and view were all wonderful.
We then parked in the public parking lot right off the highway by the signal in Depoe Bay and walked back to go under the Depoe Bay Bridge. I wanted the group to see that this bridge is actually two bridges side by side. One built in 1927 as the first reinforced concrete bridge on the coast and one built in 1940 after the village of Depoe Bay had formed on both sides of it. It was interesting to see that the older bridge had more decoration, which was because McCullough designed it. By 1940, he was no longer the state Bridge Engineer; he had been promoted to Assistant State Highway Engineer and was no longer involved in designing bridges.
We then went a short distance to the turnoff at Otter Crest Loop and only went about a tenth of a mile to see Rocky Creek Bridge (aka Ben Jones Bridge). We turned into the wayside to see interpretive signs about McCullough, cathodic protection, and Ben Jones who authored the bill in 1919 to build Highway 101. The loop continues on to the village of Otter Rock, but it is one-way south and very narrow in places due to the road dropping off into the ocean. That’s why the highway was rerouted years ago higher up on the slopes of Cape Foulweather.
Just before Waldport, we stopped at the Historic Alsea Bay Bridge Wayside just north of the bridge to admire the pylons (those decorative pillars at the entrance to the bridge and also used as you drive onto the bridge leading to a part that you drive through). I am always amazed at the decorative detail on each pylon. From this wayside is a different view of the new Alsea Bay Bridge.
Then we drove on to Cape Perpetua and stopped at the parking area by the viewpoint at Cook’s Chasm. The Cook’s Chasm Bridge here is another of the replacement bridges built in the past 12 years or so that show a return to elegance. I call this one a small flying arch. It’s worth a stop to see, and if the tide’s in, you’ll also get to see a spouting horn right down below.
Our last stop was Cape Creek Bridge, the only aqueduct style bridge in Oregon and the only one designed by McCullough. I think it’s a fabulous bridge. Along with the adjacent tunnel, this was the most expensive segment of the Oregon Coast Highway when it was being built. It was referred to as the “million dollar mile” and was the last segment of the highway to be completed.
On the way back, we reviewed the glossary, and everyone received a self-guided tour to all 14 bridges between Depoe Bay and North Bend. We arrived back at 4:05 p.m.. It had been a terrific day from my point of view. And the folks on the trip seemed to enjoy it too. Although, they may not want to hear the word “bridge” again for awhile. . . .