“It’s too bad your father and I don’t know that route well enough yet to tell you how to go,” Mom said.
“I’m not driving that route at night,” I said. “It’s one thing during the day when I can see the signs, and the animals, but not at night. And no way I’m driving that bridge at night.”
“I’ll have to take it again so I can see what I missed,” Mom said. “You’re not the first person to say something about that bridge.”
“Take it as a passenger,” I replied. “When you’re the driver, all you see is the road. When you’re the passenger, you see there is no road.”
This is the Cairo Ohio River Bridge we’re talking about here. Fascinating fact – it’s the world’s longest metal bridge. It’s also only two narrow lanes, with nearly nonexistent shoulders, having been a railway bridge in its former life.
When I drive home to visit my family, I take the familiar interstate route: 75N to 24W to 57N to 64W. My parents have taken to an alternate route, a scenic route. There are interstates, but in the middle it zig-zags for 70 miles (112.6 kilometers) on two-lane state highways along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers between Paducah, Kentucky and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
My mom and I took this route with the kids when we returned to Atlanta from a visit to St. Louis this summer. The drive is beautiful. It snakes along the rivers, through small towns and farmlands.
There are miles where corn stalks stand as sentinels, flanking both sides of the state highway, broken only occasionally by a driveway to a farm house. The corn fields come so close to the road it seemed, at times, I could reach out the window and snag an ear for snacking. There are miles when the only other visible vehicles are the barges floating down the river. The green of the fields, the brown of the river, and the blue of the sky are what dreams are made of. There is peace. There is freedom. There is solitude.
It is heaven for drive lovers. People wave. Shops offer a friendly respite from sitting. Diners serve local fare from local farms. But it requires the crossing of the Cairo Ohio River Bridge. Take a look at the perilous trek (the bridge comes into view about 50 seconds in):
For as much as I love road trips, I do not love this bridge. I’ve been across it once, during the day, and once is enough. No way you are getting me across that bridge at night, and a visit to my family for a weekend requires I drive at night.
Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue