Across The Bridge And Back

When you’re comparing physical challenges, walking across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, in both directions, ain’t exactly on a par with scaling Mount Everest. Or bungee jumping off the rim of the Grand Canyon. Or even playing a round of golf, for crying out loud, assuming you’re walking (instead of riding) the course and hauling around your bag of clubs on your very own shoulders. But in my little world, tackling the BFB is challenging enough. Well, maybe it’s not all that challenging. But it’s certainly different. And I knocked it off my do-it-already list last week. That list now has only 897 items on it. If I am reincarnated enough times I’ll get to most of them. Unless, that is, I come back over and over again as a sloth. Which, if it happens, wouldn’t surprise me.

Walking the bridge was an idea that appealed to me the moment I heard about it, which was a few months ago on a late-night local television show. “Yeah,” I thought to myself, “that’s right up my alley. I’ll get some fresh air. I’ll see some sights from a new perspective. And it’s something, I suppose, that not all that many people do. I’m ready to go!” But I ended up waiting till winter said goodbye and pleasing temperatures arrived. When the 3rd of May rolled around, with its expected high of 65°F, I hopped aboard a train that took me from my suburban town into downtown Philadelphia. I arrived in the city in the early afternoon.

The Ben Franklin Bridge, a massive and profoundly complex structure, as suspension bridges by nature are, opened for business in 1926. It spans the Delaware River,  in effect eliminating that watery divide between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The bridge’s bases are in Philadelphia and Camden, cities occupying territory in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively. To reach the bridge’s pedestrian walkway (the bridge has walkways along its northern and southern lengths, but only the southern one currently is open), I passed Christ Church Burial Ground, at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets, where none other than Mr. Franklin himself is laid to rest. And then, 100 feet later, I strolled past the hulking United States Mint. Philadelphia is full of unexpected, wacky juxtapositions like that, which is one reason I like the city so much.

Half a block north of the mint I began my bridge adventure, for it is there that elevated lanes, for humans with motorized vehicles and for those without, start their ascent. Those lanes are segregated, though the walk sure would be highly intriguing, not to mention truly challenging, if they weren’t. I might run that notion past Philadelphia’s and Camden’s mayors. I’d never noticed the walkway before, despite having been in its vicinity half a million times over the years. It is there plain as day.

First thing I realized was that I should have worn more than a light shirt beneath my light jacket, because the winds were blowing pretty damn good, chilling my semi-ancient bones to a degree I wasn’t thrilled with. The second thing I realized was that within a matter of seconds I was 15 or more feet above ground. I looked to my right and watched a construction crew clearing the ground for what will eventually hold a fancy condo or rental complex. Who’d want to live beside a bridge’s entrance ramps is beyond me, but lots of things are beyond me.

At this point I had the equivalent of eight or so blocks-worth of walkway to navigate before reaching the Delaware River’s western shoreline. The views were wonderful. I looked down upon 3rd Street, 2nd Street, Front Street and others, all of which I’m very familiar with and which were part of Philadelphia’s heart in its colonial days. Those are beautiful and quaint arteries, as many colonial era buildings remain there. But from high up I wasn’t paying attention to any specific structures. What grabbed me were the wild patterns, the crazy quilt formed by building sides and rooftops and signage in this non-high-rise section of the city.

By the time I reached the water’s edge I was 140 or thereabouts feet above both ground and water. The Delaware is about half a mile wide here. I watched a ship heading south on the river and, if I had been wearing one, would have held onto my hat as the winds did their thing. And I looked out at Camden, a depressed city that is trying to bounce back. It’ll be years, maybe never, before Camden is invited to any C-list, let alone A-list, parties.

On I trod, crossing the river and entering the area above Camden’s lands. Despite the winds I was enjoying the trek. Patches of blue played peekaboo with the clouds and it felt good to give my legs a very good stretch.

I stopped to admire the sights many times during the journey, to smell the roses as those wiser than me say, but between those moments of quasi-bliss I maintained a pretty brisk walking pace. Cars and trucks by the shitloads whizzed by in their delegated lanes 20 feet below the pedestrian walkway, but not a lot of humans shared space with me on the avenue I’d chosen. During the hour and a half that I spent on the bridge I encountered no more than 30 people. Like me, most of them were lone wolves out for a stroll or perhaps on their way to work or to home. A few cyclists passed me, as did half a dozen joggers. And I saw two couples enjoying the day with their leashed dogs. For the most part, though, I had the bridge to myself. It was a fine place in which to space out a bit, to tune into good frequencies, to haul out that sense of adventure that I don’t want lying dormant for extended periods of time.

That’s Philadelphia

On the eastward leg of the journey I stopped just a bit short of the stairway that brings one down to Camden’s soils and asphalt. There I turned around and started back to where I had entered the walkway in Philadelphia, a mile and a half away. Much to my amazement, a bicyclist surprised me on the middle of the bridge. He was a scraggly-haired, middle-aged guy. He slowed down beside me. “Can you help me out?” he asked. “I need some money to get the train to Doylestown.” Doylestown? Was he really planning to board a train, with his bike, going to Doylestown, which is 30 miles from where we were? It hardly mattered. I figured it wasn’t a great idea to piss off someone on the middle of a bridge, what with nobody else within eyesight or earshot. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my coins. “Here’s all the change I have,” I said. “It’ll help you a little.” He thanked me and went on his way.

Can’t say I’ve been hit up before by a panhandler on a bridge. Then again, I haven’t walked upon many bridges in my life. Maybe panhandlers are common sights on spans with heavy pedestrian traffic, such as the Brooklyn Bridge. Anyway, before too long I reached the BFB’s western terminus. I’d had a fine time. On to the train station I headed to catch a ride back home.

 

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46 thoughts on “Across The Bridge And Back

  1. Alyson May 10, 2017 / 5:01 am

    Glad you enjoyed your little adventure and especially interesting for me as I’m in the midst of my “virtual” American adventure. Like the sound of the long “do-it-already” list – will be expecting many more posts like this one over the weeks as you tick things off!

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger May 10, 2017 / 9:21 am

      I’ve said it before: If it weren’t for Philadelphia, I’d have far, far less to write about for this blog.
      It’s a good city to poke around in.

      Thanks for stopping by, Alyson. I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. C. C. Cedras May 10, 2017 / 8:31 am

    Good times! With all the history Philadelphia has, I’d get distracted by those sights, I’m sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger May 10, 2017 / 9:22 am

      I bet you’d have a fine time in Philadelphia, C.C.
      Lots of things to do and see.

      Like

  3. Still the Lucky Few May 10, 2017 / 8:41 am

    A epic journey! Sure glad you had a few coins on you to pacify the panhandler. I’m sure you didn’t see that coming! Thank you for the pics of the urban scenes!

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger May 10, 2017 / 9:24 am

      Hi, Diane. You’re right about the coins. Sometimes I have none on me. This time, fortunately, I did.
      See ya’ —-

      Like

  4. The Artist's Child May 10, 2017 / 10:20 am

    Great photos and views of the river and the city. I had no idea the Delaware river was so wide. With the raised walkway it looks like you get a better view than in a car. Terrific place for a walk.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. jerseydreaming May 10, 2017 / 12:13 pm

    Excellent! I’ll be adding this to my own list. I lived for a time in the English village where Franklin’s parents originally came from (Ecton, North Hamptonshire). I’ll be sure to stop by his tomb and pay my respects when I visit the bridge.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger May 10, 2017 / 2:18 pm

      Hi, Anthony. Your comments sent me to Google, where I see that Ben was born in Boston. I had completely forgotten that. He came to Philadelphia, without his parents, when he was 17.

      You’ll enjoy the BF bridge. It’s sort of an off-the-beaten-path type of thing to do.

      See ya’ —

      Liked by 1 person

      • jerseydreaming May 10, 2017 / 2:27 pm

        Before emigrating to the colonies, his father was the village blacksmith in Ecton. My school friend actually lived in the Franklin house and there are several Franklin family members buried in the churchyard.
        Many Americans have made the pilgrimage to Ecton over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. greenpete58 May 10, 2017 / 12:20 pm

    Philadelphia has its own personality. My daughter lived there for several years in several apartments, including one on Lombard St. by the river. She misses the city, and her friends, and hopes to move back someday.

    I look forward to your thoughts after you swim across the river. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 10, 2017 / 2:08 pm

      Hi, Pete.
      Yeah, Philadelphia has plenty going for it.
      As for your suggestion about swimming across the river . . . well, maybe in another lifetime.

      Like

  7. Martin May 10, 2017 / 2:46 pm

    Sounds great. I like the idea of a good urban walk, kivng as I do in the middle of the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 10, 2017 / 3:42 pm

      Hello, Martin. Thanks for stopping by.

      I’m lucky to live near a big and interesting city. There are endless amounts of places in Philadelphia worth exploring.

      Like

  8. K E Garland May 10, 2017 / 6:19 pm

    Did I already mention I have a cousin in Pensauken? I think it’s right across that bridge. And see…you should’ve had a “goodie bag” with you 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 10, 2017 / 7:19 pm

      Hi, Kathy.
      Right, Pennsauken is pretty close to Camden.
      And a goodie bag is a great idea — i.e. the bridge’s walkway is a good place to have a picnic on a nice sunny day. Next time I’ll do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. sniderjerry May 10, 2017 / 8:35 pm

    And speaking of Abbott and Costello, “I had a girl friend once who had so much bridge work – every time I kissed her I had to pay a toll.” Thanks for sharing your great adventure. Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 10, 2017 / 9:11 pm

      Hey, I needed a late night laugh, and you gave it to me.
      Jerry, I thank you.

      See ya’ —

      Like

  10. Joyce May 11, 2017 / 7:52 am

    Interesting day, great photos !

    Liked by 1 person

  11. vprofy May 11, 2017 / 12:50 pm

    Did the Ben Franklin a few years back. Are you aware of the rooms in the large stone pilings. Saw a documentary on them. Constructed for a subway stop, shops I think. Never developed.

    Always wanted to do the Brooklyn Bridge. Trenton’s Roebling masterpiece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 11, 2017 / 2:24 pm

      Hi.
      Didn’t know about the rooms.

      If you haven’t been, you might like the Race Street pier, which sits almost under the bridge. The pier has been turned into a park. At night it’s great to look at the bridge from there, because the bridge is illuminated with lights.

      Like

  12. Aunt Beulah May 12, 2017 / 9:54 am

    I had a fine time walking with you, Neil, and if I’m ever in the area, and the weather is conducive, I’ll walk the bridge myself. I should also tell you I found your first paragraph laugh aloud funny.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger May 12, 2017 / 1:50 pm

      Hello, Janet. You’d enjoy Philly It’s worth a visit
      Thanks a lot for the compliment. I appreciate it.
      Enjoy the weekend. I’ll be seeing you.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. cincinnatibabyhead May 13, 2017 / 12:21 am

    I just walked the BF from QB Canada thanks to you. CB doesn’t know much but one thing he does know. Bridges are breezy.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Alice May 13, 2017 / 7:04 am

    “full of unexpected, wacky juxtapositions” 🙂 yup.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 13, 2017 / 7:37 am

      Hi Alice. Philadelphia is a great place to wander around in. You never know what you’ll come across.

      Enjoy the weekend —

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alice May 13, 2017 / 7:46 am

        You as well! Though it looks to be shaping up to one of those weekends best spent indoors…

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Susanne May 14, 2017 / 4:05 pm

    I had never before thought of crossing big bridges as a challenge but I see now that they are – high winds, panhandlers, heights (yikes!). And now I have a hankering to visit Philadelphia, a place I’ve never ever thought of before except cream cheese one can buy at the grocery store.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 14, 2017 / 5:04 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Susanne.
      Philadelphia has a lot going for it, beyond the historic sights/sites. It’s very good culturally. Lots of good restaurants. Beautiful parks.
      It’s worth a visit.
      Take care —

      Liked by 1 person

      • Susanne May 14, 2017 / 5:13 pm

        I will add Philly to my growing list of fine American cities to visit. Food is always a great motivator. I’m like a Labrador Retriever in many ways.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. pjlazos May 15, 2017 / 8:09 am

    I have done this very walk in the Spring and also not wearing a heavy enough jacket! 😆Loved it! I also didn’t get off in Camden!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 15, 2017 / 1:05 pm

      Afternoon, P.J.
      I plan to do the bridge walk again sometime later this year.
      It’s a gas!
      See ya’ —

      Liked by 1 person

  17. andrewcferguson May 18, 2017 / 2:13 am

    Good stuff Neil. I walked our local suspension bridge, the Forth Road Bridge, recently, coincidentally. It was fun, but not nearly as terrifying as when, having done some work for the Bridge Authority, I went up one of the towers. Which in itself wasn’t nearly as terrifying as going under the bridge on the inspection gangways…

    Anyway, good job. And you never know where those panhandler ninjas will strike…

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 18, 2017 / 7:09 am

      Morning, Andrew. Actually, it’s afternoon in your part of the globe.

      Right, bridges need constant inspection and upkeep. Those are daunting jobs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 20, 2017 / 1:18 pm

      Hi, Jo.
      Thanks for visiting.
      Right, hikes (long or short) are energizing. Good ways to spend one’s time.
      Take care —

      Liked by 1 person

  18. aprilswopegreene May 23, 2017 / 8:55 am

    I can concur that this is a fine walk! Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

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