Road Trips

Crossing from West Virginia into Ohio on the National Road

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

Wheeling, West Virginia, is well known for its suspension bridge that carried the National Road across the Ohio River. It delivers westbound travelers onto Wheeling Island, and from there they must cross the Ohio River’s backchannel to finally enter Ohio at the little town of Bridgeport. That, of course, involves another bridge. This map shows them both:

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

That bridge is a modern slab that utterly lacks romance. But check out the bridge that stands next to it.

Bridgeport Bridge

This is the Bridgeport Bridge, named after the town at its west end. It was built in 1893 of wrought iron with a wooden deck, atop piers that originally carried a bridge built here in 1837. A new deck of steel grate was laid in 1950. Subsequently, time (surely aided by lack of maintenance) was not kind to this bridge, and safety became a serious concern. In 1987, additional trusses were installed to temporarily shore up the crumbling substructure. In 1998, a new bridge was completed alongside, and this old girl was abandoned.

Bridgeport Bridge

My old buddy Jeff was along for this segment of the trip, and he noticed a sign hanging from one of the cross braces. “I want to know what’s on that sign,” he said, and quickly we found ourselves, um, trespassing. Stepping out onto the adjacent walkway (as the bridge’s deck had been removed) we soon had our answer.

Bridgeport Bridge

The walkway railing was in nice shape, despite the branches growing through.

Bridgeport Bridge

I wish the same could be said about the bridge’s substructure.

Bridgeport Bridge

This bridge is a basket case if I’ve ever seen one.

Bridgeport Bridge

Rumors have persisted for years that this bridge would soon be demolished. Shortly after I took this trip, a television station in nearby Steubenville reported that it would come down in July, 2012. They noted that the bridge’s railing and finials, as well as that Ohio State Line sign, will be given to local historical societies. I suppose that’s better than nothing. The bridge was demolished on Sept. 12, 2012. Here’s footage of the demolition from the company hired to do the deed.

Looking west from the bridge, a very short remnant of the old road remains. I gather from old maps that when this was still the road, when you reached Ohio State Route 7 ahead, to stay on US 40 you had to jog left and then right. When the new bridge was built, the jog was eliminated.

Bridgeport Bridge

This wasn’t my first visit to Bridgeport. On my last visit, back in 2009, I entered the intersection of US 40 and Ohio SR 7 not noticing that the light was red. The resulting wreck totaled my car, but fortunately nobody in my car was injured. Even though two years had passed, I found it a little emotionally difficult to return to Bridgeport. So I didn’t linger. I took this one shot of town, eastbound.

Bridgeport, OH

Next: The bridges at Blaine.

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Road Trips, Stories Told

And so ended our vacation

This was an ugly way to end our trip.

And so ended our vacation.

After crossing the Wheeling Suspension Bridge onto Wheeling Island, we crossed the little bridge into Ohio and then socko.

And so ended our vacation.

Time seemed to slow down during the accident. I could see that the green Saturn wagon was going to hit us. I even had time to think, “We’re about to have an accident.” As the Saturn hit us I didn’t feel the impact, but I did watch the intersection spin by as my car whipped around. As the fender curled up like the lid on a sardine can, I saw the undercarriage of the Saturn as its right side left the ground on its way by my front right quarter.

When all cars came to rest, time resumed its normal pace. I checked to see if my sons were hurt, and they didn’t appear to be. My younger son seemed not to know what had happened and was puzzled that I was checking on him until he tried to open his door, which was stuck shut. When I told him he’d have to get out on his brother’s side, his face darkened as reality set in. We got out and walked around the debris from the other car, including its entire front bumper, and sat down on the curb as an ambulance and a fire truck came screaming to the scene. I held my sons as they cried.

We were damned lucky – none of us was injured. This could have been a terrible accident if the car that hit us had been going faster or if other cars were in the way as we spun around. I have thanked God over and over that we walked away.

After the EMTs checked us out, we rode along with the tow truck to a tow yard, where we spent the whole day. When we finally got a rental car the sun was setting and all we wanted to do was go home. The Ohio portion of our trip would have to wait for another day. I have never been so happy to drive I-70.

This damage totaled my poor little car. I learned that if you have to have an accident five hours from home, you want to walk away from it, and you want it to total your car so you don’t have to deal with having it towed home or fixed in a distant town. My insurance company cut me a check and I went car shopping. I didn’t set out to buy another Matrix, but I needed another little wagon to haul the kids and the dog, and the price was right.

Replacement Matrix

For a couple days after we came home, the accident was our chief memory of the trip. I realized we needed to balance the view, so I downloaded our photos from my camera and looked through them with the boys. It helped us to remember the fun we’d had up to that point and start to move beyond the wreck. Writing these blog entries about all the great things we saw on the road has helped me work through it, too, and has restored my temporarily damaged love of the road trip.

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