Thursday, May 15, 2008

I am Not Going to Chance It

Ed and I habitually stop at state Welcome Centers. The staffs typically offer free state maps and brochures featuring regional attractions. At the Illinois State Welcome Center just cross the Missouri line on Interstate 70, the helpful lady on duty suggested I visit the Cumberland County Covered Bridge along our route.

“Oh, no thanks. We travel in a Prevost motorcoach/ bus conversion RV. We need to avoid covered bridges in such a big rig.” Later that day, I would hear that conversation replay in my mind.

Ed pulled off Interstate 70 in Greenup, Illinois. He bought a newspaper at the town grocery store. And, he got directions to an out-of-the-way place for us to boondock for the night. At the intersection where he should have turned left, Ed went straight. I remarked on the brown roadside attraction sign that pointed right to the Abe Lincoln Log Cabin Historic Site. It was above the other brown sign pointing straight ahead reading “Covered Bridge.”

That’s when I probed, “You did get directions, right?”

“Yeah, I was supposed to turn there,” Ed cheerfully replied and pointed behind him. He was referring to the left turn at the intersection we’d just passed. “I like this road better.”

Barely a moment later, he stopped the coach on the two-lane country road. “I’m not going to chance it,” he said calling over his shoulder as he dashed down the steps and out the door onto the road. I could clearly see the covered bridge on the road ahead.

Our Prevost is 40-feet long, 8-feet wide. The dolly and Toyota Corolla behind the coach make us 72-feet long. Our vehicle weight is approximately 23 tons. The height peaks just under 14-feet. We do not cross covered bridges.

The few motorists along this two-lane road passed around our parked rig with the emergency strobe and flashers blinking in warning. One driver stopped to give Ed the same directions he previously ignored. The lady on the riding mover behind the fence of the fairgrounds stopped mowing.

It was Paula, the lady on the mower who saved the day. He husband Dave had a key to the locked fairgrounds gate. With the gate open, Ed could drive on the fairgrounds’ roads and get us out of our perceived mess.

Paula came on board to visit with me while Ed cautiously walked the fairgrounds with Dave to be sure we wouldn’t get trapped again. Not only would we be routed away from the questionable bridge, but we’d found a place to boondock. Dave helped us park near the horse stables where we could access electricity and water.

That evening when they finished mowing, Dave and Paula joined us for “Happy Hour” enjoying some of our Mexican tequila and gin. The next day they showed us the Flood Line markings on the Grand Stands. In 1957, the Embarras River crested at 5-feet, 1-inch. In 1973, the floor waters came up 1-foot, 6-inches. The most recent floor in 2002 raised the river waters 3-feet, 7-inches. The morning before we move along on our trip, Paula stopped by for coffee and some “girlfriend” conversation.

Ed and I eventually visited the Cumberland County Covered Bridge. We took our bicycles. That’s when we learned that the bridge had been renovated. It is now the country’s longest clear-spanned covered bridge in the US without a weight limit. We could have “chanced it”, but nobody told us.

The Cumberland County Covered Bridge is located on West Cumberland Road in Greenup, Illinois. This self-supported covered bridge stretches over the Embarras River. The original bridge was 200 feet long. The reconstructed bridge was dedicated in September 2000.The Bridge is part of the Historic National Road transportation corridor.

May 5 – May 8, 2008

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