The Magnificent Bay Bridge
A commuter’s love song
I love the Bay Bridge. Even when I’m in a line of slow-moving homebound traffic, even when I’m behind a carload of Bay-gazing tourists or even when facing winds, rains or snows that challenge the journey, I still love it.
Crossing the Gov. William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge — its formal name — each weekday may be off-putting to some, daunting to others. It wasn’t something I imagined myself doing just a few short years ago. I have lived and worked on the Shore for many years, but a new job opportunity in Annapolis got me behind the wheel, making the commute with thousands of Shore motorists each morning and evening.
Views of the Bay from either east or west span differ every day. Some days the water is still and blue, mirroring the skies overhead. Others are gray and dull or sometimes violent with rolling white caps. There have been a few special moments. One day, the weather conditions inverted the clouds. They were sitting right on top of the water but below the bridges. It felt like cars were flying atop the clouds from Kent Island to Sandy Point. Surreal.
Another time in the early morning, the big open sky was a swirl of pastel pinks and blues mixed with orange … kind of like a bowl of sherbet. Then there was the day when a line of boiling clouds like an exploding jellyroll extended east to west as far as the eye could see. Talk about dramatic and feeling like the end of the world! Waterspouts have been spotted near the spans from time to time, but I’m grateful not to have had that experience, yet.
In winter, the water and skyline are often gray and merged until the difference between water and land is broken by shoreline or a stray boat. A few weeks ago, during a Nor’easter, the water’s chop was deeply pitched with waves lashing the shores of Kent Island, a reminder of weather’s power and reason for respect.
I’ve ridden over in driving rain, in fog, in snow with the salt trucks leading the way with their own police escort and, of course, in high winds. Sometimes it can be a white-knuckle hold of the wheel while blasts of air slam cars and trucks hard enough that metal-on-metal contact seems likely. But generally, the commute is routine and an opportunity to enjoy the scenery, and certainly not something to worry about most days.
When it’s warm, the seagulls hang out. Sometimes a flock will swirl and soar together in a bubble of flight, usually at the tallest heights of either span. It’s not unusual for a gull to fly parallel to a car or truck for a considerable distance. I’m not sure why they do this. Sadly, some miscalculate their distance to the vehicles and end up on the roadway. The one thing that always makes me smile is when the seagulls line up on one of the lower arches, all facing the same direction. Mostly, they face Kent County, like they’re pondering a day trip.
It’s fun to glance at the big shipping tankers sitting out in the channel waiting for their turn to head up to Baltimore’s harbor. Sometimes, a tugboat or two is needed to assist. It’s always exciting to see a big vessel pass below the spans. It makes me wonder if the people on board are thinking of the people driving across.
Soon, the Bay will be filled once again with workboats and watermen checking their crab pots joined by sailboats, yachts and motorboats for a day on the water.
I’m not an Eastern Shore native, but I’ve lived on the Shore for nearly 30 years. I come from the hills of western Pennsylvania and still remember quite vividly my family’s trips to Ocean City. It was always so exciting to see and to cross the magnificent Bay Bridge.
After all these years and now many crossings, I have never lost that sense of awe and wonder at the engineering marvel the bridges represent. Coming from a family of engineers, I have a certain respect for the ingenuity, vision and hard work it took to build both bridges, Maryland gems.
Barbara Sauers, a former editor of the Easton Star-Democrat, lives in Easton.