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Bridge Out

Old 08-31-22, 11:55 AM
  #1  
IPassGas
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Bridge Out

On many of our longer tours over the years we have encountered a bridge out. The actual bridge can be many miles away from the first alert sign. Sure, we try to ask locals for info, but usually, no locals or they only know if a car can cross. My wife and I differ in our approach to this problem when there is significant distance to the “bridge out”. I say something akin to… come hell or high water, we’ll get across. My wife says…it is only X miles out of our way to go around, and if it is really out, it will be Y>>X miles. We often go for the bridge route, and it usually works out. And when it works it is great, you have a car free road.

One of the two “bridge out” this year was 5 miles in. If not walkable, would have added 20 miles to the day. We risked it and were lucky. A previous year, sort of lucky.... after 10 miles, strongly downwind, discovered there was no bridge, ouch! The “come hell or high water” part. We forded the river carrying gear and bike above heads. It was messy, but a good story.

After doing a mileage risk assessment, what do you tend to do?
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Old 08-31-22, 12:48 PM
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On one trip a friend and I had just climbed a steep 2500ft climb in the middle of nowhere and were well committed to a specific route. On the junction we needed to turn on, we found a dreaded road closed 5 miles ahead sign. Our alternate road would have added an extra 30 miles and estimated 1200ft of climbing. We had already arranged to meet another friend at a specific camp that evening. We had no cell service and there was very little chance we'd make that campground until very late and a lot of suffering if we took the alternative route.

We first rode the alternate route for a couple of miles trying to get a cell signal. With no luck, we decided to risk taking the closed route. Just before getting ready to make the turn, a man and his son happened by with a trailer of atvs heading to a offroad trail system on our alternate route. He stopped and we got a chance to explain our delimna.

He offered to drive down to check the closed road for us. We waited and when we came back, he described the situation. The road had been dug out and a new culvert was going to be put in. He even took the time to get out and make sure we could walk our bikes across. That guy took his precious time and saved the day with nothing in it for him. I'm sure he would've let us throw our bikes in his trailer to help us save some time if it was uncrossable. His generosity is greatly appreciated.
We made it to camp in plenty of time btw.

I've had other times I've committed to continuing past the dreaded "road closed" sign, but that one stands out to me both for someone going out of their way to help and because our time constraints.
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Old 08-31-22, 12:57 PM
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It depends.

I've done both and some of the time I went ahead it worked out and some time it didn't. If it is a considerable distance ahead e.g. 5 miles, I would be more inclined to follow the detour signs.

Somewhat related three times it sort of worked out were:

1. One time was on the Pacific Coast after a lot of rain when Route 1 was closed.
The road itself was definitely impassable, but fortunately I could walk along the edges of the giant sinkhole.


2, I thought I could take a "short cut" from the Adventure Cycling Southern Tier route. It looked like there a road on one side of the Atchafalaya and one on the other - so surely there was a bridge and this would save me 50 miles. People I met along the way couldn't quite answer my questions so I just went for it. Turned out there wasn't a bridge and there was a ferry but it only went between 5am-8am and 4pm-9pm.

Rather than wait, I saw a railroad bridge that had a walkway along part of it. So I started walking across the bridge. I passed a small guardhouse and when I wasn't much beyond it someone came out and yelled at me. Uh oh - busted. Turned out he was warning me a train was coming. So I backtracked and brought my bike into the guardhouse with him and waited for the train to pass. After that, he let me finish walking across the bridge.

2. A third time was in the Ural Mountains. There seemed to be a road that took a short cut from the main roads. People I asked were ambiguous if it was paved or went through. I went for it and discovered it wasn't paved. Then by time I had invested 50km of cycling, the road seemed to peter out and forked in multiple directions. Having sunk that time so far I was reluctant to backtrack so decided to double down and pick one of these small roads and try dead reckoning on the most promising alternative. For quite a while it seemed like I was lost - but after an overnight and then a next morning, eventually I was on other side and roads started to get larger again.
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Old 08-31-22, 01:29 PM
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Depends on the alternative. I actually compute the time differential vs potential time wasted if the closed road is impassable.

Happened to be this summer. Tried my luck and was able to get through.
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Old 08-31-22, 02:48 PM
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I guess I've been lucky; the only bridges out I've run across were within 15 miles of home on a day ride, so adjustments aren't a big deal. Though I did take a nasty fall trying to ride across the vehicle access road near one of those bridges (lesson available for learning: don't be stupid!).

The nearest we've had was a night we stayed at a hunting lodge just inside Missouri on the TransAm. Heavy rains overnight prompted flood warnings, so the proprietor caught us as we were ready to ride the next day and warned us about a low bridge just over the line in Kansas. Then he hopped in his pickup, ran down and checked it, and came back to let us know the bridge was still dry. One of the really nice people you can meet bike touring.

But those bridges over a creek, built up 6-10' above the approaches, with warning signs about flooding on the approach? Why not dump some fill dirt and build up the roads to the level of the bridge??
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Old 08-31-22, 08:12 PM
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Ahhh, Pittsburg. USA Appalachia is one of those areas where it seems like a total crap shoot every time. The locals will always give you directions by starting with "Well you can't get there from here!" and that is when the bridges exist. In some cases, the bridge exists but is in such poor condition it's been abandon with dirt piles at each end. Watch where you step. Bridges are almost always at the bottom of a hollar and the streams are mostly not wadable. Most of the time you can't get down the banks to them. Contractors mostly take out the bridge, not one lane at a time.
My definition of Appalachia is SE Ohio, SW PA, WV, Eastern KY and NE TN. An area where there is little grade work on roads, no shoulders, few guard rails, Big Coal trucks and no respect because it's assumed on those roads that if you are on a bike, you lost your driver's license to a DWI. I do love riding off pavement in those areas ON AN E BKIE. Everything is up and down, short and punchy.
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Old 08-31-22, 08:43 PM
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"You can't get there from here." I haven't heard that in awhile, and I'm from just North of Appalachia. Thank God, I'm not actually from there. 🙄😉

One of the worst places to see "Bridge Out" signs, is up around Seattle. You can't get ANYWHERE without crossing at least one bridge. 🥺

That said, you can develop a surprising amount of patience, waiting on drawbridges. At least you know you'll get across, eventually.

Back on topic, I found a bridge out in Tacoma before, that took me over half the day to bypass. It's kinda similar to Seattle, but I didn't know anything about Tacoma, at the time. 🎱

Hey, I found another bike smiley-thingy! 😁🚲
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Old 08-31-22, 10:08 PM
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We were heading south from Calgary, Alberta to Whitefish, Montana just after the floods in 2013. We talked to guy stationed near the closure sign, which was about 6-5 miles from the bridge. He did not know if we could get our bike across the bridge, so we decided to take a chance. I think he did not like cyclists


We lost. The campgrounds were closed, and unusable due to flood damage, and there were no rooms available anywhere close because people affected by the floods needed them. We finally found a Bed and Breakfast on the way to another bridge about 30 miles away. Wild camping in Canada's Prairies is a real challenge.

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Old 09-01-22, 04:34 AM
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Assuming the risk/reward ration says to consider trying to cross, I first do a quick online search for "(name of bridge/highway) out" to see if I can find a news article on the situation. This can tell me a lot, i.e. a span is missing over a river (probably not cross-able) , an old bridge is just being replaced (cross-able) , or a bridge is deemed "unsafe" (most probably cross-able). Next, I usually look at Google Streetview or even just the satellite to get an idea of how bad the "hell or high water" might be if the bridge is indeed missing and no way across. Then I look at how tall the grass is around the "bridge out" warning signs are. The higher the grass it usually means the longer has been "out" but also means more progress has been done thus more chance of a way across. Finally, I consider the day of the week and time. If a weekend, there is a good chance no workers will be present. If during "working hours", there may be workers present which might pose an additional layer of difficulty. For instance I have found that "biker friendly" states have the least friendly when it comes to construction workers allowing you to cross, perhaps because they have more bikes wanting to do it.

Over my 45+ years of touring, I would guess I have about a 75% able-to-cross success though sometimes I wished after a particularly messy crossing, I had just done the hour detour.
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Old 09-01-22, 05:22 AM
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great ride thru cambodia, two day section with bridges bombed out in the 60's at both ends.
dirt road partially ran between, with multiple smaller wooden bridges over creeks fallen down.
other parts just a dirtbike track thru the jungle.
i believe the chinese have recently built new bridges and paved the route.....





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Old 09-01-22, 06:59 AM
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I've been fairly lucky in that either it was fairly obvious that the detour was the way to go and I saw it before it was too late or I was able to cross in some way. I have waded across shallow water a few times and walked a narrow railroad trestle once.

We have hit a long stretch of broken up concrete that was nearly unrideable for too many miles of construction. If I remember correctly they shuttled bikes around, but weren't doin so for the weekend. There was one young kid left on the site. We asked if there was a way around. The directions went something like, "Go back 75 miles the way you came...". So we slogged over many miles of broken concrete of the closed road. I don't recall exactly how far it was, bur it seemed interminal.
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Old 09-01-22, 07:09 AM
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I try to ask if there is anyone around. If not, I will go for it if the missing bridge is not too far down the road. "Bridge Out 1 Mile Ahead. Local Traffic Only"

One time in PA the sign was several miles away. I went for it anyway, thinking "It's probably passable by bike." When I got to the bridge, the demo crew was literally removing the last remaining girder. Was told the detour was loooong and that if I wanted to wait they would let me cross the creek. So I waited about 30 min. Took off the cycling shoes and tossed to them to the opposite bank. Put on the flip flops. Lifted up the bike about waist high and walked across the creek at the shallowest point I could find, which was abut 2'. The crew watched the whole thing. I felt tlike they were waiting for me to wipe out, but I didn't.

Another time in PA I was faced with a long detour until I asked some locals working at a car dealership where the detour started. They told me of an easy workaround. It involved what turned out to be a benign dirt road. I guess PennDOT didn't want traffic going that way because of potential road damage. Also, it was not suitable for trucks. (The closed bridge was on U.S. 6.) There was a little traffic, so the locals were clearly using the dirt alternative.
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Old 09-01-22, 08:29 AM
  #13  
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Lots of great stories, and as often on tour, the kindness of people. I like the train bridge story. A number of times we could have saved many miles walking a train bridge, but often the bridge is difficult to get on, walking the ties is tough, and not being sure if active.

Some of the stories have been about road outs. Our a tour through the black canyon of the Gunnison and into Telluride, we decided to stay off the busy road into Telluride and take a dirt road. Bad idea, the road (Last Dollar) turned into a rocky jeep path, added 2000 feet to the day passing near Wipple mtn while the marmots laughed at us, and was little more than single track on the long way down. We did get to pass by Tom Cruise's place, we waved.
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Old 09-01-22, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by IPassGas View Post
Lots of great stories, and as often on tour, the kindness of people. I like the train bridge story. A number of times we could have saved many miles walking a train bridge, but often the bridge is difficult to get on, walking the ties is tough, and not being sure if active.
It was a bit of a novelty for me to use the train bridge on tour, but not too much because I was some what accustomed because some of the MTB trails I rode regularly back in the day relied on using them. for crossing rivers. Some were a bit sketchy in one way or another, but I never had any close calls with trains.
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Old 09-02-22, 08:44 AM
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Oh man, I forgot about it earlier, but here's a creepy story for yas, and I swear it's 100% true. Back in the early '90s, I was in Seattle, approaching the Aurora Avenue bridge (3 lanes each way, very busy) on foot (no bike). I saw a bus coming, and I was real close to a bus stop, so I waited for it. I noticed there was someone standing right behind the driver, but at the time it didn't seem to matter.

The bus never stopped, and I got a bit upset, but things got WAY worse. The guy standing by the driver turned out to be a nut job, and he shot the driver, and the bus went off the side of the bridge. 😲 Several people died, and it definitely shook me up. If the nut had let the driver stop for me, I could've easily died that day. 🥺

Needless to say, the Aurora bridge was shut down for quite awhile, for the police to investigate things, which is why this story kinda fits here, in this thread.

You just never know what might happen, it sure is a crazy world, sometimes. 😟

EDIT: Upon reading up again today, I see this was actually in November of '98, and with 3 fatalities, and several injuries. Funny how the mind tries to forget, or confuse, certain things. 🤔

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Old 09-07-22, 10:46 AM
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Southern Tier

Evidently there is a bridge out over the Pearl River on US 90 on the ACA southern tier route. They are working a detour. Currently it is about 100 miles to work around!
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Old 09-07-22, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by UncaBuddha View Post
Evidently there is a bridge out over the Pearl River on US 90 on the ACA southern tier route. They are working a detour. Currently it is about 100 miles to work around!
100 miles, or a cold beer for the guy in the pickup truck at the gas station on the interstate to take you across the interstate bridge. (Is that cheating?)
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Old 09-07-22, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
100 miles, or a cold beer for the guy in the pickup truck at the gas station on the interstate to take you across the interstate bridge. (Is that cheating?)
Last year we were turned away from crossing the Mackinaw bridge into the lower peninsula because of covid. So about 300 miles out of the way to go around. We were bummed. Some people kindly offered to give us a lift across, but could not figure out how to load our tandem and gear onto car. We ended up taking the ferry to the Island and then again to the lower.
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Old 09-07-22, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by IPassGas View Post
Last year we were turned away from crossing the Mackinaw bridge into the lower peninsula because of covid.
Would it have been allowed without Covid?

In 1992, I cycled across the US on a roughly northern route but staying inside the US. At that point, I knew I wasn't allowed to bicycle on the bridge, but made the same choice you did - took a ferry from the north side to Mackinac Island - stayed one night and took the ferry to the south side.

Later that year, I came for Labor Day weekend when there is an annual bridge walk. I stayed on the south side, took a shuttle bus to the north and then participated in the annual bridge walk. That was a presidential year when H.W. Bush was running for re-election and Bush decided to make it a campaign stop. So assembled on the north side was one screened in area where they helicoptered in - gave a brief speech and then proceeded to walk the bridge surrounded by multiple black limousines. After that, held at a safe distance were the rest of us that had come to walk the bridge.

The previous day I had traveled to Sault St Marie and found it exciting to see my first presidential motorcade as Bush drove down the street with a campaign swing. However, that following morning, the mood was more shifted. Most people I met were from Michigan and had come specifically to walk the bridge (some had vests with patches from many years). They hadn't really come for anything political and so seemed more annoyed with the delays and otherwise political scene made for the event - didn't really discuss as much of politics as how they just wanted to walk the bridge.
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Old 09-07-22, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
Would it have been allowed without Covid?
I should have clarified but you are probably aware. They only have the bridge walk one a year. Any other time you bike to the toll station, make a call and a state shuttle truck comes to give you a lift across the bridge. Except for that 1 day each year, only cars are allowed on the bridge. During covid the shuttle was not running, not sure if it is now. Kind of frustrating last year since no one was taking any sort of covid precautions in that area during June/July 2021 and the virus at that time was in remission. Another funny thing, they offered no help or ideas about how we might get to the other side. They just said sorry, can't help you.

We biked to Sault St Marie, we found the locks to be exciting. A presidential motorcade would have been annoying
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Old 09-07-22, 07:24 PM
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Got it, not sure if the shuttle started after my '92 trip but it wasn't an option I seriously considered so I had already scoped out the ferry as an option (this was before http was widely used so it took a bit more than a google search - which might also be even if there was a shuttle I wouldn't have known it). One bridge I did hitch across was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. It was surprisingly easy to get a ride there, most stood just after the tolls with my bicycle and a somewhat obvious (but friendly) look on my face and very quickly a pickup driver offered to take me across.

A different bridge I did take a shuttle across was the Confederation Bridge in Canada. It opened in 1997, the year I rode across Canada so I used a shuttle to take me across. While I was being driven, there was radio chatter about a cyclist that had tried sneaking onto and across the bridge. Apparently his story was he spoke only French and didn't see the signs. I was told he would likely be written up for an $85 ticket.

One bridge I did sneak across and got away with it was across the St Laurence River in Quebec City. I forgot the specific bridge/name but remember leaving very early ~5am and getting across with almost no traffic.
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Old 09-08-22, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by IPassGas View Post
Last year we were turned away from crossing the Mackinaw bridge into the lower peninsula because of covid. So about 300 miles out of the way to go around. We were bummed. Some people kindly offered to give us a lift across, but could not figure out how to load our tandem and gear onto car. We ended up taking the ferry to the Island and then again to the lower.
I was thinking paying a guy to take you across in a boat since the detour up to the interstate is pretty long too!
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Old 09-24-22, 07:11 PM
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Actually the ferries are a good way to go from the Lower Peninsula to the UP.

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