In more gephyrophobes’-worst-nightmare-related news, the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado sustained damage from a wildfire, aptly if not creatively named the Royal Gorge Fire, that’s so far burned over 3,200 acres. Yeah, I know this is a bike not a bridge blog but I wrote this while recovering from vertigo that, as it turned out, was the harbinger of some kind of nasty virus. It was better than watching TV all day and besides I just couldn’t resist an opportunity to use the word gephyrophobe again. Who knows when the next bridge will crumble, burn, or otherwise be newsworthy?
But back to the Gorge… The historic suspension bridge—one of the world’s highest—reportedly remains intact, however. Although the bridge is mostly made of steel it does have some wood planking. I don’t know a thing about engineering but wood planking? Fire Information Officer Mike Smith told The Denver Post, “Even if it didn’t char the planking, the heat from adjacent burning buildings may have affected the cables.”
My first thought after I started breathing slowly and wiped my sweaty palms before continuing to type, was how are they going to evaluate a damaged suspension bridge that dangles to my untrained eye rather precariously over a 1,000-foot gash in the earth? Are they going to send someone out onto the middle of the bridge and if it falls, say “Yup, needs some work”? Again, I have zero engineering credentials, but to me, the only way to do a thorough evaluation is to send about 1,000 WWII-era tanks over the bridge with the evaluators, their families, and their closest friends all going along for the ride. Even then, you’d have to dose me with about five Ativan to go across that bridge, fire damage or no, and it would still be iffy whether I made it to the other side with my sanity intact. Because to me no matter how well constructed, no matter how much steel is used, every suspension bridge is basically no safer than this:
Case in point, Galloping Gertie.
Speaking of galloping, there is some good news coming out of Royal Gorge Fire; the local wildlife are fairing well. According to authorities, the park’s elk, buffalo, bighorn sheep, and horses are being are being closely monitored and receiving fresh water and feed. But I’m betting that no amount of elk chow will get them to cross that bridge either.