Rock Island Swing Bridge

Rock Island Swing BridgeYesterday I went for a 20-mile bike ride. I think that’s a little too much distraction. My goal was to make it down to the new Rock Island Swing Bridge in Inver Grove Heights that’s been converted to a pier. The ride down was great. The ride back? Not so much.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the trail I cataloged for a National Park Service trail guide back in 2000 has been extended almost all the way to the Rock Island Swing Bridge. There are plans for more amenities at the bridge, including a 55-acre park that should make it even more of an attraction.

So what is it? It’s a 670-foot pier that extends halfway out into the Mississippi River. Originally built in 1894, the double-decker bridge carried trains and vehicles across the river. Trains went on top and vehicles on the bottom. Supposedly John Dillinger used the bridge as an escape route when evading the FBI. It was closed to trains in 1980 and traffic in 1999.

Rock Island Swing BridgeIn 2001 the Coast Guard ordered its removal as a potential disruption to river traffic. A section of the eastern half of the bridge collapsed in 2008 and demolition was imminent. In 2009, a month before the scheduled removal of the western half of the bridge, the governor and legislature offered a reprieve, likely thanks to a bridge tour the National Park Service hosted in 2008 to gauge public interest. Nearly 700 people showed up and waited in long lines all day to get a chance to walk on the old bridge.

The bridge (at least the western half) was finally saved thanks to a federal grant, state aid disaster funds, county and city funds, the Minnesota Historical Society and a local fund drive, totaling $2.3 million. Construction was delayed by flooding and then a fire, but last week the pier opened to the public.

Rock Island Swing BridgeSo is it worth it? That’s the question another Rock Island Swing Bridge visitor posed when I was there. I looked around for my answer. This is it. Where else can you find these views of the Mississippi River? I’m not aware of any other pier like it in the Twin Cities area, and maybe not on the rest of the Mississippi. It gives Inver Grove Heights public access to the river (most river front property is either private clubs or industrial land) and a major destination.


366 Days

I looked at the dates last time and it was kind of a punch in the gut. 11 months from hello to goodbye. I looked at the dates again today and it was just as bad.

On June 9, 2010 we first heard about our new daughter. She was 10. She had a complicated story and we were going to be her new family to help carry her through.

On June 10, 2011 she flew out of the state and officially out of our lives. We haven’t talked to her in nearly a month (that’s her choice, but I don’t blame her), but today was the day she actually moved on and legally is no longer our responsibility. I just called the insurance guy to have her removed from our policy. You don’t get more official than that.

While she’s legally no longer our responsibility, I’ll always feel a moral obligation (though there’s little I can do to fulfill that). While she’s officially out of our lives, she’ll always be in our hearts. While she’s physically out of our house, we’ll continue to come across things that were hers. None of that is easy.

The journey our lives have taken in the past year is kind of insane. I don’t recommend it. Though I’m not sure how I could recommend avoiding it. The past few months have been a struggle to move on. There’s been a constant search for distraction. In some ways I want to stop thinking about it completely. In other ways I can’t stop.

I bought a Wii a couple weeks ago (this time I managed to keep it for more than 24 hours) simply for the distraction and stress relief. I don’t really care that it’s being replaced or that it’s not the coolest gaming system. I just wanted to shoot people. That doesn’t sound very healthy now that I’m writing it out, but it made sense in my head.

I’ve started exercising more, riding my bike in the neighborhood and in the basement. It’s stress relief and distraction. Abby actually started exercising as well, so it’s not just me feeling the need.

I started re-reading Graham Green’s The Power and the Glory. If you’ve never read it, it’s a somewhat depressing tale of a Catholic priest fleeing persecution in Mexico, but far from a martyr he’s known as the whiskey priest. It’s a tale of doubt and despair and questioning faith (yet still holding on in the end). I first read it during my freshman year of college along with Shusako Endo’s Silence, another story of martyrdom among doubt and despair.

That makes it sound as though I’m swimming in doubt and despair myself. I’m not, not really, but it’s not far off. Part of me wants to read Silence again as well, but part of me wants to steer clear. We’ve also watched our way through the entire series of How I Met Your Mother (again) as well as working our way through Big Bang Theory. As much as reading about despair resonates, watching something funny is also desperately, desperately needed.

It’s a weird place to be. I pray desperately (there’s that word again) for where she is and where she’s going, because that’s the only thing I can do. I try not to look back because there’s nothing in that. I try to surround myself with friends because I can and because no one should be alone. I try to get the words out because otherwise they just rattle around in my head.

It was only 366 days from getting a phone call to receiving an e-mail.

Camping Again

Memorial Day CampingMemorial Day Camping

Over Memorial Day weekend we went camping. The last time Abby and I went camping was nine years ago. Kids and dogs will do that to you.

A group from our church goes camping together every Memorial Day weekend, so it was a great way to get back into it and introduce the kids to the experience of camping (and introduce us to the experience of camping with kids). Not only did we have friends to distract the children but we were only an hour away from home if anything (weather, bugs, children…) made the trip unbearable enough to pack it in.

We planned on staying Saturday through Monday but left on Sunday night, more to preserve sanity than from actually losing it. Milo didn’t go to sleep until 11 on Saturday night and was up by 5, so he was running on fumes. We opted to end on a high note.

The weekend was a blast. We didn’t do much of anything, but we had fun doing it. With everything that’s been going on we needed a vacation. Which is a bit sad, because we can’t do something like that without thinking about what could have been.

We were also able to introduce Lexi and Milo to smores. Milo loved them. Lexi just wanted to eat uncooked marshmallows. Throwing stuff into the river was a prime attraction. Milo enjoyed trying to jump over tent stakes. Lexi loved playing with the big boys (there were half a dozen teenage guys on the trip; the closest in age to Lexi was 10). Lexi was mad on the way home because she wanted to go camping for four days, not two. Back at home on Sunday night when we put Milo to bed he asked if he could sleep in a tent again.

Lexi also declared that rule #3 of camping is you get up really early so you can sing and dance in the sun: ‘La la la!’

I guess we’ll have to go camping again to hear the first two rules.