From East to West and Back Again
This morning dawned bright, clear and beautiful in Rock Island, Illinois. The air was surprisingly cool and dry with a slight breeze and barely a cloud in the sky. I thought today would be a great day to walk downtown and take a few pictures of the old Memorial Christian Church building for a blog post I have in mind to write-up and post sometime next week, so off I went on my mission.
The old MCC building is about 2.25 miles from here; my trip down the hill was relaxing and pleasant. I arrived at the scene and took some shots of the old place and looked up: The foot of the Centennial Bridge…
I couldn’t resist getting a shot or two around there, so off I went.
They have done their best to decorate certain approaches to the bridge on the Illinois side of the river.
…And there was a fair amount of auto traffic passing through our gateway to the west this morning; maybe they were heading across to the Davenport Farmer’s Market.
I was tempted to keep going… oh why not, here I go! I found my way to the pedestrian passage and began my walk across.
Before the bridge comes to the river, you have to cross the highway and the railroad tracks and go past the Modern Woodmen building.
And as you do this, you confront the reality of the situation; this isn’t just any river, this is the “Father of Waters.” This is a unique stretch of river. Everybody knows that the Mississippi flows north to south from upper Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but here, it flows west. The result is that in this unusual place, I am walking north, to go from the east side to the west.
There is a point where you can see one more little group of trees and looking past them, Iowa doesn’t seem very far, but perspective can be a funny thing.
After those last trees, the immensity of the Mighty Mississippi is striking. I’ve walked across the Brooklyn Bridge several times, and that is an experience I highly recommend. I’ve also walked across the Potomac, in fact I’ve recently posted several pictures from that walk on Photo Vistas, but the Mississippi isn’t like other rivers; it is pure raw power. Even I can see the surprisingly swift current pushing and pushing down river… As I continued, it was hard for me to imagine this immense force of water being frozen over, but I’ve seen it that way many times. God’s creation never ceases to amaze me.
Looking back at Rock Island you can see part of the river wall that protects the town from flooding; a feature that the city fathers of Davenport don’t seem to consider very important. Davenport floods from time to time as a result… If you notice upriver, the main channel of the river curves to the left, while a smaller channel goes to the right. In between is Arsenal Island, home of the Rock Island Arsenal, which is an installation of the United States Army and major employer in the region. Back in Civil War days, this island was fortified to protect the northern Mississippi from attack, as well as the site of a POW camp where thousands of Confederate prisoners were held captive. Today there is a National Military Cemetary on the site. That island was also the place where the first ever railroad bridge crossed the Mississippi making Rock Island one of the most important cities in the United States in the mid-19th century.
It’s kind of funny, I’ve lived here since December of 2004 and I’ve always intended to walk across the river, but until today I’ve never quite gotten around to it. Maybe the fact that my time is so short could have something to do with driving me out onto this bridge. I press on…
The buildings of Davenport, Iowa are getting much larger now. You can see what the locals often call the “bridge to nowhere” in the middle-right of the picture. It proves that city fathers sometimes do some expensive but funny things with the taxpayers’ money. There is a pretty good view in there, I must admit. As I continue to stroll and take pictures, a couple of joggers go by, and several bike riders, too. I’m not sure I’d want to ride a bike on this bridge. Between the water and the roadway there’s only 3 or 4 feet at most, and where the girders come down to the bridge deck it’s less than that; no margin for error on a bike because the guard rail isn’t very high at all… It’s awesome for walking, though.
This picture will give you an idea of how narrow it is as we approach the end. I was a little surprised at how much the bridge vibrates as the cars fly by on my left. Funny thing is there is a posted speed limit of 30 MPH. Hey city officials, here’s a little tip for you! Since you folks are always crying that you don’t have enough money, and you could never possibly find a penny to cut from your spending, instead of always raising taxes, why don’t you just enforce the speed limit on the bridge? Of the hundreds of cars that went by me today, I am quite sure that the very slowest one was going over 45, and some (maybe most) had to be going 60 or more!
At the foot of the bridge on the Iowa side is John O’Donnell Stadium… oh I forgot, they call it Modern Woodmen Park now. It is the home of the Quad City Riverbandits of the Midwest League, and I must say it is a wonderful place to take the family to see a baseball game on a warm summer evening…
The Iowa views aren’t quite as photogenic at the foot of the bridge, and I didn’t tarry log before I made my way back across to Illinois.
If you ever have occasion to visit this area, I would recommend the journey from east to west and back again, particularly if you have a day like today, but then who comes here on purpose?
Well, you can enjoy the walk virtually anyway!
Note: This post originally ran on August 10, 2013.