was about 8:30 when we decided to head out. Our original destination was
to Charlottesville via the scenic route. But we were pretty free and easy
on the agenda and had adopted the habit of never ending up where we intended
anyway. Just face the wind and roll with the day.
We headed toward New Market on Rt. 211and stopped at one of those bygone
souvenir stores that were old and musty since long before anyone I know
was even born. I think they built them that way. The proprietor barely
glanced up from his paper - obviously we weren't serious potential buyers.
After checking out all the merchandise we headed out. I always wondered
where those places got their inventory. I am sure there is a cedar box
and high-gloss Elvis clock factory somewhere.
we arrived in New Market, it was time to gas up. The clerk inside said
that it was a perfect day to play hooky as he eyed us enviously. Then
he added with a slightly spiteful tone that he hoped it would snow.
We had heard that there was a covered bridge in the area still in use
but we weren't quite sure where to find it. Our first attempt to locate
the bridge was a bit off. We ended up on a road that turned literally
into a pasture. So we settled on the time proven method of stopping for
directions at a gas station. Based on the information we were provided,
we headed north on Rt 11 to Rt 720. We were also informed that the bridge
can also be easily reached form I-81 in case you are interested in a less
faithfully following the directions, the object of our destination finally
came within view - Meems Bottom Bridge, a perfectly restored old covered
bridge that is still being used as a public road. Several cars passed
by as my partner and I walked through the bridge to verify this fact.
The occupants were obviously used to the bridge as part of their daily
routine and barely looked past their steering wheels as they drove by.
These vehicles seemed oddly out of place as we could almost hear the echoes
of trotting horses and carriages that must have passed through many times
over the years on their way to the farms on the other side of the river.
The bridge was dry and cool and smelled of hay and layers of dust inside
that had never seen the direct sunlight or felt effects of weather. We
walked along trying to peer between the cracks onto the water of the North
Fork of the Shenandoah River gently flowing below. It was like being frozen
in time as we looked through the tunnel out into a row of trees ceremoniously
arching over the road.
beams of the bridge appeared sturdy and solid. The bridge has over a 200-foot
single span Burr arch truss, which makes it the longest covered bridge
still standing in Virginia. The bridge was built in 1894. After standing
for more than 80 years, it was tragically destroyed by vandals on Halloween
in 1976. Fortunately, however, the bridge was repaired, improved and reopened
in 1979. Today, Meems Bottom Bridge is the last remaining covered bridge
in Virginia maintained by the Department of Transportation for public
use as a throughway.
In order to fully appreciate the bridge and its surroundings, my partner
and I climbed down below and rested on a couple of large rocks along the
bank of the river. A full trash can testified that others have also learned
to appreciate this hidden treasure. My companion walked around and took
a few pictures while I wrote a line or two. The lazy sounds of the river
along with the distant hum of farm equipment had lulled us both into a
mood of serenity. Our work day worries seemed to drift away with the current.