If you’re looking for a new way to get to work and some extra cardiovascular exercise in the bargain this summer, there are options other than an air-conditioned gym or a heavily shaded nature trail.
Let’s say, in a moment of heat-induced insanity, you decide to push a 2-year-old in a stroller over the J.E. McTeer Bridge. There’s a walkway on the side, after all, so it’s probably not just there for looks or as a gathering place to watch the July Fourth fireworks display.
You park on the causeway leading to Cat Island. Is it legal to park there? It’s anyone’s guess, but since there are other cars already there, you take some comfort in knowing that you’re all going down to the police station together if someone gets busted. Your walk starts briskly so you can get as far away from your vehicle as possible before someone sees you.
In the beginning, you cut what’s referred to as a “blistering pace,” at least in most non-Olympic villages. However, just over a third of the way along the sidewalk, you realize you have to slow it down a bit to make it all the way. You also remember the bridge opened in 1979, the same year the first span of the bridge opened. But it’s OK, you’ll be on the new span and only one of you has bad knees.
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The pavement is surprisingly clean. Here and there, a lizard darts across the path, but there’s no broken glass or empty cups strewn along the grass. Must be something about Palmetto pride.
The pace is slowed even more as you get from the walkway at the foot of the bridge onto the actual bridge itself. It’s there that the incline starts to kick in.
The construction workers down in the marsh smile incredulously and wave at you as if to say “enjoy the stretcher ride on the way back, buddy!”
The first thing that strikes you, once you’re on the bridge itself, is the noise. Your 2-year-old is probably saying something to you, but all you can do is yell “exactly!” back at him. The cars and trucks whooshing by in excess of 50 miles per hour are creating too much of a vacuum to think clearly.
The second thing to hit you is the merciless heat. Wasn’t I just talking about air-conditioned gyms and shade?
None of those luxuries here as you approach the top of bridge, ever closer to the meridian sun.
You find your legs falling farther and farther behind the rest of your body as you push the stroller, giving you the appearance of an elderly terrier at the end of a conga line or Atlas with rubber stretch limbs. Those images are just as improbable as you making it to the end of the bridge.
Your sweaty shirt can now be wrung out into the river as you wonder if they make helicopter rescues here.
You would flag down a taxi if you could see through your own tears and sweat.
As you wipe your eyes to see clearly again, you notice the Naval Hospital water tower is now not only closer, but getting taller. That means you’re descending. If you can at least get to the point where you can feel your legs again, you can probably finish this.
When you do finally get to the bottom of the bridge on the Port Royal side, you stop to check your step count and heartbeat. They both have real numbers, so that’s a good sign.
Just then, you hear your 2-year-old say again. “Daddy, I want juice.”
The juice is in the car.
The car is on the other side of the bridge.
Honk if you see us.
We might still be up there.