I had been warned about low tunnels and bridges in the Northeast, but we thought we were safe as we had been staying on major roads and watching for “low clearance” signs like hawks. Well, last week we had our first encounter with a low bridge. We were in upstate New York, happily cruising along a 2 lane highway when all of a sudden we saw a sign for a bridge up ahead with 10’5″ clearance. We’re 11′.

We stopped immediately and I hopped out to look for an escape route – the bridge was about 1/8 mile ahead, and there were no streets we could turn on. I scoped out the driveways to see if anyone had a circular drive that we could use to turn around. Nothing. Even worse, this was a 2 lane road with no shoulder. The only way to turn around was to back into someone’s driveway – seems simple enough except that we’re towing a car on a tow dolly, so we can’t back up (it’s not like towing a trailer – there are too many pivot points between the hitch, the dolly, and the car so backing up is impossible) which means we have to take the car off of the dolly before we back up. And in order to take the car off, we have to take the bikes off the bike rack. Oh yeah, and we’re on a very busy 2 lane road with no shoulder so we’re completely blocking one of the lanes.

While Mahmood started the process of taking the bikes off of the bike rack and the car off of the dolly, I asked the neighbor if we could back into his driveway to make the turnaround. It turned out to be a kid (about 14 years old) who shrugged and said OK. I found out later that this situation happens a lot and the neighbors don’t seem to be real happy about it – some of the neighbors had big signs that said “no truck turnaround” in their driveways and another (not so friendly) neighbor came down to tell me that we needed to call the police to escort us out – she warned me that we can get in a lot of trouble if we use someone’s driveway. I had the 14-year-old’s approval, so we went for it.

We took the bikes off the bike rack. We took the car off of the dolly. We took the dolly off and rolled it into the driveway. We backed up into the driveway and put the dolly back on. Then we pulled back on the road (blocking traffic in the other direction) and put the car back on the dolly. Then we put the bikes back on the bike rack and voila! we were now headed in the wrong direction, but at least we were going. It was a very stressful 45 minutes.

At one moment, I thought about taking a picture of the whole ordeal but I was pretty sure Mahmood wouldn’t be amused so I skipped it.

At any rate, I’m glad we figured out that the bridge was low before we ran into it – that would’ve been really bad. And I’m glad that there was a driveway for us to pull into – I’m not sure how we would’ve handled it otherwise. But the good news is that it came, we handled it, and it passed. And through this process, I was reminded how little stress I have in my life now – this was the first real stressful situation we’ve had since we left home 7 weeks ago, whereas I used to be stressed pretty much on a daily basis – crazy, right?!

We’re doing our best to identify roads with low clearance, during our route planning process, but not all these roads are marked. If you know of a GPS or mapping software that offers alerts for low clearance, kindly let me know 😉

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