Guidance Systems

I find it more than a little puzzling that in some areas of life I have relatively good intuitive senses of where I am and where I should be, even without having ever been to an area before. For example, tonight, I managed to travel a route that I was unfamiliar with from work through Scapoose and St. Helens [1] then across the Lewis & Clark Bridge over the Columbia (which is only the third bridge I have crossed over that mighty river, one that reminds me of the Interstate Bridge on I-5 in Portland, except that the bridge is much higher and much narrower) between Rainier and Longview. I then drove through Longview to I-5 and then north to Tacoma (stopping just shy of Chehalis to have dinner). During most of that trip I was in unfamiliar territory that I had never seen before at all, but all the same I had a fairly natural sense of homing that guided me in the correct general direction despite the lack of local knowledge and that allowed me to find the place I was looking for without too much trouble.

It is puzzling that I should have a relatively good homing sense when it comes to direction when my guidance systems in other aspects of life are not so accurate and precise. As I have commented on repeatedly in this blog, my homing sense in some areas of life [2] is far from helpful, which can be a bit tricky if one is in situations where a sense of where one is in relationship to other people is necessary to know in the absence of firm and accurate information or frequent communication. Having a good “gut feeling” and intuition would be immensely helpful in some areas of life where one is traveling in areas where one is not particularly familiar or skilled, since it can help one have a sense of being in either the right place close to where one is going (as my native sense of direction helped me tonight) or that one is in the wrong area and needs to leave before there is trouble. Lacking that situational awareness in some areas of life can be particularly problematic.

That said, without spending too much time discussing this in further detail, I would like to ponder that there were some consistent aspects of my trip today that I found quite notable and pleasant. The route I traveled today had quite a few excellent bridges, including the Lewis & Clark Bridge (which was designed by Joseph Strauss, the same fellow who designed the Golden Gate Bridge [3] and Portland’s Burnside Bridge). Towards the end of my trip, along a somewhat obscure section of WA-509 heading towards the Port of Tacoma, there was another fantastic bridge [4] that I had never been on before. Being a structural engineer by education, I am always very interested in the bridges as well as the infrastructure (like ports) that I see around me. They remind me that bodies of water were not meant to be barriers to divide but rather highways of their own for our logistical purposes as well as opportunities to build bridges.

A well designed and constructed bridge can help bring people together. Having been born in an area where there are many excellent bridges, I find it striking that there are so few bridges across the Columbia. There are no bridges, for example, for passenger vehicles between Portland and Rainier, and then none until Cascade Locks after that, leaving the entire Portland metro area only three bridges between Oregon and Washington for cars to travel over, including none in the area between Gresham and Washougal/Camus, which would be a pretty natural place for a bridge from the perspective of population. As a result, the few routes that go over the Columbia tend to be extremely crowded with little hope of a speedy remedy. Sometimes, I suppose, no matter how good one’s guidance systems, one still has to make use of the resources and transportation routes that are available, and given that we must work the reality that is, it is little wonder that our travels in life are so fraught with frustrations, given that everyone else wants the same things that we want, and there are only so many places and routes that one can take between you and where you want to be. Such is the life, I suppose.


[2] See, for example:



About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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1 Response to Guidance Systems

  1. Pingback: You Will Go Out With Joy | Edge Induced Cohesion

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