One of the things that creeps up on you after a while living in America is the realization that the place is actually a lot more normal than its reputation would have you believe. In fact, the place in America most like the image of America I have been to is Las Vegas, which makes a sort of weird sense given that the whole point of Las Vegas is about making you see things that aren’t really there.
In particular, in terms of size – are some things bigger than they are in other countries? Sure. Food portions, for one. Cars. (To the extent that owning a small car is actively unsafe if you do a lot of highway driving, even if you’d prefer one.) But the architecture is mostly reasonably-sized.
Then you come across things like this:
This was in Astoria, Oregon, our port of origin for the Axial Volcano cruise. That bridge is six kilometres long. Most of it is barely above the surface of the river, which is why it’s harder to see off to the left of the picture.
As far as I can tell, they basically measured the estuary of the Columbia River and put the bridge at the widest possible point, apparently on the premise that it would otherwise inconvenience people taking the scenic route down the West Coast. (There is a less-scenic but more sanely bridged interstate highway, about fifty kilometres inland, that actually carries most of the traffic, being as there is barely anything on the coastal bit of the West Coast between Seattle and San Francisco, or at least no large cities, and between Seattle and San Francisco is a long way.)
Then, of course, they remembered that massive freaking cargo ships use the Columbia River as a major port of entry and exit for all sorts of exports and imports from Asia – we saw a lot of ships carrying new cars in from Japan, others with logs bound outward – and had to hike one side of the bridge up high enough for them to fit under.
My one disappointment was that we didn’t drive over the bridge; you can get to and from Seattle from Astoria that way, but it’s a much, much longer drive. I bet the view is amazing.