Whimsical Stuff Around the Nation

Found some more lovely whimsical stuff while researching local color for the stations pages on the Great American Stations site that I manage (and write for).

This is my current favorite: The Nutty Narrows Bridge. It’s a bridge made FOR squirrels in Longview, WA. There are a ton of trees alongside a very busy street, and one engineer, Amos Peters, with his office on that street got tired of seeing the carnage and built a suspension bridge for the squirrels. In 1963, the bridge was hoisted over the road between two trees — 60 feet wide and fashioned from aluminum and a length of retired fire hose. It cost $1,000.

Saint Amos of the Squirrels has long since passed away, but the bridge remains, though it was moved a little. He’s memorialized by a large wooden squirrel in the park nearby.

Another fine structure in the Pacific Northwest is really not very whimsical: Elevator Street in Oregon City. I wrote for that station’s page:

Straddling the bluffs, the city landscape makes a sharp transition over a 90-foot cliff that was originally traversed using a series of stairs. By 1826, the preferred route had 722 steps. In 1912, the city was authorized by ballot to sell $12,000 in bonds to construct and operate a municipal elevator, and on December 3, 1915, the hydraulic-powered Municipal Elevator came into service; that day, nearly all of the city’s 3,869 people took the three-minute elevator ride. In 1924, electricity replaced hydraulics; and in 1954-55 it was overhauled, and still stands 130 feet tall. At the base of the bluff, riders walk a tunnel under the railroad tracks instead of over, as they did orginally. The Oregon City Municipal Elevator continues to operate as one of only four municipal elevators in the world, and this “Elevator Street” is the only vertical street in North America.

And I just learned about an event taking place on my birthday! The Great American Duck Races take place each August in Deming, NM.

Twenty years ago, six friends in Deming, drinking in a bar, decided to alleviate summer boredom by having duck races in a nice shady spot in front of the Courthouse. People now train their ducks to race:

The ducks waddle down an eight-lane, 17-foot channel of chicken wire known as the dry track. In recent years, organizers added a wet track — a wading pool outfitted with eight racing lanes.

Last year, the champions in each category — youth and adult racers — each took home $1,290.

Anyone taking part pays $5 to sponsor a duck, and winners advance through tournament-style brackets. In each round, competitors are assigned a different duck, with all the ducks given time off to rest.

Pretty cool, huh? These days it’s a major festival.

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