Y’all, I need a break from Texas. The Lone Star State will always be home, and the Rio Grande Valley is my saint of a mother, but I do like to drive both east and west of here whenever possible. Maybe not north as much, since it’s Texas for another 850 miles. But following the Gulf east from the RGV, you could be in Louisiana in just 450 miles. And another 230 miles east of the Louisiana state line is the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the best bridge ever.
I don’t say often enough, but I spent time in southeast LA (no periods) where the crawfish are steamy and the bridges are long. Bridge-lovers, rejoice:
See, back in 2000 — the absolute best year on record, thanks — I was living in Lafourche Parish. I used to bike around the bayou solo, blasting Linkin Park on a MiniDisc Walkman. And I returned to LA a decade later to work construction at shipyards in St. Martin Parish. No bike this time, sadly, but now that I had my license, driving around the bayou is what kept me sane.
One of my favorite routes was to head north from Morgan City to Baton Rouge, then east to Mandeville, where I’d jump onto the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to New Orleans. The famous Causeway has gone back and forth as the record holder for the longest bridge in the world, and even spawned a new category when the only country crazy enough to contest the record was China.
It’s a bit of a mess but the Causeway kept a form of world record, regardless.
To this day, I still think this 24-mile stretch of road — suspended just over the face of the water — deserves as much love as all other American bridges that we know as icons. Not only because it’s been around for over half a century, as the ASCE notes, but also because it’s such a surreal drive; it’s hypnotizing.
In fact, it’s long enough that land actually disappears on both sides of the horizon when driving over the bridge, as Atlas Obscura explains:
The bridge is so long that motorists lose sight of land for an eight-mile stretch, and drivers have been known to freeze out of some kind of false seaborne fear, at which point the police have escorted them off the bridge. Babies have been born on the causeway when their mothers failed to make it to the hospital on the other side. And an airplane once ran out of gas over the lake, eventually landing safely on the bridge.
Despite being the opposite of a twisty road, it’s great. It’s almost disorienting but in a good way. I think.
When I used to drive over the Causeway, and feel the slight undulations of the concrete, there always came a point where I was struck by a sense that the road and the water were the only things left on Earth.
The closest feeling I’ve had to that is probably a feeling I get heading north in Texas, through Hill Country. In places there, if you look ahead as the horizon dips, the road stretches ahead. As if some powerful tension had anchored at the base of your car and pulled the concrete forward. It’s not exactly the same feeling from Lake Pontchartrain, but it’s as close as Texas gets.