The Charlie Bravo Story

The Big Dam Bridge is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in North America. At over a mile and a half long and ninety feet high, it traverses the top of Murray Lock and Dam, spanning the Arkansas River between the sister cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock, and is a constant attraction to joggers, photographers, cyclists, or anyone looking to escape the heat of the humid Arkansas summers. It is also part of the Arkansas River Trail, twenty miles and growing, connecting the Clinton Presidential Library, Two Rivers Park, the USS Arkansas submarine and the downtown entertainment district.

It’s especially beautiful at sunset and at night when illuminated from below, or when a barge is passing through the lock far below; dad takes the bicycle down there frequently, but due to my enthusiastic approach to all things outdoors, my invites to such a “civilized” location are far and few between. As I am pulling him up the incline by my leash, Dad’s view is somewhat tarnished by the constant prescence of the southbound end of a northbound Charlie, my one pink eye roving to and fro like an omnipresent Eye of Sauron; unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes.

But last night was one of those nights where I exerted my indomitable will and at sunset, dad and I saddled up the Honda CB1100 and took a little jaunt down to the Bridge. As we were crossing the trail(on foot, of course), a large barge named Marge was navigating the lock below, and we witnessed once again how these navigational tools function.

When a boat is travelling upstream, it enters the lock from below, and then the water gates behind it are are closed. Then the gates above it are opened, allowing water to fill the lock, raising the vessel to the level of the river above the dam, allowing it to continue on upstream.

The same system is used when traveling downstream, except the barge enters the already full lock from above, the gates above are closed and the gates below opened, releasing the water downstream to fulfill its duty at the next lock in the channel.The one constant in both scenarios is that, while the process takes place, the boat must remain still while the gates above or below are closed; only when they open can the journey continue.

It occurred to me that it’s the same in our daily lives; when we’re struggling upstream, sometimes the gates have to close irrevocably behind us, cutting us off from where we’ve been. The sound of the gates sealing behind us can be a very frightening thing, but only then can the water from above fill the lock, effortlessly lifting our load to the next level in the stream.

Or when you’re going with the flow, when you seem to have the world by the tail with a downhill slide; then it’s the water that has been carrying you that is released to fill the lock of someone else below your particular position on the river, and the cycle continues, until ultimately your vessel reaches its final port, or even the open sea. according to your position on the journey.

And while the destination is important, it’s ultimately all about the journey; whose boat will you help lift today?

See you on the River Trail; Charlie Bravo out.

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