Tag Archives: overpass

On The Road #13, Liberty Overpass Sleep

A freeway overpass has its advantages when looking for a place to sleep on a rainy spring night in the hills of New York state. First, it is dry under there. And there is a nice flat space just under the bridge, comfortable to lay on and safely out of sight from the road.

It turns out the overpass just out of Liberty, New York, was the first and last such accommodation I have enjoyed the comforts of. All in all I was set for the night just as the night gathered and my tired body was welcoming sleep. I snuggled as best I could in my inadequate war surplus cotton sleeping bag covered with my wool coat for an extra layer against the chilly evening, my head supported by my wooden box of paints. I felt lovely sleep gathering and gave myself up to drifting …

Drifting …

Well, dear reader. A freeway overpass has its advantages when looking for a place to sleep. And it has one little drawback that picked this moment to introduce itself. It started as a distant whine.

An ambitious whine as it turned out. Eager to gain as much momentum as it could on the slight downhill approach to the heavy concrete bridge. The whine grew louder, pulled on by a rumble and roar, ever louder and more eager and frantic.

Then a thump. And another.

And then — WHAM ! — all the demons of discourse were set free. The bridge jumped and rattled. The ground shook. The noise was overwhelming and gained urgency as the shaking and rattling and cacophony of it reached into my bones with the unsettled reality of motion.

And then—thump. Thump. Thump thump. Immediately the rattling and shaking and urgency stopped, replaced by the BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR of a big diesel engine pulling eighteen rubber tires screaming on concrete, receding up the grade headed north.

Well. It was getting dark and the trucks got fewer and fewer. I was dry and tucked in. The sound of approaching trucks working to gain momentum and then smacking onto the bridge and rocking my world before leaving with the rumble of working pistons came to be something of a lullaby, reassuring my sleep that all was as it should be.

On The Road #13, Liberty New York

After my harrowing experience sharing the finer points of oil painting with a big bad cop on a narrow country road’s dangerous decent of a cliff face, I finished walking to the top of the steep grade and continued toward Liberty, New York.

State Highway 52 brought me in on the east side of downtown Liberty, a fairly large spot on the map and more of a community than I really wanted to deal with. I was heading east anyway, toward a very little line going through the Catskill Mountains, so I turned to the right, picked up State Highway 55, and started walking toward less dense housing.

At the same time I was considering how soon it would be dark. It was too close to a town to sleep beside the road, where late night fun-seekers might notice a vulnerable individual. And there was the rain that had been dogging me all day. With no tent, I needed a dry place to unroll my sleeping bag.

The map did show a freeway overpass just east of Liberty and I had spent the day vaguely aiming for that structure, thinking there are bridges where freeways cross roads and it is dryer under a bridge than under the clouds.

overpassThis substantial structure of modern transportation treated me better than I had hoped. The freeway passed over Highway 55 and concrete slopes ran from the road up to the underside of the freeway bridge. I was glad see that at the top of these slopes were open spaces, about three feet high and some four feet deep, before the bridge abutments made walls supporting the freeway.

Nice little flat shelves with roofs.

They were ideal. Close enough under the bridge so the wind would not whip in rain. Deep enough so I’d be out of sight. And, while the cemented slopes were plenty steep, they were not impossible to scale.

I checked to see that no vehicles were going to witness a bum climbing around under the bridge and scurried up the left slope, under the north side of the bridge.

While the slope was covered with concrete the little shelf was not. After an initial disappointment that this ideal accommodation did not include nice soft padding and 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets (it’s a joke — I was a hippie. How was I to know you can count threads in sheets?), I quickly settled onto the loose gravel and dirt.

Gravel and dirt that was softer than concrete and dry as moon dust.

It was going to be a great night for sleep.