|Paintersville Bridge, Sacramento Delta|
A boat captain will signal - either by phone or radio - and Rashid starts raising the bridge. It's a by-the-book process, starting with an alarm bell to stop auto traffic. Step by step, barricades are lowered, clearances confirmed, bolts unlocked, motors engaged and in a couple of minutes the bridge is raised to allow the yacht, high-masted schooner, barge or river boat to pass under.
But most of the day is spent sitting and watching the river roll by. There's time for reading, writing or studying. There's also plenty of time for loafing, watching television and eating. It takes some discipline to avoid these temptations.The office is surprisingly pleasant, with clear view of the river and of the bridge roadway.
Approaching the Paintersville bridge, I had romantic visions of writers like Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder or Jim Dodge sitting in lookout stations on Desolation Peak, in splendid isolation, creating their American classic novels and poetry. The difference with a bridge is that you are not exactly isolated. Every car or truck that crosses announces itself loudly and with plenty of vibration.
The Cal Trans District 4 operates six bridges in the Sacramento/San Joaquin delta. Paintersville, Steamboat, Isleton, Mokoloumne, Rio Vista and the big gold beast in downtown Sacramento. Counties operate few more.Most of the delta bridges are the Bascule type. They pivot upwards, thanks to immense concrete counterbalances. A few are lift bridges or turn bridges - which operate exactly as they sound.