Operation: Bridge to Vegas

Well, this has been an interesting weekend.  It started out pretty good with a lumber run to Lowe’s, a saw session followed up with a fun night of Rock Band with Billy and Pakage (the R!Vagiants reunion tour – with fans calling out where’s David all night).  Around 3 in morning things turned ugly.  That is when Pakage informed me our well had gone dry – major suckage.  We played a few more songs for the crowd and made our way off the stage.  After verifying the well pump breaker had tripped I set out to find a cause.  The master bath shower faucet had a few drips so I tried taking advantage of the water pressure loss to see if I could change out the springs.  An hour later I gave up lacking some needed tools and worried I’d snap the pipes at 4:30am – not good.  I hit the bed after putting the faucet back together to get some shuteye before the long day of hauling water.  6:30am I was back up, Linda helped me get the tank in the truck and 3.5 hours later I’d hauled 24oo gallons of water….. but that was just the beginning of the days work.. there was Vegas to build!

.. and that brings us to the topic of today’s post.  (Note, my brother has been giving me grief that I pre-write some of my posts ahead of time so felt obligated to write this the same day I completed the project).  Last year I built a foot bridge over a gully on the lot so the people at our Halloween party could go see Serenity (link here).  That bridge was working out great until the Spring flooding came.  One day it was there, the next it had taken a vacation down the stream.  Multiple searches up and down the stream have been fruitless which is odd since there are numerous places where trees had fallen across the stream.  You would think it would have been caught up in those branches.  With the Halloween party approaching once again, it was time to remedy this situation.  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Serenity’s little brother VEGAS.

hit the jump to read all about the project.

This bridge project was definitely not at the level of Serenity, but the planning/design phase sure felt like it.  The main requirement was to have it large enough to span the gully and strong enough to handle the ATV and mower.  In addition, it had to be something I could build alone having spent all my favors with its big brother and it had to be done in a fairly short time due to the upcoming party.  Those few requirements resulted in a number of designs each with their advantages and constraints.  The plans with cement pillars was eventually thrown own due mainly to the timing.  To get all the holes dug, the cement poured and post braces fabricated would take me well into next month.  Those could be added in the future anyway as long as the decking took that future enhancement into consideration.  Building it out of 2x12s seemed like a good idea until giving some thought on how to build that myself.  Putting those hangers on Serenity about killed me and those bridge beams were already in place by then.  A few intermediate designs were tossed before finally deciding to go with a reinforced 4×4 post structure.

First trip was to Menards to obtain 4 4x4x10 treated posts along with some post joining braces.  There was noticeable sticker shock when finding out that the post braces were 7 something a piece – the same prices as one 4x4x10 post – holy crap people, it is bent steel with 12 small holes in it.  The cost of the braces dwarfed the other costs which resulted in the first design change.  If I have to remake the bridge, the braces must be saved so twisted nails out, decking screws in.  Once home it became apparent that three posts across a 5 foot span (one post was cut in half to make end caps) was not going to work.  This meant another trip back for 4 more 4x4x10s to add a post lengthwise and then sturdy it up with cross blocks.  Unfortunately, that meant a whole lot more of those diamond encrusted braces.  It also started to rain making the trails a little too muddy for the ATV so I hand carried the first set of posts down to the gully and spent a little bit of time roughing in the main structure.  This provided  lengths for the cross beams.  Before the band took the stage Friday, a trip to Lowe’s was in order to get the decking.  With a five foot span I could simply get the 6×10 decking boards and cutting them in half (reason I didn’t go over 5′ on the span).  Once home I cut the decking into 5′ lengths as well as the other 4x4s for the cross posts.  The trails dried out some so I loaded all the lumber into the truck and hauled them down to the bottom of the hill and then ATV’d them over to the construction site.  A quick check of the cross beams resulted them being a little long so took them back for some trimming.

Once all the water hauling was done, I went straight to work on the bridge.  The first task was to complete the outside structure followed by putting all the cross beams in place.  Knowing that most of the weight will be centered on the ATV tires, the outside spans were shored up with three braces each with two planned braces in the middle section.

The deck structure was built upside down for ease.  The outside cross beams went in relatively easy, but there must have been some shifting when the main decking was firmed up because the middle beams wouldn’t fit.  This would require a trip back to the house to fix and to top it off I ended up two metal braces short.  A trip back would waste valuable time and with only enough for one brace it didn’t seem worth it.  Luckily a preliminary plan had leftover 2x12s for cross braces which had been cut a couple of days ago when I brought the saw out to cut the 5′ deck caps.  Those still fit perfectly so went ahead and slapped those babies on.  To help support the endcaps I added two decking boards on the bottom that spanned the vertical beams and the horizontal cap giving adequate strength at the ends.  There was also a height difference between the two sides of the gully, so put another 2×12 on the far end in order to attach another 4×4 post to raise that end up (hopefully make it level).  A few jumps up and down at various places demonstrated that it was sturdy and strong.  Next up was to flip it over and finish screwing in the metal braces.  Ummm next up was to flip it over… fliiiiip iiiit grunt ooooover.  Now I did lose a ton of weight (including muscle) for the running season, but I still consider myself fairly strong.  This deck structure was darn heavy and the decking wasn’t even added yet.  Manned up, I got it turned over and finished putting in all the screws.

Clearly it was going to be impossible to put the decking on and still be able to move it into position myself.  Linda was off doing dog club duties and my dogs were busy blow drying their fur and painting their nails.  This was payback for taking a week off of training as a treat for completing the half marathon last week.  The structure was heaved up on the long end and then dragged (literally inch by inch) into the position across the gully – that took a staggering 40 minutes to do thanks to navigating tree branches and roots – this is where the cardio training was paying off dividends.

The decking phase was suppose to be the easy part.  I learned a lot from putting the decking down on Serenity and figured this would be a piece of cake since there was no need to cut around the down braces as was the nightmare with the larger bridge.  Immediately a design decision came back to bite me.  Remember when I switched to screws in order to provide for reuse in the future?  Well, those screw heads ended up sticking up from the braces due to the head taper being too large for the pre-drilled holes.  So now the decking isn’t going down flat against the beams wherever there was a brace.  This needed a few minutes to think through.  The answer was my old friend the hammer… and a 3/8″ drill bit.  The deck board was placed and spaced appropriately in the same manner as the rest of the boards.  Once in place I took a scrap decking board, placed it on the deck board where the brace was and smacked it with the hammer in each of the brace locations.  When the board was turned over, an imprint of the screw heads were shown nicely in the wood.  The drill bit was then used to drill out enough wood for it to sit flat.  Once each screw print was drilled, the board was put back in place, pilot holes drilled and 2 1/2″ decking screws were power driven in.  Based on Serenity experience, two power drills were used – one for the screws and one for the pilot/carving duties – a third one to keep from changing the piloting and carving sizes would have been very helpful, but that would make me soft(er).  Over 3 hours later, the decking was done.

Note, this is the opposite end of the shot at the top of this post.  It is hard to tell from this angle, but thanks to a little shovel work and the extra 4×4 post at the far end, the deck turned out pretty level.  Here is another angle of the bridge.

I’ll shore up this side with dirt to compensate for it being raised up on this lower side.  Now that the decking is down, this bridge rivals Serenity for sturdiness.  It will definitely hold the ATV or mower weight as long as I can keep the wheels centered while crossing.  Based on these picture angles you may be asking why there was even a need to go to this much trouble to get across this little dip.  Well, it is a little more than just a dip and when it rains hard, it tends to fill up pretty deep with drainage from all the hills in the area.  When this happens, getting across is can be a tremendous hassle, not to mention impossible for the ATV.  Here is a side view that gives a better impression of the gap.

The satisfaction of completing the bridge was nudged out later that evening with the concern brought on by the rain that entered the forecast for that night.  I had already lost my first bridge to flooding and was nervous it would happen again before having a chance to address it.  Linda assured me it would not rain enough that night to come up to the new bridge.  I wasn’t convinced, but at least I had someone to blame now if it did (hehehe).  All night I thought about it with extra time to sleep on it having crashed in bed about 10:00pm (the shame, the shame).  The conclusion was that the important thing was keeping the bridge from floating away.  As long as it was not lost, I could still put it back in place and still incorporate it into the future expansion with the cement pillars etc.  With that decision hashed out, it was determined that it just needed to be tethered in some manner.  A trip to Home Depot (a waste) and then back to Menards got me galvanized 1/2″ eyebolts (that were welded shut for strength unlike Home Depot’s), a locking connector,  galvanized plates and some galvanized washers.  Once home, the drill, 1/2 bore bit, screws, coated cable and shopping items were taken down to the bridge (in the rain).  Not wanting to make it obvious, I drilled the 1/2 hole in inner post, threaded the eyebolt through and attached it with washers and the nut.  Conscious I had just weakened the post with my hole, I also added the galvanized plate – probably not needed, but why take chances.  The cable was attached to a tree nearby and then connected into the eyebolt with the locking connector.  This will give me piece of mind until the cable is replaced with galvanized chain.  It will be buried so no one sees it and should only really come into play if the flooding gets out of hand (keeping my fingers crossed).  By the way, all these pictures came from my camera phone while working so the quality is really poor.  Speaking of bad quality, here is a fuzzy shot of the tether.

Actually this is a good representation of how everything looked to me by the end of the day yesterday.

So, any guesses as to why this bridge was named Vegas?  It occurred to me halfway through the build phase that this project reminded me exactly of my trips to Vegas – it took about 3 days in duration with very little sleep.  I think from Friday morning (6:00am) until Saturday at 10pm I’d had about 1 1/2 hours of pseudo sleep – just like VEGAS BABY!.  Unlike VEGAS, I can talk about the bridge (ha).

Another project in the books – next up I have to deal with some washout on the banks below Serenity and then on to the 2011 Halloween decorations!.

4 thoughts on “Operation: Bridge to Vegas”

  1. Nice! I expected an Evel Knievel ramp, though (or two, one in each direction.) Also, I think the state might be after you if you don’t include handrails. And a ramp. And no-slip surfaces. And warning signs to use the handrails. In Braille, too. And a yellow blinking light for when the water is too high to use the bridge. With sound, too.

    Also, I think Vegas is a trademarked name, mister!

    Other than that, I think you’re all set after you pay the fees to the people who have to enforce these regulations.



    1. You are the officially the third person to recommend ramps instead of a bridge – apparently there are a lot of people out there with better insurance than I have. As far as the regulations, safety additions and god forbid a multitude of common sense signs I’ll just go with one – No Liberals – that should pretty much kill all chances of stupid lawsuits and entitlement discussions. You may have me on the Vegas trademark, but they are a little busy right now trying to stem them hemorrhaging cash flow problems to worry about little ‘ol me .. and besides they are practically begging me to come back with all their free nights and free play we’ve been getting lately.

      Thanks for the almost instant comment – you must have been waiting by your rss feed reader just waiting for my post (ha).


  2. *Gasp* I am taken aback with the realization that this project was conducted without me!.. And wonder why our nameless bridge was not anchored with the same devotion to protection that Miss Vegas has come to observe as normal attention from her maker? When you found our creation had washed away, did you sit in darkness starin’ at the wall?.. Perhaps spend a few nights of your life staring through bloodshot eyes – barroom bliss?! I can only rest knowing that you looked tirelessly, dragging the creek river and combing the bank brush. Surely you did not eagerly set off to construct a replacement, one built out of love rather than necessity…


  3. Alas, after searching up and down the dark abyss for countless hours digging blindly in dark tangles and traversing treacherous rapids I brought myself to still in the murkiness and pondered. The owls offered encouragement, the frogs kept the mosquitoes at bay and the coyotes were crying out to the moon god and yet no inspiratio…. wait a minute …. coyotes? what the hell am I doing? A wave of realization ebbed over my soggy body “Screw this, I can make a trip to Menards and build another damn bridge .. a bigger, stronger, bridge worthy of my attention and praise… and that is what I did. Yes, it is true, this was a solo project but I did learn from our first effort. The most important enhancement was clearly to build it near the resting place. If it brings any comfort, it did take 3 to 4 months to plan it all out and generate the materials list so there was some mourning time.

    Word has it you might get to see Vegas soon… feel free to sit down and have a little comforting chat with her. Please let her know that precautions have been taken to prevent the need for Vegas II.


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