The Steampunk World

Being the continued explorations of a living steampunk.

The steampunk world is all around us, lying just out of sight, in a continuous thread of steampunk builders and culture that extends from the Victorian era to the present. You'll find no science fiction here: This is real life steampunk.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I've had fifteen bike punks staying at my house all week. They came from as far as Portland starting Friday and have been drinking up a storm. On Wednesday, we went on a ride that ended at one of the large bascule-trunnion bridges that Chicago is so famous for. Well, I say the ride "ended" there- but only because "the broken leg hides in the last caper".

Bascule-trunnion bridges use a pit system, where the bridge's large concrete counterweight sinks down below the level of the river. This allows a five-story bridge to be lifed with a 100 hp motor. Because of the way the bridge lifts, when the bridge goes up all the litter on it rains down into the pit. The pit beneath this bridge was full of 100 years of garbage and whatever sewage from the river had spilled over in high waters:

To get under this bridge you had to shimmy down a foot-wide ledge and swing around a large spiked gate designed to keep you out. Somehow, one of our guys ("J") managed to make it despite the fact that he was (unknown to us) very, very intoxicated. As the group climbed out over the girders beneath the bridge, J suddenly disappeared from view and fell into the darkness below. The drop was about two stories. Somebody shined a flashlight down there and saw him laying twisted on his back, sinking in the icy garbage water.

I ran down the stairs to the pit. J was in there laying on a large slab of ice in about four inches of water- the whole pit had frozen over, then begun to melt and was separated from the sides. As I stepped out onto the slab it tilted and began to sink. The smell was awful- it was just like the garbage compactor scene in Star Wars. When I reached him, I tried to help him but he began to clutch at me and drag me down as a drowning person does. We wrestled in the icy garbage water and I stopped trying to help him out and just dragged him out by one arm. I couldn't touch bottom except on the slab.

We carried him as far as the ledge but he would have to walk the rest of the way. He was sleepy and fading from being in the ice water. We yelled and screamed at him to get up. Eventually he did and somehow we managed to swing him around the gate, grabbing only the bricks for our purchase.

I happened to have a cargo bike and I carried him and his bike home. We changed his clothes and stayed up with him until we were sure he wasn't concussed. We didn't think he had a broken leg because he wasn't screaming. But the next morning he went to the hospital and they found a broken ankle and vertebrae.

It wasn't really until the next day that I realized how close he'd come to dying, or how close I came by going in there. If the weather had been a little cooler, he'd have bashed himself to death against a solid ice slab. If the weather had been warmer he'd have broken through the ice when he fell. Needless to say the incident has left me a little shaken.


Post a Comment

<< Home