If there is one thing I have learned about my kids, it is that they love to build things. Lego, Magnext, Lincoln Logs, a cardboard box from a printer at work, sticks in the woods, they do not care, they will build something out of it.
Now add in a Geeky Dad with a creek running through the front yard and you have the perfect combination for dams and bridges. We have already dammed up the creek several times, watching the surge of water destroy imaginary towns downstream as we removed the barrier. This time I wanted to also impress the wife and build a bridge that would not only entertain the young ones with its construction and Dad’s “building prowess,” but also make Ms. GeekDad proud to have it in her front yard not breaking the bank in the process.
After many measurements and discussions, we decided on a bridge with a center support at a specific location along our stream. (Start technical boring part) This center support would have two vertical 4×4 posts with a 4×4 sandwiched between 2x4s as a horizontal support. Then three 10 foot 2x8s from each side would be covered with decking. Finally, side rails with pickets. (End technical boring part)
What started out as a great plan that everyone understood quickly turned into a problem. When we were digging the hole for the base of the second vertical support, we hit something hard about six inches down. The more we tried to dig it out, the bigger it seemed to get. After many tries, I finally enlisted the help of a neighbor to help get the rock (bolder is more like it) removed. It was over 2 feet in diameter and probably weighs over 350 pounds.
This was a great lesson in engineering for my boys. A well thought out plan that immediately had to be modified by an unforeseen natural problem! Digging out the hole a little deeper and cutting out the bottom of an old plastic bucket to create a “form” for the concrete and we were back in business. Again, I could not have asked for a greater learning experience. Each time we pass the construction of a new interstate bridge near our house I am asked new questions that were sparked by this little walk bridge.
I was also amazed that my eight year old was the one to take so much interest in this project. He really worked hard on many of the lags and I believe learned a great deal from the early parts of the construction.
We ended “Phase 1” of our bridge project with all foundations and framework complete. With warmer weather approaching, we will post when we complete the decking and side rails, thus having the completed bridge.