On a recent drive through Southern Ohio, I serendipitiously discovered the Dover Dam. I’m a glutton for bridges and dams, and if I have the time I usually stop and explore them. On this overcast June day, I was ahead of schedule and explored this example of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ work. And as such spur-of-the-moment decisions are sometimes rewarded, I was able to talk to one of the dam caretakers who unlocked the big iron doors to the maintenance room and scrounged to find me a brochures. From the way he presented it, you’d think he was handing over the Holy Grail. Guess they don’t get many visitors, and even fewer that appreciate their charge.
Completed in 1938, the Dover Dam isn’t a dramatic energy-generating behemouth, but instead a vital cog in the flood control system that keeps the Tuscarawas River under control and nearby residents high and dry. While still steadily performing its solitary task, the dam is showing serious signs of wear and decay. Like most of America’s infrastructure built in a frenzy from the ’30s to the ’50s, at some time in the future it will likely require serious cash to keep doing its appointed duty. For now, though, the caretakers do what they can to keep things operating.
This same deterioration is, to me, what makes these monuments of man’s ingenuity fascinating. On this rain-any-minute day, the towers took on the appearance of Medieval castles and ramparts, with protective moats below, all silently standing sentinel against an unseen, but potential, enemy force. The only residents this day, beside the caretakers, were a pair of nesting pigeons who eyed me with the same wariness a castle’s Lord might have given any wanderer snooping around the base of his fortress. No doubt the pigeons were eyeing me to evaluate whether I had food to offer, as opposed to a Medieval Lord who might assume I’m either a spy or intent on stealing away his maiden daughter.
Visiting this dam, though, was more that just a daydream back to the 12th century Middle Ages. Too many times I’ve traveled by car and seen something interesting yet not stopped, rationalizing my hurried schedule prevents such moments or that I’m simply in the groove of making time and don’t want to stop. On this particular day I evoked these same reasons and initially drove on, leaving Dover Dam as a fleeting image in my rearview mirror and yet another moment lost. A few miles down the road I rebelled against my inner efficient traveler, and U-turned back to the dam. I try to hold to the truth that it’s the journey that matters and not the destination, but don’t often walk the talk. On this day, the journey won.