Ian and I returned to site on Thursday morning with jackhammers in hand and the greatly accelerated the excavation process. That being said, it still took two full days of body-wrenching jackhammering to finish. Yes, it took two full days to excavate just a few more centimeters. This rock is STRONG! So strong, in fact, that nothing will ever be able to budge this bridge. Not even an earthquake…
On Saturday we built the anchors that Continental Crossings designed in-house. They are the first of their kind! This was both an occasion for pride, and a lesson in how important it is for engineers to have to build what they design. Point being it was a circus trying to lift them down into the holes with that giant pipe wrapped in all kinds of rebar going every-which-way. Constructability takes on a new significance when you are the one constructing it.
Needless to say we got the job done. The rest of the team had a meeting with the community on Tuesday to let them know how much we would need their help for the anchor days and they showed up in full force with nearly 30 workers ready to roll! They mixed, carried and poured concrete like a well-oiled machine and we were done before sunset.
Everything went well except for one thing. We had somehow used all the concrete accelerant we had. That meant there would be none left for the second anchor the next day. Accelerant is essential for this project because it accelerates the curing process of the anchors, allowing the concrete to gain full strength in just 2 days instead of 28. That means we have to get more before we can continue. The catch is that it is only sold in Managua.
So here I sit, in an internet cafe in Managua. Luckily the mayor had a meeting here this morning. He let me ride along and then instructed his driver to take me wherever I want to go until the meeting is over. We already bought the accelerant and soon we will head to the airport to meet up with our professional engineer travel mentor, Johann Zimmermann and our fellow bridge engineering student Sam Rhoads!
We are a little behind schedule thanks to the extra time required with the jack hammers and accelerant, but still in great shape. The rest of the team already bent the suspenders (the metal bars that connect the handrail cables to the walkway cables) and did the finish work on the towers (see photos below). The plan from here is to pour the second anchor tomorrow and get the cables across the canyon at the end of the week.
In other news, the Esquipulas City Engineer accompanied us to the bridge site the other day but ended up spending most of his time sniping a 3 foot lizard from 350 feet with a little hand gun and swimming across the river (polo, dress slacks, wristwatch and all) to retrieve what would be his dinner later that night. “City Engineer” comes with a slightly different job description down here. Louie and Kristina have both gotten sick since the last update. Some suspect the armadillo meat. I moved my tent down to the bridge site to protect our jack hammer equipment through the nights. I am not sure whether the thieves were scared off by my big muscles or if it was just my off-key bellowing of every song Taylor Swift has ever written.